Town Staff Gives Thoughts On Elections

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The voting public of Payson approved the town's 10-year General Plan and just narrowly passed one of the three bond issues on the ballot.

The public safety bond initiative, that will fund a new communication system for the police and fire departments, a remodel of the Main Street fire station, and a new fire station at Tyler Parkway and Highway 260, passed by 42 votes.

The public works initiative, which included 12 street projects, was defeated by the same margin -- 42 votes.

The parks improvement initiative was defeated by a larger margin of 554 votes.

The outcome of the election was determined by 37.6 percent of the 9,255 registered voters, meaning 5,773 people did not vote.

"I personally don't feel that elections with no candidates attract as many people. Candidates generate more interest," Town Manager Fred Carpenter said. "For this type of election, it's pretty good."

One of Town Clerk Silvia Smith's objectives with the all-mail election was to increase voter turnout.

"Last year's election was 35 percent, and the last special election we had it was around 8 percent," Smith said. "Our poll workers were bored!"

Carpenter has some theories about why the public safety initiative passed and the public works and parks bond issues failed.

"The one passed because people in general, in the post 9/11 world, have a lot more concern about security. The public safety communications is important to a lot of people. The other reason is that you have a rather large built-in constituency when you look at the police and fire departments -- there's a lot of personnel there and their families, and so on."

When Smith was a guest on KMOG radio discussing the election, she said that some callers said they were going to vote ‘no' on everything.

"Some of them were upset that the ballot was in English and Spanish. We don't have a choice -- that's a federal requirement," Smith said. "Others said they were voting ‘no' on everything due to the tax increase."

Streets

"I really don't know why the streets didn't pass," Carpenter said. "There are several theories I've heard -- one theory is that they should have been split up into new streets and fixing up old ones, because a lot of people don't want to cut new streets anywhere.

"Perhaps people didn't like the projects, or maybe we didn't offer them several packages," Carpenter said. "Maybe some people just don't want any increase in taxes, no matter what."

Parks

"I heard the most unfavorable comments about the event center -- about covering it -- but nobody ever gave me what I considered a good reason to be against it," Carpenter said.

"When it came to the turf -- our demographics are not favorable for a ballfield turf project because we don't have enough soccer moms in the town -- it's the demographics," Carpenter said.

Bill Schwind, parks and recreation department director, said the people he comes in contact with are disappointed by the failure of the bond initiative.

"I thought it was a fair proposal the committee put together," Schwind said. "I felt pretty good about it, and it wasn't asking a whole lot, and the way it would have been paid back was a pretty easy take."

Schwind believes the bond failure had more to do with the economic climate.

"I just think it was the sales tax issue and poor timing with the economy," Schwind said. "Anytime you raise taxes, it can be a hotly debated issue. I don't think it's a fair assessment to say that one item brought down the other -- whether the grass brought down the roof or the roof brought down the grass."

Schwind said that he and the parks advisory board will go back to the drawing table and see how they can proceed.

"We'll work with the town council to see where we are headed from here," Schwind said. "The folks that say we will do the fields anyway don't realize that it is a long, drawn-out process that takes a lot of time and hard work."

Schwind said the money for park improvements has been accumulated slowly through fees associated with new growth, such as building permits.

"What we've been doing with that money is landing Heritage Fund grants," Schwind said.

The Heritage Fund grants are based on matching amounts. The amount the town puts up will be matched by the fund if Payson is awarded a grant.

"We have to be successful enough in our grant writing in a competitive environment with other communities to be able to even land a grant," Schwind said.

For the time being, he said the department will continue chugging along to make the improvements they can.

"We'll continue to make the improvements we can afford to make and provide the services we do with the financing and facilities we have," Schwind said. "The bond issue would have been the fast track, and now we are back on the slow track. The public has spoken."

Mail-in ballot

"The mail-in ballot is a good idea. I think we'll have a better turnout in the spring with all mail in ballots. Valley cities have seen an increase in votership. Some people thought it was confusing, but we are learning," Smith said.

"Most people were happy with the mail-in balloting," she added.

Smith said it prompted some voters to call and ask about the issues and gave them a chance to educate themselves.

"If people go to the polls and don't understand something, they will automatically vote no," Smith said. "This way they had a chance to go out and clarify their information on the issues and then go home and vote. They weren't rushed."

Smith said the all-mail election saves a lot of staff time and, in future elections, will be cost effective.

"We have four polls, and we have to find and train people to work the polls," Smith said. "We didn't save money during this election because of extra mailings, but I believe by the primary it should be cost-effective."

Smith said ballots were mailed to several registered voters who no longer live in Payson.

"We know of at least 1,500 names that will drop off the list," Smith said.

Both Carpenter and Smith feel the all-mail election is the way to go.

"I think its a good idea, but it's the council's call," Carpenter said.

Smith is currently conducting a survey on the all-mail ballot. Those interested in participating can fill out the survey printed in the Roundup, contact the Town Clerk's Office at 474-5242, ext. 240, or send an e-mail to ssmith@ci.payson.az.us.

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