Mayoral Candidates Answer Pointed Questions

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Because no mayoral candidate received enough votes in the March 9 primary for a clear victory, Barbara Brewer and Jim Chase will face one another in a run off election May 18.

In the primary, Brewer received 1,967 votes or about 47 percent of the votes cast. Her total was about 125 votes shy of earning her a concise victory. Chase finished with 1,045 votes or 25.1 percent of those cast.

Brewer is the town's current vice-mayor and Chase is a former town councilor.

Trailing in the four-candidate mayoral primary race were current mayor Ken Murphy (624) and Diana Sexton (529).

Brewer's lead over Chase in the primary is not a solid guarantee she can maintain that cushion in the run-off.

In the 2001 primary election, Jim White collected 1,660 votes or 46.6 percent of those cast. Murphy received 1,318 votes of 37 percent.

In the run-off two months later, Murphy came from behind to win the election and a two-year term as Payson's mayor.

Chase and Brewer are the only town candidates in the May election. Tim Fruth, John Wilson and George Barriger were elected to the council in the primary election. Fruth finished with 3,275 votes, Wilson received 2,736 and Barriger had 2,436. The new council and the mayor will be sworn in June. 10.

Brewer and Chase recently responded to questions asked by the editorial staff of the Payson Roundup.

What distinguishes you from the opposing candidate?

Brewer: The town and the issues facing it have changed significantly in the past eight years. I have knowledge and a vision that will serve the town well, based on that current experience. The past two years, I have represented Payson on the Central Arizona Association of Governments, which has given me insight into regional issues affecting Payson. There will be no learning time for me. I will be in a position to lead Payson forward upon taking office.

I continue to work with our legislators and congressmen on issues that affect us in rural Arizona. They are always willing to listen to me when I call them or respond to me via e-mail promptly. This relationship is earned and respected on both sides.

Chase: My primary concern is serving the citizens of Payson. I have experience working not only with a council, but with a cohesive council. While in office, the town was in one of its most productive eras. We were moving forward with vision and growing responsibly. I am retired and have the necessary time to devote passion and enthusiasm to this position. I want only to be your mayor.

Town employees have not received merit raises and market raises have dropped. The cost of certain health benefits has also risen. What will you do for town employees?

Brewer: The town employees are the hardest working, most professional group I have had the pleasure of working with. They deserve better pay. But we also need to improve streets, improve drainage problems and address other needs of the town. The answer is economic development. We need to become a more business friendly town. We are going to solve these needs by increasing revenue through more sales tax, not property tax. When the income increases, then I would urge higher salaries for our employees based upon a market study.

Currently I have been talking with Tracy Snyder about restoring our former health benefits for the town employees or making sure that the representation we have with the current company improves greatly.

Chase: As your mayor, I will implement a comprehensive review of town employees and provide appropriate compensation where merited, and guidance where needed.

Do you feel Payson needs more police officers and firefighters?

Brewer: I truly believe we have the finest police and fire departments of our size in Arizona. As to staffing of those departments, I leave those recommendations to the respective chiefs, and the budgeting process we have in place. We need to support them to the extent necessary to provide a satisfactory level of public safety to our citizens.

Chase: At present we're in good shape. I am positive and optimistic about my opportunity as your mayor to apply my better qualifications to keep us properly equipped and staffed.

If you were cutting the town budget, where and what would you cut?

Brewer: The town budget is a long and involved process that requires the input of staff, department heads, the public and finally the council at large. It would be premature to make a guess as to what line items or budgets can be cut. Priorities change from year to year, and you must stay flexible to be able to move the limited resources we have from one area to another. Until I see the department and town staff requests and the anticipated revenue, I would not commit to any defined cuts.

Over the past 8 years that I have been on the town council, we have cut our budget by 23.8 percent. This tells me that we are running a much more efficient town with our staff doing a great job of finding grant money and other sources of revenue to work with without raising any taxes.

Chase: I look forward to reviewing a complete audit of each department. Upon such a comprehensive review, extraneous funding would be reassigned to its most needed recipient. As your mayor, I will make this happen.

Do you favor expansion of industry by the airport?

Brewer: Yes, I do. The growth of good, clean industry and the jobs that will be created is important to the economic health of our town. We also should continue to strive to make the airport self-supporting. There is land available around the airport for industry, and we, as a town, should advocate its use.

Chase: Expansion and growth are appropriate if the industry is compatible with the town's growth plans, vision, and values. Good planning is the key and needs to be conducted by our community development leadership.

With noise an increasing issue, how do you foresee the town dealing with noise regulation?

Brewer: I believe we are approaching the point where we will need to deal with the issue through a well thought out noise ordinance. We should look at noise ordinances that have worked effectively in other communities as a model. We must be careful not to impose too harsh a standard that will curtail economic development. Our Planning and Zoning Department is currently looking at updating our noise ordinances. I am confident that they will do a large amount of research into this before presenting it to the town council for adoption.

Chase: There are now regulations by federal, state and local entities governing noise pollution. Of the utmost importance is the enforcement of such standards. As issues arise, they must be addressed and managed promptly and efficiently, ensuring that all parties involved are treated in a professional and fair manner.

What nonprofit organizations do you feel are most worthy of financial support by the town?

Brewer: My voting record is clear on my support of nonprofits in past budget years. At this point, we have not been advised which nonprofits have applied for funding in the next fiscal year. Until I see who is applying for funds, it is difficult to prioritize them.

Chase: The issue is quality of life for Payson's citizens. Our town should encourage all organizations that help provide a better quality of life for our citizens.

There is a high demand for affordable housing. Should Payson explore additional low-income housing?

Brewer: Yes, we should continue to explore all possibilities to generate affordable housing. We supported the Green Valley apartments in the redevelopment area, and it already has a waiting list. I support the senior affordable project in the redevelopment area also. Jobs, by and large, are not high paying in Payson, and housing will continue to be a major problem for working families.

Chase: Payson should encourage the exploration of low-income housing. However, private developers need to be the driving force behind this endeavor.

How do you believe the town should deal with trash, recycling and toxic waste?

Brewer: Yes. I do believe that we need to be recycling; however, it currently doesn't pay for itself. The state laws regulate us and won't allow for making garbage collection mandatory. I have discussed this issue at length of ways to implement recycling and will continue to work toward a resolution that we can live with.

Three years ago we received grant money for education on recycling to be used in the schools and money to purchase the roll off bins currently located at Green Valley Park and the Wal-Mart parking lots. This earned us a recycling award for the newest community in the southwest to begin recycling, of which I presented to the town upon returning from the conference.

We have to have industries nearby that will purchase the recyclables to make it beneficial for all involved. Waste Management is interested in pursuing this challenge with us and I will continue dialog with them.

Chase: The town should allow private enterprise to provide these services to our citizens. Competition is the key to the success of our free market, and as such should be allowed to function in this capacity. Recycling and toxic waste removal are extremely important services that need to be explored and encouraged in Payson.

What do you think are appropriate expenditures for elected officials?

Brewer: Travel expenses such as mileage, food and lodging for town-related training seminars and legislative events are legitimate in my opinion. These are valuable networking and training tools for the mayor and council to allow them do their job effectively. I support detailed guidelines for the mayor and council to follow on expense reimbursement.

Chase: When elected officials are involved in doing town business, they should be reimbursed for responsible out-of-pocket expenditures. Keep in mind that sometimes it is necessary for a town official to travel to different parts of the state and perhaps even out of state to accomplish business that would ultimately benefit our community.

If funds were available, would you support a community center in Payson?

Brewer: I do support a multi-generational community center that would encompass an aquatic, senior and youth center. Funding is the larger issue that must be overcome. I believe any funding plan must have the support and vote of the people.

Chase: A community center would help build town spirit. With a project planned fund-raising campaign such as other communities and partnerships have accomplished, I see no need to expect our citizens to be taxed for design and construction of a community center. I anticipate that operating a center will be our financial challenge and will work to determine if and how such a facility can pay its own way.

Would you support a bond initiative to repair town roads and create new ones?

Brewer: Yes. I supported the last bond initiative, and I believe if we had done a better job of educating our community, it would have passed. It was a very close vote. We will get the streets up to standard, but it's going to take time. If our citizens want them improved quickly, then a bond issue is the answer.

Meanwhile, I will continue to look for funds through the Central Association of Governments and any other grants that may come available to us for street improvements.

Chase: I would support a bond initiative to repair existing roads, bringing them up to standard. I would not support a bond issue for new roads at this time.

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