At­wa­ter cit­i­zens vote to ‘fix City Hall’

Merced Sun-Star - - Front Page - BY THADDEUS MILLER tmiller@mer­ced­

The vot­ers of At­wa­ter ousted one-term Mayor Jim Price on Elec­tion Day, sup­port­ing the new di­rec­tion the city has moved in the past two years, ac­cord­ing to Tues­day’s win­ners.

At­wa­ter may­oral can­di­date Paul Creighton and in­cum­bent Coun­cilmem­ber Brian Ray­mond de­clared vic­tory Tues­day evening in their in­di­vid­ual races. Both coun­cilmem­bers in their first term took turns stand­ing on a chair in­side Is­abella’s Bar and Grill in At­wa­ter to thank sup­port­ers, who in turn chanted “fix City Hall” over and over.

Creighton, 50, said his lead was a re­sound­ing ap­proval from res­i­dents tired of nasty pol­i­tics that plague coun­cil meet­ings and the daily work­ings of the city. With 2,641 votes, he held about 67 per­cent of the vote.

“The cit­i­zens of At­wa­ter have spo­ken tonight. They like what we’re do­ing,” he said on Tues­day. “The di­rec­tion we’re tak­ing the city is the di­rec­tion they want to go. We got to fin­ish what we started.”

Out­go­ing Mayor Jim Price did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Creighton said his first goal as mayor will be to unite the of­ten­feud­ing coun­cil. He also said he plans to re­turn At­wa­ter City

Hall and its em­ploy­ees to a five-day work week. Em­ploy­ees have been fur­loughed on Fridays for years.

At­wa­ter pol­i­tics has been par­tic­u­larly nasty in the past two years with two sides of the di­vided coun­cil ac­cus­ing each other of le­gal and eth­i­cal vi­o­la­tions.

The em­ploy­ment of Po­lice Chief Sa­muel Joseph, who was placed on leave back in Jan­uary, fac­tored into the Elec­tion Day re­sults, Creighton said.

Creighton sup­ported the de­ci­sion to oust the po­lice chief while Price did not.

At­wa­ter cer­tainly faces many chal­lenges as the city has strug­gled with its fi­nances with a $2.5

mil­lion general fund debt and mil­lions more in un­funded li­a­bil­i­ties. The city has re­cently loos­ened its mar­i­juana dis­pen­sary laws as one of many ef­forts to pay down debt.

Ray­mond re­ceived 64.7 per­cent of the vote, about 818 votes. “I feel over­whelmed and thank­ful to the res­i­dents of District 4 for believ­ing in what we’ve been do­ing and want us to con­tinue what we started,” he said.

His op­po­nent Don Hyler III con­ceded Tues­day night with 440 votes.

“I’m cau­tiously op­ti­mistic that you’re go­ing to see a more uni­fied coun­cil go­ing for­ward, and one that’s not wor­ried about petty back­bit­ing but wor­ried about see­ing the city move for­ward for the res­i­dents,” Ray­mond said.

District 3 can­di­dates Danny Am­briz’s 260 votes (47.19 per­cent) and Dan Her­nan­dez’s 287 votes (52.09 per­cent) left that race yet to have a clear win­ner Tues­day.

At­wa­ter’s Mea­sure B, which al­lows the city to tax mar­i­juana sales up to 15 per­cent, is well on its way to pass­ing with 67.1 per­cent of votes.

THADDEUS MILLER tmiller@mer­ced­sun­

Paul Creighton de­clares vic­tory in the mayor’s race in At­wa­ter on Tues­day.

Brian Ray­mond

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