Yuma Sun

Council race

Yuma candidates address local issues in forum

- BY MARA KNAUB sun STAFF WRITER

Editor’s note: This is the first of two stories covering the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce Council Candidate Forum held Tuesday. The second part will appear in the Thursday edition of the Yuma Sun.

Seven candidates vying for three open seats on the Yuma City Council addressed local issues in a forum held Tuesday at Arizona Western College, moderated by Yuma Sun Editor Roxanne Molenar.

Candidates answered questions previously submitted by citizens during four rounds. The candidates included William Craft, a retired Marine and banker and former council member; Gary Knight, a current council member and retired business owner; Arturo Morales, a banker and community advocate; Robert Scarboroug­h, co-owner of several family businesses; Edward Thomas, a veteran and former council member; Carol Smith, a nurse educator and former school board member; and Nicolle Wilkinson, a constructi­on project manager and architect and former board member of the Southwest Technical Education District of Yuma.

ROUND 1

Asked how the city can attract the right businesses, Craft stressed the need to build up the quality of life by focusing on the art center, parks and golf courses, as well as making sure the streets are clean and repaired and police officers taken care of.

Knight, on being asked about constructi­on of a multi-story story parking facility downtown, said he “absolutely” supports it. He pointed to a $10.6 million federal grant that the city received for a downtown multimodal transporta­tion hub and noted that developers had said they would invest in downtown only if the city got the grant. One of the conceptual drawings he has seen includes a three-level parking garage, he added.

Morales, talking about

the housing shortage and rising prices of single-family homes, said he would support rezoning more land for lower-cost multifamil­y housing and high-density residentia­l housing. He noted that he works with several local organizati­ons that frequently face housing shortages for their employees and members, such as the hospital, college and military installati­ons.

Asked about conflicts, Scarboroug­h clarified he does not have any as his companies do “zero” business with the city.

Smith, in reply to a question about her experience with budgets, noted that while serving on the Crane school board, she helped to manage an annual budget of $51 million. “We weren’t managing it to make money. We were taking every dollar to spread it across the district and serve those families and students as best we could,” she said.

Thomas, asked what steps he would take to resolve concerns in the city, said he wouldn’t point fingers and post blame on social media. Instead, he added, he would step up, address the issues directly and come up with solutions.

In a question about the police pay, Wilkinson said that in speaking with officers, the shortage is not just about pay. She noted that she would eliminate the second deputy administra­tor position to fund a mental health counselor for public safety specifical­ly. Bonuses would also go a long way, she added.

ROUND 2

Craft, who serves on the police retirement board, said that officers also leave due to family issues. “We need to make Yuma a place they want to stay,” he noted. He also suggested retention bonuses and noted that due to compressio­n some sergeants don’t want to get promoted because it would mean a pay cut.

Asked about developmen­t fees, Knight said they should stay the same although they don’t completely pay for developmen­t because they serve as an incentive for developers to bring in and build new projects, both commercial or residentia­l. “If we raise fees, it would be detrimenta­l,” Knight said, adding that the city needs to keep the fees as low as possible, especially in view of the rising costs of labor and materials.

In addressing the drought and shrinking water supplies in the Colorado River, Morales said Yuma might be losing industry to Maricopa County now, but he foresees that the Phoenix-metro communitie­s will come looking for Yuma’s water in the future. He stressed the need to work with the Yuma mayor and other mayors in the community to address this with the governor to make sure Yuma’s water is protected.

Scarboroug­h said his No. 1 priority is a fiscally responsibl­e budget and not wasting money in “grant building projects that only benefit a small segment of society.” First and foremost , he noted, is public safety. If Yuma keeps spending money on grant projects, the city won’t have funds for the “most important things” like police and parks that citizens need and use on a daily basis, he added.

Asked to identify wasteful spending, Smith said she has reviewed the budget, and although she’s not a financial expert, she is willing to listen to the current council and community to learn where they believe there is wasteful spending.

Thomas, in explaining what he would do with a $1 million gift, no strings attached, said he would build regulation-size football fields so young men can play football.

Asked about funding public safety health counselors, Wilkinson reiterated that she’s the only candidate to have stated that she wants to get rid of the second deputy administra­tor position to fund a mental health advocate for public safety. It would be an excellent way to show them support and protect their mental and physical health, she added.

The Yuma Mayoral Candidate Forum will take place Thursday during the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce “Good Morning, Yuma!” breakfast. Doug Nicholls, the current mayor, is being challenged by Karen Watts, a current council member.

The breakfast will start at 6:30 a.m., followed by the program at about 7 a.m., at the Arizona Western College Schoening Center. A limited number of online registrati­ons and tickets at the door will be available until the event sells out for $35 for chamber members and $55 for nonmembers. The link to purchase breakfast tickets in advance is https://tinyurl.com/2p9cayzd.

A few compliment­ary seats will be available for those not wanting breakfast. Advance registrati­on is not available for the compliment­ary seats and will be first-come, first-served that morning.

 ?? Buy these photos at yumasun.com PHOTOs By Randy HOeFT/YUMA SUN ?? BELOW: Choosing to stand, because he said he was short, Arturo Morales introduces himself at the start of the forum. Seated next to Morales are incumbent Gary Knight (left) and fellow council hopeful Robert Scarboroug­h.
Buy these photos at yumasun.com PHOTOs By Randy HOeFT/YUMA SUN BELOW: Choosing to stand, because he said he was short, Arturo Morales introduces himself at the start of the forum. Seated next to Morales are incumbent Gary Knight (left) and fellow council hopeful Robert Scarboroug­h.
 ?? ?? TWO-MONTH-OLD ADELINE DUNBAR was so interested in Tuesday night’s Yuma City Council Candidate Forum inside the Schoening Conference Center on the Arizona Western College main campus, that she slept through the whole presentati­on. Adeline was at the forum with her father, City of Yuma Fire Department Capt. John Dunbar, who was representi­ng United Yuma Fire Fighters Associatio­n Local 1234, and unlike his daughter, he was interested in what the council candidates had to say.
TWO-MONTH-OLD ADELINE DUNBAR was so interested in Tuesday night’s Yuma City Council Candidate Forum inside the Schoening Conference Center on the Arizona Western College main campus, that she slept through the whole presentati­on. Adeline was at the forum with her father, City of Yuma Fire Department Capt. John Dunbar, who was representi­ng United Yuma Fire Fighters Associatio­n Local 1234, and unlike his daughter, he was interested in what the council candidates had to say.
 ?? ?? CANDIDATES FOR THREE SEATS ON THE YUMA CITY COUNCIL sit ready to answer questions during Tuesday night’s Yuma City Council Candidate Forum inside the Schoening Conference Center on the Arizona Western College main campus. The candidates are (from left) former council member William Craft, incumbent council member Gary Knight, Arturo Morales, Robert Scarboroug­h Carol Smith, former council member Edward Thomas and Nicolle Wilkinson.
CANDIDATES FOR THREE SEATS ON THE YUMA CITY COUNCIL sit ready to answer questions during Tuesday night’s Yuma City Council Candidate Forum inside the Schoening Conference Center on the Arizona Western College main campus. The candidates are (from left) former council member William Craft, incumbent council member Gary Knight, Arturo Morales, Robert Scarboroug­h Carol Smith, former council member Edward Thomas and Nicolle Wilkinson.
 ?? ?? ABOVE: Incumbent Yuma City Council member Gary Knight (second from left) answers a question during the forum. Sitting next to Knight are council hopefuls, including (from left) former council member William Craft, Arturo Morales and Robert Scarboroug­h.
ABOVE: Incumbent Yuma City Council member Gary Knight (second from left) answers a question during the forum. Sitting next to Knight are council hopefuls, including (from left) former council member William Craft, Arturo Morales and Robert Scarboroug­h.
 ?? ?? FORMER YUMA CITY COUNCIL MEMBER EDWARD THOMAS (CENTER) answers a question during the forum. Sitting next to Knight are fellow council hopefuls, including Carol Smith (left) and Nicolle Wilkinson.
FORMER YUMA CITY COUNCIL MEMBER EDWARD THOMAS (CENTER) answers a question during the forum. Sitting next to Knight are fellow council hopefuls, including Carol Smith (left) and Nicolle Wilkinson.

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