Thursday, October 27, 2011

Orofino Mayor and City Council Forum

By Alannah Allbrett

The Orofino City Council Candidate Forum was held Monday evening at Orofino High School. The forum was sponsored by the Orofino Chamber of Commerce’s Public Affairs Committee, with approximately 45 people in attendance.

Ryan Smathers is running uncontested for his second full term as mayor. Additionally, he completed a partial term when that office fell vacant.

Three seats on the city council are open, including one left absent by the passing of Roy Clay. The two incumbents running are: Marguerite McLaughlin and Doug Donner. Newcomers to the race are: Avery Dunaway, Don Gardner, and Shannon Schrader.

Facilitator, Jeff Jones opened the evening by welcoming “concerned voters.” Candidates were asked what motivated them to run for city council. A brief summary of some of their statements follows:
Avery Dunaway wants “to have a voice in what goes on in the community and to be a voice for the people of Orofino.”  

Shannon Schrader said, “I started sitting in on meetings and found it very interesting. I would like to be part of making changes. What inspired me, basically, is the council.”
Don Gardner: “I felt it was an opportunity for me to step up. I want to be part of the solution, so I decided to run and donate my time to the city.”
Ryan Smathers: “I want to continue to run because we’re not quite done with some of the projects we’ve gotten started – one of the most important things to our whole community has been the water treatment plant. We’re about to break ground and get it started, and that’s probably the biggest motivator that I have.”

Doug Donner: “This will be my seventh [consecutive] term. Some of the largest projects are right in front of us, such as the water treatment plant that we’ve worked on for so long, as well as other unfinished projects.“

Marguerite McLaughlin: “I’m really proud of attaining the grant that we did for the water plant, but our infrastructure is getting old. I think that we need a lot of expertise on that, and work towards finishing the job.”

Question: In your opinion, what do you think are some of the most challenging issues facing our community; how would you go about trying to resolve these issues? Gardner – wants to promote business opportunities, and to support families and youth.  Schrader – said he didn’t know, yet what issues we’re faced with. Dunaway – to find a way to make my kids want to come back here once they leave for college. McLaughlin – is concerned over the apathy about important issues and wants people to communicate at council meetings. Smathers – said funding issues are always a big reality for us. Donner – said we are geographically challenged and need to utilize well defined comprehensive and master transportation plans.

Question: [to incumbents] What has Orofino done to address the recession issue and have any services been reduced? Donner – said we’ve tightened up, and held off hiring a public works employee and we are fortunate that a good reserve program was put in place several years ago. McLaughlin – said employees have taken on extra duties and the city tries to make it work to stay within their budget. Smathers – a lot of the credit goes to prior leadership and currently we watch every penny we spend and go over each bill before authorizing money. The city is a very well run team.

Question: [to challengers] If you had a blank check and could make any improvements that you wanted to in the city, what improvements would you make? Gardner – jobs and job training, a summer job program for youth. Schrader – access for the Riverside area, with a paved bike pathway to the bridge with an overpass.  Dunaway – pay off the bond for the water bill and lower utility bills for people. I would also give the school district the funds that they need to finish schools.
Question: As an elected official of this city, please list two issues that you would like the full city council to address or get involved in. Donner – thinks they are already involved with every issue now. Schrader – the North South Trail and to utilize all the recreational opportunities. The city should play a bigger role to bring in money for that.  McLaughlin – would like to see businesses brought back into the town and secondly to see youth come back and reside here. Gardner – would like to end the “revolving door” for law enforcement officers. He would also like to utilize and protect Orofino Creek as a resource for recreation. Smathers – downtown beautification and the Rails to Trails program. Dunaway – the railroad tracks and the city pool.
Question: On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being the highest) how would you rate the performance of the city council over the past four years? Schrader – said he had no opinion on that, everything seems to be carried out the way it’s supposed to. Gardner – gives them a #8 rating and is proud of them. Dunaway – gives the council a #8 for the water bond they got. McLaughlin – thinks they deserve a #9 for working hard and diligently towards the common good of Orofino. Donner – gives council a #9 for the water treatment plant, master transportation plan, comprehensive plan, and the ALP airport plan. Smathers – gives the council a #10 due to past efforts of Roy Clay and the hard working council. He said there are good choices sitting here and he will work with whomever is elected.

Question: In one word, how would you like the public to describe you? Smathers – “Dedicated. I’m dedicated to this community. I always have been and plan to be for a long time.”  McLaughlin – “Dedicated. I want people to know that I’m knowledgeable but I’m also dedicated to the goodness of the city.” Donner – “I’d like to choose the same word, or aggressive.” Dunaway – “Friend. I’d like everybody to be able to tell me their thoughts and ideas.”  Schrader – “Two words, honest and fair.  I’m not a good speaker, but I’m going to be honest and fair if you ask me a question.”  Gardner – “Outstanding. When people say, how’s your city council? They are going to say, outstanding.”
Question: What do you think about a skate park?  All candidates agreed a skateboard park would be a good thing if it could be budgeted. Young people want one, but the community would have to partner, organize, and find funding for it.  The total recreation budget of $45,000 is capped by the state and is only enough to maintain the city’s three existing parks. The city is unable to be the sole provider at this time.

Question: What are your thoughts about annexation of outlying areas which use city services? All candidates agreed it is an issue that is contentious but needs to be looked at. Comments were that it would be very costly to bring their infrastructures up-to-date and might prove costly instead of bringing more revenue to the city. It was pointed out that police and fire protection are already being provided to those neighborhoods. The council has talked about annexation several times, and it might be inevitable at some time in the future.

Question: How would you attract more businesses and jobs to Orofino? Smathers – by supporting the ones that are already here and staying adamant about every dollar we spend being spent locally. McLaughlin – by having an excellent school system. Donner – more town cleanup and utilizing the Clearwater County Economic Development Specialist. Schrader – we have a huge opportunity for recreation development. Gardner – we need to review some of the rules and ordinances that prevent start-up businesses.

Question: What special skill or talent would you bring to the council? Donner – the ability to look at all sides of issues.  Schrader – good organizational skills – the ability to bring everybody together to make something happen. Gardner – a dedication to get it done; it may take a little time or go quickly, but it will get done. Dunaway – I’m a good listener; I listen to 30 employees. I am not a very good talker, but I am a very good listener. Smathers – I am definitely able to listen to people and hear all sides of the story, and also it’s important to be accessible and available at any time. McLaughlin – I do listen and ask a lot of questions when we’re discussing issues. I’m open minded but don’t take just one word, that’s being told me, as being the final answer on an issue.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Be sure to take time to vote.

No comments:

Post a Comment