This is the liveblog for Night 1 of the Parker Area Chamber of Commerce Meet the Candidates event in Parker on July 26th, 2016. For schedule, format and coverage questions, go HERE first. The below was reported live in real time by John Wright.
6:15pm– Hey everyone! Seats are filling up here at Parker Community Senior Center. Some of the candidates are looking nervous, some are greeting people and the event is just getting started. If you couldn’t make it to the event tonight, sit back and refresh your browser once in a while to see the latest updates here. Mary Hamilton is on stage now, making introductions.
6:18pm– District 1 Supervisor candidates are getting up. Mesena ‘Missi’ Gilbert and D.L. Wilson. Missi first. She is from Parker and cites her business experience and her educational achievements. She says she has been involved in the community for many years and takes pride in her community. “Accountability and transparency” and managing the County’s finances “like a business”. She wants to bring in sources of revenue, and create a better place to live, work and play.
6:24pm– D.L. is up now, and says when he took office, he had three priorities: economics development, landfill as a revenue source, and the last is about operations, transparency and accountability. “My priorities have not changed.” He cites Rose Acre Farms, Spankys new location, Beachcombers and Hampton Inn as new businesses. “We still need assisted living, …. serviceable infrastructure…” and cites some of the other County achievements of the past term.
6:27pm– A question from the audience is about what needs improved. Missi says better communication is needed between various entities. D.L. says County and Town have a good working relationship and “we need to improve relations with CRIT”. One of the other questions relates to the times that the Board of Supervisors meets: during the day as opposed to in the evening when the public can attend. Missi said she would be up for entertaining that with the other board members; D.L. said there isn’t a lot of public input in meetings, but emphasized that the real discussions with citizens are face to face or on the phone during the week.
6:32pm– Another question asks why public transfer site operators are working out in the heat without shelter and why the County needs a 4-day work week instead of a 5-day work week. Missi says she would be happy to entertain addressing the issues. D.L. focused his reply on saying that the 4-day work week is good for employee morale. The gentleman who asked the question had some vocal responses to it and had to be told to “cool your jets” by moderator Mary Hamilton. He left the room shortly thereafter.
6:37pm– “The County doesn’t do a whole lot for our senior-related services” – Darla Tilley, Senior Center. Both candidates replied that there was work to do.
6:38pm– District 2 Supervisors are up! All five of them. Danny Wayne Dickinson is talking first (off the cuff – no script). He has The Welding Shop, has lived here for about 10 years, and has both his parents here. “I am a conservative. I don’t like to spend money, mine or yours.” He cites his lack of election campaign signs and promises to save people money.
6:40pm– Luke Marler who is running as an independent chose not to speak tonight. Duce Minor is up, and says he has lived in Parker for decades, “we work, worship and play here.” He was a Supervisor elected in 1989: “Those were good days for our County.” He cites “terrible financial trouble” at the County over the last 8 years, including increasing the line of credit, choosing which vendors get paid and which don’t, Auditor General’s findings and issues not getting resolved. “I’m tired of watching us march to the edge of a financial cliff”. Cites his experience and intentions to bring accountability and success to the County.
6:44pm– Pat Jones is a write-in candidate. Retired from California. His boys are CRIT firemen. Pat says he’s “very aggressive” and “passionate” – whatever’s right for the taxpayer is “what I do” and says he doesn’t make friends doing it. He says he has been on numerous boards and been re-elected. He thinks the water issue is the most important issue for the County to be dealing with and cites issues with the alfalfa fields: “If we want businesses to come here they’ve got to have water.” Talks about the transmission line going in on BLM land and how little benefit there is to us. “The special districts [on the tax bill] are draining us big time.”
6:47pm– George Nault is up. Former County Assessor. Been here since before La Paz County was a county. He says we’re going through some “not so good times” and cites challenges of cash flow as the biggest issue. Raising taxes is not the answer, he says. We need to free up more land for development. Only 5 percent of the county is privately owned. We need more shared revenue from the state, he says. Protecting natural resources including water. We need more community input from our government, he says, including having a radio show to keep the community informed on what’s going on. “Folks, we’re facing some severe challenges,” he says.
6:50pm– Charlie Philpot is up and says he believes in “no politics, just common sense”. Leadership is the most important thing, he says. He says he’s a steady person and gets a small round of applause for being married to his wife for 50 years. He says for 25 years he worked with the Buckskin Fire Department in District 2. Cites the efficiency of Buckskin Fire Department. “Who do you vote for so you don’t have another Yakima problem? I say Charlie Philpot,” he said. Reducing wasteful spending and unnecessary departments – “I hate taxes” – and finding alternatives. “May God bless La Paz County and the United States” and says we need to give God praise.
6:54pm– Question time! Julian Barbara says a “rogue cattle rancher” has invoked the “open range law” and is out of control, with cattle “in the cemetery daily” and other things. George Nault answers and says he’s lived in Bouse for a long time. He says it is open range, and cattle needs fenced out, not fenced in. A state legislator is looking into it, he says. Duce Minor responds too, and says he was surprised to learn of the situation. “The ranchers have certain rights but this was a new permit…” – he thinks the county could have paid more attention and could respond. Cites damage done to property, and a child being charged by a steer. Duce Minor vows to look at it if elected. Charlie Philpot says he doesn’t know cows but he knows people, and infringing on rights is a problem. Pat Jones says range cattle are there but there’s something that can be done here, with BLM can review the permit with pressure. Danny Wayne Dickinson says “Y’all could be eating a little bit better in Bouse” if the situation could be resolved another way, getting laughs from the crowd.
7:00pm– A suggestion from the crowd regarding how to give air-conditioned shelter to transfer site operator cheaply (from Home Depot, no less). Pat Jones says Danny Wayne Dickinson said the operators should quit if they don’t like it. “Not to say that down the road something can’t be done.” George Nault said something could come up, and these questions should be raised. Duce Minor says he’s empathetic and it could be “easily accommodated”. Charlie Philpot says he’s offered to give them a shelter, but their boss wouldn’t give it at the time.
7:06pm– A questioner wants to know why her husband pays more for property tax in La Paz County than in Idaho. George Nault says it’s a small tax base and it needs grown. Pat Jones says the special districts are too expensive and are a drain on the tax bill. Duce Minor says taxes are a problem everywhere and we need more “non-tax revenues”. No more questions or answers and we’re done with District 2!
7:10pm– Holly Irwin is up first for District 3 Supervisor. She says we’ve “accomplished a great deal” and said it hasn’t been easy but she likes a challenge and doesn’t take no for an answer. Says she’s been in La Paz County for 24 years. Two businesses and community involvement. “Tonight is mostly about District 1 and District 2,” she says, so she doesn’t want to take too much time. She says they have saved the County $9 million by refinancing judgement bonds. Talks about the water issue, with the threat to the water table. She wants to keep working on that.
7:13pm– Now it’s Gary Zakrajsek, saying he’s an independent so won’t be on the ballot next month but wanted to come and meet people anyway. He is a 26-year County employee who quit his job to run for supervisor, even though he’s just 4 years from full retirement. “It was a very tough decision”, he said, but he thinks the county has lost its direction and cites financial issues, funding for schools, high property taxes, water issues, and no solutions being offered. Cites boarded-up houses and businesses due to a failing economy in District 3.
7:17pm– A lengthy question from the floor asks about Supervisors paying attention to various county committees and meetings and what’s going on at different levels. Holly says it’s a supervisor’s job to come to meetings when they can and pay attention, and to have an open door policy so that people can bring issues to be addressed. Gary Zak says he has been attending meetings and thinks it’s vitally important to be around the people who have issues that need addressed.
7:20pm– A questioner wants a summary of Holly’s work with “the trails” – regarding establishment of an off-road trail through Arizona called the Arizona Peace Trail. Holly calls it a “revenue maker”. It’s for OHV enthusiasts, and that’s an important demographic. Gary says he can see the vital importance of this type of project for the community.
7:23pm– A question about audits, and another about the water basins. And we’re done with District 3. Next up: Parker Town Council candidates. There are 6 candidates running and 4 positions.
7:36pm– Jim Beaver is up first on behalf of his dad Dan Beaver, who couldn’t make it due to being on a fishing trip in Alaska: people clapped. Parker Ford Motor Company is going to be 100 years in Parker this year. Jim says his dad has been on Council for 9.5 years, and he says he believes the town has great potential that has not been tapped into. The town has been moving in the right direction, he says. Among the things he says could be improved: More housing needed. Begin the process to procure a care facility. More street improvements.
7:30pm– Dave Boatwright is up, saying he’s been here for 16 years, been married for 16 years, many committees and other work with the town. He says he loves the town and plans to stay here. Carlos Castro says he has resolved issues before and offered solutions. He says he has served in the past on Council and feels he could make a difference. Slogan: “Community first.” Talks about Parker South and the capacity that offers room for growth. “I strongly believe in the development of Parker South.” Seniors need assisted living, he says. We need to work with CRIT much more closely, he says. We need to revisit the “pool issue” he says: “it’s too hot out here.”
7:34pm– Hal Collett has been here for over 45 years, and raised his family here, he says. Cites his experience in law enforcement, degrees in management and says he is running because he wants to help our seniors, our youth and make Parker a safer place to live. “Parker is the County seat and Parker is within the CRIT reservation. We need to unite those governments.” Cites Darla Tilley as the best manager of a senior center in the state of Arizona and says it’s not enough to have a great manager, we need more. Mentions assisted living. We need better recreational facilities for our youth, he says. Facilities need renovation. Parker and CRIT together for grants. Three law enforcement departments together. “We are one community.”
7:37pm– Randy Hartless starts by joking that he’s tried to keep the range cows out of Parker and thinks he’s succeeded. He says he doesn’t have an ax to grind and agrees with many other candidates on most issues. He’d like to see transparency on the bed tax. “But my biggest complaint right is the stop light at California and Riverside,” he says, “ADOT changed it.” “If elected, I’m going to make that stop light great again, and I’m going to make ADOT pay for it!” He says he believes the job of a council person is to hire and fire the town manager and doesn’t believe in micromanagement: he’s been here a long time and wants to do more.
7:40pm– Jerry Hooper says he’s been married to Buni Harvey Hooper for 53 years and has lived here longer than most, with children and grandchildren raised here. “I love Parker and it is my chosen home. … It is my duty to give back.” He is the current vice-mayor and has served in many capacities. He cites happiness with the purchase of the Alewine property and Beachcombers starting construction along with Hampton Inn.
7:42pm– A questioner says the town needs a dog park and says she hasn’t been heard by the Town Council on this issue and cites frustration with the council. Jerry Hooper replies, saying the town has budgeted $10,000 but only if it’s matched by another party. No other candidates stood to answer.
7:45pm– A questioner proposes a 2 percent sales tax for Parks & Recreation. Hal Collett says he agrees that young people need more money for activities. Says he doesn’t agree with additional tax but says there could be money found for that and will “definitely” work on it. Jerry Hooper cites the Learn to Swim program and another program as examples of things that are supported by town funds. Randy Hartless says towns are usually responsible for such programs but parents run things here. “I personally wouldn’t mind paying that but I wouldn’t support it unless the majority of the town did.” Carlos Castro replies that the town businesses must compete with Lake Havasu City and it would be hard on them. Dave Boatwright says it’s about working to get the money to support the projects.
7:50pm– Another question asks whether there’s really going to be housing in Parker South, and the question is raised of whether the town should fund infrastructure for housing there. Jerry Hooper says “We have spoken to a developer” and says there are complications and it hasn’t gotten to the point of scheduling work yet. Hal Collett says the town doesn’t own any property out there, it’s privately owned, and its up to the property owners. Carlos Castro says he’s a supporter of Parker South but not at taxpayers’ expense. He says we should not prematurely invest money in infrastructure, citing past failures on that. Randy Hartless agreed, saying he would support development out there but good capitalism would pay for itself. Dave Boatwright agreed, saying the developers should take care of the issue.
7:56pm– An upriver resident says she would like to use the library more but the hours are short and asked the candidates what they would do for the library. Jerry Hooper says a proposed library district funded by the County didn’t go through, and argues that people from outside of town are using the library even though Town funds are paying for it. So at this point, he says there won’t be longer hours. A member of the public got up to challenge that, saying that people from everywhere pay sales taxes and therefore fund the library through their sales tax. Hal Collett says this is one of the areas he talked about, with other government agencies working together would benefit everyone. Randy Hartless says the County can do more for the library but agrees that everyone pays sales taxes when they shop in town so they’re funding the library too.
8:05pm– And we’re done for the night! Thanks for joining us. This post will stay up permanently as part of our coverage of this election year at Parker Live, so share it with anybody who you think would benefit from reading it, and we’ll be back tomorrow night (Wednesday) with another liveblog of the second night of Meet the Candidates in Parker. For Night 2 coverage, go HERE.