Candidates Q-and-A: Jennifer Riley

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Jennifer Riley

Age: 40

Occupation: Chief of organizational excellence, The Memorial Hospital at Craig

Years in Craig: Born here, and have lived here a total of 30 years

Immediate family: Husband, Steve Martinson; daughter, Caroline, 12

Previous political experience/civic involvement: Finishing first term on City Council

Q: The Craig City Council recently passed an ordinance prohibiting the use of marijuana on industrial and commercial zoned properties. Do you support that ordinance? Why or why not? If elected, what other steps would you take in regards to Amendment 64 implementation?

A: Yes. I voted in favor of this moratorium. Amendment 64 allows for legal possession and use of small quantities of marijuana by people 21 and older. The amendment has language that will allow commercial cultivation in the future. The city’s ordinance to prohibit use of marijuana on industrial and commercial properties was to prevent the creation of establishments in which people could bring their own marijuana and smoke — like a bar except instead of using alcohol, patrons would use pot. The legislature is currently working to determine the appropriate regulation, and until then, the city will wait and see what comes from that. Once the state guidelines are in place, I will support lifting the moratorium and passing an ordinance to comply with the state regulations.

Q: Craig recently took part in a downtown revitalization assessment focused on spurring economic development in the downtown core. What do you consider to be the state of Craig’s economy, and what specific steps would you take as a city councilor to address local economic issues?

A: Craig’s economy is stable and showing some signs of growth. Our sales tax revenue in 2012 was higher than the prior two years, and our first month of sales tax in 2013 came in above what we budgeted. I think that for Craig to be an attractive, vibrant community we should work with our downtown businesses to determine the viability of the proposal from the downtown assessment. Most of what needs to happen for the downtown core will come from the business owners and the owners of the vacant real estate. The city can assist with making changes and upgrades to the public spaces that will help make the downtown more appealing for current businesses, future businesses and patrons.

Q: Do you agree with renewable energy mandates? If so, why? If not, what would you do to change things?

A: I don’t agree with mandates in general. Most mandates do not take into consideration external factors. While I support renewable energy, mandating its use has unintended consequences that get passed on to the consumer. Mandating that a certain percentage of utility power come from renewable energy creates added expense for the utility, and that added expense gets passed down to the consumer through higher overall utility bills. As a local elected official, it is my obligation to be informed about mandates that may impact the community.

Q: Rehabilitating the Shadow Mountain subdivision is estimated to cost $4.5 million in city and county funds. Do you support that sort of expenditure, and what do you think is the right long-term approach to Shadow Mountain capital infrastructure needs and oversight?

A: Shadow Mountain, while located in the county, is serviced by city infrastructure — sewer and water. The residents of that neighborhood pay a premium for their water and sewer, and we have an obligation to maintain it. I think the city and county’s joint approach is the right one. We are working to determine the scope, identify funding sources for the infrastructure and find a way to make affordable the necessary upgrades that each property owner will be required to implement. It will likely be another year before we can even consider starting the project.

Q: Years ago, voters approved the idea of building a recreation center but would not support the $15 million cost for its construction or tax increases to fund the center into the future. Does the City of Craig need a rec center, and if so, would you explore options to reintroduce the project while in office?

A: Whether or not the city needs a rec center is for the community to decide. Whether I serve on council or not, I would participate in discussions about the viability of a rec center. I do not, however, support a property tax for a new rec center. Any plans for a rec center have to be funded by some other form of revenue.

Q: What do you view as the most pressing issues and greatest opportunities facing Craig in the next two to four years, and what are your ideas to address them?

A: For the city to ensure long-term growth and development, we need to participate and help shape our Economic Development Plan. We cannot rely on extraction resources indefinitely. Economic development in the future has to include finding ways to grow businesses to support and extend our local industries as well as neighboring industries. Currently, our largest employers are energy-based. Other large employers include the hospital and the school district. Our community college is in constant search of programs that can help sustain and grow these industries. Technical programs offered by the college not only bring people to the community, they help retain people.

My vision for Craig is to be a community of choice for businesses and families. In order for this to happen, we need to work collaboratively with primary industries, our downtown businesses, our health care system, and our education system to ensure that all are functioning at their highest levels. The city’s specific role will be to be to continue to wisely allocate dollars to support and upgrade the infrastructure and provide services at the expected level.

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