Craig council, mayoral candidates quizzed by community | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig council, mayoral candidates quizzed by community

On Thursday night, Craig voters got a glimpse at the people who will be serving them in local government, as well as what each of them brings to the table.

The seven candidates for Craig City Council and the two candidates for Craig's mayor convened at the Center of Craig for a forum hosted by the Bear Ears Tea Party Patriots.

Those present included Joe Bird and Kent Nielson, the only incumbents for council positions, as well as Liane Davis-Kling, Derek Duran, Marilynn Hill, Matt Winey and John Ponikvar. The two mayoral candidates are current councilors Ray Beck and Don Jones.

One of Jones' talking points was his previous tenure as mayor, which included being in office during Craig's centennial in 2008.

"I enjoyed serving, and I want to serve again," he said.

Many of the questions from the crowd focused on the city's role in economic development and the prospect of tax breaks as business incentives, the latter of which nearly all those on the panel opposed, some more vehemently than others.

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Ponikvar said he believed there are many better options for bringing in outside commerce than tax breaks, and "making the community more attractive" for businesses should be the priority.

The subject of "leakage" of shoppers for many goods and services was also mentioned by audience member and resident Ken Wergin.

Hill agreed that losing local money to both the Internet and larger cities is a continuing concern, and she was alarmed to see statistics from Yampa Valley Data Partners showing that Craig's restaurants lost more than $1 million to sites outside the city.

"It's a really big deal," she said.

A mention of a hypothetical sales tax increase was brought forth by the crowd, most candidates stating that it would depend on the conditions. Several, including Davis-Kling, Jones, Beck and Duran said in their response it would have to be left up to the voters.

Duran said it was a "yes and no" type of situation because with the population on board, more tax revenue could turn out positive.

"It's time that Craig invests in Craig," he said.

Glenda Bellio posed the question of how to combat apathy among people in Craig and to shake the idea that "there's nothing to do" in town. Bellio — who does not live within city limits and won't be able to vote for city positions — noted that the turnout at the forum was an indicator of a lack of involvement.

"Why the people who live in the city can't be concerned enough to get down here and see who these people are is sad," she said.

Though she felt there was not much of an answer to her question, overall Bellio thought each of the candidates provided a good discourse and offered many valid opinions.

"It gave me a better idea of how they think and where they go," she said.

Bellio may not have much say in who gets elected via ballot, but the impact of the city election is one she said will reach the whole area.

"The decisions they make affect me as greatly as the people in the community," she said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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