Saving vs. Spending: how do city council candidates view investing in Craig’s future?
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect a corrected dollar total representing the city’s projected carryover funds. The correct number is $11.6 million.
As the city of Craig heads toward its Nov. 2 Election Day, candidates running for city council are continuing their campaigns for at-large seats on the council. At Monday’s candidate forum, they discussed an important debate among city and county residents: should the city be saving money as we head toward mine and power plant closures, or should the city be spending money by investing in future infrastructure, industries and local resources?
Sean Hovorka, who is running for one of the seats, said that looking for dollar-matching grants is the way to go. By spending money responsibly, he said, the city can multiply its money going to local initiatives and businesses. He added that audits will keep officials accountable when it comes to spending tax dollars.
“If there’s matching grants out there, where our money will be multiplied through government funding or something like that, that’s where we need to be spending our money,” Havorka said. “If we have the opportunity to put in systems that are going to attract more people, more businesses, better education — stuff like that — that make Craig a more attractive place to live, then we need to be using that money properly.”
Chris Nichols, who is currently serving on the city council and is running for reelection, said the city should do both saving and spending. While he said the city does have $11.6 million in carryover funds this year as a result of savings tactics, Nichols said you have to spend money to make money. That spending should be going toward infrastructure and working together to reduce the cost of government, such as renewable energy.
“We did raise sales tax. That puts us in a position right now where we do have a reserve, and we continue building that reserve into the future,” Nichols said. “But when I say doing both, the city is currently working on required improvements that will attract growth. Most of the property within the city now is undeveloped, because there’s high infrastructure costs to get water, sewer, (and) utilities to these properties. We’re working on that.”
Candidate John Alcedo agreed that some money must be spent in order to secure a stable future in Craig.
“You have to spend a little bit of money now, but just like you manage your own household budget, and save some money for the future, and put that money into growth, that’s going to help us and then hold people accountable,” Alcedo said. “One of the reasons I said that I was running for city council is to become more involved, and to help serve this community so that it can continue to sustain.”
Jesse Jackson, a longtime Craig resident running for council, said that he has attended several city council meetings to see how the current city council members spend the city’s budget.
“I think (spending money toward initiatives like affordable housing) is a good idea, that you can get gains by investing there,” he said. “We’re going to continue to bring money in. Some things might cost money now, but you’re going to get back later. And you always need to have a pocket of money set aside for those emergencies.”
Bruce Cummings, another incumbent looking to keep a seat on the council, said that continuing the work that the current council has already put in will help current initiatives and plans for saving to continue. Cummings said this means looking closely and analyzing each and every way that the city spends its money.
“It’s a very important thing for us to look at — where we spend our money, and how we spend it. It’s not just, we save a little bit now and we spend a little bit now. There’s things that have to be done,” Cummings said. “We have to take care of our city, so we are here. I want to do a little shout out to our city manager who’s doing a great job in helping us with funding and finding funding to make sure our city grows.”
Parrish Terry, a newcomer to seeking public office and a local pastor, said that while there is necessary spending, he hopes that, as a council member, he can keep the city’s spending “conservative and fiscally responsible.”
“I’m reminded of the pool that we have that every year, it seems like it’s a burden,” Terry said. “Because 30 years ago, 35 years ago, it was built on a $5 million grant. The city can’t afford it now. It was free then, but our children now are having to pay for it. If I offered you a $25 million ranch to live on, you can live there for free. But your grandchildren have to pay the taxes once you die or are gone, you wouldn’t do that. We have to be very, very careful with the strings that are attached to this grant money.”
Jeremiah Beaudin is also running for a seat on the Craig City Council, but was unable to attend the candidate forum. Beaudin told the Craig Press last month that he’s running to keep small-town interests on the city council.
“I grew up in a small town,” Beaudin said. “Not a whole lot different from Craig, though quite a bit smaller. I feel there’s a lot of influence coming into Craig that doesn’t necessarily represent what a small town feels like. They want to bring ideas that don’t belong and don’t represent the people here. My goal would be to represent the people.”
There are four of six City Council seats up for election, and only one candidate is running for the open mayoral seat.
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