It was standing-room-only in council chambers at City Hall for a primary election debate among seven candidates, including Joshua Babb (pictured). Photo by Tyler Loveall

Traffic on State Route 347, economic development, utility rates, the override at Maricopa Unified School District, the library and the flood plain were all topics of discussion at Monday’s debate forum among seven candidates for three seats on the Maricopa City Council.

Most of the candidates brought up SR 347 as a major issue to tackle.

The terms of Vice Mayor Marvin Brown and councilmembers Bridger Kimball and Nancy Smith are coming to an end this year, and all are running for re-election. Challengers are former councilmembers Dan Frank, Julia Gusse and Leon Potter and newcomer Joshua Babb.

Smith did not attend the debate but was allowed to participate by phone.

The forum was moderated by Sara Troyer, executive director of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce.

When asked what change or conflict they would like to be involved in resolving:

Potter: Economic development on the east side of Maricopa

Brown: The change is already happening

Frank: SR 347

Babb: SR 347

Kimball: 1-percent tax cap

Gusse: Veterans services

Smith: SR 347 and 1-percent tax cap

Mayor Christian Price is running unopposed but did address the audience briefly. Photo by Tyler Loveall
Mayor Christian Price is running unopposed but did address the audience briefly. Photo by Tyler Loveall

With several mentions of the looming impact of the state’s 1-percent tax cap, Mayor Christian Price gave a “Reader’s Digest” overview of the issue at the end of the debate. Price is running unopposed for re-election. He said no state legislators understand the issue or how a government entity like the city of Maricopa is penalized for the actions of other jurisdictions.

The candidates mulled ways to tackle utility rates from Global Water. The idea of using bonds to purchase the water/sewer utility was floated by Potter. Gusse said the council must put forth a unified front in dealing with Global Water. Brown, reminding the audience of a committee formed to negotiate with the company, said buying a utility would be “very costly.”

Frank, who was chairman of the 2040 Vision committee that collected information for future planning, said “we heard over and over how the utility rates are negatively impacting” residents. But, he added, it might not be the right time for a feasibility study on purchasing the water utility.

Kimball said buying the utility is no guarantee the rates will go down.

When asked if they are supporting the MUSD override: See related editorial

Potter: Yes – “Class sizes were the reason I put my kids in a charter.”

Brown: Yes – “I was in favor of all the previous overrides.”

Frank: Did not answer – “Everyone has to vote their own conscience.”

Babb: Undecided – “Education is important to me … but you can’t throw money at a problem to fix it.”

Kimball: Yes – “I absolutely support the override.”

Gusse: Yes – “Our teachers are overworked, underpaid and not appreciated.”

Smith: Undecided – “The use of funds is clearly stated… All my criteria have been met… It’s the best organized override campaign… I have not made up my mind.”

Maricopa Public Library is a relatively new building but is considered too small for the community. While all candidates spoke highly of the library and noted its importance, there was reluctance to allocating money for a new library anytime soon.

Kimball said the reins were tight on all city departments in the current budget, and the library received about half of the money it needed. Frank said, with the city’s tight budget, it is not a good time to be taking on more debt.

Babb suggested creating a mobile library to further reach the community. Smith and Gusse used examples from other communities of libraries sharing space with schools or other government buildings.

Fielding personal questions about their candidacy after their previous controversial terms on council, Potter said he stands by his reasons for resigning, and Gusse there is a double-standard for women who speak their mind. Potter resigned from council to run for mayor after trying to recall Kimball. Gusse received an official warning from council after a violation of an ethics code she helped write.

“What made me run again was my love for Maricopa,” Potter said. “Trust is something that has to be earned.”

Gusse said she has been standing by her convictions and inferred she would have been treated differently had she been a man in the same circumstances.

Frank also previously served on council as an appointed member to fill out a term. He is now chairman of the Maricopa Flood Control District Board. He said serving on the board and the city council would not be a conflict of interest. Frank said he is concerned about the high insurance rates paid by homeowners in the floodplain, calling it “unacceptable.”

Candidates who survive the Aug. 30 primary and are not elected outright will be asked to participate in a general election debate in the fall.

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