At the GOP luncheon on Jan. 17, Republican mayoral candidates vied for their campaigns during their speeches.
Teresa Barncastle mediated the speeches and Rene Brock presented the book “The People Have Spoken (And They Are Wrong),” by David Harsanyi, which was donated to the Roswell Public Library and dedicated in the name of Pat Hittle, a long-time GOP party member.
Margaret Kennard from Leadership Roswell introduced registered Republican candidates, former mayor Del Jurney, incumbent mayor Dennis Kintigh and City Councilor Natasha Mackey. Sergio Gonzalez was not present. The speeches proceeded in alphabetical order.
All mayoral candidates, as well as city councilors, can be heard at the Candidate Forum on Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Pueblo Auditorium, 300 N. Kentucky Ave.
Past mayor’s journey
“If I told you over the course of the past three years, the city’s payroll has increased by more $5.4 million, would you think that was Ok?” Jurney asked. “What if I told you over the past four years, our gross receipts tax has been flat? Taking those two bits of information, how long would you anticipate that we could cover a $5 million budget deficit by pulling monies from other vital departments and by reallocating tax receipts from enterprise funds and public safety designations?”
Jurney also said that crime increased in the last 46 months and that officer morale is down, which Jurney attributed to the lack of support from elected officials.
Assessing the current mayor and council, Jurney brought attention to the $500,000 set aside to improve the Yucca Center and $350,000 was spent for repairs on Cahoon Park Pool, which was decommissioned.
“Would your call be progressive or irresponsible?” Jurney asked the audience.
Leading into the topic of the recreation center, Jurney said it will not meet the needs of the youth of Roswell due to transportation and the Olympic pool requirements will not allow mothers and children to participate in swimming.
Jurney questioned the justification of the elected official raising taxes to finance vast projects, what he called uncontrolled spending of the city, and that transparency was diminishing in the decision process.
“Something has to change and I offer leadership that you can trust,” Jurney said. “As mayor, we were able to prosper during what was considered to be in the worst recession in 50 years.”
Jurney went on to list the improvements to Roswell during his tenure, which he said happened without raising taxes.
“Call me old-fashioned or stuck in my ways,” Jurney said, “but taking care of what we have and paying for the things that we need is far more appropriate than leaving huge debt for future generations. I don’t believe that this is how city government should be run.”
Asking for support and votes, Junrey said if elected he could restore fiscal responsibility and conservative values to the All-America city of Roswell.
Present mayor’s musings
Walking in front of the podium after his introduction, Kintigh said he wanted to talk from the heart.
Responding to Jurney’s statement on the Yucca Center, Kintigh said the center was broken, the elevators were shut down due to compliance with the American Disabilities Act, the upper levels could not be used, and the $500,000 was not sufficient for repairs.
“Now call me old-fashioned, but I am not going to throw good money after bad — that is exactly what happened at Cahoon Park Pool,” Kintigh said. “In 2014, we poured $340,000 into that pool. In February 2015, staff, not councilors — not the mayor, staff came to us and said it was broken, it was cracked and falling apart. Do you want to keep trying to open it? At the time the council voted 9-to-1 to not pour money into it.”
Kintigh said the councilors received notebooks full of data on the problems with the pool and the most critical example was the drains.
“For those who advocate, let’s reactivate Cahoon Park Pool,” Kintigh said. “I have a question — how much money are you prepared to pour into that? What is the dollar amount and where do you take it from?”
Kintigh said there have been impressive steps forward in the city and the community in the last four years.
Cleaning up unsafe and derelict structures with the Clean and Safe program around the city has been one of the greatest improvements according to Kintigh because it helps decrease crime, which is one of Kintigh’s top priorities that he would like to continue to address.
Kintigh said he is hopeful that the Legislature and current governor will be able to accomplish, but whether or not this happens, the city is still responsible to do the best it can.
Domestic violence was Kintigh’s next discussion point, which he called a huge issue that needs to be stopped.
“Half of our murders are domestic violence,” Kintigh said. “We’ve got to change our culture and mentality of this community, so it is no longer acceptable to hit or hurt people in your household just because you have disagreements. Until we do that, we are never going to change the violent culture that exists out there.”
In regards to the police, Kintigh recognizes the Roswell Police Department’s hard work and said the city has worked hard to recruit new officers. As a former law enforcement officer, Kintigh said he is passionate about this issue. He is concerned with the number of rookies, so he said leadership, training and equipment are also needed.
“This is a great community,” Kintigh said. “It truly is! We’ve got to confront things and not pretend there are no problems.”
Knowing there was controversy over his choices of hiring a city manager, Kintigh said his priority was not to hire local, but to hire the best across the nation. He reminded the community that the applications were open to anyone who wanted to apply.
In defense to Jurney’s statements on the city pay raises and the increased taxes, Kintigh said the statewide hit in 2016 did not cause the city to decrease pay and did not raise taxes to pay for operations or the new recreational facility. Kintigh said the facility needs to be built or the city will turn its back on its future.
“I ask for your vote,” Kintigh said. “So we can keep moving forward and build a better Roswell.”
Potential mayor’s hope
Kennard introduced City Councilor Mackey.
“I have served on your City Council for the past four years,” Mackey said. “And yes, we have been progressive and somewhat aggressive to make changes, so that Roswell can truly be the jewel of the southwest.
After hearing some of the negative downside, I’m the kind of person who believes that a glass half full or half empty — I’m going to talk about the positive changes that we have made as a city.”
Mackey also talked about the attributes of the Clean and Safe program shaping Roswell into a city to be proud of and said these difficult decisions were based on counsel from the community and professional advice.
“Speaking with our finance manager, we are at a solid position as a city,” Mackey said. “We have very limited debt — we have not even taken on our debt capacity. We still have about another 18 to 19 percent worth of debt we could incur, but in being fiscally conservative, we’ve opted to have some new facilities — not go all the way out of the box to the extreme. I believe that as a council and over these past four years we’ve brought some great things to the community.”
Addressing crime next, Mackey said there has been progress in reducing crime and police using force compared to the RPD’s 2016 Annual Crime Report.
“When you think of me as an up and coming future mayoral candidate for Roswell, New Mexico, I want you to remember these words — unity, family and hope,” Mackey said. “It is my desire and continues my honor and privilege to serve as an advocate for the voices of the people and be able to give those who have no voice a voice.
“I want to unify this city. There are so many areas where we are broken and we have division on both sides of the coin. There needs to be someone in leadership who can bridge the gap and bring those two perspectives those two sides of the coin together so we can sit down, have a conversation and continue moving forward.”
Helping families, especially the young and new to the area families, is something Mackey said was close to her heart.
When speaking with people that have been in Roswell for a long time, Mackey said she noticed a sense of complacency and complaining instead of finding solutions, but those new to the city are excited and like to see the progress being made.
“That is the hope that I want to bring to our community,” Mackey said. “We are not on the back side of the desert. We are not out here left alone, but we are moving forward as a community of people across races, socioeconomic statuses. We are going to stand together as one voice and we are going to see the progress and the changes that you believe should be happening through city government. I want you to know that we are in a good place and so my heart’s desire and my vision is that we will continue to move forward into even better places. We will truly be the jewel of the southwest that we will join hands together, come together and bridge the gap. We will build new facilities. We will bring in new businesses, have economic growth and development.
There are so many people that are innovative in our community that have some great ideas, but they haven’t had a voice. We want to bring those ideas to the table and come with solutions rather than complaining, not talking about the negative things that we go on. We want to talk about the positive and focus on the progress we can make we when stand together.”
Confident in the abilities of City Council and city employees, Mackey said morale in the city has risen and hopes to instill the same spirit of helpfulness into the city that she saw in the community during the Goliath storm in 2016.
“I look forward with excitement and enthusiasm to a positive campaign,” Mackey said. “And reaching out to the citizens of our great community and sharing specific plans to advance the city of Roswell.”
Questioning crime and future
The speeches wrapped up and Barncastle asked the audience to offer reasonable questions for the mayoral candidates.
Barncastle asked the candidates what innovative ideas the candidates had for decreasing crime and helping law enforcement. Barncastle also said that according to officials in the RPD there has not been improvement to crime.
Jurney referenced his time as mayor and said the best thing to do is be a leader and allow the officers to do their respective jobs.
Kintigh shared the stats of the current hiring at the RPD and said he was an advocate for the grand jury system to address domestic violence and be proactive in arresting fugitives.
Mackey said the police problem is not unique to Roswell and she suggests supporting staff, increasing staff numbers and streamlining the process with a better basis. Police involvement in the community to build trust and the partnership with the county are other efficient processes according to Mackey.
An audience member asked the mayoral candidates the top three items the candidates want to be remembered for if they are elected as mayor.
Mackey hopes for population growth, economic development, a flourishing airport and an improved quality of life.
Kintigh envisions infrastructure improvement of city roads, a 50,000 plus population and a safe community for all families.
Jurney focused on generating revenues and a balanced budget for the city, turning the air center into an airport authority and improving healthcare.
Barncastle closed the luncheon by thanking the speakers.
City reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.