Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 10005 hosted a mayoral forum on Saturday. Incumbent mayor Tom Brady is being challenged by Jerry Duvall, a former two-term city council member.
The post’s chaplain, Keith Freeberg was the forum moderator. He read 10 prepared questions for both candidates to answer.
Sparks flew after a question was posed about economic development. Duvall said he’s running for mayor because he didn’t like Brady’s actions in some business development matters, specifically when Brady voted against giving Dot Foods, Inc., $200,000 in cash grants in December 2016. Duvall also said Brady was wrong in May 2017 when he voted against a lease agreement for a Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Conference Center planned for city-owned land on the 1300 block of Silver Creek Road.
Duvall said Brady has “voted against growth — period.”
Brady said he disagreed with Duvall’s observation that he wasn’t open to accommodating incoming businesses. Brady explained that he was dissatisfied about some of the incentives offered to these businesses.
Regarding Dot Foods, Brady said the cash grants seemed excessive after it received incentives from Mohave County and the state totaling $1 million. It asked for a $350,000 waiver on construction taxes and a waiver of building permit fees, Brady said. The city council also put $50,000 toward a truck driving program at Mohave Community College and helped reduce significantly the cost of the land for Dot to purchase.
Brady said once the $200,000 was added to the deal, “I wanted to go back to the negotiating table.”
The city-owned land for Holiday Inn Express should have been sold to the developer, he added, instead of allowing construction on land to be leased long-term that could last up to 100 years — 50 years with the option for another 50 years.
Dot Foods has been open since March. The hotel hasn’t been built.
Another question asked what each would do to help the community’s growing homeless population.
Duvall said he helped establish the city’s Homeless Task Force and, because of the task force, “we’re building a homeless shelter.”
Members have cleaned up camp sites around the community, including one near Target, and work hard to find homes for many of the homeless.
“My heart is with the homeless,” Duvall said.
Brady said there are two types of people considered homeless within the city: homeless and transients. There are a variety of programs to help the community’s homeless people and that the various offerings are tremendous.”
“We’re doing a lot to help those homeless to no fault of their own,” he said.
Transients, however, are a population not as easy to assist and often are the people seen camping.
People who had been camping near Target “were run off to another site” before the location was cleaned up by the task force volunteers, Brady said.
The city no longer arrests homeless people who camp illegally nor gets rid of their belongings, and “we have to accept them,” Brady also said.
Each candidate was asked what they thought about the $15 minimum hourly wage instituted in some states and cities.
Duvall said he would prefer to see a livable wage, which is defined as an amount substantial enough to require no more than 30 percent of a person’s pay to go toward housing. But, he noted, it’s more of a federal issue than a city issue.
Brady said the $15 minimum wage is “nonsense” and that he believes the federal minimum wage is acceptable for someone “twirling a sign on a street corner or flipping burgers.”
Places where the $15 minimum is in effect have seen people losing their jobs because employers can no longer afford to keep them on as employees, Brady argued.
Wages above the current federal minimum should be determined by businesses and the overall marketplace, Brady added. The minimum wage in Arizona is currently $10.50/hour, and will increase to $11 next year and $12 in 2020 under Proposition 206, approved by voters in 2016. The federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour; Congress hasn’t voted to increase it since 2007.
Another question asked the candidates how they would react if Arizona legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Duvall said he was “totally” against it, calling it a gateway drug like “tobacco and alcohol.”
“Across the river, people buy it like candy,” he said. “It’s a terrible, terrible drug.”
Duvall had a long career in law enforcement with a significant portion of time doing school resource work. This, he said, exposed him to many youths using marijuana and he noticed that after they smoke it for a while they eventually “lose awareness.”
Brady said he’s still studying the issue, but anticipates marijuana legalization is coming to Arizona “whether we like it or not.”
He said there are negatives and positives that come with legalization. States where it’s already legal are having problems, including with children ingesting it. But legalization has brought in additional revenues so it provides an economic benefit, and some veterans use it, he said.
Other topics touched on include roundabouts, transportation, affordable housing, helping local special needs children, and improving lighting in Old Town.
Each of the candidates also had time to make statements about their qualifications before and after the question-and-answer session. Afterward, both met individually with people to answer their questions and hear their concerns.
Election Day is Aug. 28. The final day to register to vote in time for the mayoral election is July 30.