Candidates speak on Alamosa issues
ALAMOSA — Candidates for Alamosa mayor and city council during a forum this week at city hall addressed a variety of questions ranging from crime to cooperation.
Due to space and time, not all of the questions/responses will be published, but several of the remaining questions are addressed below. Also, the city is sharing the forum via YouTube and on the local access cable television channel 191.
Candidates associated crime rates in Alamosa with some of the problems driving that crime, such as drug addiction.
Councilor Kristina Daniel, Ward 2, said it is the city’s role to be a partner in addressing problems such as drug addiction. She said more resources are needed in Alamosa such as rehab, medication-assisted treatment and staff.
Ward 2 candidate David Broyles, who is running against Daniel, said crime is complicated by many factors such as drugs, poverty, lack of jobs and lack of education. He said solutions include providing a stronger police force, drug task force, education and job creation.
Alamosa Mayor Josef Lucero said crime and the drug problem are intertwined because people who are addicted to drugs are resorting to stealing to maintain their habits. He agreed that it is necessary to deal with the core problems like poverty and lack of education.
Mayoral candidate Ty Coleman said Alamosa is fortunate to have the police force it has, and the city council needs to continue supporting the chief and the staff to make sure they have the tools they need to address crime. It is also important to invest in young people to deter them from crime, he added.
Councilor Michael Stefano, Ward 4, said education is key to combatting crime. He said he had been involved in a jail ministry in Cañon City for 15 years and saw how important education was in changing people’s lives. Educating young people is an important deterrent, he added.
His opponent Michael Carson said there are parts of Alamosa that struggle more with crime and drugs than others. He said supporting the police is an important key in fighting crime in the city. “The only way to attack it is as a community,” he said.
Councilman Jan Vigil, unopposed in his reelection campaign for councilor at large, pointed to a grant the city is seeking to provide resources for those who repeatedly find themselves before the courts. It would provide more immediate help for them. The city is also hiring more police, and the Neighborhood Watch program is active again, he added.
Candidates addressed the ongoing issue of street improvements and priorities.
Vigil said this is such an important issue for the council that it has increased funding for street work in the last few years. There are criteria for prioritizing street work, he explained, such as traffic and conditions of deterioration. He pointed to recent and ongoing street work on Eighth and First Streets.
Carson said streets are definitely a priority for him and one of his main concerns. He said he was particularly concerned that money seemed to be spent on streets in some parts of town but not in others, specifically Ward 4. Streetlights are also lacking in his ward, he said.
Stefano said there are many needs in the city from streets to the wastewater treatment plant. He said he would like to see more money spent on streets in his ward, particularly State Street since it is a major street and connects the airport to downtown, but he also understood there were many infrastructure needs throughout the city.
Lucero said streets and public safety are his first priorities. The First Street project, which will be completed over several years, is a major project for the city and important for east-west travel, he said. He said the city operates off of a priority matrix for capital improvements.
Coleman said, “If money wasn’t an issue … with the council we have right now, everyone’s street would be paved because we have some truly motivated and dedicated council members.” The reason the First Street project is going to take longer, he added, is because councilors did not want other street work in the city to be postponed to concentrate all the resources on First Street.
Broyles said the city has a five-year capital plan to follow, and each councilor can look out for the interests of the ward that councilor represents to make sure funds are appropriately allocated for street projects in that ward.
Daniel said when people wonder how a project like a dog park could be funded while some street work is not, it is important to understand those projects come from different pots of money. She added the council tries to make the most cost effective decisions on projects like street improvements.
Candidates responded to a question asking them if they considered the south side a viable part of Alamosa’s business district.
Daniel explained that the downtown is defined in the comprehensive plan as a specific area, which does not include businesses to the south of the railroad tracks. Realizing railroad tracks present an obstacle, the city needs to make the south side businesses as accessible as possible and improve the Sixth Street corridor, she said.
Broyles said, “The south side is very important.” The south side features stores, softball fields, the armory, airport and many other pluses for the community, he said. He said the city needs to take care of the south side just as much as any other part of the city.
Coleman said, “To me all sides of Alamosa are important, valuable to our community.” He said the downtown is a defined area with a specific focus for funding, but that does not mean the south side is not important as well.
Lucero agreed with fellow Councilor Charles Griego who has said there is no south and north side. “We are Alamosa, regardless of where we are at on the map,” Lucero said. He said there are many important businesses on the south side such as the business belonging to Ruthie Brown.
Stefano, whose ward is on the south side, said that part of town has sometimes gotten a bad reputation, but it has many viable businesses such as Brown’s store and Atencio Market. He said even though these businesses might not be located in the designated downtown, they matter to the city, he said. “I believe the south side is a beautiful part of town,” he said.
Carson said there are businesses all the way down State Street to the airport, and they are important. He contended that while city councilors said the south side was important to them, the numbers showing how much the city is spending on the south side reflect that it is not important to the city. “I do feel some of this has been neglected,” he said.
Vigil pointed to several assets on the south side such as the recreation center, the new multipurpose pavilion that is being constructed and businesses such as Brown’s. He said it is important to support these businesses for more than one day or time of year. He added there are probably some steps the city could do to improve the south side such as park benches and trash cans. He added that the city needed to have a discussion with La Puente as well.
With the politically divisive landscape across the country, candidates were asked how they could increase cooperation at least locally.
Vigil said, “I think our number one job is to listen to people, take your ideas, bring them back here and let’s talk about them.” He said the council is a team, not just about what individual councilors want, and they need to work together to improve Alamosa.
Carson agreed. “You’ve got to have dialogue,” he said. “You’ve got to have your community talking to each other.” He said the local council could set a good example for how government can work together. The council also needs to back up the city staff and police, he said.
Stefano said, “I believe you get what you put out.” Those who put out anger will have anger returned, and those who share good will will receive it, he said. He said it is important to talk with people one on one, not just via text messages. “United we stand, that’s what we should live by.”
Lucero said, “We have a duty, we have a responsibility to be good listeners. We have a responsibility to be approachable and be dependable. We have to answer the questions in a timely manner because we represent your needs and desires.”
Coleman said, “Respect is very important … We must show respect to others and also find ways to cooperate by building bridges instead of burning them … You must lead by example … I believe in team: Together Everyone Achieves More.”
Broyles said, “It begins with love of God, love of family, love of neighbor and love of community and love of our city.” People need to respect and appreciate each other, he said. With that comes the role of law and order and the respect for law and order, he added.
Daniel said dialogue is important and listening, not just to hear but to understand and not debate, “listen with an open heart and open mind.” She said everyone has different viewpoints, and it is important to listen to others’ views even though you might not agree with them.