Council candidates disagree on city’s preparedness The Chandler Arizonan

Council candidates disagree on city’s preparedness

Council candidates disagree on city’s preparedness
City News
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By Kevin Reagan
Arizonan Staff Writer

Chandler’s six city council candidates are divided on how they think about the city’s level of preparedness for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a candidate forum on May 19, the six hopefuls running for three council seats were given a yes-or-no question asking whether Chandler was prepared to handle the ongoing public health crisis.

Four challengers – Christine Ellis, Beth Brizel, OD Harris and Rick Heumann – all answered “no” while incumbents Mark Stewart and Jeremy McClymonds responded “yes.”

The candidates were not offered the chance to elaborate since it was part of the forum’s “lightning” round of questioning, which revealed some other divisions among the contenders.

When asked whether they supported Chandler connecting with Valley Metro’s light rail line, McClymonds, Ellis and Brizel opposed the idea but Harris and Heumann favored it.

Heumann was the only candidate to say “no” when asked if private businesses should be allowed to operate inside residences without a license. Harris was the sole opponent to an extension of Chandler Airport’s runway.

When asked if Chandler should add more bike lanes to the city’s streets, Ellis was the only participant to oppose such a project.

On a question asking whether Chandler should award merit-based salary raises to its employees, Heumann answered “no,” Stewart declined to respond and the other four candidates supported the idea.   

Ellis, Brizel, and Harris all thought Chandler didn’t offer enough public transportation while the other candidates disagreed.   

Stewart and McClymonds said they would not support any future bond initiatives by the city but the four other candidates would not rule out the need for such action.

The broad range of questions allowed spectators to see how the viewpoints and opinions of each candidate either aligned or conflicted with the others.

There were several times throughout the forum where Brizel, Ellis, Heumann, Harris, Stewart and McClymonds all responded unanimously in agreement to a question.

All six candidates supported the idea of Chandler handing out monetary grants to local businesses hurt by COVID-19 — but McClymonds and Stewart stipulated that these grants should be funded with assistance from the federal government. 

The Chandler Chamber of Commerce’s forum additionally allowed candidates to offer fuller responses to more general questions regarding the city.

Heumann, who has previously served on the council, thinks fiscal solvency and smart financing should be the city’s most important responsibilities in the future.

“You can’t go out and just spend a bunch of money that you maybe don’t have,” Heumann said.

Brizel said she worried most about affordable housing and promised to work with city planners to develop innovative housing designs that can be bought by first-time homeowners.

“I believe we also need to find smarter growth initiatives to preserve and revitalize our traditional neighborhoods,” added Brizel, a onetime member of the Kyrene School District Governing Board.

Harris, an accountant and entrepreneur, thinks Chandler’s biggest pre-pandemic challenge was keeping up with the city’s growing population by ensuring public services could continue to meet with demand.

“We need to increase our public safety officers,” he said. “We need more help because we’re managing more people.

When asked how the Chandler Fashion Center can stop more stores from leaving as the pandemic’s economic fallout continues, McClymonds said the mall should pursue experience-based tenants who can offer services beyond regular retail goods.

“They could potentially take a Nordstrom’s space and put in a whole restaurant wing with indoor (and) outdoor space,” the councilman suggested. “We need to do whatever we can to help them attract and retain businesses.”

This year’s election will result in at least one new member to the council since Councilman Sam Huang decided not to seek re-election. The election is Aug. 4 and the registration deadline is July 6. Information: recorder.maricopa.gov/elections.

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