City candidates show their hands
October 13, 2011 | 03:25 PMBusiness and jobs were the main topics of concern as candidates in the upcoming election squared off at the Westminster City Council candidate forum on Sept. 29.
The forum, sponsored by the Metro North Chamber of Commerce and MetroNorth Newspapers, was held at City Hall before a live audience, as well as being filmed for local cable TV.
Three council seats are up for grabs, one being vacated by council member Chris Dittman, who is term-limited, and two held by incumbent council members Bob Briggs and Faith Winter. Together with candidates Herb Atchison, Beau Martin and Jennifer Shannon, they expressed excitement for the city's upcoming projects.
Candidate Mike Melvin criticized the current council for Westminster's municipal debt level in his opening statement. Running on the platform of smaller government, lower taxes and fiscal responsibility, Melvin characterized the city's Westminster Mall project as an example of government overreach. Further, he said the council has passed "oppressive" rules, regulations and restrictions that he believes makes it difficult for businesses to operate profitably in Westminster.
"We are fiscally responsible," Winter said in her opening statement following Melvin. "We have done the cuts we needed to do in this economic downturn."
The candidates agreed that the way to bring more jobs to Westminster is to make the city an increasingly attractive and viable location for employers to do business.
Martin, the youngest candidate at 25 years old, favors the concept of a small business incubator, where big businesses could come together and help smaller businesses offset their expenses, enabling them to expand and hire. He also said that the refurbishment and occupancy of vacant commercial properties around the city is an effort he will support if elected.
The other candidates pointed to the various city programs, such as economic development and training and assistance programs, though Winter said a "bigger bullhorn" is needed to call attention to them. All mentioned the need to create a favorable environment for businesses to prosper.
The Westminster Mall redevelopment project was an issue that prompted a variety of viewpoints. Atchison warned of simply re-doing the covered mall concept that was past its prime, and said that the council should plan 25 years ahead to find a sustainable model.
Winter considers the term "mall" as a slight to the project since the plans for the site far exceed such a narrow term. Shannon compared the project to the Belmar development in Lakewood.
Transportation was addressed when the panel was asked their position on FastTracks, which includes an RTD transit rail system that will extend through the city in the coming years. Martin and Melvin said given a 0.4 percent sales tax increase, the project needs more scrutiny.
"RTD needs to build its credibility with Westminster," Martin said.
Briggs, on the other hand, said he is eager for commuter rail to come to Westminster. He said Westminster residents will gain the ability to go anywhere in the Denver metro area by train, and the city will benefit from revenue created by related development.
Briggs also mentioned the reconstruction of U.S. 36 as a priority project for him if he is re-elected.