Part 3 - Boone: Candidates on the issues
by Anna Oakes
Following is the third and final installment of a series of responses by Boone mayoral and town council candidates to questions asked by Watauga Democrat. Today's issue includes the responses to the fifth and sixth questions posed to the candidates, while the previous two articles included biographical information and responses to the first four questions.
Responses have been edited for punctuation, spelling and space requirements. View all of the candidate responses by visiting http://www.wataugademocrat.com.
In the coming weeks, Watauga Democrat will also publish candidate responses related to the Blowing Rock, Seven Devils and Beech Mountain municipal elections.
5. It is no secret that the relationship between members of the Boone Town Council and the Watauga County Board of Commissioners has been strained in recent months. What do you see as the underlying reasons for this, and what would you do to address this problem?
For mayoral candidates:
6. What do you view as the most important role(s) the mayor plays in conducting the town's business, and which of these roles would be your top focus?
For council candidates:
6. Are there any town, Boone Town Council or committee procedures or practices that you feel can be improved? What would you do differently, if anything, to represent the citizens of Boone and run town government?
5. The current leadership of Boone and Watauga County have vastly different views of the role of local government. We disagree on major and minor issues because we have different constituencies. Boone residents value a healthy environment, protected mountainsides, greenways and green space, sidewalks and bike lanes and neighborhood protections. I have maintained a constant dialogue with many of the commissioners, yet confusion and miscommunications continue. Meanwhile, Chairman Nathan Miller continually allows an openly hostile tone toward the town of Boone at nearly every commission meeting. The relationship will start to improve when the commission majority revisits local sales tax distribution, a move that cost the town over $2 million last year, roughly 10 percent of our annual budget.
6. The mayor of Boone establishes a vision for the future of the town, working with council members on policies that reflect that vision. The mayor is the town's representative to the public, whether here in Boone, between other local governments, and our voice on a range of issues in Raleigh. My three immediate areas of focus are renewing our partnerships with Watauga County and ASU, starting a community conversation on storm water management in response to recent severe flooding and a full analysis of the town's communications strategy and capacity to ensure transparent and open government.
5. Whether or not it's a widely accepted notion, the town of Boone's policies affect every resident of Watauga County. Most residents of Watauga County contribute to the success of the town's businesses and benefit from the services available. Therefore the Boone Town Council should enrich its relationship with the county government that represents county residents. Currently, the town seems to be ignoring the importance of the role of county residents in Boone's economy. I would exchange more constructive, open dialogue between myself, the town council and county commissioners to better meet the needs of both constituencies.
6. The most important role of the mayor is to engage the citizens in all local government processes. The mayor is directly elected and unable to vote in council matters because the position is designed to be the liaison between the council and the citizens. My top focus is to be a problem solver. It will be a top priority to continually inquire about and identify needs of the residents and business owners, and bring those concerns to the council. I'd like to find more solutions with a fair, sustainable compromise.
5. Act like adults, sit down and talk in an open session. Working with other towns' leaders, Ashe, Seven Devils, etc. Stop changing properties.
6. Top cheerleader for the town and promotion of Boone.
5. "Party politics" has led to this stalemate, and it's just a trickle-down effect from our own federal government. We have but a handful of people on both the right and the left that are responsible for our lack of progress, our unemployment rate and our lack of decent paying jobs. Boone is but a microcosm of what is taking place on a national level. I am all for having a casual sit-down with all local elected officials over a few beers and concentrate on our likenesses as opposed to our differences. We need to create a win-win situation for both sides whenever possible.
6. I would like to think the mayor sets the tone and direction for our town by assimilating information from our citizenry on their needs, foremost, as well as their wants. My top focus is that we've a lot of catching up to do, a lot of fences to be mended, and a more economically viable, and environmentally aware, community to build together.
5. The tension between the Boone Town Council and the Watauga County Board of Commissioners results from personal and political agendas that seem to have little to do with improving the quality of life for our entire community. Nevertheless, I have always believed in cooperation rather than conflict as the best strategy for meeting common challenges. It may be possible to begin repairing relations between these two bodies by addressing smaller issues that we generally agree on in order to build a more constructive atmosphere. Then we can address more contentious issues that may not seem so divisive once we have found common ground. Our goal should be working together for the benefit of all citizens in Watauga County and Boone.
6. The wheels of government turn much too slowly. As a result, opportunities are missed, enthusiasms dissipated and challenges turn into crises. If re-elected, I would look for opportunities to speed up committee and council business so that months and months don't elapse before decisions are made and rules announced. We need responsive, efficient and pragmatic government.
5. The sales tax issue is one of the main reasons I wanted to run for council. The strides Boone has been making in greenways, parks, long-term planning and community sustainability will most certainly now be halted. The citizens of Boone want these things, along with protection of their neighborhoods from developments that would lower their property values. They pay extra taxes for it, they elect people to vote for it, and it is their right to enforce it. For the county to punish the citizens of Boone because of petty personal issues that should be unethical to even vote on is embarrassing and appalling, and we are the joke of the nation currently because of it and other issues. We all want the best town and the best county that our taxes can pay for, so let's work together and give the people what they voted on: an honest, open and efficient government.
6. The committee-council relationship is very important, as it gives the public input over recommendations to the council. However, many citizens with families and jobs are busy and struggle to make it to some of these meetings. With the help of recent technology, we should strive to incorporate all citizens' ideas and views. By routing as many issues as we can through streamlined committees, it will actually keep more power in the hands of the public, saving a deciding vote from the council only if the applicable committee itself can't come to a conclusion. This will require some updates to our website, committee minutes reporting and posting, and a system of submitting concerns to route citizen issues to the correct person or committee. We need to improve our customer relations since they are the ones paying for it all.
Matthew C. Long
5. The underlying problem is that our town's elected officials would not meet publicly with our county elected officials. The result was a standoff, and I believe our town officials let us all down in this situation. Our county wanted to meet and discuss a way for both parties to benefit from a potential sale of the old high school property. I believe that our publicly elected officials should have met publicly with our county leaders and at least showed interest in a solution to benefit both parties.
6. Personal and political agendas have gotten in the way of proper leadership within our town. Most of our citizens feel blessed to live where we do and have the quality of life that we have (and) feel like there is still so much potential for our town. Our town council has to be the leaders that our citizens need and deserve. Our town council should allow for more diversity on various committees, and I do not think the council members should serve on every committee and/or have spouses serving on committees. The council should allow the committees to meet and report to them with their collective, unbiased opinions and recommendations.
Our town needs to lead efforts to correct our flooding problems and the continued negative effects on local businesses and property owners. Our town needs to work with state and or federal officials and property owners to help resolve a growing issue that seems to have been avoided for many years.
Our town leaders need to be more open with discussions and have clear lines of communication. Our town needs to improve the working relationships with the county and the university.
5. I believe the underlying reason for this is the lack of the current town council to be willing to communicate (unless in writing by the town manager). One of the critical parts of my campaign is relationships. I believe that by the town of Boone and Watauga County Board of Commissioners sitting down at a table in open we could resolve many of the issues between these two bodies. When negotiating you have to make both parties feel that they got what they wanted. There are no winners and losers; it is about coming to a compromise. One that I will work towards that is best for the citizens of the town of Boone. I have invested myself in this community and value the broad range of relationships that I have created.
6. I would be in favor of removing the application process for board appointments. The responsibility for board appointments should be made by the town council based on the knowledge and expertise of willing citizens to serve. Committees work best when they work without outside influence and then report to the larger group as a whole with their recommendation or results of a task. The governing body can either accept it or not.
5. Unfortunately, there are some who place their own interests above what is best for the people they represent. As a member of the Boone Town Council, it is my goal to be as transparent and open in my role as possible. I plan to seek input from the citizens of Boone, as well as town officials, employees and others who are experts in their fields. I plan to do my best to make decisions only after careful deliberation. It is only by taking this approach of openness and accountability that we can be good stewards of the public trust.
6. I am very pleased that the Boone Town Council values public comments and listens to the citizens, business representatives and community leaders whose opinions are so valuable. Input from the citizens of Boone is of critical importance, and I look forward from hearing from my constituents once in office.
5. The problem stems from elected officials choosing party lines over community interests. I would like to see open meetings between elected officials.
6. Abandon the use of fines for minor infractions. Limit terms on town boards. Limit the use of town council closed door sessions. I would like to see a wider variety of expertise on town committees. I would like quarterly town hall forums where citizens can voice their concerns and ideas for what can make Boone a better place.