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Voters’ Guide: Hyde Park candidates for mayor, city council

October 24th, 2009 Posted in Opinion

By Dana Ivins

HYDE PARK – Residents gathered Thursday to hear the opinions and goals of candidates running for mayor and two city council seats.  The “Meet the Candidates” evening began with mayoral candidates Bryan Cox and Tom Price, and council candidates Marvin Biggs, Carol Johnson, Sam Balls and Mark Hurd introducing themselves to those present.

The event gave Hyde Park residents an opportunity to ask the candidates questions about problems or issues that concern the city.  Mayor David Kooyman read aloud questions written by residents, and called on audience members who wished to ask their own.

What are your top priorities or areas of concern?

Johnson said she would like to see an improvement of 400 East, saying it’s too narrow and dangerous.  Johnson also expressed a desire for more citizen input, encouraging residents to come to council meetings because currently, “people see the council as unfeeling.”  She added that she’d like to see more unity in the community with residents being more welcoming and accepting of others.

Biggs said his main areas of concern for the city are safety, roads and environment, adding that the council needs community input and that “We must have money to improve roads.”

Balls said his first priority for the city is infrastructure replacement because “much is outdated” and changes need to be made “before there are catastrophes.”  Balls also said he’d like to “establish a master plan for current and future growth,” and that the city needs to “improve fiscal responsibility and how resources are allocated.”

“Growth is the biggest challenge of Hyde Park,” said Hurd.  He said that roads and maintenance are also a priority for him as well as ensuring that the city is looks at the budget at every opportunity.

Price said he desires “open communications” between the city and its citizens.  He encourages the idea of putting together a “business development committee” for Hyde Park.  “The city is not in the mood to raise taxes,” Price said.

Cox said the biggest concern for the mayor would be planning, growth and fiscal responsibility.  For the city, he said their main concern is communication, adding, “We can always improve how citizens communicate” with the city’s governing bodies and vice versa.  Cox ended with saying that the city council’s concern is for traffic flow in Hyde Park.

How can the city encourage commercial development and do you favor offering incentives to businesses?

“The right businesses, you want to attract them,” said Cox, who said he is in favor of development.  “I think it’s important.”

“There are two things we’d like to do: bring jobs, and bring tax revenues,” said Price, saying he is in support of offering incentives to businesses and that the city should be willing to change ordinances.

“The first step we ought to take would be to look at our ordinance,” Hurd said, adding that “growth needs to be planned for.”  He said the city should encourage businesses to come to Hyde Park but aim to “maintain the city’s integrity” and “feel.”

Balls said it shouldn’t be hard to entice businesses to establish themselves in Hyde Park because of the city’s location in the center of the valley.  Balls said the city should “pay attention to a business’s needs” and “be flexible with ordinances” while remaining responsible.

Johnson said she would like to see businesses that are not too large, run by people who intend to stay and have an interest in Hyde Park and its residents.

“That’s where we need to build our tax base,” said Biggs, referring to new businesses.  “The key is figuring out how to bring them here.”

What is your opinion on eminent domain?

Hurd said that if it were up to him, he would eliminate the ability of government to take property from residents.

Balls said he believes eminent domain has its purpose and favors it as long as it’s used appropriately and for the good of the community.

Cox mentioned that some city projects have been put on hold because residents wouldn’t cooperate, but said that the city should be fair to residents when it comes to taking property.

“Eminent domain leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth,” said Price, but said it could be justified if progress is at stake.  Price added that residents are compensated if their property is taken, but that eminent domain “is a last resort.”

Johnson also said that eminent domain should be a last resort, and that the city should be sensitive to people and be careful about their rights to own property.

Biggs was clear about not liking eminent domain and said, “it should never be considered upfront.”

What is your vision of Hyde Park in five years?

“I hope it will be similar to how it is now,” said Biggs, saying he also hopes to “get a master plan that the community is comfortable with,” emphasizing a need to “get as much input as we can from all over.”

Apart from commenting on the growth Hyde Park will have, Johnson said, “I would like to see no vacant lots full of weeds.”  She also said she would like to see finished bridges, speed limits adhered to, and more activities for older residents.

Price said he would like to see more development in the city and restructuring for the safety of residents. “We’ll be able to do more things as the economy improves,” said Price.

Cox said lots of growth is expected based on how many building permits have been issued recently.  He mentioned the possibility of new parks for the city and that he’d like for Hyde Park to keep itself separate from other cities by having large “buffer” lots on the perimeter.

“Modest and responsible growth” is what Balls said he anticipates for the future, also stating that he hopes that “hometown attitudes” can be maintained.

Hurd said he hopes to see “improved north/south traffic flow” as well as development in the commercial zone and maintenance of Hyde Park’s rural environment.

Early voting is available until Oct. 30 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays in the city office building located at 113 East Hyde Park Lane.  The general election is Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the same location. Voters must bring valid identification, either a current picture ID or two forms bearing voter’s name and proof that they live in voting precinct.

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