After winning the June primary election for the short term that ends in November, Dunsmuir City Council incumbent Ed Steele is seeking re-election in the hopes of spending the next four years building on the city’s progress.
Steele (no relation to recall election candidate Arlis Steele) filed his candidacy forms on Aug. 5.
A 39-year Siskiyou County resident, Steele has lived in Dunsmuir for over two years. With an education and background in mechanical engineering, he currently works as a building remodeling contractor.
Prior to being elected to serve out the short term on the city council, Steele put his engineering background to use by serving on the Water and Sewer Task Force. He noted that the city council ultimately adopted over half of the task force recommendations.
Since he began on council, Steele has served on the Public Facilities and Services Committee, which oversees historic district preservation, the Mott Airport, utilities, and the Amtrak Station.
Steele is also the city council representative for the Medical Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance Development Committee.
“We need to understand that medical marijuana is legal, and it is legal to cultivate it for that purpose,” said Steele. “This committee is coming up with regulations to make sure that medical marijuana growers use practices that make them good neighbors.”  
Pointing out that he has personally pushed for simplification of financial documents so they are more reader-friendly and easier for citizens to understand, Steele said that if re-elected, he will continue to seek transparency in the council’s spending decisions.
Steele noted that this month, the city will update its official website. Soon it will feature a layout of city revenue and expenditures, including utility rate revenue status and utility-related expenditures.
If re-elected, one of Steele’s goals is to expand the city’s technology capabilities. “I would love to help guide Dunsmuir into the 21st century as a leader in the rural use of the Internet,” he stated.
Noting that Dunsmuir has the opportunity to take advantage of fiber optic broadband technology, Steele said this feature would greatly enhance the ability of the city and Chamber of Commerce to market Dunsmuir’s tourism features and to provide businesses with enhanced opportunities for exposure.
“It just makes sense to maximize the use of what we have available on the internet,” Steele said.
With Dunsmuir’s water and sewer systems in need of major replacements, Steele said that seeing necessary infrastructure projects to completion is another of his primary goals.
He stated that he understands the water and sewer rate increases have been financially difficult for citizens. However, he noted the response to the utility fee hikes has resulted in a much-needed upsurge in participation in city politics. “The more that people get involved, the better we are able to govern ourselves,” he said.
To offset costs of utility projects, Steele stated that the city has been actively pursing grants and other alternative funding sources to address the improvements.
In addition, he pointed out that the council and city staff is working hard to finance needed work at the lowest possible cost.
“It’s not going to be cheap,” said Steele, noting that former councils’ decisions to put off major system replacements has resulted in the higher costs that the city is currently faced with.
“Homeowners know that when you put off doing maintenance on a home, you pay for it down the road. If you don’t patch a hole in the roof, you ruin your ceiling. If you ignore a leaky toilet, you rot out the floor. And that’s where we are with the infrastructure in Dunsmuir right now.”
Steele is a proponent of the city’s plan to apply for a USDA loan to address high-priority utility system projects. Asked if he believes that a pay-as-you-go approach to fixing utility infrastructure is a feasible option, he responded, “With the slim reserves we have now, pay-as-you-go won’t work.”
Steele used the example of how people proceed with a home purchase. “Let’s look at our personal financing. Let’s have some straight talk about how we buy big things. Did you buy your house for cash? Did you build it one room at a time as you had the money? I don’t think so. Most of us have a mortgage. This is the same way the city gets money to build new water and sewer lines. We pay off our loans over time in order to have what we need now,” he explained.
Asked what might result if the current water and sewer rates were rolled back, Steele said, “The current rates will not support even the most basic maintenance to our system. We would fall further behind, and the problems would just get worse and more expensive.”
Steele adds that the city does not even have the funds to pay for the replacement of the aging Bush Street water main, which left several residences without water service for multiple days last month.
Commenting on the lawsuit filed against the city on behalf of Citizens for a Better Dunsmuir, Steele said, “Any money spent on lawyers is money lost for providing needed services. Worse – it alienates the community from one another and saps money and energy that we should be using to work together to solve our common problems.”