Four of the five candidates running for Dunsmuir City Council discussed law enforcement, water rates and ways to increase public participation in local government Wednesday of last week during a Candidate’s Night hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.

Four of the five candidates running for Dunsmuir City Council discussed law enforcement, water rates and ways to increase public participation in local government Wednesday of last week during a Candidate’s Night hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.

Candidates Kyle Rowley, Leslie Wilde, Nick Mitchell and “Big Dave” Keisler also threw around ideas to revitalize Dunsmuir’s assets, including its natural and historic treasures, the library, the California Theatre and the airport.

Questions were submitted ahead of time by the audience of about 50 people. River Exchange executive director Dan Olstein served as moderator during the amiable event, which lasted about an hour and a half at Dunsmuir High School.

The fifth candidate, incumbent Arlis Steele, was unable to attend due to a long-planned annual hunting trip.

While water and sewer issues were identified as one of the highest priority issues facing Dunsmuir today, Keisler and Wilde also said public safety is equally concerning. Rowley focused on promoting Dunsmuir and increasing its exposure to tourism and tech-based businesses which he feels are a perfect match for the community, and Mitchell said he believes the city is already headed in the right direction, especially compared to two years ago, before he and Arlis Steele were elected.

Law enforcement

Wilde said she is not satisfied with current law enforcement provided by the Sheriff’s Department. If elected, Wilde, who owns Green Collar Compassionate Collective, said she’d work to establish a Dunsmuir Police Department.

“This is my issue. It’s something I hear about all the time,” Wilde said. She pointed out that small cities including Etna, Tulelake and Weed all have their own police departments and they all manage to pay for them.

Wilde said the response times of the Sheriff’s Department are too long, and that she disagrees with their compliance checks for medical marijuana. She said having local officers that are part of the community would be a better option.

Mitchell, a two-year incumbent who owns Thriftway Foods, said believes Dunsmuir is a safe place to live and said the Sheriff’s Department is doing a good job.

“We cannot afford our own police department,” Mitchell said. “It would be impossible for us to build a police department from the ground up.”

Instead, Mitchell said the Sheriff’s neighborhood watches could help provide additional policing, and added this is something the city council can’t manage.

“It needs to come from the people,” said Mitchell. “We need to protect ourselves and our fellow neighbors and report what we see.”

Rowley, a Dunsmuir firefighter who has been visiting the town since 2004, also suggested a citizen’s patrol that could put some “extra eyes” out for criminal activity utilizing volunteers.

Keisler, a master carpenter who recently organized the Dunsmuir Soapbox Derby races, said he had his own vehicle broken into recently. He agreed that law enforcement could be tightened and said with the money Dunsmuir is currently paying for a contract with the Sheriff’s Department, he hopes a local PD could be established and in turn provide local jobs.

“These are things I’ll look into,” Keisler promised.

Water and sewer issues

Wilde compared the water and sewer concerns to the war in Iraq. At first, she said, the people were angry and excited, and troops were built up (in the form of studies and grants). However, two or three years later, the issue has still not been resolved.

“I’d bring troops home and get this done,” Wilde said, adding that if a water rate increase is necessary, she believes allotments should be increased in the summer.

Mitchell said the sewer issue is “down the drain.” A grant has already been obtained to correct the problems with the water treatment plant. However, Mitchell said, the water rate issue is “another animal,” and the current council is going to “attack it the same way we did the sewer system,” with grants to alleviate the burden on the citizens as much as possible.

He proposed a fixed rate for all water users plus an affordable amount by usage.

“I think with a modest rate increase, we will succeed,” Mitchell said.

Rowley said while he believes a “fair and equitable” rate increase is most likely the best solution, he called attention to problems with inefficient water supply to the elementary school and non-existent supply to Blackberry Hill.

“If something fails, this would be an amazing cost to the city,” Rowley said, “something we cannot afford. We need to stop looking at how we can patch the system and start thinking about how we can fix it.”

“We need to get it fixed,” said Keisler. “We need to research it, find the best way, and do it.”

Revitalization

Rowley said he’d like to see the council work more closely with the chamber to promote the town and “create hype.”

He pointed out that tech companies such as Snowcrest, Pusher Inc. and Firewhat? are perfect matches for the city. He said having inexpensive space available in a historic district on Interstate 5 is an attractive deal to such businesses.

Mitchell agreed that increased vitality would increase Dunsmuir’s population and, in turn, create more revenue and solve some of the budget issues.

He said projects like the Mossbrae trail, a white water park and the Big Fish program which are already in the works will go toward accomplishing this goal. He said the healthcare clinic, which is set to open in town, is another asset to lure people to Dunsmuir.

“We have a well-run city government... we need to keep the ball rolling,” he said.

Keisler agreed that Dunsmuir needs more businesses and said the city should offer incentives and loosen restrictions to encourage growth.

“Let the people feel they are part of the community but not governed by the community,” he said.

Wilde had ideas to keep people in town overnight by offering vacation packages and hosting multiple day events.

“We can borrow ideas... we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Wilde said, noting successful events such as Weed’s Carnevale and McCloud’s bike event.

When asked about the library, each of the candidates agreed keeping it open is important.

Mitchell said the Friends of the Library has done a great job and said to increase funding to the library, the city needs to increase its population. He said volunteerism and involvement are key.

Wilde suggested modernization by getting rid of books which haven’t been checked out for more than five years.

“The library should be a priority, not just a budget leftover,” Wilde said.

Rowley said passing a tax on local hotels could provide additional revenue to help bring the library into the 21st century. He also suggested a full time grant coordinator or writer the city could use to address such funding issues.

Keisler said he’s “a big supporter” of the library but recognizes that there isn’t enough revenue to support everything.

As for what to do with the airport, Mitchell said two years ago, he was “dead set” on closing it and “cutting our losses.”

However, he has since learned the city cannot close it without losing grant money, and it “can’t be anything but an airport” or the county will take it back.

“I realize you can’t get blood from a turnip, but we’ve made good progress” with renovations and lights. He proposed the city turn it over to the pilots who could form a non-profit for its management.

“The airport is in the black, it is contributing. It’s not costing nor is it doing much for us,” Mitchell said.

Wilde said the airport could be a great asset and suggested a shuttle for pilots who may wish to fly to Dunsmuir for angling or skiing, and Keisler said without offering gas or having a way to charge for helicopters to land, the city is losing revenue.

“I belive the airport is important to our economic recovery,” Keisler said.

Rowley suggested the airport may be a good place for a solar or wind farm or a satellite campus for the College of the Siskiyous for the police academy.

Talk also turned to the California Theatre building and what could be done with it.

Keisler, who had previously stated that one of his goals would be to get the theatre open by December, 2013, said he’d work with owner Mark Juarez to realize that dream.

“It needs a little pushing and nudging,” Keisler said. “I’m willing to pitch in.”

Wilde, who went on a recent tour of the building along with Keisler, said she had “forgotten how cool” the theatre is and called it a centerpiece of the town. She pointed out it is privately owned and said if it hadn’t been for former councilors Helen Cartwright and Peter Arth and planning commissioner Barbara Cross leaning on Juarez, the marquee probably wouldn’t have been fixed.

Rowley said until the theatre is open, Juarez shouldn’t be buying more properties and said some pressure should be put on him to get it open.

“I don’t have faith in him from the get-go... he’s not invested in the community,” Rowley said.

Mitchell said he’d rather work with Juarez and pointed out that getting the marquee fixed meant $40,000 in legal fees.

“The city council is not here to push business owners around and make them do what we want,” Mitchell said.

Community involvement

Keisler said he thinks at the end of each city council meeting there should be 15 minutes set aside for people to call in to ask questions. He also suggested Skype as an alternate way for people to get involved.

Wilde said getting city council meetings televised regularly should be a big priority and agreed with Keisler’s ideas to increase participation.

“It would made the meetings more interactive and move them into the future. The old fashioned way is not always the best way,” Wilde said.

Mitchell said the current council welcomes community participation and said before he was elected, he voted for a representative to present his views in his place because he didn’t always have time to go to meetings. He said meetings are posted publically by law and he agreed the meetings should be televised.

“It baffles me that the community feels they aren’t a participant (in local government),” Rowley said. “There might be a fundamental problem if the community feels they cannot participate... maybe that needs to be addressed.”

Why they’re the best choice

Mitchell said he is a lifelong resident and feels he has a “good understanding of what the people of Dunsmuir really want.”

“Two years ago, it was chaos, riots were about to break out,” Mitchell said. “Now things are a lot calmer... we’re moving in a good direction. Good things are coming for Dunsmuir.”

Mitchell said he’d appreciate the public’s support in the election, and believes that he and Arlis Steele are the two best choices on the ballot.

“Over the past two years, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about how the city council works, and what we can and can’t do,” Mitchell said. “It takes a year to get up to speed” once elected, he said, adding that he’s ready to go for another four years.

Keisler said he believes he’d be a good councilor because he has no experience and will “try harder than the next guy.”

“I don’t use fancy words, but I have a passion for this community,” Keisler said. “I look forward to the challenge... I want to be part of the comeback, and I’ll work hard,” Keisler promised the crowd.

Wilde said she is disappointed with the current council and believes the slate of four candidates that were elected two years ago during the recall “have not performed well for all citizens.”

“I have a can-do attitude,” Wilde said, adding that city councilors should be the voice of the city and sometimes convey “hard truths.”

Wilde said she would work hard for all citizens of Dunsmuir, not just those who vote for her. She also said she’d be “a breath of fresh air” and is willing to work together to accomplish goals.

Rowley said he’d like to build on the “new vibe” of Dunsmuir and “turn over a new leaf to keep moving forward in the right direction.”

“I think Dunsmuir is the cutest little town that ever did live in California. I’m here for the long haul, and I’m excited,” Rowley said.