By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
A debate between Mayor Lore Christopher and Councilor David McKane for the mayor’s office hit issues of public safety, growth and decorum.
The section on police coverage focused on needs versus wants, with Christopher saying 37 sworn police officers was simply inadequate per the police chief’s recommendations, saying the department’s proactive patrols have suffered due to reduced staffing.
The two differed substantially on the proposed public safety fee, which failed in a 4 to 1 landslide. They were asked how they would address a quarter-million dollar subsidy from the general fund to pay for 911 services outside of the state’s assessed 75-cent tax.
McKane said the conversation needed to be reversed: Poll the public on what public safety services they want with the money that’s available.
“It’s very difficult to go to people and ask for more money,” he said.
Christopher also noted support for a tax on prepaid cell phones, which do not pay 911 taxes to the state. Those taxes are then allocated to localities.
“We don’t know how much money we’re not receiving from people who are not paying their fair share,” Christopher said.
McKane said the prepaid phone issue was better addressed at the state level. Christopher said telecommunications lobbyists would likely squelch any such legislation.
One question posed this quandary: How local leaders balance desires of pro-growth advocates with those who worry that further expansion could compromise a small-town atmosphere, noting concerns outlined in the 2009 Keizer Compass report.
“All the indications are if we want local jobs for local folks, we don’t have any available area for businesses to come and settle,” Christopher said, saying Valley-area hospitals could have a need for supporting businesses.
McKane called the Compass project a good example of engaging the public, and said it was possible to satisfy both groups. He said the discussion on such matters needs to be community-wide?
“Preliminary findings have already indicated the land inventory we might need for just a small amount of expansion for jobs,” McKane said.
Christopher said the mayor needs to be a cheerleader for jobs, and touted memberships in regional bodies and subsequent relationships with area leaders. She said proximity to the Portland and Salem areas and Chemeketa Community College were assets that could preempt needs for incentives.
McKane said the mayor has a role, but that groups like the Keizer Chamber of Commerce and even city staff can also play a part.
“At the end of the day we’re talking about private property,” he said. “If someone wants to develop it … we should welcome them with open arms.”
On the issue of recreation, McKane said Keizer Rapids Park was a gem, but that other community parks also need attention.
Christopher touted the Keizer Civic Center’s construction and opening. The building houses meetings for groups like Keizer Young Life and is home to a local theater production.
One portion of the debate allowed the two candidates to ask each other a question. McKane pressed Christopher on her actions when petitioners were seeking a ballot initiative to overturn a possible cell phone tax. Christopher called for a boycott of a local grocer where petitioners were on site and admitted an impassioned conversation with the petitioner. He also asked how her description of actions by Marion County Fire District No. 1 as “reckless and frightening” lent to respectful leadership.
“I’m not a perfect person,” Christopher said, saying petitioners were following elderly residents to their cars, going as far as to lean in the window to ask for a signature. “… If that’s disrespectful for me to correct what I thought to be aggressive behavior towards citizens, you’ll have to be the judge of that.”
She said that conversations with MCFD brass has taken on a calmer tone.
Christopher then pressed McKane on the specifics behind his slogan, “Respectful Leadership for Keizer,” and for examples of when he had to hold his tongue.
“At no time do I believe we’re going to make everybody happy, but we do have to give them their say and we do have to treat them respectfully,” McKane said, touting his opposition to beginning the annexation fight between Keizer Fire District and MCFD over the Clear Lake neighborhood. “… What I never understood is how we got ourselves into the position of wanting to make that decision.”
Both admitted to virtually never using public transit. Christopher said pets at home needed to go out at lunchtime, while McKane said the service routes and times simply didn’t meet his needs. Both acknowledged that many citizens rely on the service for basic, everyday needs.
The debate was moderated by Lyndon Zaitz, publisher of the Keizertimes, and sponsored by the newspaper.