Candidates voice support for children, family issues
PRESCOTT – The candidates running for Prescott City Council all say they support programs for young people.
Even so, they maintain that many of the issues facing families with children are either virtually impossible to solve or are outside the City Council's realm of influence.
Children's issues dominated the discussion during a breakfast forum that the Children's Council conducted Wednesday at the Granite Gate Resort Retirement Community.
The forum featured seven of the eight candidates seeking three seats on the Prescott City Council, along with the two candidates running for mayor. The questions elicited plenty of agreement among the candidates, as well as some differences.
All of the candidates voiced support, for instance, for continued city financial support for Youth Count, an organization that aims to coordinate youth-oriented groups and improve communication between those organizations and teen-agers.
The city currently contributes $25,000 annually to Youth Count, and all nine of the candidates at the forum said that should continue.
Likewise, the candidates appeared to agree that a youth representative should have a voice on the City Council. Several of the candidates advocated having a teen-ager serve as a non-voting member of the council.
And when it came to more elusive issues – how to improve the quality of education, how the city could encourage local employers to provide job opportunities for youth, and how to promote affordable child care –most of the candidates also agreed that the City Council does not have much authority.
"I don't believe (the City Council) wants to be in the position of telling the school board how to run the schools," council candidate Glen Wright said.
Others mentioned programs that the individual council members could support. For example, mayoral candidate Dick Cooper said the council members could participate more actively in a program to read to elementary school classes. "It gives council members an opportunity to talk to them about what city government is all about," Cooper said.
And his opponent, Rowle Simmons, mentioned a high school program that his business, the Communication Center, has participated in for years. He noted that he has hired a number of students through the Prescott High School Diversified Cooperative Education Program.
"Three of my permanent employees started with me in high school," Simmons said. "I have had phenomenal luck. I haven't had a bad apple."
He suggested the city might also want to participate in the program to help encourage other employers to do the same.
Council candidate Bob Roecker maintained that the community already is doing a good job with its young people.
"I sense there's a little bit of negativism in the room," Roecker said. "Let's not beat ourselves up too much. I have two kids who got a great education from our school system. We are doing a lot of things right."
A number of the questions focused on perennial Prescott issues: What can the city do to promote affordable housing for families? How can the city encourage better-paying jobs? What can the community do to provide more recreation for young people?
Most of the candidates admitted that they were stumped on some of those issues. Affordable housing, for instance, has generated plenty of discussion during this election campaign, but few solutions.
"Affordable housing is one of the toughest issues and one of the easiest to pay lip service to," said Simmons.
Cooper pointed out that the city currently is considering higher impact and development fees, which would result in higher housing costs, not more affordable homes. "It is not coming down; it's going up," Cooper said.
And Council candidate Bob Bell maintained that it might be better for the community if Prescott does not venture into the area of affordable housing. "Did you ever think that Prescott isn't a place for affordable housing?" he asked the crowd.
Candidate Allisone School suggested that the community should approach affordable housing from a regional standpoint, with public transit available to get people from their homes in outlying communities to their jobs in Prescott.
When the discussion turned to a lack of recreational activities, incumbent council candidate John Steward said teen-agers have had the same complaint since the 1960s when he graduated from Prescott High School.
"I think it's a family issue," Steward said. "People, for years, have tried to get things going, but it's a matter of family values and morals."
Even so, council candidate Phyllis Boris noted that the community continues to impose rules that limit youth activities. "There's no place for kids to roller blade or ride their bikes," she said. "We keep putting restrictions on kids."
Council candidate Robert Luzius said one way the city could offer more recreation would be to work to get a movie theater back in Prescott city limits. "I would support anything that would bring a theater back," he said. He advocated using the Elks Opera House as a venue for showing movies downtown.
Council candidate Robert Widen was out of town and unable to attend the forum.
Voters have until Sept. 11 to get their mail-in ballots to the Yavapai County Administration building on Fair Street.