Originally Published: July 7, 2015 6:03 a.m.
This is the first in a series of City Council candidate profile articles.
PRESCOTT - During his first dozen years on the Prescott City Council, Jim Lamerson says he has had no problem turning down what he sees as "frivolous" expenditures.
"I'm able to say 'no' to the 'ice cream and candy bars,'" said Lamerson, who is seeking his fourth consecutive term on the City Council. "I don't get my ear bent by special interests."
For Lamerson, "ice cream and candy bars" refers to anything that is not absolutely essential.
"Before you go spend frivolous money, you need to be sure that you have good water, good sewer, good roads, good trash, good police, and good fire," said Lamerson, the only incumbent of three candidates to appear on the Aug. 25 primary ballot.
High on his list of frivolous "ice cream and candy bars": The purchase of open space.
"I would not spend one nickel on open space right now," Lamerson said. "Basic services have to come first. If we're compromising public safety, we don't have money for frivolous bull."
Still, Lamerson said he sees value in some costs that are outside the strict basic-services definition. He sees parks and recreation programs as "good for health," and therefore related to the public health and safety. Likewise, he said, the library is good for the mind, adding, "I'm not for closing down the library."
It is not only on the importance of basic services that Lamerson has been outspoken during his years on the City Council.
He calls himself a "constitutionalist" and a "free-enterprise guy through and through."
Over the years, he has questioned the need for what he sees as unnecessary city restrictions and interference.
Although government should "collaborate" with business - as Lamerson said Prescott did in its 2011 partnership/investment with the developers for the new Trader Joe's store - he says bureaucracy should "get out of the way of business" in most cases.
Lamerson said he chose to get in the race for a fourth term for a number of reasons. "One of them is out of commitment," Lamerson said. "I see the city having some financial issues, having some critical basic-service delivery issues, and I know with my institutional knowledge that I can still be of service to help."
He counts the environmental and lakes-water-quality issues coming down on the city from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as among those challenging upcoming issues.
The city's handling of the group home issue is another.
"I'm not happy that we didn't involve HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) when we discussed formulating a policy ... on the proliferation of an industry," Lamerson said, referring to the recent HUD investigation into Prescott's group-home regulations. "I was out-weighed by bureaucracy."
As a long-time councilman, Lamerson said, "My job on the council is to train the next generation of public servants. At some point, you've got to get a group of people that understand you have to prioritize; you just can't keep spending."
Along with his commitment to basic services, Lamerson said his other main attribute as a council member is his accessibility. "I'm touchable," he said. "Every day, I go down and listen to the public in my store."
Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2034, or 928-642-0951.