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Three candidates vie for Arlington City Council Position 7
ARLINGTON — With three candidates and no incumbents, the race for Position 7 is the only one on the Arlington City Council appearing on the Aug. 6 primary ballot.
The Arlington Times spoke with candidates Mike Hopson, Scott Keith and Jan Schuette about what they believe to be the biggest issues facing the city, as well as what qualifications they believe they would bring to the City Council.
“The recent recession has caused a reduction of revenues available to the city,” said Hopson, who acknowledged the challenge of providing a full range of government services on a tight budget. “Our financial director often borrows from one city fund and deposits those monies into a different city fund in order to pay the bills. It’s obvious that raising taxes alone will not solve the city’s budget problem.”
Hopson recommends aggressively concentrating on core government services, including utilities, public safety and transportation, along with a more efficient use of municipal airport and rail services to attract good-paying manufacturing jobs, particularly in the manufacturing industrial zone.
“As presented by the economic consultants hired by the city, these are the kinds of jobs that Arlington can actually get, as opposed to ‘Big Box’ retail stores,” Hopson said. “If we procrastinate, other municipalities will snatch them away from us.”
Hopson held up his facility with numbers as a retired mathematics instructor, as well as the familiarity with these issues that he’s gained through attending nearly every City Council meeting for the past three years, in addition to serving as an Airport Commissioner and taking part in selling and leasing government property to business owners.
“My life experiences as a Hawaii college instructor and course designer, my time spent on a Montana cattle ranch and overseas teaching children in West Africa, as well as playing in an Alaskan country rock band, have also given me an exceptionally unique perspective on people and politics,” Hopson said.
Hopson first got involved in politics through his election as Board president of an Alaska Community Mental Health Association, but in spite of enjoying that experience, he had originally no plans to run for elected office in Arlington, and even declined to apply for a Council position in a previous election cycle.
“I eventually decided that I had inadvertently prepared myself to serve on the City Council,” Hopson said. “I have no hidden agenda. I am not an advocate for any special interest. My sole purpose is to serve the public interest, and I am free to do just that. I believe ethics in government and good decision-making go hand in hand, and I will approach controversial issues and tough choices in an evenhanded way, asking probing questions and insisting that all the facts are in before making any decisions.”
“At the last election, our reserves were under $100,” said Keith, who echoed Hopson in describing the lack of funds in the city’s reserve as one of his primary concerns. “At the end of 2013, they’ve projected that the reserves will be 16 percent of the city’s policy. While this is a good step in the right direction, Arlington needs to continue working to get to 100 percent of the reserve policy.”
To that end, Keith likewise advocates fiscal responsibility by finding ways of increasing revenue without also increasing taxes.
“The city needs to look at bringing in more businesses, especially in the industrial areas surrounding the airport,” Keith said. “We need to look at bringing in more tourism dollars, and maintaining a balanced budget, which includes contributing to the reserve funds.”
Keith described himself as “the only candidate who comes from a small business background,” having run his own business in the past, which he credited with familiarizing him with the challenges facing other small business owners.
“I believe that the government owes it to its citizens to be good stewards of the money that it receives,” said Keith, who touted the endorsement of outgoing Position 7 City Council member Ken Klein. “I have a business background, while my opponents are both educators. I am a strong supporter of our Constitutional rights, including the right to bear arms. I have the experience that Arlington needs to get through the economic challenges we are facing.”
Keith attributed his lifelong interest in politics to living just outside of Washington, D.C., during his high school years. At the same time, Keith and his wife have resided in Arlington for almost five years, and plan to raise their son in their adoptive hometown.
“I’ve enjoyed serving on the Parks, Arts and Recreation Committee, and with Ken leaving the City Council, it was the right time to run,” Keith said. “When a City Council member is sworn in, they pledge to uphold the federal and state Constitutions. I take that oath very seriously, and believe that our rights aren’t something that legislators should be compromising. Arlington needs a Council member who understands our personal and property rights, who will be fiscally and ethically responsible, and who has the background to spur business growth bringing in more revenue.”
“We need to restore our fire and police departments personnel to an adequate level,” Schuette said, when asked to identify Arlington’s most pressing concern. “The fire department responded to 3,800 calls in 2012. In 2013, those numbers have already increased by 7 percent. Eighty-five percent of those calls were for EMTs. Our police department has three officers on duty during the day, and two on duty at night. They’ve responded to 25,167 calls, resulting in 3,290 case reports. Each department is critically short of at least two individuals.”
As such, Schuette has called for a sustainable tax base, by taking advantage of the growing manufacturing and aerospace industries, to retain Arlington’s current businesses while drawing new enterprises.
“It’s imperative we provide adequate roads not only for our citizens, but also for transporting goods and services,” Schuette said. “To provide a workforce attractive to new companies, we need to expand our job training and retraining opportunities for adults, as well as our students.”
After being appointed by the Governor to the State Council on Vocational Education, Schuette spent 18 years working with businesses and industry to implement relevant job skills in the high school curriculum.
“During those years, I managed large numbers of students, supervised hundreds of employees and worked with thousands of community volunteers,” said Schuette, whose school district administration experience in those 18 years ranged from vocational director to high school principal. “Those key leadership positions taught me how to listen to all sides of an issue and do the research, to make sure I have all the information before making a decision.”
Schuette also spent several years working with judges, lawyers, parole officers and juvenile justice staff to provide training to at-risk youth and adults.
“The knowledge and skills I gained working with a diverse range of organizations and issues related to training our work force will provide a perspective not currently available on the City Council,” Schuette said.
Schuette began attending City Council meetings last summer to better understand how its decisions were being made.
“Over the months, I was impressed with how the City and Council are making plans with a vision for the future of Arlington 10 years down the road,” said Schuette, who is endorsed by the Arlington Firefighters Union Local 3728. “I would like to be a part of that vision.”