By William Thompson
Portales city council candidates shared hope for continued ecomomic growth at a political forum Monday while differing on ways to achieve that growth.
About 50 people attended the forum sponsored by city government and the Portales Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Monday night at the Memorial Building to hear candidates for city council and the Portales Municipal Judge position answer questions from the public.
Portales resident Dolores Penrod said she thought all the candidates did a good job in explaining themselves.
“It’s nice to see where everybody stands,” Penrod said. “It opened up some more thoughts for me.”
The forum began with candidates responding to the question, “What is your vision for the next five years for Portales?”
Lorenzo Baca, candidate for councilor in Ward A, said he looked for a “cleaner more economically improved and safe, drug-reduced community.”
Ward A incumbent Jake Lopez said his vision included getting all the roads fixed in Portales, and he also said the community needed to become free of drugs.
Ward B incumbent Robert De Los Santos said he wanted to see everyone in city government work together as a team. His ward B challenger, Chad Heflin, the youngest candidate at 24, said he has seen business growth the last five years in Portales.
“As long as people keep coming and opening businesses Portales can continue to move forward.”
Heflin said the city needs to ensure help from the state legislature for the “water problem.”
Ward D challenger Jim Lee said he wanted to see improved streets and adequate progress in securing water for the city’s future. Lee also emphasized a need for greater volunteerism within the community. Ward D incumbent Dianne Parker echoed her challenger in saying funding for street repair was a top priority. She said she wanted to see trash picked up from city streets and she wanted the city’s parks in “tip-top shape.”
Parker said neighborhood watches could be one way to not only prevent crime but to get neighbors involved in picking up trash in their neighborhood.
As for the three municipal judge candidates, incumbent Fred Arnold said he is not one for making promises, other than he would promise to give “150 percent” to the job. Arla Hitson said if she were elected municpal judge she would be a good listener and treat all defendants with respect.
The other judicial challenger, Oscar Robinson, said he would extend the hours of municipal court to make the court “more accessible.” to the public.
Two questions from the audience asked for the candidates’ views on an alternate truck route and raising property taxes for community growth.
No candidate offered to raise property taxes. Hefflin said he would have to weigh both sides of any such proposal, but he was basically not in favor of raising property taxes. Parker said the reason people move to Portales is because of low property taxes.
De Los Santos replied, “absolutely not” to the idea of raising property taxes. Lee elicited some laughter from the audience when he said any politician who would talk about raisng taxes during an election would not win the election.
Candidates were mixed on the alternate truck route idea. Parker said it’s something that should be looked at in the future. De Los Santos said it would require much community input. Lee said a bypass would help traffic on First and Second Streets.
Lopez was against the idea.
“There is no way trucks are going to go around Portales,” Lopez said.
Baca said he would strongly support an alternate truck route.
“We need to get the trucks out of the city limits,” he said.
Heflin leaned toward favoring an alternate truck route.
“I think I am for it if we can get the money,” he said.
Candidates had two minutes apiece for closing remarks. Most used that time to highlight their experience, some used the opportunity to publicly ask those in the audience for their vote.
The election is scheduled for 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 7.