Lee says improving quality of life will attract future growth

Editor’s note: The following is one part in a question and answer series of candidates running in the municipal election on March 7. Candidates are asked questions regarding the city’s future.
Jim Lee will be running for election in Ward D. He will face Eddy Hiner and incumbent Dianne Parker for the Ward D position.

1. In your view, what is the most pressing issue the Portales City Council is facing?

The challenges facing the City Council cannot be boiled down to just one issue. There are many issues, and the most important ones are simply a matter of perspective. If I can’t find a decent place to live, housing is the most important issue. If the police are too busy to help me when I get attacked, law enforcement is the most important issue.
Overall, several very important, interrelated issues come to mind. I say “interrelated” because they all affect each other. For example, we can’t expect steady long-term growth if there isn’t enough water for industry or enough housing for employees.

The City Council, as a servant of the community, needs to realize these issues will not solve themselves. We either move forward or backward because nothing stands still.

2. What is your philosophy on economic development for Portales?

By improving the quality of life for the people who are already here, we simultaneously provide an attractive environment for business people considering a move. This way we provide a pleasant community that does not have to exchange quality of life for economic growth and good-paying jobs.

Low taxes and available land in the area create a business-friendly location for new or relocating businesses. Existing businesses can also expand to meet new needs. For example, facilities are in place that could expand to capitalize on renewable energy such as biodiesel and its marketable byproduct glycerin. The possibilities are virtually endless.

We can start by listening to what the people of Portales want and what the business community needs.

3. Should we continue to pursue the Ute Water Project? Why or why not?

The Ute Water Project is both a resource issue and economic issue. Of course we need the water, but can we afford to get it this way — and is this the best way to do it?
The Ogallala Aquifer is the fastest depleting aquifer on our planet. We also have to consider if Ute Lake will recharge faster than the water is taken out.

I’m just the guy with the questions, but we have to have questions before we can get answers. Can we find the money to pay for the project? Do we have alternatives if the project falls through? What about conserving water? What about using “gray water”? What about recycling water like the space shuttle but on a bigger scale? What about desalinating brackish water?

4. With the solid waste contract with Clovis set to expire in three years, should the city reopen its own landfill? What other measures should play a part in exploring this problem?

Opening our own landfill would save a trip to Clovis, but we have to consider other factors. There is the cost of the land if the city doesn’t already have a spot for a dump. Then there’s the potential effect on our quality of life. Will we have to put up with more flies and more stink? Will it present new hazards?

If we decide on a new landfill, how about some sensible recycling? Some discards can be used over again and even be the start of new industry and more jobs. Organic trash could help fuel power plants and give us something we do need while destroying something we don’t need. If we do it right, a new landfill could be a pretty good idea.

5. How should the city go about addressing housing needs?

It is not a question of a housing shortage; it is a question of affordable housing and rental housing. If someone has the resources to buy a lot and build a house, I don’t think there’s an insurmountable shortage.

Then there’s the status of Cannon Air Force Base. If the base closes in 2009, it will hurt Portales, but that base housing on University Avenue may become available. If the base stays, we have an incentive to build more apartment places, and even compete for more off-base housing. If we get new businesses moving into the area, more houses and lots will be sold. It can be a win-win situation if the city council handles it right. Things can be looking up for Portales.