BISBEE — The Bisbee Rotary Club offered a virtual mayoral debate between incumbent Mayor David Smith and former councilman Ken Budge Monday night.
Both men showed a sincere objective to represent the city’s residents as mayor over the next two years.
Smith laid out the obstacles he and the city faced over his past three years as mayor — the City Hall fire, a revolving door of city managers and attorneys, now the COVID–19 pandemic and city business shut down and dealing with state and federal legislators to get help with lost revenues.
He also offered a plan to kickstart the economy when the state reopens again, which included advancing the arts Bisbee is famous for and making the city attractive to more small businesses. There is also a plan in the works with Douglas and Tombstone to make the historic Highway 80 become an attraction, like Route 66.
Budge supported the mayor in his actions to help curb the spread of the virus by requiring masks, but felt the virus should not be political. To him, the city’s lower revenues versus higher expenses over the past years, dipping into the dwindling contingency fund, were a large part of the city’s problems, he said.
With better oversight and not spending more than is taken in, he believed the city would be in better shape to handle the current economic downturn.
He, too, saw the importance of tourism to the town and the opportunity to attract small businesses like mom-and-pop stores, laundromats, dry cleaners and even a used car lot. High speed citywide wi-fi was also on his list to assist students and residents.
As for the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System, the two had different views. Smith wants to keep paying the minimum into the fund due to the lack of the committee overseeing the fund’s failure to provide returns on investments.
Budge, on the other hand, wants to earmark part of the sales tax to go toward paying down the multi-million dollar debt.
Policing was also a subject of the debate. Smith would like to add more staff and have the officers on the streets in Old Bisbee.
“People like that,” Smith said. “Store owners like that they pop in. They also speak with tourists. But, we need school resource officers back in the schools.”
Smith said the officers can establish a connection with the students to assuage any fear and “they develop relationships with the children. They learn from each other.”
Budge found fault with the hiring process which allows an officer trained by Bisbee tax dollars to take a better paying job somewhere else after just two years.
“It’s a two–year problem. Most of our officers are from here, grew up here. But, now we have a revolving door. We also need a stronger advisory board to look at this,” Budge added.
Budge also wants to have liaisons to the numerous committees, boards and commissions to provide the council with reports on what is happening, what they are talking about, what problems they may see, what’s going right so citizens as well can be kept informed.