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Meck, Youngker, Guy, Hess have our support

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After attending three Buckeye City Council candidate forums in as many weeks, we are ready to make our endorsements.

This go round, the mayor’s and three of the city’s six districts’ seats are up for grabs.

Current Mayor Jackie Meck, Councilman Brian McAchran and newcomer Thomas Campanella are running for mayor.

Newcomers Tedy Burton, Kathryn Baillie and Tony Youngker are running for District 1. Newcomers Jeanine Guy and Joe Federico are running for District 2. And newcomer Jarvis Berry and current Councilwoman and Vice Mayor Michelle Hess are running for District 3.

We recommend Meck for mayor and Youngker for District 1, Guy for District 2 and Hess for District 3.

All of them impressed us with their vast knowledge of the issues affecting Buckeye, namely the invasive salt cedars that have taken over the Gila River, choking out native species and sucking the river dry while causing fire and flood dangers.

Burton and Berry didn’t seem to realize the very real danger the tamarisks pose, with Burton stating that he was against ridding the river of the trees and didn’t think the city should be wasting money on that particular endeavor. Berry said he felt the city could have waited to address the salt cedars. Both men seemed more interested in social programs to help people hurt by the economic downturn get back on their feet, which is a noble undertaking, but not more important than the town as a whole, which will inevitably flood if the river isn’t taken care of. Berry pointed out that the river “isn’t Buckeye,” and he’s partially right. Parts of the river flow through neighboring cities while other parts flow through Buckeye and county land, but as Meck pointed out, floods don’t know the difference between them. Meck also pointed out that the city’s wastewater treatment plant is in the floodplain, and if it flooded, sewage would be washed into the Gila, which empties into the Colorado River. Along with tainting a major source of drinking water for western states, the city would incur harsh fines from the federal government.

Federico came off as clueless regarding each and every one of Buckeye’s issues, without ever coming close to using his allotted three minutes on any of his answers. Berry mentioned more than once his desire to build a church, not another church, but a church as if residents don’t already have close to 40 to choose from. We thought it was an odd platform to campaign on, especially considering churches don’t really do anything for the city’s tax base. In fact, one could argue that they’re more of a detriment since they’re nonprofits but still require city services. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not knocking churches, we just think the city has more than enough. Neither Federico nor Berry returned candidate questionnaires sent by the View.

Youngker is a lifelong Buckeye resident, and although he has only been to one council meeting in the last year, he is a board member of the Buckeye Main Street Coalition and has a keen understanding of the unique issues affecting the city. He also owns a restaurant on Main Street, proving he’s 100 percent invested in the city he lives in as well as extremely accessible to his constituents.

Guy has worked for the city for 17 years, holding positions from head librarian to town manager. She is well educated on everything Buckeye and is directly responsible for starting the ball rolling several years ago on Skyline Regional Park.

Hess is a powerhouse! She said she’s spent the last four years educating herself on Buckeye and she wasn’t lying. This candidate is a force to be reckoned with and we can say with complete confidence that the city would suffer without her on its council. When Berry suggested taxing trash bills to help offset high water bills (another top issue for the city), Hess explained that the water department is an enterprise fund meaning it pays for itself, and that to jack up everyone’s garbage bills would force some residents to pay for other residents’ water bills. She also explained that everyone who has complained to the city about high water bills was found to have water leaks. When the topic of vacant buildings came up, Hess explained that the city can’t make absentee owners do things they don’t want to do, but that through catalyst grants, many businesses have been able to make improvements.

Hess’ answer to whether or not Buckeye should stick with a four-day work week was that the city has to strike a balance between retaining good talent and serving the residents, explaining that a lot of the city’s best staffers chose Buckeye because of the four-day work week.

McAchran is highly vocal in his opposition to the four-day work week, stating that Buckeye should even be open on Saturdays. Guy and Meck said they believe the Monday-Thursday schedule works, with Guy assuring residents that staff is flexible enough that services such as inspections can take place on Fridays. Meck said if staff and residents want the city to go back to a five-day work week, he would be open to it, but he has yet to hear them ask for it.

Other than the city’s hours of operation, the biggest difference between Meck and McAchran is whether or not Buckeye is “Open for Business,” a slogan created by Meck. McAchran spoke at length about too much bureaucratic red tape and high fees while Meck cited the purchase of Global Water, which led to Cardinal IG’s selecting Buckeye for its glass manufacturing company, promising 100 new jobs to start. Meck also cited his relentless pursuit of new business, something we think we’ll start seeing more of now that the city’s water system doesn’t leap frog over a private utility.

That said, we think McAchran would make a fine mayor, but we like what we’ve seen from Meck and we’d like to see more. We like his enthusiasm, we like his experience and institutional knowledge, and we love that he offered to forego his salary when the recession hit.

Campanella has been to every council meeting, which is impressive, and seems to have studied up on Buckeye, especially its budget. We believe he could be an asset to the city, but we’d like to see him serve as a councilman before jumping into the mayor’s seat. One thing that bothered us was that he mentioned more than once the mayor’s salary, which just reminded us that Meck is in it strictly for the good of Buckeye, period.

We think Baillie could one day be an asset to the council. She, too, has taken the time to educate herself, even going so far as to call the city’s finance director to discuss the budget, but she’s only been to two or three council meetings and has yet to serve on any of the city’s boards or commissions. We like to see council candidates pay their dues first.

In the interest of full disclosure, and because we promised last week that we’d tell you all who followed our candidate questionnaire rules and who did not, Hess’ questionnaire contained one answer that went over the limit by 10 words. However, she turned hers in well in advance of the deadline and was able to rework her answer.

We can’t say enough good things about this candidate. We see a future mayor in Hess.

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