City Council candidates answer questions from citizens

On Monday night approximately 30 citizens of the Italy community met at the Italy Community Center to ask questions of council candidates. Paul Cockerham, John Droll, Steven Farmer and Pete Hinohosa were given an opportunity to let the citizens know why they were running for the council and give their views on city issues. Incumbents Frank Jackson and Dennis Perkins, Jr. are running for reelection but did not attend.

Tom Little asked Paul Cockerham why he chose to run for council and not run for reelection to the school board.

“I think our school is in good shape now and we have saved the taxpayers money. I feel like the city needs help now. I am very concerned about the city,” Cockerham answered.

When asked if he had served on any city committees, he stated he had not. John Droll is the only candidate in attendance that has served on any city committee. All four candidates stated they have attended several council meetings in the last six months.

Joan Grabowski asked the panel if they agreed with the current policies the council had recently passed limiting the mayor’s power.

“I am only familiar with a couple of the policies,” said Droll. “I have not had the opportunity to read the new policies.”

Hinohosa stated he had not read the policy manual. “I don’t look at it as mayor or council power. I think it is city power. It takes all of us together.”

Cockerham said he disagreed with the changes the council had made. He said that we have always been a strong mayor kind of government until the recent changes. He also said he had a problem with the wording on that agenda. He said he believed we needed more transparancy. He also said he thought the citizens needed to know what the council is doing.

“With the changes the council made to the policy manual, the employees are held accountable but the department heads are not,” said Farmer. “The council is not holding anyone accountable and changes need to start now.”

Albert Garcia asked the candidates if they are elected if they can put everything aside and work with those that are on the council now. Each candidate stated they could.

“I think I have shown when I was on the council previously that I can get along with others, even if we disagree. I was the only one that voted against the mayor’s salary. When the vote was over we went on with other business. I will speak my mind, but in the end it is a majority vote,” said Droll.

Hinohosa said, “I have worked with guys I don’t agree with, but in the end we worked together. We must do what is in the best interest for the community.”

Cockerham said that he has served on the school board and they are a unit. He said that you don’t want someone on the council that is not a go along. We must agree to disagree he stated.

“I have ruffled feathers at city hall,” said Farmer. “Sometimes right, some wrong. I am going to speak my mind. In the end things need to be done. It is about working together to make the right decisions. I know I can work with any of these men here tonight and anyone on the present council.”

Zina Guthrie spoke to the candidates. “I don’t attend the council meetings because I am friends with so many people here and don’t want to be in between the council and the citizens. I want people to know that Rodney loves this community and that is why he fights for this community. He is there because the people have elected him and know what he stands for.”

Clint McCasland, citizen and city employee asked what the candidates would do to help the employees’ morale and their work relations.

All four candidates stated they believe the employees do a good job. They discussed the current compensatory time system, lack of raises, and other job related issues.

Citizens voiced their displeasure with current department head salaries being so high and the amount that was being spent on attorney fees.

When asked if they would keep the $40 each month that they would be paid as council members, they all stated they would have no problem giving the money back to the city because that was not why they were running.

Frank Boyer stated he had seen on the news where 9 employees of another city had been indicted for steeling metal and selling it. He asked if there was a system in place in Italy to ensure that did not happen here. That would be a question for current council members.

Each candidate expressed their views on budget, city streets, image of the city, and the need for growth and economic development. They all stated they would do the best of their ability if elected.

Comment from Steven Farmer, 4/8/14-7:53pm

I would like to personally thank the Citizens and and Public Works employees that attended the Questions and Answers with the City Council Candidates.

If elected I will address all issues you have because your voice matters!

For the City Employees that attended. I can’t speak for everyone but I know what you all go through. I want to thank each of you for your dedication to the City.