But a question on future city funding of the Montrose Economic Development Corporation by Mike Gordon showed disagreement between Ray Rose, Bill Patterson and Pat Treacy, all running for the At Large seat.
Rose and Patterson have along history of adversity, going back to 2002 when Rose beat Patterson in a race for state representative. Rose was also instrumental in an attempt to have Patterson recalled as county commissioner in 2008, although he has since distanced himself from the failed effort.
Gordon asked the three At Large candidates whether, if elected, they would assure that MEDC would continue to get funding from the city for the next five years.
Treacy said that she would “definitely” support continued funding, as did Rose.
“We all need MEDC to attract big business to Montrose,” Rose said. “I will support continued funding of MEDC and will not take that money and put it somewhere else.”
Patterson said continued funding all depends on the future.
“We have to look at it every year and what is it they are going to do for the community,” he said. “If it’s not significant, then the answer is no.”
A later question by Jim Anderson widened the MEDC divide.
“Many communities are seeing an 8 to 20 percent reduction in tax revenues in the next 24 months,” Anderson said. “Can any of you tell us how many new jobs were created through MEDC in the last one to four years? We need to know how the money is spent.”
Both Treacy and Rose said they didn’t know how many jobs were created, but Rose added that MEDC is necessary so Montrose can compete nationwide.
“We have to work with what we have and reduce government intervention on businesses who come here,” he said. “I’d rather see money go into business expansion rather than see flowers on the curb.”
Patterson said he wasn’t aware of any new jobs created in recent years by MEDC, but courting big business is not the best direction the city should take, and the council should concentrate on bringing in smaller “mom and pop” type businesses.
“We need to go after people who want to move here and raise their kids,” he said. “We’ve been successful with owner/operators who want to move here, so why don’t we build on that?”
In the District I race, candidate Thomas Smits answered questions along with District II candidates Carol McDermott and Bill Brougham, since his opponents, Brent Wallace and Jesse Bailey, did not attend.
“I’m here to look you in the eye, but unfortunately my opponents aren’t,” Smits said in his closing statement.
Building up businesses in the downtown area concerned Dennis Olmstead.
“What would you do to direct economic resources to small business in the downtown corridor?” he asked.
Brougham said the city should concentrate on bringing small “niche type” businesses to downtown. Smits said the city must make sure its infrastructure is sound to not only attract new small businesses but to help existing businesses, which could also be helped through economic incentives, grants and loans.
“We need to improve our economic development efforts for small business,” he said.
McDermott said development of downtown would depend on whether voters approve a Downtown Development Authority on the April ballot.
“The city could consider the suspension of some fees to attract businesses downtown, from bargain (stores) to boutiques,” she said. “We could suspend fees until we fill the storefronts.”
Gordon also posed his question on MEDC to the District I and II candidates.
McDermott said she is in favor of continued funding, which comes to about $100,000 per year.
“It’s our obligation to attract big companies, if it’s economically feasible,” she said.
Brougham, who said he spent two years on the MEDC board, also supports continued funding.
“I would definitely support them, and if times get better, I would say the city is not giving enough,” he said.
Smits also supports continued funding of MEDC.
“We should be able to continue (funding MEDC) if things get tough, but infrastructure should be our main focus,” he said.
A mail-in ballot will decide the April 6 city council election; the last day to register is this Monday, March 8. Ballots will be mailed to registered city voters during the week of March 15. Any voter who does not receive a ballot should call the Montrose City Clerk at 240-1430.
Whether mailed in or placed in ballot boxes at Montrose City Hall, all ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
All the candidates have posted biographies that can be accessed and downloaded from the city website at www.montrose.org.