Former State Representative Dennis Kintigh, left, and Mayor Del Jurney shake hands prior to Wednesday evening’s Meet the Mayoral Candidates forum held at the Salvation Army headquarters. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Mayor Del Jurney and mayoral candidate Dennis Kintigh debated jobs, leadership styles, taxes and other hot topics Thursday night at the Salvation Army.
The event, moderated by KBIM’s Tom Ruiz, was well-attended by several residents who were first treated with a free spaghetti dinner.
“We pray for the city, pray for the state. I thought, ‘What else could we possibly do to help our city be at peace?’ I thought … ‘Let’s host this thing,’” said Capt. Beau Perez.
Kintigh started the evening by talking about his experience beyond his time in law enforcement and two terms in the state Legislature.
“There is more to Dennis than the law enforcement,” Kintigh said.
He talked about his engineering degrees, his background in aviation and his time spent with his wife serving at the First Baptist Church as a youth minister.
“It was a rewarding experience. I’ve seen the good sights and the bad,” Kintigh said. “We need to deal with the bad and we need to encourage the good. That’s what I propose to do.”
Jurney said the campaign was about two things: experience and leadership.
“I have called Roswell home for the better part of 48 years,” Jurney said.
Jurney’s experience has included 10 years in the banking business, five years in real estate and his current work with a non-profit agency.
The background of each candidate factored in when they shared their opinions on how government should run.
“I ran a real estate business,” Jurney said. I told you in 2010 we’re going to run this community like a business and we are. That’s why it’s succeeding. There are statutes and ordinances we have to live under. Just because it’s a public entity doesn’t mean we have to pull back and say things just run like they do. I bring business to this and that’s why we’re succeeding like we are.”
Kintigh had a different view of government operations.
“I have not owned a business,” Kintigh said. “Running government is not like running private industry. I will tell you, the rules are fundamentally different. Public employees have what’s called a property right to their job. They cannot be fired unless you show cause.”
Kintigh, who spent most of his career in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said he knows many people think government can operate like a business. He explained his thoughts on how a mayor should view the position.
“I know government. I know it’s problems and this is what it is,” Kintigh said. “This is a government job with all it’s flaws and all it’s problems.”
The candidates also disagreed about whether Roswell was in better shape than it was four years ago.
“I believe we’re in considerably better shape,” Jurney said. “We have to create wealth, and I believe we’ve done that. The second thing is, we didn’t leave behind essential other aspects, like crime.”
Kintigh said this was an area where they “fundamentally disagreed.”
“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between July 2010 to July 2012, Roswell did not grow,” Kintigh said. “We have a crime problem that has not gotten any better. We’ve got problems. We’ve got to confront them.”
People will not go where they do not feel safe, Kintigh later said.
The candidates also differed on taxes and spending taxpayer funds.
Kintigh, who confronted the film industry while at the state Legislature, said his biggest accomplishment was shining the light of truth on the scam called the “film subsidy.”
“I don’t have a problem with people coming here to make movies,” Kintigh said. “I have a problem with people being stuck with the bill. You pay enough at the movie theater, you shouldn’t have to pay (again) with your taxes.”
Jurney supported the film subsidy idea.
“I probably disagree with Mr. Kintigh to this extent,” Jurney said. “I don’t think it’s in anybody’s best interest to throw money at film, but what I do believe (is), it’s just like any other economic development, it’s an opportunity incentive. It brings people here.”
Jurney expanded later that he did not think taxes were a “dirty word.”
“I think it’s what you do with it. It’s a necessity,” Jurney said. “That’s what makes a community survive.”
Jurney said he didn’t understand why the recent Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell mill levy failed. He took responsibility for the failure of a property tax that voters shot down during his term, but he said economic development does not have a “sunset clause.”
“We want what other communities have, but we’re not prepared to make an investment in ourselves,” Jurney said.
Kintigh said if a project needs to be funded there is always a question about whether to raise taxes, but he said any tax “has to have a sunset clause,” or a time limit.
“I think the voters have spoken loudly … if there is a project that comes up, some kind of special need … we need to do it in a way that minimizes the burden on tax payers.”