Washington Terrace council candidates talk economics

Oct 31 2011 - 11:33pm

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Brown
Johnston
Monsen
Vaughn
Brown
Johnston
Monsen
Vaughn

WASHINGTON TERRACE -- Six candidates hoping to fill three council seats in Washington Terrace say financial responsibility and bringing in new business top the list of important issues for the city.

Blair Brown, Randy Tippets, Tiffiny Whitney and incumbents Mary Johnston, Scott J. Monsen and Warren Vaughn may share similar visions, but differ in how they would reach their goals.

In recent interviews, the candidates explained their ideas for enticing specific businesses, remaining financially stable and making city government more accessible.

Tippets did not respond to the Standard-Examiner's request for his views.

Brown, 57, said council members should serve the people. A sales representative and landlord, he said economics is the biggest issue the city faces, and he is concerned over rate hikes in utilities and public safety that he said could be resolved without passing additional costs on to residents.

"The bottom line is that I'm a businessman, and I have some fresh and new ideas that I think I can bring to the table," he said.

Brown listed volunteer labor and grant money among ways he would get projects completed while helping keep the city's budget lean.

Monsen, 59, has held a four-year term on the Washington Terrace City Council and before that, the city's planning commission.

Monsen stressed that keeping the city's budget lean should be priority No. 1, along with continuing the city's high level of service while "holding the line" on tax and rate increases as much as possible.

"I think it's important to note that Washington Terrace is in very good financial condition right now despite the downturn in the economy," he said. He pointed out that the city is still pursuing the right type of business to come in and help boost the economy.

Monsen said his experience as a successful real estate agent gives him an advantage over other candidates when it comes to pinpointing what types of businesses and developers would be a good fit in the community.

Johnston, 61, has spent the past eight years on the Washington Terrace City Council and said economic development is the biggest issue currently facing the city.

Like Monsen, Johnston wants to entice businesses that will help diversify and increase the city's tax base, especially since the closing of Family Fresh Foods at 6157 S. Adams Ave. near Ogden Regional Medical Center.

"We'd like to get another store in there," she said. "Maybe some fast-food restaurants would also work well in that area."

Johnston said a good way to encourage development in that area would be to do away with tolls on the Adams Avenue Parkway.

"Opening up that main street and trying to get rid of that toll road would be nice, so that people could come through there and not have to pay a dollar," she said.

A Weber School District retiree, Johnston said her experience on the council and as the secondary education supervisor managing all of the programs and teachers of grades 7-12 in the district make her a strong candidate.

One of her big reasons for running for a third term, Johnston said, is her involvement in a federal program for at-risk youths called "Communities That Care."

"It's a really great program, and I just feel like I can offer something to help finish that up."

Tiffiny Kaye Whitney, at 27 the youngest candidate, said responsible spending of city funds is the biggest issue.

Whitney said she has noticed that taxes are raised to purportedly pay for specific projects in Washington Terrace, but once the project is over, taxes remain at the same level.

"I would make it my priority to make sure that money was being spent as efficiently as possible," she said, "and if there was a savings that could be passed on to the taxpayer, I would want to do that."

Quick to point out that she doesn't have any prior experience in a city council setting, Whitney said her determination and resolve in approaching issues would benefit Washington Terrace.

"Even if I might not entirely understand the process at first, just being there and being able to understand the process from the inside gives me an immense opportunity to make those changes."

Whitney would also like to see the local government become more transparent and interactive, with a greater online presence where residents who can't make it to council meetings could ask questions and voice their opinions.

Warren Vaughn has been on the council since 2000 and said the city's biggest issue is to maintain a healthy budget for the next four years.

"We're in the black and we've balanced our budget," he said. "But down the road we have to look at how we're going to structure things to be able to accomplish road repairs and other infrastructure repairs on a tight budget."

The 14-year Union Pacific Railroad employee cited his leadership experience as mayor pro tem, council chairman and vice chairman of the redevelopment agency within Washington Terrace as qualifying him to help tackle budget issues.

"Six of the years I've been on the council have been in a leadership position," Vaughn said. "We've balanced our budget every year since 2000 without raising property taxes."

Vaughn pointed out that he voted against property tax increases in 2002 and 2008, instead applying for federal grant funds to avoid increases while accomplishing goals like the new fire station and senior center:

"We built that with $900,000 of grant money instead of raising taxes."

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