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Ogden mayoral candidates appear in forum, talk crime and development

Questions highlight parks, crime and resource management

By Rob Nielsen - | May 9, 2023

Rob Nielsen, Standard-Examiner

Ogden mayoral candidates participate in a forum sponsored by the Weber County Republican Women on Monday afternoon, May 8, 2023.

OGDEN — The declared candidates for Ogden mayor got their first formal chance to face the public Monday.

All seven candidates who have declared their intentions to run for mayor were on hand for a forum sponsored by the Weber County Republican Women at the Weber County Sheriff’s Office.

The event included Chris Barragan, Bart Blair, Angel Castillo, Jon Greiner, Taylor Knuth, Oscar Mata and Ben Nadolski.

While the candidates were asked a wide range of questions over the course of the hourlong forum, most questions were directed at only a few candidates at a time in the interest of time. A couple of questions beyond introductory and closing statements were asked of all the candidates.

Vacant land

A handful of candidates were asked about how they thought vacant land owned by the Ogden School District could be best used.

Greiner said he’d like to see the land developed for the betterment of youth.

“Aristotle said, ‘The future of empires depends on the education of our youth,'” he said. “You can’t just have the education component, you have to have things for them to do after school to bond and be part of this community. I would say, probably one of the better things we could do to help move that ground forward is to look at things that promote youth activities, whether it be soccer or something else.”

Castillo said these pieces of ground are one of the main reasons she is running for mayor.

“I do not believe the Community & Economic Development Department should compete with private business,” she said. “I’ve worked with people that are in this room to make sure that a portion of that land that was going to be gifted to developers using our tax dollars is to go to parks and recreation because our youth is important, our mental health is important and our voices are important.”

Mata said the community is in need of active spaces for all and that this land would be well suited for it.

“To see the struggles that our kids are seeing to experience and participate in our parks and rec program is truly disheartening,” he said. “I’m the dean of students at a local school here and I make sure that we keep the doors open and the basketball courts are open a little bit longer because our kids are experiencing a deficit in activities after school. But I don’t think it’s specifically just the youth as well, I think we need to have extracurriculars and active spaces for everybody.”

Reducing crime

Citing an ABC4 article ranking Ogden as the fifth most dangerous city in the state, candidates were asked about their plans to correct this image.

Barragan said business owners and others must take an active role in aiding the progress that has been made by Ogden law enforcement.

“You talk about being in the top five for crime, well we’re a big city, we have a lot of things that are going on,” he said. “What are we doing as individual business owners and myself especially? We’re digging in to Ogden, we believe in Ogden, we don’t want to leave Ogden, and we want to encourage families and businesses like myself to come in and be a part of it, not just on 25th (Street), but everywhere. I commend what our police force has done in Ogden City. I love what they’re doing with regards to being empathetic towards our homeless population and I will continue to support them.”

Knuth said it’s important to have conversations between local law enforcement and the community at large.

“Any good mayor is going to hire the right people and get out of their way, but they’re also going to facilitate crucial community conversations, which is exactly what I’ve done,” he said. “A few years back, I actually met with Sheriff (Ryan) Arbon and over the entire summer we exchanged books, we had great conversations. But more importantly, we convened a meeting in the building just to our east to have a conversation between public safety officers and the general community. … I have never been more engaged and captivated by a conversation. We could’ve solved the world’s problems in that room together.”

Resource management and planning

Candidates also had an opportunity to discuss resource management and how best to handle the influx of apartment properties in the area.

Blair said it’s key to be responsible with existing resources.

“As a mayor, I would be in charge of finding ways to make sure that we maximize those resources and use them in the best way possible,” he said. “This year, we’re very fortunate to have the water that we have and we’ve got to make sure that we use that water responsibly so we can have it as long as we can.”

Nadolski said it’s time for the city to come back to the planning table.

“We’re starting to see the proliferation of a lot of apartment complexes and a big reason for that is we don’t have a plan in place,” he said. “In order to get ahead of that curve, we need to have a general plan that makes sense for today. The current general plan that we have is way too old and it’s antiquated — it’s decades old. It’s time that we update our general plan so that we identify the zoning that we want and where so when private investment is looking at building something in our community, they can look to our plan of what we want and they can maximize the opportunities for them and for us.”

Candidates were also asked about working with neighboring cities, what they feel makes a mayor, previous examples of how they’ve individually engaged with the public and tackling issues with the Ogden-Hinckley Airport.

To view a replay of Monday’s mayoral forum, visit the Weber County Republican Party‘s Facebook page. A copy will also be up on webergop.org by the end of the week.


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