Knuth, Nadolski sound off on how they’d handle issues affecting Ogden’s Hispanic community
OGDEN — Ogden’s two remaining candidates for mayor are considering how they will approach issues impacting the city’s Hispanic community.
Monday evening, Latinos United Promoting Education and Civic Engagement, or LUPEC, hosted the first forum for general election mayoral candidates Ben Nadolski and Taylor Knuth at the Weber State University Communication Education Center.
LUPEC co-founder Luis Lopez pointed out that this was a historic night for the group.
“This is the first debate dedicated to the Hispanic community of Ogden,” he said.
Candidates fielded nearly an hour of questions, both from LUPEC and from audience members.
The candidates were asked about Hispanic representation at the executive level in their potential administrations.
Knuth said he’s starting off with the campaign itself.
“This is really simple for me because it’s how we’ve already built our team as a campaign,” he said. “If you look at our team, we have an historic team. We’re led by women of color — primarily Latinas — who are from Ogden, serving Ogden, and building and sharing our vision of community connection and character as the ‘Taylor for Mayor’ campaign.”
He added that, if elected, his first aims are not to clean out the hundreds of employees already serving the city.
“These are dedicated professionals who understand how to make the city move and how to make the city go,” he said. “I’ve said this before, but our administration is dedicated to not hiring or firing any single position in the city before we assume office. I just don’t think this is a trait of good leadership, and it’s not reflective of my values as a leader in getting things done. The fact is, as an administration, we’re going to have a lot of work to do day one of becoming a new mayor and we’re going to need all the help we can get to pull it off as a team.”
Nadolski said he’d draw on some of his own professional experiences.
“I’ve been working in public administration for a little over 20 years and we too have a desire for more diversity,” he said. “We too want to make sure our workforce reflects the people that we serve. The best experience I’ve had in doing that is to reach out to groups like LUPEC — find community leaders who we know are engaged and we know are networked throughout the community of people that we serve. The best way we’ve done it is we’ve put people from the community on our interview panels with us.
He said that these panels could easily be applied to hiring for executive positions.
“We’ve let them go through our bias training before we do interviews — which takes place every single time we do an interview — and we make sure that everybody on the panel is empowered to call out any kind of bias from anyone in the panel,” he said. “We make sure that whoever’s on the panel from the community understands the process that we’re going through and what we’re looking for in terms of the best candidate. I think that’s a really good way to make sure that we have representation, especially at the executive level.”
Trust in law enforcement
Each candidate was also asked about how they would go about building trust between law enforcement and the Hispanic community of Ogden.
Nadolski said building connections through coaching is one way that the community could be bonded with law enforcement officers.
“I’ve been coaching kids for years,” he said. “We’ve coached hundreds of them in Ogden. It’s really fulfilling to see kids running around town that you have helped inspire, and I think that’s something that our police and firefighters ought to have the opportunity to do. I think that would connect our officers and firefighters with families that they wouldn’t otherwise connect with. It gives them an opportunity to get to know them and the pressures that they’re under. It also gives them a reason to stay in Ogden.”
He said it’s also key to keep the administrative floors of the Municipal Building open to all and that the Ogden Police Department should continue building on the progress it has made.
Knuth noted his own experience with this conversation.
“When I was the chair of the (Ogden) Diversity Commission a few years ago, we actually acknowledged that we can’t have public safety in our community without trust in our public safety apparatus,” he said. “We sought to enhance that trust and building relationships with our community. The entire summer, we convened meetings between Chief (Randy) Watt, Sheriff (Ryan) Arbon and community leaders of color from across this county. In those meetings, we talked about everything from transparency, to accountability, to even the way we recruit our officers.”
He added that his administration would put an emphasis on community policing and continuing to hire diverse officers.
This year’s primary saw a turnout of 32.39% (10,391 ballots cast) of Ogden’s 32,083 eligible registered voters, according to the Weber County elections website.
Candidates were asked if they saw this lack of voter participation as a problem and how they’d increase Hispanic participation.
Knuth said that the more he looks into the numbers, the more positives he sees.
“When we measure success, we should measure success at the right level,” he said. “Ten-thousand voters is what happened, but that’s also (32.39%) of registered voters, which is better than our last election for mayor, so we’re headed in the right direction. Specifically, I’m actually really proud of the way that east-central Ogden showed up in this last election. If you look at the precinct-level data — the data broken down by neighborhood — you can see upwards of a 20%-30% surge in voting in areas where the Hispanic/Latino community is most present.”
However, Nadolski sees this turnout as problematic, adding that local elected positions are some of the most import to peoples’ day-to-day lives.
“We’re a city of about 90,000-plus and we’ve got 10,000 of us choosing our future — yes, that’s a problem,” he said. “I understand that Washington, D.C., is not providing a good example for us. Every time we turn on the TV, it’s giving you every reason to ignore everything about politics, but there are not bad people in politics locally. We’re good people that want to do good things.”
Candidates were also asked about building up entertainment opportunities in town, bringing in grocery stores, housing, direct action on homelessness, supporting women, what each candidate admires about the other, and formulating a new master plan for the city.
A replay of Monday night’s debate can be found on LUPEC’s Facebook page.