OGDEN — Ogden mayoral candidates Mike Caldwell and Angel Castillo faced off Monday, touching on their accessibility as leaders, downtown development, police staffing and more during a debate at Weber State University.
Caldwell, the incumbent, said one of his key reasons for running again is to deal with “unfinished business,” singling out the planned Ogden Bus Rapid Transit system, a new bus line meant to quickly connect the Weber State campus and the city’s FrontRunner station. “I want to see those get across the finish line,” he said.
As a lifelong resident, he also cited his ties to Ogden. “It’s important to know your community and to get involved in your community. And I have a long track record of knowing this community, being in love with this community, putting my sweat equity into this community,” he said.
Castillo, a member of the Ogden Planning Commission, cited three concerns behind her candidacy — the lack of affordable housing in Ogden, “underfunded education” and the difficulty recruiting qualified officers for the Ogden Police Department. She also said she’d hold town hall meetings every three months, digging at Caldwell, seeking his third term, for what she said has been the absence of such gatherings in his nearly eight years as mayor.
“That’s how much your voice matters to this administration,” she said.
Monday’s debate, held at Lindquist Hall on the Weber State campus, drew crowd of about 100. It was hosted and moderated by representatives from the college’s Olene Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service and will likely be the last public debate between the two before Election Day, Nov. 5.
Policing figured big in Monday’s debate, and despite Castillo’s concerns about recruitment, Caldwell said the department is currently fully staffed for the first time in 15 years.
“So we’ve managed that, we’ve addressed that in spite a number of the challenges,” he said, noting more than 700 openings in law enforcement elsewhere along the Wasatch Front. What’s more, the city registered a 20.1% reduction last year in the most serious crimes, he said, lauding Chief Randy Watt for his efforts.
Castillo praised Ogden’s police officers as “amazing individuals” but lamented the conditions they work under. The department may be fully staffed now, she said, but she worries about the “chronic cycle” of officers hiring on and leaving the department resulting in an “ebb and flow” in their numbers. Moreover, she lamented the absence of community, on-the-street policing.
“Our officers care, but our officers are overworked and underpaid,” she said, arguing for increasing their salaries. She suggested the city has the resources, pointing to what she said is over $50 million in commercial property that the city owns, a contention that Caldwell called “patently false.”
On development in and around the downtown area, Castillo called for “community engagement” with existing business operators in and around Historic 25th Street. “I intend to be able to be in the streets, running charrettes, making sure I see people every quarter. Accessible. Tell me what you want, tell me what you need,” she said.
Caldwell, for his part, cited 10 charrettes, or gatherings focused on new design or development plans, that his administration has held related to the downtown area.
“We brought different groups in with different professional opinions on what’s going to happen there,” he said. Union Station, he said, is the “anchor” for future development plans and he noted reported talks with Union Pacific to acquire the land where it sits.
Caldwell and Castillo were the top two vote-getters in the four-way Aug. 13 primary, earning them a place on the Nov. 5 ballot. Caldwell finished first last August, garnering 44.3% of the vote, and then came Castillo with 28.9% followed by the others, Daniel Tabish and John Thompson.