OGDEN — Ogden’s candidates for mayor debated before a full crowd at Weber State University on Thursday night.
Held at WSU’s Lindquist Hall, the Haven J. Barlow Lecture room was filled to capacity as Bob Hunter, director of the school’s Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service, asked candidates questions covering a variety of issues in the city.
This year’s race features four candidates: incumbent Mayor Mike Caldwell, Ogden City Planning Commissioner Angel Castillo, Ogden-area businessman Daniel Tabish and John Thompson, perennial candidate for office in Weber County.
Caldwell is seeking a third term and has said economic development and connecting the Ogden community have been principles at the forefront of his agenda for much of his tenure — things he’d continue to make a priority if he’s re-elected
Castillo, who recently moved to Ogden from Los Angeles, has said one of her biggest priorities would be Ogden’s expanding housing needs and recruiting and retaining experienced Ogden law enforcement officers. She’s also said she wants to reduce absenteeism and improve performance at Ogden schools.
Tabish, a lifelong Weber County resident and longtime entrepreneur, said he decided to run for mayor to improve what he sees as an “anemic economy” in Ogden. He’s said he’d run the city like a business and wants to bring in new and thriving businesses to drive that platform. He also wants to lower taxes and increase public safety.
Thompson, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, has run for several Weber County elected positions over the past several years. Though not elected, Thompson has run before for Ogden City Council, Ogden mayor, Weber County Commission and Ogden School Board. He’s said he believes no elected office should go unopposed. He said he “always thinks we can improve what we’re doing.” He’s retired and last worked in child support collection for the Utah Department of Human Services’ Office of Recovery Services.
Hunter first asked candidates how they would engage the community in an “authentically transparent way.”
Castillo proposed quarterly town hall meetings, where members of the community could interact with the city administration in a less formal way than is offered at council meetings.
“What people on the East Bench want is very different from what people in east-central want,” she said.
Tabish said he would institute an “open door policy” for the mayor’s office and said he’d encourage the police department to do more “community policing” where police are out walking their beats, out of patrol cars, engaging with community members.
Caldwell countered Tabish by saying he’s had an open door policy for his entire tenure as mayor, which he’d continue if reelected. He also said the Police Department has been doing a good job at community policing, saying Part One crimes in the city have been reduced by 20% over the past year.
Thompson, who’s very civically active, said complaints of his have been resolved through contact with council or administration. Though he did say he’d institute regular bulletins, perhaps to be mailed out to citizens, apprising the community of important city business.
The candidates were also asked about their understanding of race relations in Ogden and what their plans were to address it.
Tabish and Thompson both said they weren’t aware of any major race relations issues in Ogden, though they pledged to tackle any serious matters in that regard.
Castillo, disagreed forcefully, saying she’s attended Black Lives Matter and NAACP meetings and “heard fear” in the voices of the people affiliated with those groups. Castillo said racial minorities “want and need ... connection.”
Caldwell said during his tenure as mayor, he’s worked to promote diversity, including installing an officer of diversity in his office and being involved with the creation of the city’s Diversity Commission.
“It’s critical that all people feel like they have a pathway to success,” the mayor said.
When the group was asked about how to properly support the most vulnerable members of Ogden’s community, Thompson said it starts with safe neighborhoods and the city should be involved with other organizations to ensure those who need it are getting things like food, housing, education and clothing.
He also added that a limited pool of money could restrain how big a role the city could play.
Caldwell said the city’s job in supporting vulnerable populations is to “take care of the symptoms” by reducing crime, making neighborhoods safer and more desirable, etc.
Tabish said the Ogden community does a good job of taking care of vulnerable groups, citing nonprofit organizations like Catholic Community Services as taking up a bulk of that work.
“We have a relatively good program in place,” he said.
Castillo, on the other hand, said “supporting our most vulnerable is something we’re failing miserably at.”
She said she’d work to pool together the nonprofits and go after grants that fund a host of related services, like pairing social service workers with police officers. She stressed the use of free resources from the state and federal government.
Caldwell said his office has already “generated hundreds of thousands of dollars” of those types of grants, and that the city does “far more than our share” to take care of the vulnerable, when compared to other cities along the Wasatch Front. But he said there’s always room for improvement and he’d continue to work with the Ogden School District, Weber County and other organizations to find solutions and funding.
The group was asked what percent of the city’s budget should be allocated to community economic development. All declined to state an exact figure, but Castillo said she invest less in the city “acting as a developer” to bring in business and focus more on helping the businesses that are already in Ogden.
In Ogden’s council races, none of the incumbents up for election this year have challengers. Ogden Councilman Luis Lopez was facing a challenger in Anna Davidson, who runs a restaurant on Historic 25th Street. But according to Ogden City’s election website, Davidson withdrew from the at-large “C” seat race.
The two other incumbent councilmen up for election this year, Ben Nadolski in District 4 and Richard Hyer in District 2, haven’t had any challengers.
Ogden’s municipal primary election is set for Aug. 13. The general election will be Nov. 5. For more information, go to http://elections.utah.gov.