Gilbert Mayoral Candidates

 The Gilbert Sun News sent questionnaires to all candidates for mayor in Gilbert’s Aug. 4 primary election. This is the second of two installments with their answers. Some answers were edited for space but their full answer appears on gilbertsunnews.com. Gilbert residents have only this week left to register to vote in the primary.

 

MATT NIELSEN

Should the economic fallout of COVID-19 worsen for town finances, what measures would you recommend to avoid cuts/disruptions in services?

The first measure I would advocate for is the immediate withdrawal of the 82 new positions that were approved at the June 16th meeting. That action alone will save $6.6 million in expenditures and it can be done immediately. Further, I would recommend the sale of both the St. Xavier University building as well as Cactus Yards. Those two actions should yield a combined $3 million.

 

Should Cactus Yards be sold to a private operator? Why or why not?

Absolutely this should be sold. Every year, Gilbert loses $1 million on this property— a bill that comes out of the pockets of you, the taxpayer.

 

What should the town do with recycling since it no longer generates revenue?

I support recycling when it meets two simple criteria: First, it should at least be carbon-neutral. Second, it should be a good value to residents. Sadly, the research on the type of program Gilbert runs (single stream) is mixed at best. I am open to finding other ways to make recycling available to residents.

 

What is your assessment of the relationship between Gilbert Police and the community and what changes, if any, would you advocate?

My sense is that the relationship between Gilbert PD and the residents of our town is very good. I think Chief Soelberg has done a great job reaching out and making himself and his staff available to citizens. I am not aware of any issues with the department that would require significant changes.

 

Do you think the town’s “City of the Future Initiative” does enough to ensure Gilbert continues to thrive?

I would encourage a much more significant review of the implications of some of the proposed measures in the plan. Gilbert residents do not want to give up all of the wonderful things that make Gilbert unique in order to become a “smart city.” 

Additionally, I’m a strong believer in the individual business owner, the entrepreneur and their supporters. 

 

Name three things you would fix or improve with town government. 

1.We claim to be “data-driven” on the Town Council, but we’re actually not. Simply having data isn’t being “data-driven.” We need data that is relevant to the issues at hand and we need it organized in a way that is accurate and useful.

2. During an unparalleled time of lockdowns, social distancing, and layoffs, Gilbert’s Town Council voted to increase the size of government. I will work to increase efficiencies and reduce waste.

3. We seem to be slowly losing sight of those conservative values in our town government. …As mayor, I will protect those important attributes. 

 

Name three things the town does

right.

1.Gilbert prioritizes safety. This means that our first responders should have the resources required to fulfill their duties. 

2. We encourage revitalization. The Heritage District is fast becoming a destination. High-quality and attractive retail establishments will help increase the appeal of the area as well as buttress against decay.

3.With only a few notable exceptions, Gilbert’s parks and outdoor spaces are nearly universally liked and supported by residents. 

 

BRIGETTE PETERSON

Should the economic fallout of COVID-19 worsen for town finances, what measures would you recommend to avoid cuts/disruptions in services?

 Since 2012, we’ve paid off $67 million in voter approved bonds before they were due, saving taxpayers millions. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of as a member of the Town Council. Town management has done an excellent job with a tiered level approach to the 2020-2021 budget, if financial milestones aren’t met then projects don’t move forward. 

 

Should Cactus Yards be sold to a private operator? Why or why not? 

I’m always open to this discussion. Cactus Yards provides fields into the Town inventory that are currently being used by sports teams. If we sell Cactus Yards, our inventory shrinks by that number of fields and we cannot provide the playing time for teams (big complaint from residents). If we try to replace those fields, that would cost approximately $10M. 

 

What should the town do with recycling since it no longer generates revenue? 

Our residents are passionate about recycling, garbage and bulk pickup. Prior to COVID-19 residents were surveyed and said they’d agree to pay a little more for recycling. Today that answer might be different. It disappoints me to think we might need to suspend recycle service, at least for a short period and see how the world-wide recycle business adjusts.

What is your assessment of the relationship between Gilbert Police and the community and what changes, if any, would you advocate?

 Without a doubt, we have one of the best police departments in the country and a great relationship with our residents due to community policing. I have attended almost every community event held between GPD and residents and the interactions are amazing. Team Gilbert can always work to improve and should never rest on what we currently have in place. 

Do you think the town’s “City of the Future Initiative” does enough to ensure Gilbert continues to thrive? 

This initiative is a great launching pad and allows us to pivot as the climate in the Town changes. When looking at the future of Gilbert, not one specific thing will have the greatest impact. The Town is continually evolving and we need to be ready to adjust, the most important thing we can do is prepare for the future. 

 

Name three things you would fix or improve with town government. 

We’ve made great progress in transparency but we can always make improvements, for example how we explain planning & zoning matters. Continue conservative financial planning for the future, we’ve done great but we can always do better. Find ways to reduce processes within government, always look for ways to streamline everything we do. 

 

Name three things the town does right. 

Created a 30-year plan that details all town inventory, age, cost, when to plan for repair and replacement, it’s unlike anything any community has created. Since 2012, the Town has paid off $67 million in voter approved bonds early, saving taxpayers millions in interest. Lowered the secondary property tax rate from $1.25 to $0.99. 

LYNNE KING SMITH

Should the economic fallout of COVID-19 worsen for town finances, what measures would you recommend to avoid cuts/disruptions in services?

I steered my company through the 2008 recession, and I’m confident my leadership experience will be pivotal in overseeing the Town during COVID recovery. The CARES Act allocation provided $29.1 million in relief for Gilbert, increasing the Town’s capacity to take on additional public health and safety expenses, freeing up burdens on the General Fund, protecting delivery of services.

 

Should Cactus Yards be sold to a private operator? Why or why not?

The history of Big League Dreams is a prime example of what happens when the wrong leadership is in charge. The myriad of problems and safety issues, and the financial fallout from a bad deal, shows how Cactus Yards could benefit from a public- private partnership, and be an asset to the community without being a financial drain.

 

What should the town do with recycling since it no longer generates revenue? 

The recycling services provided by the Town are a way for Gilbert residents to be stewards of the environment and eliminate waste. However, changes to what is allowable has resulted in increased costs by the Town to process materials. While the Town has increased awareness to residents around what can/cannot be recycled, these efforts need to be enhanced.

 

What is your assessment of the relationship between Gilbert Police and the community and what changes, if any, would you advocate?

The question we need to be asking is how do people in our community feel about the Police Department. There are people in our community who feel their interactions with police will be different than mine. When elected mayor, I want to build coalitions and have community-led conversations around police practices. Gilbert should be a community where everyone feels safe.

 

Do you think the town’s “City of the Future Initiative” does enough to ensure Gilbert continues to thrive?

The “City of the Future” initiative is one of many steps the Town can take to prepare for the future economic sustainability of our community. It is not a singular doctrine by which the Town will plan for the future, but rather a mission statement that sets the tone that the Town is looking ahead to the next 100 years.

 

Name three things you would fix or improve with town government.

Gilbert is an incredible community we are fortunate to call home, but it is not without its faults. The first area I would address is increasing communications from the Council to our residents. Second, I would implement a business assistance center to help existing and new businesses. Third, enhance our reputation as a community that is welcome to all.

 

Name three things the town does right.

First, the Town staff’s zero-based budgeting keeps expenditures low and maximizes taxpayer dollars, which is an example of why Gilbert is able to provide a high level of service to our residents. Second, the efforts to promote Gilbert as a destination for existing and new businesses to grow. Third, the digital outreach to residents is unmatched and a model nationwide.