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August 23, 2014

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Boulder City candidates have much in common

Pair have many of the same goals, different approaches

Bill Smith

Bill Smith

Cam Walker

Cam Walker

The two candidates for the open City Council seat agree on what the challenges are facing Boulder City, but they have different approaches on how to overcome them.

Both insist the city needs to live within its means.

Both miss the days when the City Council had workshops at 7 a.m. the Monday before the regular meeting to ask questions and debate the issues without BCTV cameras rolling.

And both find their most effective campaign tactic to be a table in front of the Boulder Dam Credit Union.

In separate interviews with the Boulder City News on May 21, Cam Walker, 42, a project manager, and former City Councilman Bill Smith, 83, a retired travel agent, outlined the issues as they have crystallized in the last two weeks before the June 2 general election.

The winner will fill the final seat on the five-person City Council in a race that has been described by both sides as one that can change the direction of the city.

The council seats are being vacated by Council Members Mike Pacini, who has reached term limits, and Andrea Anderson, who is retiring.

Former Boulder City Library Director Duncan McCoy, 61, won one of the seats in the primary election.

McCoy campaigned on a platform of maintaining the status quo and supporting Mayor Roger Tobler on issues that have split the council.

Many issues, such as those surrounding the Boulder Creek Golf Club, have ended in 3-2 votes, with Council Members Linda Strickland and Travis Chandler in the minority.

McCoy has endorsed Walker, and Strickland and Chandler have thrown their support to Smith.

"People now realize the difference between Cam and I," Smith said, adding if Walker wins, "they will be a majority on the council, and people are tired of that."

But if he wins, doesn't that just push the majority in the other direction?

"Some people might think I would be apt to vote with Linda and Travis 90 percent of the time," Smith said. "If I am allowed to serve, I think they will find that is not true."

Walker said he plans to be an independent voice if he is elected.

"While some might want to put me on one side or the other, I want to do what is right for the community," he said.

City finances

One thing both Smith and Walker agree is right for the community is for it to be fiscally conservative.

Walker was on the city's Finance Advisory Committee last year and said he saw many ways the city could save money to stay within a budget. Some of the changes the committee recommended to do so were adopted, he said. For example, last year some employees were reclassified to jobs that paid more, which he didn't think was necessary. This year, none were, he said.

Smith said that while the city budget was cut by $1 million this year, he thinks it won't be enough.

"There are going to have to be layoffs or pay cuts," he said. "We are going to have to cut back on how much we spend on labor. That's 70 percent of the budget. You can't do it with the other 30 percent."

Smith said the city needs to focus on "its needs and not its wants."

"We have to become frugal," he said.

Walker said the city has to pay equal attention to the revenue side of the city's finances. The upcoming 2010 census will affect how tax revenue is divided in the county and state, he said, and Boulder City has to be ready to fight for its share.

In addition, he said, the city needs to get more out of its three greatest resources — land, water and electricity.

Lease negotiations probably need to be tougher to get more revenue from companies, he said, and agreements with power companies have to include provisions to sell Boulder City electricity at discounted rates.

That may require that the city contract with professional negotiators and specialized attorneys to ensure the contracts favor the city, he said.

"Our land, water and power, we never get enough for it," he said. "We always need to fight for more."

Boulder Creek Golf Course

Both candidates agree something needs to be done about the Boulder Creek Golf Course, which was built in 2003 for $22 million. Voters have twice voted down proposals to sell the land around the course for homes to pay off the debt.

Smith sees two choices: Keep operating the course and continue to subsidize it as a recreational facility, or close it and sell the land for homes.

The water hazards would make a nice centerpiece for a housing community, he said, but that is not necessarily his first choice.

"I need a lot more information than we have, and it may be that there are more choices, better choices.

"I would not be in favor of turning off the water and walking away," Smith said.

Walker said his work on the Finance Advisory Committee identified seven choices, and he thinks subsidizing the course as a recreational facility is not one of them.

"It should not be subsidized forever," he said. "What a ridiculous thing. It needs to be run to be self-sustaining."

One choice that might work, he said, is to close nine holes, but the city also could benefit from leases that take advantage of the course as an amenity.

He would like to see Class A office space built overlooking the course on land by the municipal airport.

"You just don't see enough Class A office space overlooking open space like that," he said.

He also would not object to trying to sell lots around Boulder Creek for homes, but only if deed restrictions defined strictly what the community would get in those homes.

"The ballot questions before were too broad and needed to be more protective of the community," he said.

Traffic

The candidates also agree that the city needs to do more to prepare for tractor-trailer traffic that is expected to come through Boulder City beginning late next year, when the Hoover Dam bypass bridge opens.

Walker said he was glad to see the Redevelopment Board, which consists of the City Council, to discuss ideas to ease expected congestion along Nevada Highway.

More needs to be done, he said, to persuade regional, state and federal officials that the Boulder City Bypass should be a priority. Once the bridge opens, he said, the city can document the problems and make the case again with hard data.

The city also needs to be more innovative about getting the Boulder City Bypass back on track, he said. While the Legislature did not pass tolling authorization, which city officials hoped might allow the city to get into a public-private partnership, Walker said their is another federal public-private partnership, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, that the city should look into.

He and Smith both said an access road needs to be built between Veterans Memorial Drive and Marina Drive to reach neighborhoods west of the U.S. 93 truck route. Residents of those neighborhoods told city officials in a public forum that they did not support a back road.

Smith said he thinks the forum did not reflect the neighborhoods' majority.

"The people impacted personally by it would not be at the hearing," he said, then suggested a forum might come up with a different answer once the trucks start rolling through town.

"The city is in the position to decide how important something like the Marina extension is and convince people that it's what's best for them," he said. "It will be for the next council, whether I'm on it or not."

Campaign

The candidates also have both set up tables outside the Boulder Dam Credit Union, 530 Avenue G.

"Most everybody who is anybody shows up there," Smith said.

In addition, Walker had a booth at the Spring Jamboree and the Best Dam Barbecue, and both are putting up signs and meeting with voters.

They did two forum-style debates for BCTV last month, but Smith said he doesn't think they will face off again before June 2, even though Walker is eager for another forum.

"We've really covered the issues," Smith said. "We are halfway through voting now. People know I'm available."

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