Around 100 people attended last Thursday night’s Kanab Election Forum sponsored by the area Chamber of Commerce. Citizens crowded the Kanab Elementary School’s auditorium to hear the six candidates state their positions on current issues.

Candidates Bart Battista, Arlon Chamberlain, Jeff Yates, Wendell Head and Celeste Meyeres were present. Michael East was conspicuously absent with no reason offered.

The Forum, moderated by Daniel Church, began with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a prayer. The floor was then turned over to Ben Dalton, Kane County School Superintendent, to explain the ballot proposition for the authorization of a General Obligation Bond (GOB) to fund building of a new elementary school in Kanab.

The School Board chose to pursue a GOB, which requires a vote of the people, instead of a Lease/Revenue Bond, which would not. The GOB has several advantages, including a $2,000,000 savings to taxpayers.

After enumerating the many safety and security issues and problems with the current structure, built in 1954, he emphasized that a vote FOR the issuance of the $23 million bond would not raise taxes. He hoped those in attendance would support the bond by voting FOR. It will take up to three years to build the new school.

Next, the candidates were given up to three minutes each to introduce themselves and then two minutes to answer questions.

The first question of the evening was: What is your policy on vacation rentals? Should there be zones? Better enforcement? Limited numbers?

Every candidate agreed that this was a personal property rights issue and should be left up to the individual.

Question #2 – Would you have agreed to sell Kanab’s culinary water? Why/Why not?

Chamberlain responded that he was concerned about it, but after study he did vote for it. Yates also said he voted for it because it was “the best course of action.”

Head was emphatic, “No. Absolutely not.” And “I can’t see myself being convinced to vote for it.”

Meyeres, who voted for it, claimed, “This is a wedge issue that has been inflated in order to artificially polarize our community and possibly to influence the election. I am not in favor of these kinds of tactics!”

Finally, Battista responded, “No. I do not agree with it.” Then, referencing the water study commissioned by Best Friends, said, “If the study shows that it’s not going to hurt the aquifer or surface flows in Kanab Creek, I’d be for it. Right now, that’s not what we’re seeing.”

Question #3 and #4 – What does it mean to be “local” or a “move-in”? What does that mean to you and how does that affect our community?

All seemed to basically agree Kanab had great people and it shouldn’t matter if you were a local or a move-in.

Next, a question was posed solely to Bart Battista regarding Best Friends and their growing footprint and influence in Kanab and what he would do to limit their influence on the city council if elected. He responded, “First of all, I am not Best Friends candidate.” He also stated, “If there is a conflict of interest, I would recuse myself from the decision-making process.”

Question #5 – How do you propose we provide affordable housing?

Yates believed the market will even things out, with Chamberlain, Battista and Meyeres all basically agreeing the city should just “get out of the way.”

Head stated he has a plan to minimize the housing problem. He recommended Best Friends build employee housing up at their own facility. If water was an issue, he stated, “If the city is willing to sell water to Red Sands, I bet they’d be willing to let Best Friends have some, too.” He continued, “That would provide meaningful relief to our housing problem today.”

Meyeres also called out Best Friends for the housing problem, saying they did not pay their employees “home-buying or family supporting wages.” “The onus is on this employer and not the city to address these concerns,” she asserted.

Question #6 – Where do you stand on the Frac Sand mine?

Head began by stating, “I cannot find one redeeming quality about the Frac Sand Mine” and “we should all fight until we make Red Sands go away.”

After explaining it was a State Lands issue and not the city’s, Meyeres said, “I want to be welcoming to businesses.”

Battista responded, “I’m against it. And I do believe it will have a negative effect on our tourism.”

Chamberlain said, “The regulations on mining are very strict” and “Over time you won’t even know they’ve been there.”

Yates ended by saying, “Personally, it’s not something that I’d like to see, but at the same time, I try to realize whether they have the right to do it.”

Question #7 – How do you maintain a walkable, bikeable downtown?

Meyeres offered no tangible suggestions; Battista suggested more traffic control methods; and Chamberlain encouraged curb, gutter, landscaping and trees. Yates also talked about curb and gutter, and wondered who pays for it. Head suggested building parking lots.

Question #8 – What is your political party affiliation?

All of the candidates stated they were registered Republicans.

The final two questions moved quickly. The first was how the candidates would address substance abuse related issues, the second about Public/Private partnerships, such as the East Zion initiative.

As to the first question, there was a consensus that the city should play a supportive role, partnering with other entities to address these issues.

For the second, some did not know enough about East Zion Initiative to comment on it. Some stated they either preferred public over private initiatives, or vice versa.

The Forum was concluded with each candidate giving a three-minute closing statement. The candidates then went to individual tables to hold one-on-one discussions with the attending crowd.