Mesa mayor hopefuls weighed in on how to fix day laborer problems - one of the most intractable problems the city has ever faced, according to one candidate. Claudia Walters, Scott Smith and Rex Griswold fielded that question among others Wednesday night during a forum with the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens.
On the issue of the large number of day laborers gathering on city streets, Walters said it was "one of the most intractable problems" she'd ever seen.
"The city's role is to enforce the laws and keep people safe," she said, citing a law that prevents city funds from being used for day labor centers. "But I don't have a solution."
Griswold said the answer would be to reach out to nonprofit and faith-based organizations.
"We need to work with something like a ministry to provide a safe, clean place," he said.
Smith suggested two specific ideas.
The first would be to convene a group from businesses, churches, law enforcement and Hispanic organizations to come up with a solution that would work for everyone.
The other would be to build a formal place to house legitimate workers - not illegal residents.
"Maybe we should provide a day labor center for legal laborers," he said.
Another question was how the candidates would address the needs of Mesa's growing Hispanic population.
Smith responded with a plan to hold discussions with localgroups to learn more about their needs.
"We need to talk to them, involve them and understand them," Smith said.
Walters cited her work with neighborhoods and said residents need to take a proactive approach at finding solutions to their problems.
"The city can't solve all of your problems," she said. "We need to mobilize people and help neighborhoods help themselves."
Griswold said Hispanic residents need to be represented in the city and they must step up to get involved in community affairs.
"If you want to have a voice you need to be at the table," Griswold said.