Candidates for Mesa’s March 9 city election disagreed on the role of city government Monday in back-to-back forums.
Generally, the eight candidates argued one of two models of government: A proactive role in which the city works to improve the quality of life for residents; or a limited role in which people are responsible for improving their own lives, and the city protects freedom and builds roads, sewers and other basic infrastructure.
The candidates for the three council seats and the mayor’s office did agree that the city should attract new jobs, examine and cut municipal spending where possible, and do something about the financial problems that have plagued the city for three consecutive fiscal years.
Questions were posed by Jim Ripley, the Tribune’s executive editor, and Bob Schuster, the Tribune’s editorial page editor.
Keno Hawker, who owns a truck-leasing company and is part owner in two asphalt companies, is running for his second four-year term as mayor.
He is challenged by Teresa Brice-Heames, a former lawyer who works for a nonprofit agency that helps lowincome families buy homes.
In District 1 in northwest Mesa, incumbent Claudia Walters, who is employed by the Mesa Unified School District and owns a real estate business, is challenged by Charlie Powell, a retired petroleum engineer who publishes an Internetbased newsletter called the Conservative Press.
In District 2 in central Mesa, incumbent Mike Whalen, a retired Mesa assistant police chief who owns a security business, is pitted against Bob Hisserich, a custom gun part maker active in the local Republican Party.
In District 3, covering southwest Mesa, the incumbent is not running.
Tom Rawles, a lawyer and former Maricopa County supervisor, will be the sole name on the ballot.
Frank Mizner, Mesa’s former planning director and the executive director of the Dobson Ranch homeowners association, announced last week he is running as a write-in candidate.
The District 3 race is notable because the courts ruled that incumbent Dennis Kavanaugh is ineligible to run because of term limits after Rawles filed suit to keep him off the ballot.
During Monday’s debate, Rawles, Powell and Hisserich argued mostly for limited government, private property rights and marketdriven development.
Hawker, Brice-Heames, Walters, Whalen and Mizner called for differing degrees of proactive government, each supporting the need for city planning, and most saying the city should help revitalization efforts in older areas.
Hawker, however, said the city should get out of the redevelopment business.
Brice-Heames and Hawker agreed on locating a Mesa Community College campus in the downtown area.
Most candidates said the city should protect the future of Williams Gateway Airport in southeast Mesa by barring nearby residential development.
Rawles and Powell said property owners and buyers should decide.
Solving the city’s budget woes drew several ideas.
Brice-Heames called for a city property tax, saying Mesa’s reliance on traditional revenue streams — sales tax and utility revenue — is too unreliable.
Hawker said a property tax would be his last choice, and said he is awaiting the verdict of a new citizens committee examining ways to pay for city services over the next several decades.