And then there were six.
Two of the eight candidates who filed to run for three seats on the Lewiston City Council have suspended their campaigns, leaving the six remaining candidates a little more room to jockey for position Tuesday night at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Lewis Clark Valley and held at Lewis-Clark State College. About 50 people attended.
Moderator Kathy Martin offered brief explanations submitted by the two candidates who weren’t present, with Scot Gleason saying he was unable to continue his campaign because of unforeseen issues, and Edward Scroggins saying he was unable to dedicate the time to his campaign that Lewiston residents deserve.
With that out of the way, Martin questioned the other candidates on several issues facing the city. One-term incumbent and bank manager Cari Miller, 43, said continued funding of infrastructure would be a top priority, along with continuing the strategic planning process instituted by City Manager Alan Nygaard. She also talked about her record of dealing face-to-face with city residents to fix problems in their everyday lives.
Real estate broker Mike Menegas, 40, focused on continued work to rehabilitate the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport and restore its economic benefits for the city, including the expansion of the Southport business park. He said the relatively new airport authority board has done a good job getting the facility turned around after it lost service from Horizon Air and got sideways with the FAA over several issues.
Menegas said Horizon left because of a simple lack of communication between former airport board members and managers and airline executives.
“When that happens, relationships fall apart at any level,” he said.
Kevin Kelly, a 50-year-old auto service adviser, said the city needs to do more to support the airport, but not without holding the airport authority board accountable for how it uses city funding. He also said the city should work more closely with the Lewiston School District to provide safer corridors for children to travel to and from school and provide mental health support to first responders who undergo a great deal of stress on the job.
“They make sure they’re there for us,” Kelly said. “We need to be there for them.”
Three-term incumbent and contractor sales associate Jim Kleeburg, 61, touted his unsuccessful efforts to direct more funding to airport construction projects during 2020 budget discussions. Kleeburg also said the city needs to keep preparing for the eventual widening of Bryden Avenue to four lanes to accommodate increased traffic and saving for a new fire station in the Lewiston Orchards.
He was also the only candidate to bring up the lack of a dedicated revenue source to improve stormwater infrastructure, warning that the city could soon face federal environmental regulation.
Semi-retired District Judge John Bradbury, 83, said the city can’t tackle any of these issues effectively until it changes to a strong-mayor form of government with city councilors elected according to geographic districts. He said there are parts of the city that feel like they aren’t represented by the council, and switching to the strong-mayor model used by most Idaho cities would provide greater accountability.
He also said a lack of transportation options is the main reason Lewiston isn’t growing along with the rest of Idaho.
“Unless we can get people or products to market, things aren’t going to change,” Bradbury said, citing rapid rail access to West Coast seaports as one solution.
And two-term incumbent and retired firefighter Ged Randall, 69, said the city needs to continue its long-range planning and follow it up with prioritization so the most important issues get addressed.
“So it’s going to take some doing to see which things you want to do first, how much it will cost and how much the public can afford,” Randall said, citing infrastructure as one of his priorities to help fuel economic growth.
Randall also said that renewed stability on the airport board should help attract a new airline that can offer direct service to Boise and Seattle. But he said there are many airports that succeed with one airline, and the board could focus on getting a flight to Spokane where passengers could easily make connections to those and other popular destinations.
The candidates discussed several other issues at the two-hour forum, and a livestream is archived at https://livestream.com/lcsc/city-council.
Nez Perce County Auditor-Recorder Patty O. Weeks said earlier on Tuesday that Gleason and Scroggins did not officially withdraw from the race by the Sept. 23 deadline, so their names will remain on the ballot. If they are still among the top three after the Nov. 5 election, she said they can officially decline the office. The council would then make an appointment to fill the vacancy.
Mills may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2266.