To say the atmosphere at last week’s Bishop City Council Candidates Forum was less charged than recent candidate forums throughout Mono County would be an understatement.
The Forum, hosted by the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, was held on the evening of Oct. 25 and was a mellow event.
There are five candidates running for three available seats on the Council. Three of these candidates, Susan Cullen, Laura Smith and David Stottlemyre are incumbents, while the remaining two, Patricia Gardner and Keith Glidewell, are challengers.
According to a representative from Bishop City Hall, the process is simple — the top three vote getters will win the three available seats.
Due to an illness, Cullen had to cancel at the last minute and was unable to attend the forum. Her responses to the three main questions of the evening, which had been distributed to the candidates prior to the forum, were read aloud.
The evening began with each candidate introducing himself or herself in opening statements. The theme of the statements seemed to be how long each candidate had lived in Bishop and who their families were. Challenger Keith Glidewell did go outside of the box, however, when he explained that until now he had simply been an “armchair politician.” Inspired by Ron Paul, Glidewell decided to get involved.
“Whether you support Ron Paul or not, he always stated his opinion no matter what,” Glidewell said. “His honesty ignited a spark in me.”
The pre-distributed questions related to business and tourism. Following are the questions and answers from the candidates (summarized for space).
1. Many people that own businesses within the City of Bishop, reside outside of the city limits and cannot vote for City Council representation. What could be done by City Council to let these business owners know that they have a “voice”?
Stottlemyre: Those who do not live within the city limits do have a voice and they should get involved and share their voice. There are always opportunities. You can always come to the Council meetings and voice your concerns.
Gardner:The voting area limits won’t live outside the limits can always join commissions and groups to make their voices heard.
Smith: “Are you kidding?” Our businesses are one of, or the biggest revenue makers. When I am walking around town I always ask business owners how business is going. All are heard, whether they live in the city limits or not. When I started “Coffee with the Mayor” it was a great way to talk to people and get their comments. We should also shop local to show support.
Glidewell: Council meetings are open, so people should come and voice their concerns there. Buying local is the most practical way to show support of local businesses. I’ve also found while campaigning that people like it when you ask them about their thoughts and concerns.
Cullen: We always welcome input from those outside the City.
2. What can the Bishop Chamber/Bishop Business Community do better or differently to increase communications and strengthen the relationship between the business community and City leaders?
Gardner: We need to have a “how can we make this happen” attitude. We need to get together and work toward a common goal. Bring us your plans and we will listen.
Cullen: The Chamber has done a good job of improving a community challenge. They get everyone together several times a year, so those interested should attend meetings.
Glidewell: The mutual attendance of everyone at meetings together would help. Use the Chamber mixers as a sounding board. People don’t realize the realities of running a business here, so it would be good to have a sounding board to discuss this.
Smith: The business community should feel welcome to contact us directly. People should come to the study session segments of our [Council’s] meetings where the issues are really hammered out. The relationship with the Chamber is good, but we can always improve. Perhaps they could report to us once a month.
Stottlemyre: Again, get involved. Become a Chamber member. The relationship should be reciprocal and make the City better as a whole.
3. The City of Bishop budgets for tourism development after all essential programs have been funded, despite the fact that a significant portion of the City’s revenues are generated from the TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax). How might the City increase the annual investment in tourism development?
Gardner: Essential programs should be funded first.
Smith: We need to fund the Visitor Center at a level that could increase tourism, and we need to make and keep the Chamber a high priority. We’re only a tankful away to millions of people and we need to capitalize on that.
Stottlemyre: Our budget is not as sexy as it has been in the past and we have to do more with less, but the City has invested in the Visitors Center for a number of years. We need to be able to track our investments.
Cullen: We have tight budgets, but we should develop an incentive program. If they bring in a new event and track the TOT that is generated, we could give back 1% of the TOT brought in.
Glidewell: The City has a plethora of priorities, so perhaps business people themselves should take more risk. After all, they are better at choosing their advertising … who knows business better than a businessperson?
Following the prepared questions, the Forum was opened up to the audience. Two questions were elicited. The first was directed at Smith. The audience member asked if the City could charge a resort fee to help improve the budget. Smith answered that she wasn’t sure about a resort fee, but she did believe the TOT could be raised.
The final question came from a young man in the audience. He directed his question to Glidewell and asked how he would involve recent high school graduates in the community?
Glidewell said the Council does currently hold some of its meetings on the High School Campus. He said he would try to inspire young people to run for office and take a leadership role in the community.
Stottlemyre added that the Council on Campus program started this year was created to get students involved in local government.