At last Thursday’s Bishop City Council Candidate Forum held at the Bishop Senior Center, approximately 60 voters arrived to listen to five candidates vying for two open seats on City Council.
Two candidates, current Mayor Jim Ellis and Councilman Keith Glidewell, are seeking reelection. The field is rounded out by former Bishop Police Chief Joe Pecsi, businesswoman Karen Schwartz, co-owner of Sage to Summit, and Acupuncturist Howard Wu.
Ellis introduced himself as a local boy from Bishop and expressed his gratitude for having the opportunity to serve on the Council for the past four years, following in the footsteps of his grandfather.
With 31 years of experience in law enforcement, Pecsi, the former Bishop Police Chief, touted his qualifications as a leader. He went on to cite his involvement in the community as a local educator at Cerro Coso Community College, his service as the current chair of the Bishop Water and Sewer Commission, a board member of both the Bishop Country Club and the Inyo Mono Handicapped Association, and a member of local service organizations such as the Bishop Lions Club, Bishop Elks Lodge, and Knights of Columbus.
Candidate Wu, a local acupuncturist, hoped that “diversity on the ballot would give voters a reason to come out to vote.” Wu said he would bring “a fresh and different perspective; novel, but not real ‘far-out.’” He added that he is not afraid to take “the other side of things” and “that is why we have a Council; to have many voices heard.”
Candidate Schwartz said, “I believe that Bishop needs to capitalize on its location and access to the mountains,” and is baffled that the area “doesn’t have a more robust year-round tourist economy.”
Citing her track record with two successful businesses, she expressed great optimism that “every mountain enthusiast should have the City of Bishop on their bucket list as a planned vacation.”
Councilman Keith Glidewell explained that he was appointed almost two years ago to fill a vacancy created by Jeff Griffiths. “I think that what I bring to the Council is … a collaborative spirit,” he said.
After introductions, candidates were presented with four prepared questions. The first two:
There has been a lot of discussion by the County of Inyo regarding its contributions to the Community Sponsorship Grant program that in large part funds the Bishop Chamber of Commerce. The City of Bishop currently funds close to $200,000 in community programs, of which $149,000 is allocated to the Bishop Chamber of Commerce. Is this an appropriate use of public funds?
All five candidates agreed it is an appropriate use of public funds.
What are your thoughts on the future of development at the Airport and what opportunities could it provide for the City of Bishop?
Wu said that, in his acupuncturist business practice, he comes across many pilots. While he feels the recent control of the airport by the County, which now has a long-term lease with the City of Los Angeles, is a very good thing, he doesn’t agree with those that say it should become a commercial airport. Quoting business magnate and investor Warren Buffett, “Don’t buy an airline. It’s a good way to lose money.” Wu said that Bishop should continue to provide one of the greatest private airports in the region and that there is a shortage of hangars.
Glidewell reminded everyone that the airport is strictly a County issue that is not in the Bishop purview, although everyone welcomes the improvements. He said that current plans for the airport are to improve sidewalks, lighting, and other infrastructure needed to bring the airport into compliance with FAA regulations. “Anything beyond that,” he said, “we would need to have a commercial airline agree to come in.”
Pecsi said the expansion of the airport was an exciting idea, but he agreed with Glidewell’s assessment that it was a complicated process that would not likely happen soon. Noting that many flights to Mammoth Lakes Airport are cancelled or rerouted, he said that Bishop Airport, with improvements, might be able to serve as a future alternative.
Schwartz echoed Pecsi, saying she “would love to have reliable air service that would bring more professionals to the area and create more of an economy here.”
Ellis said, “I’m actually looking forward to the development of the airport. It opens up a bunch of doors and would make Bishop a viable destination for conventions, meetings, and home-based businesses.”
Look for Part 2 of the Council Candidate forum, addressing questions three and four, in next week’s Sheet.