Council candidates have plenty of issues to discuss

Limited number of contenders has not limited debate of challenges facing Mill Creek
By Dan Aznoff | Jul 06, 2017

Development of the last available open parcel and the long-term financial health of the city are the factors Mill Creek residents will weigh when they fill four positions on the City Council this fall.

Three incumbents and two challengers have filed to fill the four-year terms that will be determined by the vote of residents of the city.

Mayor Pam Pruitt and Mayor Pro Tem Brian Holtzclaw are both running unopposed in their pursuit of another term on the seven-member council. Former Planning Commissioner Jared Mead will have no opposition in his attempt to replace veteran Councilmember Donna Michelson in the race for Position No. 2.

The only contested race this year will be for Position No. 1, where Indiana transplant Carmen Fisher is challenging incumbent Councilmember Sean Kelly.

“Taking care of other issues will go a long way in helping us avoid a utility tax,” Kelly told The Beacon. “I’d like to avoid a tax if there is any way to do that, but we’ll know more when we finish negotiations for a new contract with Fire District 7 and figure out how we’re going to pay for improvements to our roads, especially 35th Avenue SE.”

Kelly’s opponent has endorsed a utility tax as the most equitable and ecological way to pay for upgrades and the maintenance costs the city faces in the next few years. Fisher said she would like to represent the large number of apartment dwellers without children who have moved into Mill Creek in recent years.

“It is probably political suicide in this city to come out in favor of a utility tax,” Fisher said. “It’s regressive, but it’s really the only way to drive home the message that we must be aware of the resources we are using and to pay for the privilege of using the valuable resources this Earth has given us.”

Fisher and Kelly have both taken strong stances to support public safety. The challenger would like to see better relations between the local police and the city’s non-homeowners. She also would like Mill Creek police to establish a non-violent policy with suspects who may be homeless or dealing with mental health issues.

The incumbent is pleased with the current status of law enforcement, but is concerned about negotiations on a new contract with Fire District 7.

Mead is also worried about the pace of negotiations with the fire district, but stopped short of commenting on the issue with hopes a new contract will be in place when he takes office in January. The agreement between the city and Fire District 7 is scheduled to expire on Dec. 31 of this year.

“I try not to weigh in on issues I have no control over,” he said with a grin.

The two-term commissioner was not reluctant to comment on development, especially regarding the last parcel of available land in the city near Buffalo Park.

“It’s an important issue to a lot of people, including me,” Mead said. “The parcel is directly behind my parent’s house where I grew up. We need to be careful with the type of development we allow with this last parcel.”

He has endorsed spending city money to attract new commercial development.

“There are a lot of options,” Mead said. “I just do not want to see any more apartments or condominiums.”

Holtzclaw emphasized that he is committed to doing whatever is in the best long-term interests of the city, but stopped short of commenting on a utility tax.

“Utility taxes have been an issue in this city for more than just this election cycle,” Holtzclaw said. “Pavement preservation has been put on hold for this year, but it is clear chip seal is not the solution.

“The city needs to address the cost and the practicality of surfacing virtually every street in the city over the next few years. That will not be easy. And it will not come cheap.”

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