By Michele Smith
The Times 

AAUW candidates' forum held in Dayton

Three vie for City of Dayton Mayor

 

October 17, 2019



DAYTON—Three candidates running for a four year term as Dayton’s mayor spoke at the AAUW Candidates Forum, which was held at the Liberty Theater in Dayton last week, followed by a question and answer session.

Delphine Bailey, City of Dayton Mayor Zac Weatherford and write-in candidate Cindi John spoke about their experience, vision, and goals, if elected to be Dayton’s Mayor, on Nov. 5

Delphine Bailey, who has served on the Dayton City Council for the past eight years, and has served as Mayor Pro tem for three terms said, “I believe I have what it takes to be the next mayor for the City of Dayton.

She said as funding sources dwindle it is important the city look at maintaining already established infrastructure which includes streets, water lines, parks, and city buildings.

Bailey said the city council has recently been looking into ways to promote economic growth and encourage development of affordable housing

“Not low income housing, but affordable housing,” she said. “We need more people to see Dayton as an affordable, desirable place to come and raise their families.”

“Also the City is looking at what we’re going to do with the new wastewater treatment plant, and how that will look, and how we’re going to finance that, and still meet the requirements that are being mandated by the Dept. of Ecology,” she said.


Bailey has worked with the Friends of the Dog Park, worked on getting placement of the underground sprinklers at the ball park, and she has worked to purchase and install new trash cans in the city park, and along the path on the dyke.

She said she has helped form the Downtown Tree committee, which has been meeting with an arborist to determine what needs to be done “to keep Main Street looking fabulous”.

During her time on the city council Bailey said the city council has approved the purchase of a new street sweeper, a dump truck, and mowers for the park and cemetery, and they have hired a mechanic to work on equipment, eliminating the need to outsource that work.

Bailey said the South 1st St. project, and the North Front St. projects have been completed, and the East Clay St. project is currently underway.

In addition, Bailey said she has worked in customer service, and understands that people who have complaints just want to know they have been heard. And she is able to multi-task, manage her time and prioritize what needs to be done, she said.


“If you come to me with a problem I will listen and I will probably ask you if you have a solution,” Bailey said. “I might not always be able to solve the problem, but I promise that I will listen and do my best to try to come up with a solution that can work for everyone.”

Bailey said she and her husband Dave moved to Dayton, with their two daughters, 23 years ago. She has been employed with Columbia County Public Health as a community health worker for the past 14 years.

Write-in candidate Cindi John said she and her husband Tom, moved to Dayton three years ago from Iowa, but that she was raised on Whiskey Creek, here, locally.

While living in Iowa, John said she served as scout leader, a Sunday school teacher and a foster parent for between sixty and eighty children.

She currently serves as Vice-president of the Dayton Eagles and has worked “tirelessly” for the Jimmy Durante Foundation and fund raiser, she said.

“I know how to outsource what is needed for a community and for the people in it,” John said. “I know how to stay task oriented and get what needs to be done, done.”

John said the wastewater treatment plant project is moving too slowly.

“That needs to be no more. We need that treatment plant fixed, or replaced, before anything else in this town goes on,” she said. “No more streets. No more, excuse me, trails. Let’s not talk about the pool, anymore. This should be our main focus.”

“It is my belief that we are not fiscally responsible, when we are having to get loans to meet our obligations through the end of the year. What happened to everything before we got to that point?” John asked.

She said many people in the community are really unhappy.

“Our downtown is the big concern for our businesses. Our businesses want to see a more vital downtown. They want to see a lot less things going out to the Blue Mountain Station,” John said.

“We need to get serious. We need to find what makes Dayton work. We need to bring in jobs. They don’t have to be big projects to bring in jobs,” she said.

“We’re a great place,” John said. “We need to expand on what we have.”

Zac Weatherford is Dayton’s Mayor, appointed in April, by the city council, to fill the remainder of Craig George’s term, which expires on Dec. 31, 2019.

“I feel that by you showing up, not only are you concerned about what is going on in this community, you want to know that our future is in good hands,” he said. “I feel that I am the best candidate to be Mayor.

“I think Dayton is already great. I think we have great assets. We have good schools. We have clean parks. We have a hospital,” he said.

Weatherford said in order to maintain the city’s assets, all the stakeholders need to work together.

“That’s what I want to do as a mayor is to continuously work with all figureheads, with local entities, to continue making Dayton better, to promote it and to enhance it,” he said.

“I don’t want to be mayor to make a bunch of big changes, or make it grow to be the size of Walla Walla,” he said.

He said, “I want to focus on not only on our downtown, but our complete Main Street. I believe our Main Street should run from the Patit Creek Restaurant to the Blue Mountain Station.”

He also said he wants to focus on maintaining the city’s vitality for youth because “they are our future”.

He would also like to focus on helping to develop treatment options for addiction and mental illness, he said.

“I have a passion to solve problems and help people and that’s what I want to do,” he said.

In his concluding statement Weatherford said the real power for change is the majority vote of the city council members.

“I appreciate everybody’s support, and even if you don’t vote for me, please vote,” he said.

Mayor Weatherford and his wife Melissa moved to Dayton in 2007. He has worked for City Lumber and for Mauricio Ramos, and he is currently working as a correctional officer at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, he said.

Weatherford has been on the Dayton City Council since 2016, and he has been active on the Personnel and Safety committees, as well the Chair of the Finance Committee, he said.

Time was set aside for a question and answer session during the candidates forum.

When asked how many city council meetings she has attended Cindi John said she has attended one.

When asked about the importance of repairing and replacing streets like E. Spring and E. Richmond, Mayor Weatherford said over the past ten years 18 street projects have been done.

He said the city completed work on Cherry St. and on E. 5th St this past summer and is currently working on E. Clay St., and he emphasized the need to see what is beneath the streets before replacing them and then discovering damage to the water or sewer lines.

“We actually have been having quite a bit of discussion on focusing on the north end of town,” he said.

The city is “constantly” looking for sources of funding, including through the Transportation Improvement Benefit, its main funding source, he said.

“We’ve got to do them one at a time. Streets cost a lot of money,” Weatherford said.

Delphine Bailey said it’s easier to get financing for the arterials and the main streets.

She said she has fought tirelessly for streets like E. Spring St.

The city council has spent a lot of time meeting with the city administrator and discussing ways to get financing to fix to keep those streets maintained.

“It’s high on my priority list,” she said.

Cindi John said she agreed with them.

“You can’t just go pave a street. You have to work with the sewers that are underneath it, the electrical lines, and all of that,” said John.

The candidates were asked about their stance regarding the city pool.

Bailey said in the spring of 2018 infrastructure issues with the pool were discovered by city staff.

“It was a tough issue for the council. There was no way we were going to be able to have those issues evaluated, assessed and fixed,” Bailey said.

She said the pool was closed for the summer and a company was hired to perform an assessment.

“They found things that we had no idea were going on,” she said.

Bailey said that company provided the city with two options, either to fix the pool, or to build a new pool. Both options cost around 2.5 million, she said.

She said a community group formed to look into ways to fund a pool and they discovered by enlarging their scope, they would be able to access more grants.

“I believe the city is going to be involved in that process. At this point we have not committed any finances to that. As they move forward we will be involved, and, I, personally, really believe that we need to have a pool,” Bailey said.

John said she supports having a pool.

“I am not sure we need a convention center, or community center, or any of that to go with it, but I do believe an indoor pool would be great,” John said

Mayor Weatherford also talked about the difficult decision to close the pool.

The city can’t afford a pool, he said.

“The last year the pool was open it cost the city almost $80,000 to run and the revenues brought in were less than $30,000.00,” he said.

He said the Friends of the Community Center have filed for three grants, two of which have been denied, and, to his knowledge, they haven’t heard about the third grant, yet.

Mayor Weatherford said people should reach out to that group to provide help, at their monthly meetings.

“I use the pool. My family uses the pool. I am supportive of it. I absolutely agree that our youth need to have sports and recreation opportunities so they can stay busy, stay active and stay out of trouble,” he said.

A question was asked about what the city has done so far to move forward repairing, or replacing the wastewater treatment plant.

John said she has talked to some of the city employees who have told her it has “continually been put on the backburner”.

To her knowledge very little has been done, she said.

Bailey said before she was even on the city council the Dept. of Ecology mandated what needed to be done, but didn’t offer any advice about how to go about getting it done.

“They keep pushing our date out because they know that what they were requiring was not able to be accomplished,” Bailey said.

She said she has attended numerous meetings with the DOE and Anderson/Perry & Associates.

“It is not because the city is putting it on the backburner,” she said.

Mayor Weatherford said the wastewater treatment plant is one of the city’s top priorities and the city is in constant communication with DOE and Anderson/Perry & Associates.

The city is now working with Washington Water Trust and the Confed. Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. DOE has said there won’t be consequences if the city goes beyond the deadline, because they have opened their minds to new options to fix the plant to meet their requirements, he said.

“It is something we are constantly working on, something we are always looking at and something we are always trying to budget for,” Mayor Weatherford said.

Someone asked Cindi John about who asked her to run for the city council and she said, “I was asked to run. I was going to run for a commissioner’s spot, but I was asked to step up as mayor. . . I don’t have all the knowledge they have because they have been at City Hall for the last nine months. I am not privy to a lot of their knowledge. And when I have asked questions I have been stonewalled.”

“But, yes, I do think I am qualified to be mayor. I do think I am qualified to run this job and I can balance a budget with the best of them,” she said.

 

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