[Vision2020] Six vie for three positions on Moscow council

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Thu Oct 17 05:42:06 PDT 2019

Courtesy of today’s (October 17, 2019) Moscow-Pullman Daily News.


Six vie for three positions on Moscow council
One incumbent, five newcomers compete for city council seats

Six Moscow residents are vying for three spots on the City Council on Nov. 5.
The candidates are Brandon Mitchell, owner of six Jiffy Lube franchises; Maureen Laflin, a longtime University of Idaho College of Law faculty member; James Urquizez, owner and operator of Classic Wood Floors and Carpentry; Anne Zabala, executive director of the nonprofit organization Backyard Harvest; Sandra Kelly, office manager at Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute; and Kelsey Berends, human resources and talent acquisition manager at Emsi.
Zabala is the lone incumbent. Councilors Kathryn Bonzo and Jim Boland decided not to run for reelection.
Mitchell has been in the quick lube industry the past 30 years. He said he is running to give back to the community that welcomed his family in six years ago.
“I love the city of Moscow,” Mitchell said. “I love how family-oriented it is and I want to keep it that way.”
Solving downtown parking issues, addressing high property taxes and allowing businesses to thrive are his primary goals if elected.
“Parking downtown is just terrible,” he said. “It’s so hard to find parking and it’s hard for businesses.”
While campaigning, he learned several residents are concerned about rising property taxes.
“I’m not opposed to taxes,” Mitchell said. “I am opposed to raising taxes for nonessential things.”
Mitchell said businesses should be encouraged to open up shop in Moscow unless they pose harm to the community.
Laflin has never held political office but her father served several years in local government, including as the longest-tenured mayor in a town called Clayton, Mo., outside of St. Louis.
“He instilled in me the obligation for public service, and so I’ve spent my whole life just about doing public service,” Laflin said.
She said she is qualified with her plentiful experience as a mother, social worker, lawyer and mediator.
“I think that the one skill that all of those require is that somebody has to really listen and understand what the issues are and then problem solve and take action,” Laflin said.
She said housing, accessibility for people of all mobility levels and smart and sustainable growth are her key priorities.
Laflin said there needs to be housing for all ages and incomes. She said providing housing close to downtown for seniors and clustered homes for low-income residents are ideas she wants to explore.
She said addressing the declining aquifers and breaking up the divisions that are forming in Moscow are also important.
“The country has started to become much more divisive and segregated, and Moscow is becoming that way, and that’s very sad for me,” she said.
Urquidez said property tax increases partly prompted him to run for council.
Working in the hardwood floor industry, he said, he sweats for every dollar he earns, and therefore spends it wisely.
“I’m frugal in a lot of ways so that I can be generous in other areas,” Urquidez said.
He said he wants to encourage residents to lose the mentality of what their city can do for them and explore what they can do for their city, referencing former President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote.
“Sometimes I think there’s a schism in the community between maybe conservative values and more progressive values,” Urquidez said.
He said he believes those differences will always exist, but people still need to be gracious and respectful of one another.
“Hopefully I can bring a good representation of what it means to be a Christian to the community,” Urquidez said.
For Zabala, water is her primary concern.
“The future of Moscow is dependent on identifying an alternative water source,” she said.
Zabala said it is an exciting time for the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee because it is actively engaging the public in selecting one of the four water supply alternatives and how to fund it.
She said since she was elected in 2017 — and long before — downtown parking has been a hot discussion point. But there is little data to address the problems, if there are any, Zabala said.
The city is conducting a parking study this fiscal year, and Zabala said those findings will determine what changes, if any, need to be made.
Although she is one of the youngest candidates and the youngest current councilor, Zabala said the average age of Moscow residents is 24.5.
“It’s always really nice to hear positive feedback about wanting young people to participate in every aspect of the community, but in local government as well, and it’s been really great to be able to represent such a large portion of our population,” Zabala said.
Kelly worked several years for newspapers in Montana and Idaho, including the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. She has coached youth sports and serves on numerous boards, including as chairwoman of the Heart of the Arts, which manages the 1912 Center, and is a member of the Moscow Human Rights Commission.
Kelly handles several duties at the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute, and, while she has no political office experience, she is the chair of the Idaho District 5 Democrats, vice chair for the Latah County Democrats and her father was a state representative.
She said she wanted to build a resume and background before running for office, and she feels she has done that.
“I’d always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to run for office, but I wanted to be prepared,” Kelly said.
She said Moscow’s strength is its diversity.
“I mean, it’s really a true melting pot of a city and I want it to stay that way,” Kelly said. “I want people to feel safe. I want people to feel included.”
She said ensuring a continued vibrant downtown, that incoming businesses use smart energy and addressing water issues are some of her focuses.
Kelly said she would like to highlight the city’s conservation and environmentally friendly incentives so residents and businesses take notice and utilize them.
Berends said she wants to continue Moscow’s tradition of a warm, welcoming community as a city councilor.
She also said housing is an issue she is prepared to tackle.
“It’s getting to be a bigger challenge for people who want to put down roots here in Moscow, who want to have ownership in this city,” said Berends, human resources manager at Emsi.
She said there is a huge gap between Moscow residents who live in apartments and those who live in large, expensive homes.
Berends said filling that gap with smaller, cheaper single-family homes will help fill that gap.
She said she also wants to ensure Moscow is a place where people are respected no matter their opinion — something she does not see at the national level.
“We’re walking the same streets, the same sidewalks, we are drinking from the same aquifers, and so I think that’s something we need to be mindful of in this city,” Berends said.


Seeya at the polls, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

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