Lincoln Hills hosts candidate forum

By: Brandon Darnell The Lincoln News Messenger
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The five candidates for the three open seats on the Lincoln City Council took part in a forum Wednesday afternoon in Sun City Lincoln Hills that was attended by approximately 70 people. Each candidate opened with a statement about his qualifications and reasons for running before moderator Vic Freeman asked each what his top goal will be if elected. Incumbent Spencer Short listed public safety as his primary goal, as did Paul Joiner. Incumbent Tom Cosgrove said his No.1 focus will be on finances, since all things stem from that. Allen Cuenca spoke in a similar vein, giving his goal as a balanced and responsible city budget. Stan Nader said his own goals are to be responsive to the citizens and work hard to implement the suggestions of the Sinclair Report. After that, the forum was opened up to the public. The first question was posed to Nader, when a resident asked why he was recalled. Nader said that, when he was on the City Council in 1993, Lincoln faced a financial crisis, and the options were to get rid of six of the 16 police officers or to institute a utility use tax, which had a sunset clause. Unhappy with the tax, residents successfully recalled three council members and the mayor. When Sue Hammond approached the podium, she asked each candidate what he would do for Lincoln’s youth if elected. Nader answered first, saying that he would do everything he could to encourage kids to play sports, since research shows they have more self-confidence if they do, and that he remembers his own grades going up when he played sports. Cuenca said that since he has two kids, with the oldest being a freshman at Lincoln High School, he is in tune with the needs of the youth and wants to continue to open facilities such as the recent youth center, as well as rebuilding the scout hall. Cosgrove agreed with Nader, saying sports are vital. He also mentioned the pool, a place where kids can spend $1.50 and use the facility all day long. He said it is a great idea and the cheapest babysitter around. Joiner said that as the current vice president of the Police Activities League, he would like to see PAL grow, adding that he played a role in the recent opening of the youth center, and thinks facilities like it are good. Short said he plans on expanding recreation and looking at creative funding methods such as the Mayor’s Cup Golf Tournament, which brought in $101,000 the year he was mayor. A brief bout of sparring arose when Nader said developers he’s spoken with don’t wish to do business with Lincoln due to the restrictions the city imposes, which was argued against by the two incumbents, Cosgrove and Short. Where Nader charged that the Sinclair Report hasn’t been implemented, Short said all but three of the 45 points had been addressed, and Cosgrove said that after speaking with home builders, he’s confident they will welcome an opportunity to return to Lincoln when the economy turns around. The question arousing the most involvement from the audience centered around the candidates’ views on recycling. Short said Lincoln needs a better recycling program. Though Lincoln’s trash is currently separated by machines and by hand at the waste facility, it is a practice that might be costing Lincoln more money than necessary, and looking into the multiple can idea could bear fruit. Joiner turned it back on the audience, saying he wanted to gauge how the people feel, as it will take significant community input before any new programs are implemented. Several members of the audience shouted their views simultaneously. Cosgrove said he absolutely supports recycling and that the issue has become both procedural and political. He said the blue bag program has become something of a political football. Cuenca said he believes the blue bag program is good, but only serves a temporary purpose until something better is devised. Nader, who as a compost consultant is close to the issue, said, “Of course I support recycling.” He did point out a problem with any new program that would be implemented – community involvement. For something like the multiple can system, every resident needs to participate, he said. He currently sees large amounts of items like aluminum cans thrown in the trash, and is surprised that in this economy, with the price people can get for recycling them, that so many are thrown away. Ed Miller asked what Lincoln’s budget is. Cosgrove answered that it’s approximately $120 million, but what most people are concerned about is the General Fund, which is $16 million to $17 million. When asked if they would raise taxes or fees, the candidates answered with a unanimous, “No.”