AZTEC — At a town hall forum Tuesday at the Aztec Senior-Community Center, four candidates for city commission all agreed on one thing — Aztec is a special place worth fighting for.
But how to keep it that way revealed differences.
In response to a question over how to bring about business expansion and tourism by enhancing infrastructure, current Mayor Sally Burbridge struck a tone of balance.
"We need both. You don't have community pride without improving the appearance of the city," said Burbridge, who is running for a fourth time for the District 2 seat against challenger Joe Hubbard. "You also need to constantly be looking at infrastructure. Both are important."
Hubbard, though, said the city has lost the trust of its residents.
"Businesses are leaving. Citizens are thinking of leaving. The city has lost credibility," Hubbard said. "There are many needs."
Running unopposed, Katee McClure said she likes the improvements to the city's streets and medians but urged more investment in infrastructure.
"Hands down, it's infrastructure," said McClure, an arts promoter and writer for The Talon, an Aztec bimonthly newspaper. "Without infrastructure, enhancement means nothing. If you don't have the water, the sewer system, people won't move here."
Sheri Rogers, who works at the 911 call center and is also running unopposed, agreed with McClure.
When asked about rewriting existing city law that prohibits the sale of alcohol on Sundays, Rogers thought it was up to voters.
"It should be a personal choice," she said.
"I think those restaurants need the revenue stream," she said. "It's an old 'blue law' that has no relevance anymore."
Mayor Burbridge agreed, saying she felt "very strongly" the law should be changed.
Hubbard invoked the religious origins of the restriction in his answer.
"Remember the sabbath and keep it holy," he said.
While infrastructure and alcohol sales somewhat divided the candidates, scrutiny over the city's codes drew consistent frustration.
"I believe Aztec has a lot of people treated like criminals (over code compliance violations)," Hubbard said.
McClure agreed there were too many codes and their enforcement was overly punitive.
"We have way too much regulation in this city," McClure said. "An average of 90 code violations each month. That's 38 percent of our people. There's a code that you have to pay $35 to post a garage sale sign. The Dumpster enclosures are too much. We're over-coded."
Burbridge tried to strike a conciliatory tone.
"I'm a strong advocate of the rules on the books," she said. "As the community grows and changes, the codes can change. There will always be a need for variances. But enforcement is up to city staff, not to the commission."
About 50 people attended the forum, and they could ask the candidates questions. Audience questions touched on the possibility of curbside recycling, city zoning, funding and completion of the East Aztec Arterial Route project and light pollution.
Jack Scott, a former commissioner, attended the forum with his neighbor, Jerrie Lanier. Both were impressed with the four candidates' knowledge of the issues.
"They offered thoughtful, knowledgable answers to some really good questions," Lanier said. "I was impressed with how knowledgable and interested they were about the issues."
Mark Lewis, an Aztec resident of 25 years, was encouraged by what he heard.
"These new people have a full plate before them, but they did a good job of fielding the issues before us tonight," Lewis said. "The city has potential."