FARMINGTON — Farmington's two mayoral candidates and two District 4 city council candidates weighed in a variety of issues during a forum Thursday night.
Mayoral candidates Matt Dodson and Tommy Roberts, the incumbent, and District 4 council candidates Debra Mayeux and Nate Duckett answered questions ranging from the city's biggest problem to how to improve the area's economy during the forum at the Farmington Public Library.
In one of the forum's more contentious moments, KOB-TV Reporter Devin Neeley, the moderator, asked the candidates how they would reduce harassment for minor crimes.
Dodson reiterated a major focus of his campaign, saying that he would work to legalize marijuana in the city.
Roberts countered that the city has no power to legalize the drug, which is illegal on the state and federal level.
Later in the forum, Dodson returned to the issue.
"There are a lot of things cities can do and a lot of things they don't know they can do," he said.
Early in the debate, the candidates spoke about whether the city was on the right track.
"We've done a lot of good things in the last four years," Roberts said.
He said that although he has involved more residents in local government, the city still needs to devote more attention to improving racial relations with neighboring communities. As mayor, Roberts said he created a minority issues round table discussion forum, where he invites people representing different races in the community to speak about city issues, he said.
Dodson said the city is on the right track, but he wants to take it a "heck of a lot further than that right track."
He said the city needs to invest in fiber optics. The technology would create new businesses and jobs, he said, and those jobs could sustain the city through an oil boom.
Duckett said Farmington is moving in the right direction. He said the city should soon see a large investment in its oil and gas industry, and that will expand its tax base and allow the city to accomplish its long-term plans.
"It offers a lot of hope," he said.
Mayeux also said the city is headed in the right direction.
"We have the lowest gross receipt tax for a city in the state," she said, "and if that doesn't bring business here, I don't know what will."
But, Mayeux said, when the Mancos Shale oil formation booms, the city needs to invest in infrastructure to carry out the natural gas and oil
Duckett said one of the most significant problems facing District 4 — which includes most of northeastern Farmington — is storm drain flooding during monsoons. The city spent or is planning to spend $9.2 million to lessen those floods, he said, "but we know it will take more."
Mayeux said economic issues are the biggest problem facing District 4.
The city needs to diversify its economy and focus more on its infrastructure, she said. Diversifying the economy would help the city improve its streets and ensure they are safe for pedestrian traffic, she said.
When asked how he would improve the city's economy if elected mayor, Dodson said he would advocate for more jobs. The city's next oil boom is coming, he said, but when it arrives it could end unexpectedly.
To boost the economy, Dodson also said he would strive to install solar panels on every city roof. He said there are more solar panel workers in the state than coal miners.
Roberts said he doesn't need to be re-elected to be involved in improving the city's economy. He said he has worked for eight years to improve the city's economy.
But creating jobs is difficult, he said. The city and other agencies, such as Four Corners Economic Development, need to identify the strengths of the local workforce, he said. And, Roberts said, the city needs sustainable funding to build infrastructure, such as the freight railroad from Thoreau to Farmington.
"If I don't serve as your mayor in the next four years, I'll still be involved in that game," Roberts said.