Candidates Jim Nyland (left), and Mary Mullen McGann (right) answered questions at the League of Women Voters candidate forum at the Moab Arts and Recreation center on Monday, Sept. 29. [Photo by Eric Trenbeath / Moab Sun News]

The League of Women Voters (LWV), sponsored a candidate forum on Monday, Sept. 29 at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center. Candidates for the Grand County Council, clerk/auditor, treasurer, as well as candidates for the Utah House of Representatives District 69, answered questions posed by the league in an open public forum.

“We want the citizens of Grand County to have a chance to hear the candidates running for office respond to questions about some of the issues facing our county,” Cynthia Smith, co-president of the LWV said. “We want voters to be more informed about the issues and the candidates before they vote.”

Questions ranged from whether or not affordable housing was an issue; how to provide a balanced approach to oil and gas development; and how candidates would manage budgets and maintain transparency in government.

The hot-button question of the evening went to at-large candidate Mary Mullen McGann, and incumbent Jim Nyland, as to whether or not they supported the county’s participation in the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition (SCIC).

Nyland said he was for it, and McGann said she was opposed, unless the vagueness of the agreement was ironed out.

“I think it would be wise for us to participate,” Nyland said. “I think we should be there to try to obtain the information, not try to pick up the slack on the back end and try to figure out what’s going on.”

Nyland also said that the SCIC had nothing to do with the proposed Book Cliffs Road.

“The two do not (go) together, they are totally different issues,” he said.

Mullen McGann said, “I think it would be reckless for us to join the SCIC.” She said that Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald, as well his former opponent, Christina Sloan, have both said that the document is vague and open-ended, and that it leaves the county vulnerable to lawsuits.

“I don’t have a law degree, and I’m not aware of anyone on the council who does,” she said. “It totally baffles me how they (the county council) feel that it’s OK to sign on to a 50 year document…that’s vague and unclear.”

Grand County Council district 1 candidates Kim Call and Chris Baird, both vying for the seat being vacated by Pat Holyoak, received a question about whether they thought the availability of affordable housing was a serious issue in Grand County.

Call responded with a story about one of her sons who stepped in to help the other, and how as a parent she could have, “been this person who just stepped in and fixed everything…but then he wouldn’t have grown and learned to be self-reliant.”

“I think we have to be careful in all subsidized programs,” she said. “Because if we’re too helpful, then nobody grows. We want to be careful in how we approach ways of helping people.”

Baird said that one of the problems with a recreation economy is that it inflates the real estate market. He said that isn’t going to change and that, “we absolutely have to address affordable housing.”

He said that he had been working on affordable housing issues for 10 years, and that employers throughout the community have said that one of the biggest impediments to economic development is affordable housing.

“This is not just a humanitarian issue,” Baird said. “This is an issue of economic development.”

Jaylyn Hawks and Manuel Torres, candidates for district 3, the seat currently held by Gene Ciarus, were asked what process they would propose for coming to a decision on controversial topics such as joining the SCIC or the Book Cliffs Road.

Hawks said that the best course of action would be, “to gather the most accurate and up-to-date information from the best sources, both pro and con.” She also said there was a middle ground that needed to be heard and that legal advice should be obtained if warranted.

“I also think that we need to listen to the huge, very wide array of beautiful and diverse voices of Grand County,” she said.

Torres said that, “you need to discuss it in council, and you need to have some open forums. I think both sides need to be heard.”

Torres said that the council needs to be open and it needs to tell the citizens how it feels and why it feels that way.

“But I think the council has a lot of information that the common folk don’t have, and I hate to say it but that’s the truth,” he said. “They get to hear a lot of things that we don’t.”

Questions about transparency, accountability and efficiency were asked of the candidates for county clerk/auditor.

Incumbent County Clerk Diana Carroll and challenger Zacharia Levine were asked how, in accordance with Utah State Law, they would ensure that County Council meeting minutes would be posted in a timely manner.

Levine said “transparency is something that we need to follow both by law and by spirit.” He said that when he checked for the minutes on the county website in August, they weren’t available for all of 2014.

“We are in the information age, and there really isn’t any technological reason why minutes can’t show up on the website within days, or at least as soon as the county council signs off on them,” he said. “The spirit of transparency is just getting as much information out to the public as possible.”

Carroll acknowledged that it was state law to have minutes posted on the county website.

“I hope you all know that we have a new county website up and running now,” she said. “The minutes however, that is one of the goals I have for the coming years, is to get things as they are supposed to be.”

Carroll said she had staff in her office working on the website and that there is, “an effort that has to be done to coordinate between the county clerk’s office and the county council’s office.”

Treasurer candidates Christopher Kauffman and Debbie Littlefield were asked to describe their qualifications for the position.

Littlefield said that she had over 30 years in accounting, bookkeeping and auditing. She said that she has also been the chief deputy treasurer under the incumbent treasurer for the past 11 years, and that she had twice managed the office on her own for over a month at a time.

“I believe that my experience in the office, doing hands-on work, has given me a step up in that I am the best candidate for the position,” she said.

Kauffman said that he had 12 years accounting experience running his own small business. He currently has a job with the Utah Department of Workforce Services, where he said he is responsible for the accurate distribution of public funds and applies state and federal policy on a daily basis.

“I have the drive and energy to make improvements for our county and to keep our county up to date,” he said.

Candidates for the Utah State House of Representatives District 69, Democrat Brad King and Republican Bill Labrum, were asked how they felt about the state legislature’s demand that the federal government turn control of federal lands over to the state.

Labrum said, “I feel really good about the demand of wanting to get the federal land turned over to the state. But the state needs to be very careful on what they do as far as how they handle those (lands).”

King said he didn’t think, “the state was in any position to take care of the federal lands. I’m much more interested in getting a more powerful position in how those lands are run.”

This was the 33rd forum held by the LWV in Grand County.

Since the switch to vote-by-mail was initiated this spring, the LVM has been engaged in making sure everyone is registered and that they understand the new process. Smith said that with the new mail-in ballots, it is important to make sure that the clerk’s office has your correct mailing information as well as simply being registered or you won’t get a ballot.

“That is the new information we need to get out to the voters of Grand County,” she said.

All ballots will be distributed by mail on or before Oct. 7 and voter registration ends on Oct. 27. Smith said that if you do not receive a ballot, or are not currently registered, or do not know your registration status, you should contact the Grand County Clerk’s Office at 435-259-1321.

“One of our main missions is to encourage people to vote and in order to vote they must be registered,” Smith said. “One thing we say often is that “democracy is not a spectator sport, everyone needs to participate.”

For further voting and registration details go to

League of Women Voters forum addresses hot-button issues