City council candidates answer our questions

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Describe the duties and responsibilities of the position you are running for.

Luis Aguilar: Affirm support to the constitutions of the United States and New Mexico, the ordinances of the municipality, faithfully perform the duties of the office; require disclosure of possible conflicts of interest in decision making; determine time and place of meetings; rules for proceedings; elect one of its members to act as mayor pro tem; responsible for making public policy for the municipality through ordinances, resolutions and regulations which are consistent with applicable federal and state laws and constitutions pursuant to the New Mexico constitution home rule;  council is governing body of Board of Finance;  provide the creation of various appointive offices.

Jacob “Josh” Carrillo: The duties of the city council (as a whole not its individual members) are to supervise administrative officers, formulate policies, and exercise city powers. Councilors should devote their time to problems of basic policy and act as liaisons between the City and the public. They should be concerned, not only with day to day affairs, but also with the future development of the City. The most important single responsibility of councilors is participation at council meetings; to represent the needs of the people that elected them.

Nick Fleming: City council members propose and pass local laws and ordinances relating to city budgets, local taxes,  land use, zoning and licenses for business.  City council members are first and foremost representatives of the city’s residents.  Interacting with the public is essential to performing their duties effectively. A city council member listens to concerns and suggestions from the public, explains new laws and legislation and the impact on the community   and represents constituents during sessions with state, federal or other local governments. I work solely for the people of Socorro. Their issues and concerns are my number one priority.

Gordy Hicks: As a city councilman I consider myself a servant of the people who is able to represent the needs and concerns of my constituents at the bimonthly meetings. I attend the weekly Department Managers meetings to stay on top of what is going on in the city. I help develop enforceable laws and policies, develop a budget that reflects local priorities and realities, enable departments to function efficiently within their budgets, and remain knowledgeable about  the workings of the city government while leveraging state dollars through my participation in the SCCOG. I strive to help Socorroans address and resolve relevant issues.

Donald Monette: A: First and foremost, to stay out of the way of the employees of the City so they can do their jobs. Contrary to popular belief, one thing Councilors are not responsible for is the day-to-day operation of every department.  We listen to concerns and take them to the Administration and other Councilors.
B: Councilors adopt and ensure enforcement of policies to ensure equality for the residents and employees of the City.
C: As committee members, councilors review budgets, audits, policies, etc., and make recommendations to the Council as a whole.  After hearing recommendations from committees, Councilors are then required to vote, yes or no, on proposed changes to the items mentioned above. FYI, if a Councilor does not vote, it is considered a “yes” vote.

Ernest Pargas: Set the Budget and Policies so that the Citizens of Socorro are getting all the services entitled to them without tax increases while keeping the City of Socorro Fiscally Sound. The above must be accomplished while upholding the Oath of office.

Israel Rodriguez: I am running for City Council; as a member I will be working on collaborating with seven other members, as well as the Mayor to make decisions on policies that will improve the community. These decisions include but are not limited to the following: appointing City Manager, Clerk and Attorney. These duties will be in conjunction to enforcing ordinances and local laws. The financial responsibilities include the following: reviewing the city’s budget, setting the tax rate, and approving the city’s finances and contracts.

How would you improve the operation and efficiency of the office?

Aguilar: Before I make any suggestions, I would first need to know what is expected, then make recommendations.

Carrillo: I would strive to improve efficiency by eliminating much of the paperwork being sent to the Council for approval. Many items can be emailed or stored in an electronic format for review as needed instead of printing reams of paper.

Fleming: I would like to see the council more accessible and interactive for the citizens of Socorro by conducting a phase implementation of social media services through technology and other on-line measures.

Hicks: My primary goal is to enable constituents to live fulfilling lives with their basic needs met with both integrity and efficiency. As overseers of department budgets, we will continue to focus upon department self-sufficiency to assure our citizens of sound fiscal policies. We continually strive to improve infrastructure to provide adequate policies for police and fire protection, reliable and affordable utilities, clean water, good streets. We will continue to help new and existing businesses build upon a healthy economy that will generate additional jobs, services and revenue.  We will continue to provide activities for the youth through the city recreation programs.

Monette: I will continue to be involved and concerned with ensuring the City is financially viable as well as transparent and all stakeholders are treated equally.

Pargas: I will continue to build relationships and collaborations with all Stakeholders and Citizens of Socorro so that we can continue to move Socorro forward.

Rodriguez: Instead of having meetings where members are speaking with no proper experience, i.e. water drainage, I would invite people from the community to give some guidance. I believe the students and faculty at New Mexico Tech would be able to provide the council with further insight on certain projects.

What do you consider to be the most important unmet need in city government?

Aguilar: Meeting the needs of the community to make the city a pleasant place to live;  have a progressive goal to make Socorro business friendly and have a strategic plan in place.  Provide Socorro with the proper information to make it ready for business expansion with infrastructure and a work force in place.

Carrillo: The most important unmet need is infrastructure for current citizens. There are areas in Socorro that still lack curbs, gutters, and adequate street lighting. These are important in keeping our youth and other pedestrians safe as they travel about town. While adequate, the waste water treatment plant is aging and will need to be updated in the near future. The natural gas transmission is nearing a level where it needs to be updated. These items need to be dealt with in a fiscally responsible manner with appropriate oversight from City administration.

Fleming: I spent my entire education career providing opportunities for our youth – they truly are our future. They need responsibilities, opportunities, training and our city’s support. So, I highly recommend that the City partner with other public and private business entities to offer vocational training opportunities for our youth and members of our community, as well as partnering with NMIMT for apprenticeship programs.  Also, as funds become available, the city must continue working to improve streets, gas lines, sewer lines and water lines.  Maintaining a modern, efficient infrastructure has to be a priority for our citizens.

Hicks: All cities have needs. I feel the needs are being addresses with the 5 year plan. The plan includes sewer line extensions , drainage improvements, repaving and reconstruction of streets. Through  interaction with Socorro citizens,  I am able  to maintain a good working relationship with the administration and city employees. Communications, focused upon helping streamline day to day operations and improve infrastructure are priorities. I meet with constituents on a daily basis as part of my commitment to bring their needs to the council as well as learn of their future needs. Those objectives fuel my conversations with legislators when I seek financial support for needed city projects.

Monette: A: Most, if not all, of the unmet needs of the City are caused by a lack of funds.  I believe the City could use newer vehicles and equipment in many departments, but revenues do not allow for everything every department needs.
B: In a utopian world, it would be nice if the City could pay a higher percentage of employees’ insurance costs.
C: As far as unmet needs of the residents, we could always use more money for utility improvements/expansion and road upgrades.  Again, these are issues restrained by revenue.  If we had an unlimited stream of increasing revenues with limited expenses, all of these issues could be resolved. If.

Pargas: I don’t consider that there are any unmet needs in the City that are not being addressed in some way shape or form.

Rodriguez: The most unmet need for city government is having representatives that only make decisions based on allocating money from point A to point B. A representative should question, inspire, and bring innovation to the community. The needs of the community are beyond having well paved roads, improving unemployment by decimal percentages. The unmet need is our youth, and this need has been ignored for too long. As the majority of the community begins to age, our focus needs to shift to the youth of the community, as to leave them with a strong foundation in order to be able to take over the responsibilities of running a city and keeping the long, and beloved traditions of Socorro intact.

What sets you apart from the other candidates in this race?

Aguilar: I will devote any time necessary to discover way(s) to encourage new business to relocate here, thus expanding the work force, increasing buying power which will result in increased tax revenues.

Carrillo: What sets me apart from the other candidate is education and life experience. I have worked in the service industry and on construction crews. I have been honored to work at New Mexico Tech which has afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with people on a local, national, and international level. After graduation, I worked six years with the NMT/EMRTC First Responders program as an engineer. I developed budget proposals and monitored expenditures for contracts in excess of $20 million annually. These experiences have brought me to a position where I can work with people at any level.

Fleming: For over 40 years, I have not only lived here as a resident, I’ve spent the last four decades very heavily involved in the community.  Most know me as an educator working directly with our great city’s youth and their families.  More than once, I have been recognized at the city, county and state levels for my contributions to Socorro through my work in the schools and charitable and private organizations.  My experiences have given me great insight into the concerns and desires of our citizens who want to see Socorro move onward into the 21st century.   

Hicks: I am approachable, easy to reach, and willing to meet with anyone at any time. I make it a priority to get answers for the citizens and a solution if possible. I have continually represented Socorro in regional committees and been elected to numerous offices for the SCCOG, NMML and SCRPO, which has helped me understand  local, regional and state issues as they relate to the needs of Socorro. The resulting experience and contacts helped me obtain millions of dollars in funding for Socorro, for projects like, the newly renovated airport, the four-lane road to the industrial park, the new sports arena and rodeo grounds, and Vans for both TRESCO and the Senior Citizens, city streets, waterlines, gas, sewer lines and the sewer plant.

Monette:  I am lucky enough to be running unopposed.  I thank the residents of Socorro for believing in me and knowing I will always do what I believe to be in the best interest of the City.  I do not think it is appropriate for me to contrast and/or compare myself to candidates in other Council or Mayoral races.

Pargas: Accomplishments, experience, and a large network of Resources and  Partnerships built throughout the years. And last but not least I am very  involved in the Community outside of the office that I hold, which makes me very accessible and approachable.

Rodriguez: I believe what separates a person is what they have learned, what they are learning, and how they apply their education. Learned: To start off, I am the youngest candidate (age 22) for the 2014 race; although young, I have had the privilege to experience various jobs and even leadership roles. Of all my experiences none stand out as much as my experience with volunteering. I have enjoyed all my volunteering interactions, but the two that stand out the most are interacting in an education of children and volunteering in the medical field. Learning: I am currently pursuing two Bachelor degrees, one in Mechanical Engineering and the other in Biology. School is one of many activities where I am learning. The other activities are futile compared to what I am learning; I am learning how to become a scientist, a politician, a teacher, a better friend, a kid, and hopefully a better person overall. Apply: I hope to apply everything I have learned to my community this can be anything from; teaching a child simple arithmetic, becoming involved in politics, to continuing my education in Medicine. Learning has no meaning if it has not been applied; this idea is present in everyone, including the other candidates. I have learned what it takes to be a leader, and that is to be guided by self-judgment not others. I am learning that life is a process and there is no perfection only determination. I hope to learn that I have never stopped learning and that I never acted like I knew everything, no matter how old or young learning should be constant.

Have you been in leadership position and, if so, what did you accomplish in that role?

Aguilar: I am happy to say that as a retired platoon sergeant, which consisted of approximately twenty soldiers,  I contributed to making our unit mission capable while taking care of our soldiers and their families was a top priority. These principles, I will apply as your elected councilor.

Carrillo: For three years I managed the US Department of State’s International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) for New Mexico Tech as the site manager. I was responsible for all of the operations of the facility. I developed the budget ($5 million/year), monitored costs, and supervised all of the employees and contractors at the Academy. The Academy trained, at a graduate level, international police officials from developing nations around the world. The ILEA hosted visiting dignitaries from Police chiefs to foreign Ambassadors. I was able to communicate proficiently in Spanish for all of the Latin American delegations.

Fleming: As a City Councilman, I have had the privilege of being on the budget committee and have been actively involved in the budget process to ensure the needs of the employees and residents of Socorro are being met. I attend weekly department meetings to gain knowledge of the daily operations .  I have brought constituent concerns to the attention of the proper departments for resolution. As an educator for 38 years working with youth, I have witnessed the accomplishments of many former students as they excel in the various career fields in jobs all over the globe.

Hicks:I have held offices in SCCOG, SCRPO and NMML and been involved with WIA for many years. Seniority and active participation in committees and offices has put me in a position to help secure millions of dollars of regional and state funding for Socorro projects.. WIA funds enabled us to train local citizens for multiple local jobs. I also worked with BLM to establish an off road park where our youth have a safe place to ride. If re-elected I will continue to represent Socorro to bring much needed funding  for our projects.

Monette: 16 years as a City Councilor.
A: 16 years on the Utility Committee — we have only raised rates when required to display financial solvency to lenders when borrowing money for utility expansion (Chaparral Drive, Hope Farms Rd., West Spring St./Evergreen Dr. [Fire Academy Area])   or upgrades (water treatment facilities).
B: 12 years (I think) as chairman of the Budget Committee — the budget committee has continued to ensure the viability of the City. From about 2007 to current the entire nation has been in a financial lull or recession.  The Budget Committee has continued to ensure the City is solvent throughout these financially difficult times by conservatively projecting revenues and continually adjusting the budget as required by circumstances.
C: 14 years as the Chairman of the Industrial Park Committee.  Thanks to the help of outgoing Chamber of Commerce Director Terry Tadano we have reviewed, cataloged and managed not only Industrial Park leases, but all leases of City Property. We continue to look for appropriate uses of Industrial Park space.  With the new rodeo/soccer/convention center complex, along with the new jail, this area of Socorro is expanding rapidly.

Pargas: Accomplishments: Development of City Drug Policy; Established Paraphernalia Ordinance; Helped to increase funding for Patrolmen assigned to narcotics; Obtained several Grants which leveraged $2.1 million to Socorro County in the past 5 years; Hired a coordinator for Juvenile Justice Board; Established and hired a facilitator for Teen Court; Brought “Maze of Life” to Socorro High School; Established an Anti-Bullying Team; Worked with Socorro School District to update the Truancy/Attendance Policy; In the process of opening an At Risk Center; Secured a grant in the amount of 400 thousand to address Substance Abuse in County of Socorro.

Rodriguez: I was  confirmed Student Regent of New Mexico Tech beginning in January 2013. For the past year as student reagent, I have approved the construction of two buildings, including: Steve S. Torres dormitory, and the Bureau of Geology; the Bureau of Geology is in the process of being completed. Besides the construction of these buildings, I represent student body of New Mexico Tech. I share my plans of improving the institutional community whether it is by increasing the income of underpaid employees or informing the students of the financial decisions that have been approved. Although there has been both large and small accomplishments, my greatest accomplishment when representing the student body has been working with the students and faculty; this is a constant reminder to take a proactive role on the Board of Regents. I am reminded to voice the opinion not of the board members or president, but of the students and their mentors. So in reality, consistency has been my greatest achievement.