Monday, October 30, 2017

City Council hopefuls spar over leadership style, Ogden-Hinckley Airport (KOGD) operations



OGDEN — Leadership focus, the Ogden Nature Center and management of Ogden-Hinckley Airport figure big in the contest for the At-Large A seat on the Ogden City Council — judging by responses from the hopefuls at a debate, anyway.

Incumbent Marcia White, seeking her second term, and Lew Wheelwright, challenging her for the post, faced off at a candidate forum Thursday night, touching on those issues and more. Bart Blair, seeking his third term in the At-Large B post, also addressed the gathering at Union Station here, though his challenger, Mary Khalaf, didn’t attend.

White stressed the importance of fiscal responsibility and emphasized her organizational skills and familiarity with the process of getting things done at City Hall.

“It’s going to take people who understand how to look at budgets, how to look at revenue and how to look at expenses,” she said. While it may not excite broad public interest, one of her proudest accomplishments, she said, was helping implement longer-term, five-year budget planning.

Wheelwright, a businessman and chiropractor, said if voters want to maintain the status quo, he’s not their guy. Sometimes leaders need to shake things up to get things done, he said, and he also sounded support for minimizing government intrusion into private business.

“I do come in to it as a disruptive force if I get in,” Wheelwright said.

Even so, he also said he analyzes the data at hand in making decisions and would bring a businessman’s perspective to the council. “We’re going to have to run the city more like a business, not like a club,” he said.

The League of Women Voters of Weber County and Junior League of Ogden hosted Thursday’s gathering, which drew about 50 people. The candidates for the Ward 1 and Ward 3 posts, also up for grabs, met Wednesday.

Airport: 

Dissatisfaction with management of the city-owned Ogden airport pushed Wheelwright into the City Council race, hoping to be able to spur change as an elected official. Wheelwright, a pilot, owns hangars at the airport and decries eventual plans to build a parking lot where one of his hangars sits, which he says reduces the property’s value.

“That has been a totally ill-managed deal,” said Wheelwright, who’s focused his displeasure on Jon Greiner, the airport manager.

White said the germane issue relative to the airport is reducing the cost the city incurs in managing it, up to $500,000 some years. City leaders have been seeking more commercial flights out of the airport to that end, which White lauded.

“The conversation we need to have is finding solutions to make it solvent,” she said.

Commercial service is a key prong of airport operations, Wheelwright said. But general aviation activity — private pilot operations, for instance — is also key, and growth prospects in the commercial sector are probably limited.

“A lot of people will say we can be a regional airport. Probably won’t happen,” Wheelwright said, noting the proximity of the mountains of the Wasatch Front and the relatively short runway here.

As to Wheelwright’s criticism of airport management, White noted that city council members typically recuse themselves on issues if they have a financial interest, an apparent reference to her challenger’s ownership of hangars at the airport. Beyond that, oversight of Greiner falls to Mayor Mike Caldwell, not the city council.

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