The two candidates for the North Ward seat on the Crawford City Council each expressed a desire to see their hometown grow toward a sustainable future at the KCSR/KBPY Election Forum Tuesday night.
David Nixon and Zac Riggs are running for the open seat for the North Ward, though each of them agreed that voters should choose to eliminate the ward system during this election. The issue is on the ballot, and if approved, will allow Crawford to elect all its council members in an at-large system. Riggs said he does not believe in the ward system; Crawford is one town and its representatives should reflect that. Nixon also pointed out that the North Ward has difficulty field candidates in some years, and has most of the blighted property in the city, an issue the entire city needs to address.
Crawford voters will also deal with a recall election of the city’s mayor after the first of the year, an action Riggs says he supports. Crawford is run by a council, not a mayor, and when officials misuse their power citizens have the right to petition for a recall. Nixon, a former Crawford mayor, said he declined to sign the petition for recall out of professional courtesy, noting that the position comes with a steep learning curve. Recall elections are a valuable check and balance on the system, and while malfeasance is a valid reason for initiating such an action, simply disagreeing with an official’s vote is not, Nixon said.
Beyond ballot issues facing voters, the candidates said their priorities center on strengthening Crawford’s position for the future. Nixon said the Crawford government has been rather passive for three decades and needs to begin looking at opportunities and assistance available, including tax increment financing. Riggs is interested in keeping the community strong for his children and providing them with a future, adding that the city needs to stop denying businesses the chance to locate in town when they will bring new jobs and families.
Both candidates agreed the city also needs to encourage efforts to improve curb appeal and community clean-up, with Nixon pointing out that 25-33% of the 700 lots in Crawford are considered blighted. The North Ward has empty lots outfitted with water and sewer that could be developed, and tax increment financing could aid in projects, he continued.
The community has several organizations and committees that will have to work together to accomplish the efforts to improve the city, each candidate said. Nixon said several are slated to being discussing community development programs this week, while Riggs added that he’s willing to hear all suggestions. The council must to be open to listening to other voices and working to educate residents on why something can or cannot be done, he said.
The candidates also expressed concern about the infrastructure of the city, with Nixon saying that the systems were built for a town of 2,000 that now has just under 1,000. Recruiting residents is crucial to making sure those systems remain sustainable. Recruiting those families and businesses will hinge on cleaning up the town, rehabbing homes and providing a welcoming business climate, Riggs said.
The pair also hope to see more interaction between the City of Crawford and the tourists who visit Fort Robinson State Park. Riggs said the city needs to support Fort Robinson more, adding that he would like to see additional advertising for the state park. Residents and business owners in Crawford need to understand the number of tourists that visit the park, including thousands of hunters, and work to create a theater-friendly district as Post Playhouse opens their downtown venue in the coming years, Nixon said.