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Mission mayoral candidates face off at forum

20140422 Mission Mayoral Forum lg-04 featureMISSION—As a Mission mayoral candidate Jaime Gutierrez prepared to introduce himself during a public forum Tuesday night, opponent Dr. John Guerra asked to make a quick statement, grabbing the microphone.

“I think that the mayor should have been here,” Guerra said. “I’m just saying that this is inappropriate, very inappropriate for me to answer these questions, and the mayor may be able to take things away from us.”

All three candidates, Gutierrez, Guerra and incumbent Norberto “Beto” Salinas were invited to answer questions in a public forum hosted by the Progress Times at Speer Memorial Library.

The candidates were asked questions covering their top three issues in the city, campaign costs and the amount of hours they would devote to Mission if elected as mayor.

Both candidates in attendance are new to city politics. They were asked what their experience was with city government and how it runs.

Gutierrez said he does have experience as a businessman that he would apply to working as mayor, if elected. He added working with the citizens and listening to their needs is crucial to finding unity within the city.

“For 22 years I’ve been in business, and I’ve been a volunteer at our church for the last eight to nine years,” Gutierrez said. “Being in businesses gives us the experience of how to bring our economy to another level.”

Guerra responded that though he does not have experience, he doesn’t believe there are certain qualifications to be mayor. He added his job as a mayor would be to oversee the city government.

“The mayor has been saying that it is a full-time job; he has made it a full time job.” Guerra said. “The last two city managers have been allowed to leave with severance pays of $180,000, and we now have the city chief of police that is running this city.”

When asked what top three issues were facing Mission, Guerra said allocating of resources equitably, police department problems and creating a stronger community.

“We all know that Mission is a hotbed for the police department and the problems that are related that have been identified through the Panama Unit,” Guerra said. “I feel, and a lot of the citizens feel, that we need to clean up the city police. We need to make Mission safer.”

Gutierrez responded with his three issues: community members not being heard, crisis in the family and job opportunities for younger generations.

“The biggest problem we have today in Mission is people not being heard,” Gutierrez said. “I think there is a Mission that is crying in silence, a Mission that wants to scream that just hasn’t been heard. The second thing I strongly believe is that we have a crisis of family, we really need to work the unity of our family.”

The topic of public safety in the city of Mission was also discussed by both candidates. Gutierrez said he would like to see a more “scientific police.” He added, “We need programs to promote unity, morals and principles to help our kids make better decisions.”

“What do I mean by scientific? Bring in more technology so we can be more preventive,” Gutierrez said. “We’ve always tried to attack with the consequence of the conduct, getting bigger guns and adding more policemen. It doesn’t work.”

While Gutierrez said Mission needs more job opportunities, he did not present a plan of how he would accomplish this, or how he would do things differently.

Guerra said he believes the police department does have the appropriate tools and equipment. But he said it is time to have a good relationship with officers, as well as transparency and honesty from the department.

Salinas did submit a letter the day of the event explaining, due to an unforeseen conflict in his schedule, he would not be in attendance. He said in the letter, over his 16 years in office the city has experienced an increase in property values, sales tax revenues, employment opportunities and population.

The incumbent added, “with all due respect,” his fellow candidates might not be qualified to run the city. He added, to his knowledge, neither candidate has been involved on any city boards or civic organizations.

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