Topics included economy, safety, marijuana
By Samantha White
Candidates for open City of Hines mayor and city council, as well as Harney County Justice of the Peace, seats met with the public at the City of Hines Pavilion for Candidates Night Tuesday, Sept. 25, shortly after the regular meeting of the Hines Common Council concluded.
Candidates for mayor include incumbent Nikki Morgan, Ray Breshears Sr. and Don Munkers.
Morgan moved to Harney County in 2003. She became mayor of Hines in April, after the previous mayor resigned. She said she has been involved in many joint efforts between Burns and Hines and has had to make some rough and tough decisions.
Breshears is a retired veteran, and he has experience on city council. He said his goal is to gain partnerships with private companies to bring jobs to the area.
Munkers was raised in Heppner and obtained a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Oregon University. He also served in the Navy for four years, and he has a master’s degree in public administration. He said citizens and government officials need to work together and be positive.
Incumbent Hilda Allison is running unopposed for position 1 on the Hines council. She has lived in Harney County for the majority of her life, and her husband owns a business in Hines. She said she and other council members have done a lot of good things for the city.
Hines Council Position 2
Incumbent Brent Drury is running against Ron Williams for position 2 on the Hines council.
Drury was unable to attend Candidates Night.
Williams has lived in Harney County all his life. He owns two businesses in the area and said his experience as a business owner helped him learn a lot about the community. He said change is good, and he wants to bring about changes to benefit the community and the council.
Incumbent John Mims is running against Roy Crafts for position 3 on the Hines council.
Mims was born and raised in Harney County. He served on the council for three years and said he is looking for number four.
Mims said council members have to learn a lot of rules, and it is beneficial to have experience.
Crafts coaches football at Burns High School (BHS). His son, Tanner, is a senior at BHS, and his daughter Taylor is in 8th grade. He is married to Dawn Crafts.
Justice of the Peace
Dorothy Peterson is running against Donna Thomas for justice of the peace.
Peterson was born and raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. She said her experience on the farm taught her how to work hard. She worked for the district attorney’s office for 25 years and said she worked with the circuit court on a daily basis. Peterson said she wants to bring her experience to the court.
Thomas has lived in Harney County almost all of her life. She owned Burns Glass & Picture Framing for 36 years. She said she is closing her shop and looking for new opportunities, which is why she is running for justice of the peace.
All candidates who were present were asked how they would reduce the number of vacant homes, people on welfare and people on food stamps in the community.
Morgan said Hines is working with Burns and the county to bring in new businesses and keep existing businesses. She added that people on the council need to come in with an open mind and not an agenda and said public input is needed.
Breshears said he has been working with the League of Oregon Cities (LOC) to develop job opportunities and said people need to stay involved and let the council know what they want.
Munkers said he has been meeting with a company that may be interested in coming to Harney County. He said development in the Silvies Valley may also bring jobs to the area and that Hines and Burns are working with the county on economic development.
Allison said economic development is always important, and she would like to run the community like a business and have good information to make decisions on.
Williams said his experience as a business owner taught him that there is always something to be done in Harney County. He said the county had to survive with small businesses because there are not any large industries in the area right now due to business closures. He said change brings hard times and good times, and he recognizes that individuals need to go to work.
Mims said individuals need to do hard, honest work and be willing to go the extra mile.
Crafts said people need to learn to live within their means and that he would like to figure out tax breaks for businesses that want to come into the community.
Peterson said more people need to be held accountable, and they need to be told why it is important to be held accountable.
Thomas said she agrees that more people need to be held accountable.
A question was posed to the mayoral candidates regarding support for the fire and police departments.
Morgan said she believes in protection of people and always strives to keep public safety funded.
Breshears said we need to keep fire and police departments funded, equipped and staffed. He said we cannot cut corners with public safety.
Munkers said he completely supports public safety. He said public safety is funded by property taxes, and the city may need to look to outside grants and funding sources to support the police and fire departments. He said bringing new businesses into the area could increase property taxes, but limitations on property taxes should also be amended.
Justice of the peace candidates were asked how they felt about drug policies regarding less than an ounce of marijuana.
Peterson said she thinks there should be a mandatory six-month’s driver license suspensions for people caught with marijuana. She said fines alone are not enough to teach people a lesson.
Thomas said she has no tolerance at all for drugs. She said marijuana is not okay, and people who are caught with the drug need to be held accountable.
Council candidate discussed jobs
Williams was asked if he would be willing to go out to try to bring jobs into the area. He said he would do whatever it takes to increase the number of jobs in the community. He added that barriers between Burns and Hines need to be lifted.
Mayoral candidate questioned
Several people posed questions to Munkers specifically.
A member of the public said she heard a rumor that Munkers supports a petition to make Burns and Hines one town and asked whether the rumor was true.
Munkers said Burns and Hines should be considered separate, autonomous communities that work together. He said he would support making Burns and Hines one town if the people said they wanted to, but if the people said that they did not want to, the answer would be no.
Two people expressed concerns about a possible conflict of interest that may arise if Munkers holds his current position as Burns City Manager and serves as the mayor of Hines simultaneously. Munkers said he called the LOC and legal staff of the Elections Committee before announcing his candidacy for mayor. He said both organizations said it would not be considered illegal or unethical for him to hold both positions. He said, that in cases where a conflict of interest could occur between the two cities, he would not, as mayor, cast a deciding vote. Instead, the motion would fail and would have to be brought up again. He said if an emergency occurs in Hines while he is working in Burns, he will use vacation time or take leave without pay from his city manager position in order to fulfill his duties as mayor.
Two additional members of the public asked whether Munkers would manage council meetings similarly to how they have been managed in Burns in the past. They cited an incident that occurred Oct. 27, 2010, when a Harney County resident was escorted out of county chambers before the start of a public meeting.
Munkers said he would not like to comment on the council meeting, but said he could “care less” about it and that it was “water under the bridge.” Munkers said his management style depends on the codes and statutes that are adapted by the legal council and the people. He said everyone in the audience approved these codes and statutes, and he must uphold them at all times to avoid issues of discrimination.
A question was posed to any candidate willing to answer regarding an erosion of citizens in favor of the government.
Munkers was the only candidate who answered the question, and he said that citizens have to understand that they are the government. He said citizens need to stand united and get over the divisions and anger that he is witnessing in order to move forward.
A member of the public thanked the candidates who attended Candidates Night, and the candidates responded by thanking the public.