With election day fast approaching a forum was held at the Las Animas City Council for candidates to talk about their plans for the city and field questions from citizens.
Most of the candidates for the various seats open on council were able to attend the event Friday night. However, not all of the candidates who showed up would speak as a candidate. Mayoral candidate Jim Collins would go on to recuse himself from the forum, instead acting as an emcee for the event.
After a brief introduction by the candidates Kirby Ladner, who is running for mayor this year, was the first to speak that evening.
Ladner is from New Orleans and came to Las Animas in 1986. His work experience includes 11 and a half years at the Department of Transportation, six years with homeland security and two with the military.
The first thing he spoke about was how he would like to see more transportation for the handicap and an improved home health situation for the area. He also brought up bringing in a truck driving school to Las Animas.
“It’s a group effort, there's no I in team and we’re a team,” Ladner said.
He said the community should be like a team and work together with communication between the city and the citizens. Ladner then took it a step further and spoke about how the city shouldn’t just listen to it’s citizens but try and implement change based off of those conversations.
“I think the community as a whole is kind of distanced. The people have voices that want to be heard, yet they feel like it’s empty handed,” he said.
Reaching out to the community via the newspaper was an idea that Ladner also floated around, as well as making things available online to create engagement from the community.
When it comes to running the city he said his work and personal experience would help him in running the city. He said he knows about budgeting and as someone who is disabled and owns two houses he can answer many peoples questions.
“I’ve been homeless many times, bounced back. Lost seven houses, bounced back. Cars, marriages, but I kept pushing on I don’t stop we all have problems, it's how you handle em and how you get to em,” he said.
Jaxson Meardon, is a candidate for Ward 2 and he was the second candidate to speak on the evening. The first question he spoke about was what he would want to do with the revenue from the marijuana tax.
He said the best use would be to help clean up the city and fix the rundown lots and houses throughout the city.
“I think we as a city need to budget for a project like what John Thomas is doing for the county,” Meardon said.
Cleaning up the town to make it more presentable and fixing the roads are two of the biggest things he would like to see down with the money.
Terri Kim who moved to Las Animas around 6 years ago went on to speak about his plans for the marijuana tax. Kim’s plan starts with ensuring transparency with the money throughout the process. Then doing a study of the community and then using that money where the town most needs it based off that study.
“Council persons should all represent their communities and their neighbors,” Kim said.
He said they should do this by going door to door talking to their neighbors. Kim also said that there should be a larger focus on funding an EMT system and a police force. Doing so through the tax money gained from the marijuana tax.
“All we have to do is make sure we go by the state and then collect the monies. That's money we’re taking off the streets and putting into the coffers of the city of Las Animas and to me that's a win-win,” he said.
Following Kim was Cassandra Torres-Siefkis, who has spent the past seven years after graduating from the University of Northern Colorado teaching at various schools. She led off by saying she was for the new marijuana tax. Using the money to uplift the town and making improvements the city by cleaning it up.
“I’ve been looking into coming up with a partnership with Habitat for Humanity and seeing what it would take to bring that non-profit here,” Torres-Siefkis said.
Through her campaigning she said she met many people who are on a fixed income and can’t make improvements on their homes. So bringing in Habitat for Humanity and seeing what they could do for them would be a top priority for her.
Kimberlie King grew up in a family business and started doing accounts payable and receivable at 12. Since then she has had many different jobs including one for the department of human services that have opened her eyes and gave her a different perspective of the community.
As for the marijuana tax, King said that she is in favor of it because she said the city could take advantage of the potential revenue it could garner.
“I also feel that us being the closest dispensary for Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma. I think we’re going to bring in some revenue that's going to be really good for us,” King said.
As for the revenue she discussed polling the community to see what they would like to do with the money.
Rose Pritchard was raised for the most part in Las Animas and has had four generations of her family live in the town. After retiring about four years ago she began regularly going to city council meetings.
“My biggest reason for even getting involved in this was the fact that I don’t believe the majority of people's voices in this town are being heard,” Pritchard said.
Affordable and decent housing for citizens is a big priority of Pritchards and one step in accomplishing this she said would be by getting rid of the unfair slumlords in the area. Another goal of hers was listening to the concerns of the people.
Election day this year will be on Tuesday Nov. 5.