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Mike Caldwell, Ogden Mayor, pictured here speaking at Joe McQueen's 100th birthday celebration, debated three mayoral candidates at WSU on July 18. Candidates discussed topics such as economic development, race relations and public awareness. (Joshua Wineholt / The Signpost)

Four candidates are in the race for Ogden Mayor in 2019: incumbent Mayor Mike Caldwell, Ogden City Planning Commissioner Angel Castillo, Ogden businessman Daniel Tabish, and perennial candidate for office in Weber County, John Thompson.

At 7 p.m. on July 18, Ogden citizens joined in Lindquist Hall to watch Ogden’s the four candidates debate.

The Haven J. Barlow Lecture hall was nearly full of people listening as Bob Hunter, director of Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Services, asked the candidates about their thoughts on various issues affecting the city.

Caldwell would enter third term as mayor if elected. He has focused on making Ogden a community people want to come visit as well as working on economic development and plans to continue this pursuit.

Castillo, formerly from Los Angeles, would like to make a safer community by recruiting more officers and using bias training to help Ogden’s law enforcement. She has also said she would like to fix the streets and sidewalks, as well as focus on expanding housing needs as the population grows.

Tabish, a life-long Weber County resident, plans to bring more businesses into Ogden and economic prosperity. He said he wants to lower the crime rate and taxes. He would work to increase Ogden’s economic profitability.

Thompson, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer, has said he would spend taxes how the public wants while making Ogden somewhere people want to be.

After the candidates introduced themselves, Hunter asked the candidates how they would engage the community in an “authentically transparent way.”

Castillo answered first. She proposed regularly reaching out and interacting with the community by way of frequent town hall meetings, which would be more casual than council meetings.

Tabish said he would have an “open-door policy” for the office, as well as have the police out in the communities to connect with the citizens.

Caldwell responded to Tabish, saying he already has an effective open-door policy in place since he’s been mayor, which would continue if he is re-elected. He said his focus is crime reduction through actively policing and reaching out to the community.

Thompson said he had problems with how decisions are made and communicated to the public.

“I think there are many, many things that are being discussed that we don’t know about,” Thompson said. “You don’t really find out about that stuff until you go to the council meeting that the decision is being made at.”

To raise awareness of what’s happening in the city, he would start sending out regular bulletins to inform the community.

Next, Hunter asked the candidates about their understanding of race relations in the community and how they would address them if elected.

Both Tabish and Thompson responded that they were not aware of major race relation problems in Ogden. However, they said that if problems do arise, they would need to be addressed immediately.

Castillo disagreed, saying she has connected with affected groups who want connection.

“At those meetings, I have heard fear,” she said.

She added that there is a lack of foot patrols in the areas that need them the most.

Caldwell also reported seeing these issues, though he has been proactive in working to promote diversity by including an Officer of Diversity in his office and helping to create the Diversity Commission.

The candidates then were asked how they could support a “sustainable safety net” for the most vulnerable in the community.

While the candidates seemed to be in agreement that volunteer organizations play a large part in helping the most vulnerable groups, Castillo argued they need help.

“Supporting the most vulnerable is something we are failing miserably at,” she said. “We, as a city, are not interacting with our non-profits that are doing the good, heavy work that they are.”

She suggested applying for grants to help the community and taking advantage of the free state and federal resources.

Caldwell rebutted Castillo’s comments, saying that the city has already received money from grants and does more to take care of the community than many other cities along the Wasatch Front.

Hunter then asked the candidates what percent of the city’s budget they would use for economic development. Although none of the candidates were willing to specify a fixed percentage, they did have more to say.

Thompson said he would like to see more Ogden citizens employed rather than commuters.

Caldwell would rather focus on the return on investment rather than a fixed percentage.

“There are a ton of problems and ounces of resources,” Caldwell said, explaining that it is hard to know how much to allocate to economic development.

He said he appreciates that Ogden has kept its history with the development of places like Historic 25th Street and wants to continue that effort because it has helped develop Ogden’s economy.

Castillo said that Ogden shouldn’t be treated as a development. Rather, she suggested looking to working with Ogden’s local businesses instead of big businesses from outside the city.

Tabish took an opposite stance to Castillo, saying that he would bring new businesses to Ogden to improve the tax base.

Although no formal Q&A was held, attendees were able to meet with the candidates after the debate.

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