For the Winchester Board of Commissioners candidates, the topic for Thursday’s forum was jobs.
During the question-and-answer event, nearly all the five candidates for the four city commissioner spots mentioned the importance of jobs in the Winchester community and what they will mean for Winchester families and the health of the community.
During his opening statement, incumbent commissioner Rich Beach said Winchester was in the “greatest economic throes of trouble since the Great Depression.”
He also noted that during his time on the board, the commissioners didn’t sit on their hands.
“We didn’t sit back,” he said. “We actively recruited businesses to come here.”
Incumbent Shannon Cox shared Beach’s sentiment on jobs and said his “job wasn’t done” until “everyone who needs a job in this town has a job.”
Lone challenger Ralph Harrison touched on the importance of jobs and how they affect families in his opening statement.
“When a family runs short on things, you have to figure it out,” he said. “When a lot of families run short, everyone has to figure it out.”
Incumbent Kitty Strode said she took pride in the efforts of the commission during her first term.
“We are on the forefront of creating jobs,” she said.
During his opening statement, incumbent Kenny Book said he thought of his job as representing all the citizens of Winchester. He mentioned drainage problems around the city as a major issue, along with heavy traffic through some areas.
When asked what would be the biggest issue facing the city in the coming years, Book reiterated his stance about drainage and traffic, citing Lexington Avenue specifically.
The other candidates returned to the importance of jobs.
“Families are the building blocks of this community,” Beach said. “City government should do everything we can to support them. We need to provide security and safety for your children to be able to play on the streets. We need have an active police force. Another way to support families is to help them find employment. You have a sense of worth if you can work.”
Cox stated it simply.
“It’s jobs,” he said. “We need jobs.”
Strode echoed that.
“We have made so much progress,” she said. “Amazon was quite the coup for us. With jobs you will have people who want to come here to work and who want to live here.”
On the issue of expanding the city’s selection of dining options, Harrison said the city needs to revisit it’s sign ordinances as he believed it has cost the city some franchises in the past.
Cox disagreed, saying the sign ordinance has already been altered.
“I don’t think regulations are keeping restaurants out of town,” he said. “There are 60 different places with restaurant licenses in Winchester.”
Strode said she’d been asking the proprietors of Ramsey’s to expand into Winchester for 10 years.
“I think things are moving up and we’ll have more restaurants in the next year or so,” she said.
Book said he served on the sign committee and nothing is stopping restaurants from putting a big sign up.
When asked where the recent half-percent occupational tax increase went, all the candidates supported the raised rate.
“You don’t care about that extra half percent when the ambulance comes to your house,” Beach said, citing the importance of infrastructure of the city and how the tax helps the operation of city functions.
Book noted that the increased rate helps keep the city from having to lay off government employees.