PENDLETON - Stray dogs and snow removal were of particular interest to senior citizens attending the first of two mayor candidate forums Monday.
About 60 people, mostly senior citizens, crowded into the St. Anthony Hospital auditorium for a morning forum. City Council member John Brenne, project director of Umatilla County Foster Grandparents and Senior Companion Program, moderated.
Monday evening the candidates faced about 100 people at the Vert Club Room in a forum organized by the American Association of University Women.
At the hospital forum, Brenne introduced the animal control topic to the three candidates, Phil Houk, Gary Tague and Jo Ann Thompson.
Tague, who was invited to answer each question first, said there was no "magic answer" to improving animal control.
Thompson said opossums are a problem too, not just dogs and cats. She suggested the city offer free pet licenses for one day to encourage residents to license their pets.
Houk said the city has worked with the Pioneer Humane Society to trap stray cats along the Pendleton River Parkway and the city might increase enforcement by sending an employee door to door to promote pet licensing.
In response to a question from the audience about police enforcing leash laws, Tague said he thought the city had changed its practice so people no longer have to sign a complaint. He apparently was referring to a change that allows police officers to prepare dog complaints and leave them at the police department for the complainants to sign.
Thompson agreed that police need to enforce dog ordinances. "Mailmen know where the bad dogs are," she said.
Houk said police can take action only if they observe a violation or if someone signs a complaint. He agreed that the city could do a better job of enforcing dog laws.
The lack of snow removal in Pendleton last winter also was debated. Tague said the city no longer has snow removal equipment, but even if it did there's nowhere to put the snow.
"If it happens again next winter, we'll all have to suffer with it," he said.
Thompson said she was disgusted by the situation last winter. She suggested the city could retrofit some pickup trucks with snowplows.
"There has to be something in place later on," she said.
Houk said the city does have a snowplow at the airport, but he said city officials didn't react soon enough to last winter's snowfall.
"The city waited too long to apply the sand and waited too long to pick it up," he said.
Monday night at the AAUW forum, the candidates were asked about the major issues facing Pendleton in the next three to five years.
Tague said the most important issue is family-wage jobs. He said the city "needs to put a lot of effort" into extending Barnhart Road to the city's airport industrial property. He also said the urban renewal project that is under way will "keep a vibrant downtown."
Houk said having "shovel-ready, flat industrial property" is critical, and the city needs to work with property owners, the county, the state and federal legislators to obtain agreements and funding for the Barnhart Road project. Houk also said it's important to plan 20 or more years into the future with a community-wide project such as Vision Quest '94, in which he participated. Third, he said the city needs a street overlay program to fix the large number of potholes in Pendleton.
Thompson said the police and fire departments would be her first priority. She said the city needs more officers and firefighters, and it needs more female police officers. Second, she said, the city needs more family-wage businesses and third, it needs more industry. However, she thought it prudent for the city to help the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation develop its proposed Coyote Industrial Park near Exit 216 on Interstate 84, then seek the Tribes' help in developing the airport property.