Candidates for the Fort Smith mayor position went toe to toe in a debate at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith on Thursday.
The university hosted a town hall for the three candidates in the Reynolds Room of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center. Luis Andrade, Wayne Haver and George McGill answered a variety of questions covering four specific topics: Mission, efficiency and responsiveness, economic development, quality of place and current events.
Candidates were asked what could prompt them to exercise their veto power should they be elected. The Fort Smith mayor has veto power on the actions of the city board of directors, although the board can override the veto.
Haver said current Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders, has used his veto power five times during his eight years in the position. In contrast, one Fort Smith mayor who was there for 10 years did not use his veto power. Haver said he would be very careful on veto power. However, there are certain things he would think would be in the best interest of Fort Smith, and he would use this power if he thought that was the case.
"(The veto power is) one of those safeguards that helps us make sure that we're on the right track and that we're doing the right thing for the city, and any time that I think that we're going the wrong direction, or not doing something that is for the betterment of the whole citizenry of Fort Smith, I would certainly use the veto power," Haver said.
In his response, George McGill said he would only use the veto power if a decision was going to have an adverse impact on all Fort Smith residents.
"Your elected officials are the people that you send to represent your wards in this city, and I will count on them to make good decisions, but again, my focus would be on each and every one of you in here to make sure that whatever ... decisions they make are going to be sound, are going to be well thought out, and bottom line, does not have adverse impact on the citizens of Fort Smith," McGill said.
Andrade said from the beginning of his campaign, he has been listening to Fort Smith residents and asking them to tell him what they want him to do as mayor. This would also apply to his use of the veto power.
"I want to establish a direct communication between the mayor and the people," Andrade said. "Might be through Facebook, it might be through Twitter. Somehow, we'll establish the line of communication between me and the people, and I'll bring up every single issue that'll be discussed before the board, and if they vote and tell me, 'Hey, that needs to be vetoed,' I'll study it and take into consideration using the veto power."
The Fort Smith municipal primary election will take place Aug. 14. Early voting will start Tuesday.