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Somerton mayoral candidates clash over comments about city programs
SOMERTON — The mayor and the candidate who hopes to unseat him are clashing over recent comments that question the value and effectiveness of the city's recycling and animal control programs.
At a city council session this week, Mayor Martin Porchas publicly took Arturo Magana, Somerton's vice mayor, to task for the comments he made in stories that appeared in Bajo El Sol and the Yuma Sun.
Porchas said Magana's comments serve to give the city a negative image, but Magana said he was merely fulfilling his responsibility as an elected official to raise questions about the city's use of public funds.
Porchas, seeking his second term as mayor, is opposed by Magana in the city's March 12 primary election.
In recent stories in Bajo El Sol and Yuma Sun that profiled the two candidates, Magana cited the recycling and animal control programs as causes for dissatisfaction with city government.
In late 2010 Somerton became the first community in Yuma County to launch a curbside recycling program, which has since been hailed by some city officials as reducing the trash collection costs. Magana, however, suggested the program was started with little public support.
“I didn't see any indication that it was something the community was asking for,” he said in the newspaper articles. “It was presented as a pilot program, and the next month it was being proposed as something definite. There was no analysis done to prove that it would lead to a savings.”
During the council session, Porchas accused Magana of “giving the city a negative image” by raising issues with programs previously approved by a majority of council members – programs that, the mayor insisted, are benefiting Somerton. As city department heads listened, Porchas accused Magana of making inaccurate statements.
“We were given a lot of information about those projects” prior to them being approved. “What was said (by Magana) puts a black mark on the city, and the public could tend to lose trust” in City Hall.
Magana said he did nothing wrong.
“There is nothing wrong with raising questions, nor having complete information before making the most intelligent decisions. Our responsibility is to raise questions. That's why we were elected.”
Magana, in the newspaper interviews, had also criticized the city's animal control program. The city decided in 2011 to take over that task after the Humane Society of Yuma sought an increase in the annual payment it had been receiving from Somerton for providing the service.
Magana said in the interviews that the city's animal control expenditures have since more than doubled, “and yet I continue seeing dogs in the street.”
Magana had been among the council members who had voted in favor of both programs, but he said this week that “I did it on the condition of getting more information about that and that additional (financial) numbers would be presented (to the council) to prove that they were good for the city.
But now, “for me the numbers don't justify them.”
Porchas responded that city staff did, in fact, provide the council all the financial information it needed to decide whether to approve the programs.
“He is telling lies when he said the programs didn't serve,” Porchas said.