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RECAP: Cedar Falls mayoral candidates debate key issues ahead of November election

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KWWL) - The Rotary Club of Cedar Falls hosted the three mayoral candidates for a debate at the Cedar Falls Woman's Club Tuesday. Each candidate expressing their own ideas and reaching out to the public to try and earn their vote for the upcoming election.

"We can retrench into divisiveness or we can reach out a hand and help each other up and I want to be a part of reaching out and helping us up," Mayoral Candidate Tom Blanford said.

"This is the greatest community I've ever been to. I'm glad to have lived here my entire life. I only want to make it better and better and better," Mayoral Candidate Dave Sires said.

"I'm asking residents for a second term so I can apply what I've learned and to truly make the mayor's office my own and to leave it in a great position for whoever takes the role after me," Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green said.

The debate started off with questions regarding current Mayor Rob Green's attempt to limit opponent Tom Blanford's use of the city parks, where Blanford would hold discussions with the public. Green said he didn't favor nor oppose the city policy which would allow for those restrictions to be made. Meanwhile, candidate Dave Sires expressed that our first amendment is one of the most important rights we have as Americans.

Mayor Green says decisions regarding the parks could be made by the city and any issues should be resolved by the city council. At Monday night's meeting, the council did address the issue by putting together a plan to require permits for events such as Blanford's "Talk With Tom" events and also limit the parks' use for the permits between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The major topic of the debate was the Public Safety Officer Program and whether or not it should be eliminated.

"Firefighters and police officers are two different kinds of people," current At-Large Councilman and Mayoral Candidate Dave Sires said, "You have to concentrate on one or the other."

Sires suggesting eliminating the program of Public Safety Officers, who are cross-trained as both police and firefighters.

"What we need to do is divide both sides back up, have separate ones, get ride of the PSO head, and have a police chief and a fire chief," Sires said.

Mayor Rob Green agrees with separate leadership but wants a slightly different approach.

"I don't think it's fair to require them to have both roles in order to apply for the job," Green said.

If re-elected, Green would implement a plan called Public Safety 22 Plan which would require officers to come in as either a firefighter or a police officer, and then have the ability to cross-train if they want to.

"And obtain additional supplemental pay for that. And every two years they would requalify for whichever role was not their primary role," Mayor Green said.

Green says the separation of police and fire supervisors would end up saving the city money, where his opponent and former Councilman Tom Blanford says it would do the opposite. Blanford says separating the officers would call for a need for more personnel in each department, which would require more salaries. On the other hand, Dave Sires feels the separation into two departments would take several years, but will ultimately be beneficial for the city.

Blanford came with a different perspective from his two opponents. Blanford supports the PSO's and wants to see the collaboration of fire and police officers stay the same.

"This program works. It's effective. It keeps us safe and frankly to question the commitment or the effectiveness of these staff members as if they're not somehow qualified to do the job is a little bit hard for me," Mayoral Candidate Tom Blanford said.

Blanford expressing his ideas reflecting on where the department is currently at, and how it can improve by keeping the PSO Program in place.

"When you talk about recruiting and you look at our department now, our department is better equipped and is more diverse than we've ever had in our community and it's also larger than we've ever had in this community," Blanford said.

Another topic talked about at the debate was the reviving of the Human Rights Commission and what the function of the commission should be after several members resigned.

Dave Sires expressed the commission should be made up of an independent group of people and not include anyone involved with the city council as it did in the past. Blanford shared similar thoughts in saying it should comprise of committed individuals with a full-time liaison to focus on the efforts put forth by the group members in order to implement change. Mayor Green said the commission would benefit from continuing to partner with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in providing advocacy for those who bring issues to the attention of the HRC.

The $4.5 milion dollar project to remodel city hall also came up for discussion where Dave Sires was the only candidate to oppose the plans to upgrade spaces in the building.

The city zoning issues and parking also came up for discussion, along with whether or not trees should be replanted in Cedar Falls due to the loss from recent storms.

You can watch the entire debate on The Rotary Club of Cedar Falls' Facebook Page:

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