By: Zachary Lopez (ZachNews):
Needles, California: In the upcoming election in November 2020, voters locally will be making their decision on who will be representing the people as mayor and city council members for the City of Needles.
ZachNews sent out questions to the candidates on what the community would like the candidates to answer before they make their voting decision on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020.
The following is questions and answers from Needles City Council Candidate Kirsten Merritt:
(Responses and Answers by Candidate in “Quotation Marks“)
*** Candidate’s Background: ***
- Your full name?
“Kirsten C Merritt”
- Where are you from?
- Your occupation?
“Teacher with VIPKid”
- Background about yourself:
“I have lived in Needles for 14 years. In 2005, I graduated from Augustana College with a bachelor’s degree in French and a minor in Political Science/Pre-Law. Throughout college, I participated in many clubs and activities that cultivated my interests in government service, including Model United Nations. I also formed a French Club in which I helped write a charter and create positions for annual elections. I was a college athlete during all four years of college as a cross country runner in NCAA Division III athletics. I also graduated from Mohave Community College in 2011 with a Post Degree Paralegal Certification.”
“Previously, I worked for over 8 years in the City of Bullhead City Prosecutor’s Office. While employed by the City of Bullhead City, I volunteered at many employee events as a representative of the City Prosecutor’s Office. This included the Employee Events Committee, Employee Safety Committee, “Shop with a Cop”, and Relay for Life.”
“In 2015, I accepted a job with the Desert Communities Federal Credit Union (DCFCU) in Needles as I wanted to work in my hometown. From 2015-2018, I worked as a part-time Member Services Representative for DCFCU.”
“In 2018, I began a full-time position as an Online English as a Second Language Teacher for VIPKid. a company based out of Beijing, China. The VIPKid platform connects students with teachers in the United States. I have also obtained my TESOL certification.”
“I currently serve on the Needles Park and Recreation Committee and the Needles Museum Board. I also volunteer at the Needles Regional Museum.”
- Why are you running for Needles City Council?
“I am running for City Council because I care about the community of Needles and my fellow citizens. I would like to work on the following goals alongside fellow residents and council members: I would like to create opportunities for more commerce in the city, bring more residents to the city through such jobs, help Needles to thrive more as it has previously, and use the Route 66 history and connection to increase tourism. As someone who appreciates learning about history, I really enjoy learning about Needles’ past. I would be grateful for the opportunity to help shape Needles’ future through serving on the council.”
*** The Topics and Questions: ***
- What do you think of the California Governor’s “Stay-At-Home” order on our community?
“Our City is very isolated from other California communities, and we have not had a high number of COVID-19 cases. If another “Stay at Home” order is put into place and our numbers are low, I would advocate for Needles to stay open.”
- How would you reach out to the businesses and citizens of our community affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
“I have been reaching out to different local businesses and individuals regarding their needs, and I will continue to do so. I will be available to the citizens and local businesses to listen and do whatever I can to help and advocate for them.”
- What would you do in the event of another COVID-19 pandemic shut down?
“I would work to advocate for our city and local businesses on a state level. If our city is not affected by a rise in COVID-19, I would advocate to keep our city open.”
– Law Enforcement and Protests:
- What is your response to the protests and calls for defunding law enforcement?
“I do not agree with defunding law enforcement. I view that to have a functioning society, we need law enforcement to protect all citizens.”
- How would you handle a situation in our community regarding law enforcement and mistreatment that addresses any injustice and mistreatment while keeping the peace and respect in the community; especially between citizens and law enforcement?
“I would look at the facts of the situation and support the reality that the facts tell as to whether or not mistreatment occurred during an interaction between law enforcement and citizens. If mistreatment occurred, I would follow the legal procedures already in place.”
– Local Infrastructures, and Water, Wastewater and Electric Rates:
- How would you help get our crumbling infrastructures in our community get fix and replace?
“I recognize the importance and urgency of repairing and replacing our infrastructure, and I know that Needles has been working hard on these efforts. As a citizen, I have noticed many improvements in our community, and I would work hard to make sure that continues.”
- Do you think raising utilities to pay for those infrastructures a good idea, especially at this moment as residents and businesses are going through problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic?
“I have no interest in raising utility rates. However, our city has may expenses with the water main break and our well situation. In order to fix these things, I see that the money must come from somewhere. I would advocate for an increase in utility rates only as a last resort. I would work, as the council has done, to make any increases, if necessary, be as minimal as possible.”
– Community Growth:
- How would you help attract new retails and businesses to invest, build and create new jobs in our community, such as new grocery store and laundromat?
“I would advocate for new business to come into Needles. I would market our low electric rates and location to help attract new businesses to the city. I think that Needles has a lot to offer, and I would do everything in my power to bring as many new businesses as possible.”
- Should the City of Needles offer incentives for these new retails and businesses to come invest, build and create new jobs in our community?
“I think it is important to support ways to bring new businesses into the city. Fixing the infrastructure is a very important first step as it will help the citizens in the present and will make the city more appealing to new businesses.”
- Should the City of Needles have some kind of a co-op grocery store if no new grocery store is interested in coming to our community?
“I am in support of any grocery store that would come to Needles. I will work hard to advocate for a grocery store or grocery co-op. If a grocery co-op came into town, I would be fully supportive.”
– Marijuana Industries, Businesses and Events?
- What do you think about the marijuana industries and businesses in the community, and their affect on our community (Good or Bad)?
“The marijuana industries have brought much needed revenue into our city, which provides our city with the revenue to improve our infrastructure. I believe that this is a positive thing for our community.”
- Would you support more marijuana industries and businesses to our community, including lounges, cafes and drive-thrus?
“Yes, I am in support of these new businesses coming into our city.”
- Would you support allowing of marijuana related events to our community sound to attract more tourists?
“I am in support of any community events, within the confines of the law, that would attract more tourists. I want to bring as many people into Needles as we can. Tourism is particularly important to the future of our community.”
– Housing and Homelessness:
- What will you do to bring in more needed housing to our community, especially more housing both market-rate and affordable, both houses and apartments?
“I have been learning more about the housing needs in our community, and I will continue to support efforts to bring more housing to the city. Available housing should closely match the demand for it; unnecessary, empty housing will drive down property values and will waste money on new infrastructure.”
- What do you think about tiny houses and shipping container housing as an alternative to affordable housing in our community?
I support this housing if they meet the needs of the citizens and adhere to the code enforcement standards.
- Should the City of Needles offer incentives for these new housing and apartments of various sizes and rates, including affordable, to our community?
“Yes, I think it is important for the City to do all that it can to help support the housing needs of Needles.”
- How can the City of Needles help in addressing homelessness in our community?
“I think the City should do whatever is within its power to address homelessness in Needles. I will do more research on the ways that Needles can help with this issue.”
– Gateway to California, Tourism and History:
- How would you help to bring in more tourism into our community?
“I believe that fixing the infrastructure will lead to more people moving to Needles and starting more businesses. That will in turn boost tourism. I feel that marketing our city and advertising our history, Route 66, the river, and El Garces is important to boost tourism. I would love for El Garces to be open for locals and visitors alike.”
- What would you help local attractions, hotels and businesses in our community that relay on tourists, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic?
“I have been reaching out to different local businesses regarding their needs, and I will continue to do so. I will be available to citizens and local businesses to listen and do whatever I can to help advocate for them.”
- How would you work to preserve the community’s history for future generations can visit, learn and bring them back to visit or live in our community?
“I think preservation of Needles’ history is very important, which is why I volunteer at the Needles Regional Museum. The Museum does a great job cataloging various aspects of Needles history, making it available for future generations.”
– Open Local Government, Public Relations and Community Involvement:
- What would you do to make local government more open, honest and transparent to the people of our community?
“I would be available to the public. I want the public to feel comfortable to come and speak with me about the issues as I would be a representative of my fellow citizens. I have already gone around to businesses, organizations and individual citizens and asked for their opinions on different issues. I have had questions posed to me, and I have gotten answers for people. I will continue to do that if I am elected to office.”
- What would you do to help get more people from our community more involved in their local government, especially participating in city council meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic?
“I will be active on social media and will encourage people to virtually attend city council meetings and local government events.”
- How would you to help better communications between citizens, media and local government so that important information is getting out to the people in our community?
“I will be available to local media, citizens, and businesses to ensure that people stay informed. I will ask questions and become informed of all the issues in our city; therefore, I will be able to share that information with the community. I will hold meetings and be active on social media. I want to represent the people and their ideas. I have already started meeting with local officials and business owners to discuss local issues that they are facing and what they would like to see the City Council do in the future.”
*** Candidate’s Closing Comments and Contacts: ***
“Thank you to Zach News for reaching out with this list of questions and for all his hard work. I would encourage people to check out my facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/kirstenforneedlescitycouncil You can also contact me personally at: firstname.lastname@example.org I have a great passion and interest for seeing Needles to continue to grow and develop, and I would be delighted to be a part of the council and its work. I would be honored to further my involvement and to assist both local officials and fellow Needles residents to improve our city, my chosen hometown.”
Thank you Kirsten Merritt for answering our questions from the community.
Good luck to all of the candidates and do not forget to vote in the City of Needles Election 2020.