City Council Candidates Debate Local Issues

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, candidates for Clovis City Council convened at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District’s Liberty Ballroom to debate important issues concerning the citizens of Clovis.

The Clovis Municipal elections will take place March 2. There are two City Council seats open and a total of five candidates competing for an opportunity to represent the City of Clovis.

The two incumbents running for re-election are longtime councilmembers Lynne Ashbeck and first term councilmember Vong Mouanoutoua.

The three new candidates are Diane Pearce, local business owner; Noah Elbaz, former school administrator; and Herman Nagra, local business owner.

The debate was a collaboration between the Clovis Veterans Memorial District, Clovis Chamber of Commerce, KXEX Talk Radio 1550AM and the Clovis Roundup.

Greg Newman, CEO for the Clovis Chamber of Commerce and Rich Rodriguez, journalist for KMPH News moderated the debate.

All candidates were in attendance for the debate.

Lorenzo Rios, CEO of CVMD, opened by providing guidelines for the forum. The candidates gave opening statements, answered questions regarding the topics at hand, and gave closing remarks. There were seven questions in total and each candidate was given a minute to answer.

If a candidate points out another candidate while answering a question, the candidate who is named, we’ll be given a 30 second rebuttal. The debate had no audience in attendance and all candidates were socially distant in accordance to COVID-19 restrictions.

The debate was streamed via Facebook Live and on several other media platforms.

Councilmember Ashbeck was the first candidate to give her opening statement. She stated she doesn’t play partisan politics and that her record reflects the type of councilmember she is. Ashbeck finished her statement by saying that a healthy community is required for a healthy economy.

Next, Nagra began by stating he was the only business owner in the race and that gives him a different outlook on what Clovis needs. Nagra said he is always on-call for his business and if elected, he will also always be on-call for the City of Clovis.

Elbaz stated her background in education has allowed her to help local students. She also stated she is running for City Council because she wants to bring responsible leadership, responsible growth, and responsible support for local businesses.

Pearce stated the ‘Clovis Way of Life’ was not just a catch phrase. She wants to keep local control rather than give it away. Pearce finished her statement by saying she will have a “laser” like focus on funding our first responders.

Last candidate, Councilmember Mouanoutoua opened by thanking the veterans, first responders, and healthcare workers on the frontlines. He finished by sending a message of unity to the Indian farmers by saying that “we stand with you and we hear you.”

After everyone gave their opening statement, the moderators began asking questions. Questions for the candidates ranged from local issues, budget priorities, small business, affordable housing, recreational marijuana and the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the topic of the city budget, Nagra disagreed that the budget was adequate. He stated that the funding for police has been decreased by a million dollars.

Both Ashbeck and Mouanoutoua had similar responses to the budget decrease. They both stated the council voted to decrease funding because the city and police department felt it was an adequate decision.

On the topic of homelessness in the city, all candidates agreed this is a problem. However, each had a different stance on how to address this problem.

Mouanoutoua believed that the city needed more funds from the state in order to better address the problem. However, Ashbeck believes that the creation of a “Homeless Response Team” would be helpful in aiding the police department in those efforts.

On the topic of local businesses and COVID-19, Pearce believes the state should get out of the way of business owners and allow them to operate without interference as this was crucial for them to survive.

Addressing the same question, Elbaz believes putting more of an effort in a public relations campaign is crucial to helping businesses get back on their feet.

One question stood out among the rest. This addressed the legalization of recreational marijuana use and sales in the City of Clovis.

Every candidate with the exception of one agreed with the city’s decision to not allow the sales and use of recreational marijuana in Clovis. That candidate was Elbaz.

Elbaz stated she is all for it, only if the city and the police department can ensure responsible use and distribution of recreational marijuana, as this could allow for more tax revenue for Clovis.

In their closing statements, every candidate gave their reasons for why the citizens of Clovis should vote for them in the upcoming election.

Councilmember Mouanoutoua stated he was an immigrant and that he fell in love with this country and with the City of Clovis. Mouanoutoua thanked the community for giving him the honor of representing them and he asked for their vote once again.

Pearce stated she was grateful for the opportunity to represent the community and that she enjoyed going door-to-door campaigning. She closed by saying she offered leadership that will maintain the ‘Clovis Way of Life” and will keep control local.

Elbaz stated she was running for City Council to make Clovis stronger with a fresh perspective. She closed by stating that she will focus on responsible leadership, responsible growth and responsible support for local businesses.

Nagra stated he was happy the debate did not have any media biases or a media motivated narrative. He concluded by stating that if he was elected, he would donate his first year’s salary as a councilmember to local charities. He also encouraged the rest of the candidates to do the same if elected.

In the last closing statement, Ashbeck stated that local government is not partisan politics. If it is approached as politics, the councilmember would no longer be helping their community. Ashbeck finished her statement by mentioning she was the most experienced and most trusted candidate. She is the leader that will ensure that progress will continue in Clovis.

After the debate, each candidate gave their perspective on how the debate went.

Councilmember Mouanoutoua said the debate was well ran and hopefully people felt the debate provided an opportunity to hear each candidate.

“City government isn’t a sound bite and city government shouldn’t be just a headline. It should really be tough…listen to the residents, listen to the issues and the laws and then make a decision,” Mouanoutoua said.

Nagra said he felt well about the debate and that he was happy to have a transparent narrative to share with the voters.

“We need a non-bias media that’s in the middle and let candidates present their issues and their side and that’s what I feel today was,” Nagra said.

Elbaz said that the debate was good, that everyone was very respectful and it is good to know where all the other candidates stood. 

“I think we are all really here for the same reason…we want the best for our city, we just think that each of us individually is the best one to get it done,” Elbaz said.  

Pearce said she thought it was a great debate and that it was a respectful civil conversation that covered a lot of topics which were important to the voters. 

“I hope they (voters) were able to educate themselves and figure out who most closely aligns with what they want to see for Clovis,” Pearce said. 

Ashbeck said it was good to be able to interact with the other candidates in person. She felt the debate was a respectful conversation and there were issues they agreed on and issues they didn’t and that was the point of the debate. 

“I thought it (the debate) was a great service to the city and kudos to the sponsors for putting it together,” Ashbeck said. “It is really hard to take a complex issue and get it down to sixty seconds…it’s hard to condense (answer) but is really good practice.”

To watch the full debate, visit https://fb.watch/3Be3t4SKzQ/.

Jorge Rodriguez
Jorge Rodriguez has a passion for journalism and wants to bring the community information and great stories. After high school Jorge joined the U.S. Army and while in active duty he was deployed twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While in college he worked for the Fresno City College Rampage and the Fresno State Collegian newspapers. He graduated from Fresno State in 2019 with a degree in print journalism.