Decision 2019

The six Moscow City Council candidates outlined their top priorities and ways to attract businesses to town, if elected, during the Good Samaritan Society-Moscow’s candidate forum Tuesday in the main lounge of the Moscow Village.

Kelsey Berends, human resources and talent acquisition manager at Emsi; Sandra Kelly, an employee at the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute; Maureen Laflin, a University of Idaho College of Law faculty member; Brandon Mitchell, owner of Moscow, Pullman and four other regional Jiffy Lubes; James Urquidez, owner and operator of Classic Wood Floors and Carpentry; and Anne Zabala, executive director of Backyard Harvest, are the six candidates seeking three open council positions currently held by Zabala, Jim Boland and Kathryn Bonzo.

The election is Nov. 5.

Kelly said her top priority would be that residents are taken care of, which would mean addressing the “tenuous” aquifer situation and taking care of public infrastructure needs.

“One of the great joys I have is being on the (Moscow) Human Rights Commission and that means so much to me because really, everything that I feel we do in Moscow needs to be centered around human rights and making sure our people are taken care of.”

Laflin said she would want to improve safety, accessibility and mobility for pedestrians and drivers. She said she is also concerned about the water supply so the city’s growth needs to be smart and sustainable.

Mitchell said his biggest priority would be to make sure funding is available for projects before investing in them. He said many residents he has spoken with are worried about recent property tax increases.

“My concern is, let’s control the spending so that we can actually spend it on these other things that are more important,” Mitchell said.

Urquidez said one of his main objectives would be to get residents to take daily actions that benefit the city as a whole, such as conserving water and encouraging mobile people and downtown business owners to park away from Main Street to free up parking downtown for those who are mobility-challenged.

“The first form of government is self-government,” he said.

Zabala, who is wrapping up her second year on the council, said finding an alternative water source would “undoubtedly” be her priority. Four water supply alternatives have been identified and the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee is seeking public input on which they prefer.

Berends said her primary goal would be to ensure that every City Council decision is based on the current good and future good of the city. She said examining creative solutions to attainable housing would be another item she would like to address.

As for attracting businesses to town, Laflin said she wants to make sure downtown stays vibrant.

“Our growth has to be smart and sustainable,” she said.

Mitchell said the city needs to be smart about which businesses plant roots in Moscow because he does not want any business to negatively affect the community. He said small businesses are key.

Urquidez said he would prefer loosening regulations that could hinder businesses from coming to Moscow. He said he would support businesses that produce products that can be exported.

Zabala said the city can influence economic growth by partnering with other entities like the Moscow Chamber of Commerce, the Partnership for Economic Prosperity and the Moscow Urban Renewal Agency.

Berends said understanding the city’s identity and what the community wants is huge when it comes to business growth.

“Why is it that a Macy’s doesn’t do so well but a Marshalls does?” she said. “What is it specifically about Moscow that is going to really resonate with specific types of businesses?”

Kelly said collaboration is crucial for smart growth in Moscow. She said she would love to offer incentives and guidance for businesses who are willing to incorporate renewable energy in their buildings.

The Latah AARP will host the next Moscow City Council candidate forum from noon to 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Best Western Plus University Inn in Moscow.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to

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