We sent questionnaires to the candidates for Truth or Consequences City Commission, Positions #1 and #3. The responses below are from Joshua Frankel, the current incumbent in Position #3, being challenged by Paul Baca, Gary Woodcock, and John Coveney.
SCBN: What is your vision for the city of Truth or Consequences?
Frankel: I would like to see more tourists downtown shopping than anyone can remember. I want to see empty stores filled with thriving businesses. I want to see existing businesses doing better than imagined. I want to see more jobs being created and filled by locals in need of jobs. I want to see jobs being created to encourage new people to move to town and fill our rental properties and buy our For Sale buildings. This is a mighty undertaking that will take ongoing commitment at the highest level. I have two years active experience and am prepared to continue serving our community for the next four years.
I am listening, Let’s make it Happen.
What about your background and professional experience makes you a good candidate to help implement that vision?
Having already served two years as a City Commissioner, I feel I am well-trained, experienced, and feel I am a valuable asset to the city. I’ve worked in the hospitality industry for the past 30 years, including 18 years here as General Manager of the Sierra Grande Lodge under Ted Turner and the former Best Western Hot Springs Inn. I have personally met thousands and thousands of visitors to our city. I know what brings them here, what keeps them here, and what new things they would like to see. I know how to provide a five-star experience both on a budget and with deep pockets. I believe that this experience in hospitality will carry over to help our town reach its full potential of being a tourist destination and recognizing tourism as our number one economy.
What role should the Downtown Master Plan (adopted in 2014) play in City Commission going forward?
The Downtown Master Plan is our best working tool for short and long range major development of our downtown. It should have an implementation schedule and a budget for realization that perhaps is tied to Convention and or Lodgers Tax. It should inform all downtown planning and zoning. I was on the MainStreet Board as this work was started and completed. It remains the most comprehensive plan conducted on behalf of downtown that still is valid. I believe the mission statement of MainStreet organization spells out the importance of this document “To preserve and enhance downtown T or C through education, historic preservation, economic development, improvement of physical conditions, and promotion of community pride.”
People live together in communities in part because of the mutual benefits of social cooperation. What is your track record in helping your community thrive?
I have been actively involved in business and civic leadership in Truth or Consequences for almost 20 years. I am currently a City Commissioner and Realtor with Sea Properties, LTD, and also a member of Rotary. I have also served In T or C as Chairman, Lodger’s Tax Advisory Board; President, Chamber of Commerce; Secretary, Chamber of Commerce; President/Vice President (alternating), Fiesta; Board member, Sierra County Economic Development Organization; Sierra County Recreation and Tourism Advisory Board; Founder, Sierra County Rock and Gem Society; President, Sierra County Rock and Gem Society. I was General Manager of The Sierra Grande Lodge and Best Western for over 18 years. My fondest memories are of the Fiesta I served as President. To see the entire community celebrate for a month of events from Miss Fiesta to the fishing derby on Sunday of Fiesta. I saw the community come alive and thrive.
What is the single most important reason you’ve decided to run?
I love and understand our community. I want to see us grow in a healthy, creative, and smart way and stay affordable for myself and everyone else. I believe in civic duty and have the energy to continue to serve as your city commissioner.
I am listening, Let’s make it Happen.
If elected, what will your top three priorities be for improving the lives of the citizens of T or C?
The goals I’ve shared in the past I still believe are relevant today.
- Increasing tourism
- Attracting jobs through smart growth
- Preventive maintenance of our infrastructure
I believe these are the top three priorities. I champion these causes every day, with every interaction with our people and every item that comes before commission.
If elected, what actions will you take to improve the business climate of T or C?
I believe in incentives to improve the business climate. Let’s provide lots of customer service training available free to anyone in the service industry and encourage owners to send employees. This training should include how to educate visitors and encourage them to spend an extra day or two taking in a hot spring or hiking the Healing Waters Trail. These are just a few of our beautiful assets that should be being marketed by every waiter, waitress, desk clerk, and gas attendant. Finding creative ways to encourage employees to participate in selling our town in exchange for something of value, like a great prize, even a car, for best customer service of the year. Let’s encourage new business with utility rates that don’t put them out of business the first month. Let’s reward existing businesses the same way we would reward a new business. Incentives and creative smart spending of our lodger’s tax, including promoting our opportunities outside of T or C, even outside of New Mexico. We attract lots of snowbirds that end up residents and business owners. More!
Would you support the general idea of a historic preservation measure to prohibit national corporate brands (like Dairy Queen or Payless Shoe Source) from opening franchises in historic downtown? Why or why not?
I would prefer to consider each business with proper zoning and code enforcement in place so additional prohibitive measures would not needed. Not every corporate brand needs be looked upon as an evil looming giant. There may be a very good corporate business that could enhance our downtown. Dairy Queen was once located across the street from Bullocks at the former Big A Burger. Everyone I talk to has great memories of those days. We once had a Radio Shack downtown that was always doing business. I would not like to make a generalization that could possibly shut any doors to economic growth for our city. Lots of communities just require corporate brands to adhere to local tastes for aesthetics, signage, etc. Why not us? A mix of big and small can give a feeling of being an alive town with choices. Look at how Bullocks and Walmart interplay here.
Would you support the general idea of a public safety and economic revitalization measure to require registration, insurance, and regular city inspection of vacant buildings in the historic downtown business district? Why or why not?
I would prefer there were no vacant buildings in the downtown. Let’s encourage owners to find renters or build start-up businesses that could be “turned over” to new owners, creating jobs and enhancing the tourist and resident experience. I believe vacant buildings should be brought up to code and be made available to both the fires department and the City of Truth or Consequences for yearly inspections to insure the safety of our entire downtown.
Which taxes and fees should be raised, lowered, or kept the same? Why?
I would like to see our utility rates lowered or at a minimum not go up by 5% every year forever, as they are currently. Often you see a water break on the street, but our deteriorating water lines cost the city a 25% loss of water from the tank to your tap from leaking water into the ground. These make water bills go up and they are fixable. We may need some creative options in the billing of our trash. Some folks don’t fill a poly cart in a month but are charged for weekly service. Perhaps there’s a community center for this. Perhaps it’s promoting free recycle opportunities we have already. Teaching composting. We have relatively low property taxes here, but until we attract more jobs and realize higher wages, they remain a growth incentive.
What role, if any, should the city play to increase tourist spending in our area?
We collect significant funds through lodger’s and convention tax. These funds can only be used to promote our town and must be used within 2 years of being collected. Some of the money is used on brick and mortar, keeping our tourist-related facilities and attractions running. There is well over $100,000 a year being collected and should be redistributed to eligible non-profit groups who are bringing people to town that will spend at least one night, “heads in beds” as we say. Has this pool of money been used to the best of its ability in the past? Some years yes, others no. Let’s bring more events to town and pay for it, these funds are there.
I am listening, Let’s make it Happen.
What else would you like to say to our readers?
I am a very patient person with an open mind. I’m a very good listener and a problem solver. I am familiar with the inner workings of our city’s political system. I understand the needs of our residents. I understand the tourist experience, what’s expected, what keeps them coming back.
It would be my honor to continue serving you as City Commissioner for the next four years.