Candidates Expound on Menifee Community Issues at Forum

Differing viewpoints regarding the priority of road construction projects and methods of economic gr...

Differing viewpoints regarding the priority of road construction projects and methods of economic growth in Menifee were highlights of a candidates forum Wednesday night, sponsored by Menifee 24/7.

Candidates also debated the effectiveness of the current Menifee City Council in working together and with city staff. Eight of the nine candidates for mayor and two council district seats participated, with only District 1 candidate Greg August absent.

About 100 people gathered in the theater at Paloma Valley High School for what was the last scheduled forum featuring all candidates before the Nov. 6 election. Candidates gave opening and closing statements and answered questions, many of which were sent via email from Menifee 24/7 readers.

City officials previously identified the No. 1 priority in alleviating traffic around Interstate 215 to be the Newport Road Interchange. Planning and design of that project is taking place and partial funding has been secured for reconstruction designed to widen and improve the Newport Road bridge, on-ramps and off-ramps.

While some candidates favored the commitment to that project as the first step in a long-range plan to alleviate traffic congestion, others favored putting the Newport project on hold. More important, they say, is the construction of an additional freeway overpass at Holland Road -- a project that lacks a design plan and funding at this point.

"I believe we should proceed with the Newport project first," said Bill Zimmerman, candidate for a city council seat in District 3, the southeast portion of the city. "I don't think we pull the funding on that project and trip up the process of getting it done. And if I see Wal-Mart and other projects going in near Scott Road, I think that gets priority, too."

Mayoral candidate Darcy Kuenzi, responding to a related question about the traffic problems on Newport Road, agreed with Zimmerman, saying there already are short-term improvements in place there. She pointed to plans to eliminate the center median to increase the left-turn pocket from westbound Newport onto Haun Road, as well as a plan to widen Newport Road east of Antelope Road.

But Scott Mann and John F. Smith, the other two mayoral candidates, disagreed.

"Holland Road should be the No. 1 project," Mann said. I was one who argued to get the Holland overpass project in the plans originally.

"We have three east-west arterials in town: Scott, Newport and McCall. If they begin working on Newport without having the Holland overpass first, can you imagine what a traffic mess it will be?"

Smith, a newcomer to city government with a background as a fraud investigator, agreed.

"We need the Holland Road interchange; that's the best solution," he said. "We can hold off on Newport for a while."

Wallace Edgerton, a current city councilman with years of service in Menifee and Long Beach before that, spoke of his experience in city government