Buchanan City Commission candidates voice their opinions at forum

Published 1:42 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2022

BUCHANAN — Buchanan City Commission candidates agreed more than disagreed at a League of Women Voters candidate forum Tuesday. The forum was held at the Buchanan City Hall with about 20 people in attendance and more watching it online. 

City residents will decide a five way race for three four-year city commission seats. Incumbents Sean Denison and Mark Weedon are facing off with three challengers: Anthony Hauser, Monroe Lemay and Dan Vigansky. Incumbent Cameron Downey is not running for re-election. 

Denison and Weedon are both involved in the business world, Houser is the chef and partner at the River St. Joe restaurant, Lemay has been involved with local non-profits and is now the caretaker for her elderly mother and Vigansky is retired after a career in business. Vigansky served on the commission from 2014-18, while Lemay has run twice before. 

The just over hour long forum featured opening and closing statements from the candidates as well as their answers to questions submitted by residents.  

One issue where candidates disagreed was marijuana. The city embraced recreational marijuana businesses a few years ago and now has several retail and other marijuana businesses open in the city which has brought in both people and revenue. 

Lemay said she was not happy with the city’s decision to allow marijuana businesses but acknowledged that it had brought in money and has been pleasantly surprised as to how businesses have been maintained. 

“It goes against my philosophy and I see it as problematic,” she said. “But it’s here and I would like to see more of an educational platform to inform people … We need education and to be upfront and transparent so people know the consequences.” 

Houser sees the marijuana businesses to be good for both medical and economic development reasons. “It’s here and we should build off this and use the money we’ve gotten for economic development,” he said. “The fact is people are coming to town and we need to keep them in town. They are not a rag tag bunch of people.” 

Vigansky noted that he was on the commission when marijuana was approved and was in favor of it then despite the objections of opponents. “To me, it was pretty much all about the money,” he said. “We’ve had a real estate boom and the marijuana money has built the city up.” 

Weedon said he’s been a proponent of marijuana and not only because he worked for a local marijuana business in the past. “These businesses have filled vacant properties and those who wanted something different didn’t bring us any plans,” he said. “I’m working with (State Rep.) Brad Paquette to pass legislation which would allow us to levy local taxes on them.” 

Denison said he’s a proponent of small government and personal freedom and sees allowing marijuana businesses as part of that. He said it was wise to allow marijuana. “People are visiting here and moving here,” he said. “My concern is find other industries so we won’t end up with another Clark (Equipment) situation if the marijuana businesses leave.” 

Other questions covered a variety of topics ranging from candidates’ views on the role of a commissioner and why they want to be on the commission to specific issues such as blight and code enforcement and downtown parking. 

On blight and code enforcement, Houser said he’d like to see the city apply for federal grants to help out homeowners. Weedon said the city has passed a blight ordinance and needs to find out why people aren’t fixing up their properties and help if they can.  

Vigansky said blight and code enforcement have always been an issue and code enforcement officers just need to do their jobs. Denison said that it’s helped to have businesses come in and fix up properties and he wants to see assistance for poorer neighborhoods. Lemay said they city needs to help senior citizens and others and also better train officers. 

All five candidates agreed that the city does not have a parking and traffic problem. “It’s not a parking issue, it’s a matter of no one wants to walk half a block,” Vigansky said. “We have a people issue.” Houser and Weedon suggested making the community more walkable, while Denison and Lemay said better signage could help. 

In closing statements, candidates made the case for why they should be elected or re-elected. 

Weedon said current commissioners communicate well with each other and represent different parts of the community. Vigansky said he doesn’t agree with what’s been going on in city government in terms of how money is being spent and thinks major infrastructure needs are being ignored. 

Lemay said she felt all the candidates have a passion for the city but feels she could bring a woman’s perspective that currently isn’t there. Denison said he’s proud that the current commission has hired good people who know what they’re doing. Houser said he thinks the city is going in the right direction and needs to continue to look to the future. 

People can view the candidate forum on the city of Buchanan’s website and Facebook page.