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Two newcomers running for Blackfoot City Council Zone 4 seat

Debbie Barlow (left) and Cara Fitzgerald are running to fill the Blackfoot City Council Seat 4. | Courtesy photos
BLACKFOOT — Two eastern Idaho natives will compete for the Blackfoot City Council Seat 4 in the upcoming election.
City elections will be held Nov. 7.
Seat 4 is currently held by Councilwoman Jan Simpson, who is not seeking re-election. Candidates Debbie Barlow and Cara Fitzgerald were each provided the same set of eight questions, with the only restriction being that each answer could not exceed a 250-word limit.
Here are their unedited answers:
Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
Barlow: I was born in and lived my early years in Pocatello and Chubbuck Idaho. I spent much of my life in Utah, and am happy to be living back home in Idaho again. My husband, Dave, and I have been married for 28 years and have 5 wonderful children and one amazing daughter-in-law. I graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Utah in physics and mathematics and am currently a science and mathematics teacher at Idaho Science and Technology Charter School. I have been honored to serve the City of Blackfoot on the Planning and Zoning Commission for the past 7 years and I am currently the chair. I have served in several positions for the Boy Scouts of America, including Council Exploring Chair for the Trapper Trails Council and numerous district and unit positions. While living in Utah, I served as Vice-President of the Davis County Republican Women and served on the Clinton City Planning Commission.
Fitzgerald: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to introduce myself. I am a lifelong resident of Blackfoot. This is where I’ve raised my kids, built my home and started my business and career. I love this town! 
I started my business, Comfort Home Care, to enable seniors to live independently in their home. Over the years Comfort Home Care has expanded to Pocatello and Idaho Falls. I love what I do and have the best team of employees and clients. 
I work closely with Area Agency on Aging to advocate for vulnerable and low-income seniors in our community. I serve on the Bingham County Board of Guardians to provide guardianship and guidance to at-risk adults in Bingham County. 
My husband Gus is my rock. Without his help, patience and support I wouldn’t be able to be as involved as I am. I have three children. Andy is 21 and a senior at Boise State University. Emma is 20 and works for Comfort Home Care. Emma is pursuing a career in nursing at Idaho State University. Gracie is 15 and a student at Blackfoot High School. Zach is my soon-to-be son in law who is studying business at Idaho State University. Emma and Zach will be married next week.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Barlow: My proudest accomplishment is my family. All through high school and college, I had aspirations of being an astrophysicist, but when my son was born, I knew that he deserved to be my highest priority. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I chose to raise him full-time instead of pursuing my graduate studies. He was eventually joined by four younger siblings who have grown into kind, compassionate, unique humans who are each enriching the world in their own way. Several of my sons have followed my path into the sciences, and my daughter is pursuing medicine, inspired by the medical needs of her younger brother. Our son, David, has some special needs and the other kids all assist with the extra help he sometimes needs. It has been said that sacrifice is giving up something good for something better. I gave up the stars for my children, and they are absolutely worth the sacrifice I made.
Fitzgerald: My children are my proudest accomplishment but coming in second would have to be the nonprofit organization that I have built. “Senior Advocates of Southeast Idaho’ was built because of the success the “senior giving tree” my business does every year. We match donations made to benefit low-income seniors in the Bingham County area. To date we have raised over $20,000 which has paid for wheelchairs, rent, utilities, car repairs, medications, food, clothing, hygiene products etc. I have plans to expand Senior Advocates of Southeast Idaho soon and I am so excited to see it grow!
Blackfoot City Council members receive compensation of $6000.00 a year. If elected, the entire amount will go into the nonprofit.
Why are you seeking political office within your community? Briefly explain your political platform.
Barlow: During my time on the Planning and Zoning Commission, countless people have come to us asking us to improve the streets, water, and sewer systems. I see those problems too! I have also learned that it’s worse than we can see on the surface. There are cracks in our water lines that can potentially contaminate our system, and some of the sewer pipes in the city are degraded so much that essentially only the memory of the pipe in the ground is carrying the sewage.
These issues are beyond the scope of the planning commission, and I am ready to be part of the solution to these bigger issues facing the city.
I also see the importance of equal public safety for everyone in our community and support the building of a second fire station on the east side of town.
Fitzgerald: I am running for city council because I’ve lived here all my life. As a homeowner and parent, I want to keep this town a great place to raise a family. I have the experience in business and community service necessary to be an effective city council member. I will work hard and make sure your voice is heard.
Growing up in Blackfoot I have witnessed a lot of growth and change over the years. Growth is good but it must be tempered with an eye on buildings that are complementary to the surrounding neighborhoods. We want to attract newcomers to a city that is not only dynamic, attractive but most importantly safe.  As your city councilor I will make it my highest priority to thoroughly vet new entities looking to build homes or businesses in the area.
What are the greatest challenges facing people in your community? What is your plan to meet those challenges?
Barlow: Two of the greatest challenges go hand in hand. Affordable housing is so difficult to find in Blackfoot and along with that, we have a fairly high homeless population. There aren’t a lot of people sleeping in the streets, but there are a lot of people who are sharing homes, living in campers, or “couch surfing” because they can’t find adequate housing. Unfortunately, plans to create affordable housing often meet with opposition from neighbors.
I, and a group of citizens from throughout Blackfoot, have already been working to update our city’s Comprehensive Plan to ensure that we have enough affordable housing, but that it is also developed in the best locations and the best manner possible. By having a plan, we can be proactive with infrastructure improvements and ensure that we are well-prepared for development.
Fitzgerald: Inflation and rising housing costs are two of Blackfoot’s biggest challenges. We are not a wealthy town. Our average wage can’t compete with the exorbitant rent and housing prices that we currently have. We are a hardworking, family-oriented town that is struggling. I see the struggles daily. I am not sure what the answer is, but if elected I will do my due diligence to seek answers to help this community. 
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views? How will you communicate directly with constituents?
Barlow: Anyone who has been to a public hearing that I have chaired knows how I feel about public comment. During public hearings, I ask for public comment several times, regardless of whether or not they have signed the paper to speak and I only close the public hearing when it is clear everyone has had a chance to address the Commission. I always take copious notes during these hearings so I don’t forget what is said, and I read every letter that is written to the Planning Commission on various issues. Public comment is so important. On the city council, I won’t have the opportunity to hear many of the public hearings in person like I can now, but I can guarantee that I will read and consider every opinion that is recorded. I will also be available through email and I plan to keep my facebook page open as well. Ours is a representative government and the people deserve to have their voices heard.
Fitzgerald: I will take all constituents’ concerns seriously, be open minded and willing to compromise. 
What areas in your community need immediate improvement? What actions will you take to address those needs?
Barlow: The basic infrastructure of the city is hurting. Streets, sewer, and water all need both improvement now, and increased maintenance in the future. Sewer and water are independent funds that have to balance out each year. It is important to ensure that enough money goes into these funds to cover the costs of maintenance and improvement. For the streets, they are part of the general budget and it is vital that a plan is in place to fund the maintenance of the streets so they aren’t allowed to degrade.
Fitzgerald: Our aging infrastructure is dire. Our roads, sewer system, crumbling sidewalks and significant water issues are in desperate need of repair. The cost to tackle these issues is not within the current budget. I am an open-minded pragmatic thinker. I will listen to any ideas brought to the table that will benefit Blackfoot.
What parts of the city budget could use more funding? Where are places in the budget that cuts could be made?
Barlow: Vital infrastructure like streets, water, and sewer absolutely need to be better funded and better maintained. Of those three, only streets are funded by property taxes in the general budget. Water and sewer are each their own independent funds. Regarding cuts, it’s hard to predict specific areas that can be cut without a thorough discussion on each item, but I can guarantee that going forward I will always prioritize public safety and city infrastructure when making budgeting decisions.
Fitzgerald: From what I’ve seen, all areas of the budget need more funding. There isn’t a part of the budget that can be cut without decreasing services. I don’t think any of us want to go without the police, fire, parks, water and sewer services. I have the utmost respect for all of Blackfoot’s employees. 
What is the role of local media in your community? How can city officials work to have a better relationship with the media?
Barlow: The media are so important to local governments, and it is unfortunate that newspaper subscriptions are becoming a thing of the past. Through the media, the public are informed of important decisions and public hearings for both land use issues and budget decisions. In the event that something goes wrong in the city government, the media are also there to alert the citizens in the community that something is wrong. As we move forward and print media becomes less prevalent in our community, it is important for city officials to work closely with media outlets in all forms to ensure that the public is informed as well as they were in the past. We’re crossing into a new era where it’s almost easier to see what is happening nationally than what is happening locally. Despite this, it’s just as important as ever, if not moreso, to know what is happening in our own town.
Fitzgerald: Blackfoot no longer has a newspaper. We seem to heavily rely on social media and local online news sources like East Idaho News. City officials should make it a priority to be prompt in responding to requests by our local media. A positive relationship with the media will help the citizens of Blackfoot stay informed and up to date on issues and activities in our community.
Again, thank you for giving me this opportunity. I am not a politician.  But I love my town. I want to be able to serve my community and see it flourish. 
The post Two newcomers running for Blackfoot City Council Zone 4 seat appeared first on East Idaho News.

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