This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

About 30 people turned out Thursday night to hear three of Ogden's eight mayoral candidates answer questions from the small but curious crowd.

Candidate Steve Van Wagoner organized the debate held in the business building on the Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College campus. Roy Cole, an Ogden-based attorney, moderated the two-hour event.

Former state Rep. Neil Hansen and frequent political contender John Thompson joined Van Wagoner on stage.

What would be their first act in office, one audience member asked. Hansen said he would hold town meetings and then make a few administrative changes.

"We have over $6 million sitting in a slush fund for the [proposed] Field House," Van Wagoner said. "I'd invest it to fill holes in sidewalks" — and other infrastructure repairs.

Thompson had two words: "block party!"

"I don't care what the weather is on Jan. 2, it's going to be a party," Thompson grinned, adding that he intended to serve only one term and would work to implement the City Council's will.

The trio discussed Ogden's empty storefronts that dot the downtown area and other retail sectors.

Van Wagoner advocated a comprehensive mass transit plan that would slow traffic on Washington Boulevard and make the downtown more walkable.

Hansen lamented the infusion of tax dollars into new ventures that caused existing businesses to fold.

"If you make neighborhoods better, the businesses will follow," Thompson said, advocating council-mayor collaboration on future projects.

Resident Michael Lundberg asked how the candidates would pay down the city's millions of dollars in redevelopment debt.

"I've been working the last three weeks to try to determine our exact debt," Van Wagoner said, "and they can't tell me. We need transparency in government — first we have to identify our debt and then come up with a plan to pay it down."

Hansen called paying down the debt a matter of reprioritizing.

"There is fat that's being spent," Hansen said. "Its a matter of digging down and finding it."

Van Wagoner also pledged to have a live webcam installed in the Mayor's Office to provide streaming video and prohibit closed-door deals.

When asked about double-dipping — where employees retire then return to work in the same job — Thompson said he believed in bringing on new blood and fresh ideas, so would end that practice.

Cameron Paul, who recently moved to Ogden from Salt Lake City, said he attended the debate out of a desire to participate in the community.

"This person is auditioning for over a $100,000-a-year job, so they'd better be able to handle what I expect from them," Paul said, adding that the debate nudged him in Van Wagoner's direction.

The Ogden Ethics Project will host another mayoral debate on Aug. 24. In the meantime candidates are walking neighborhoods, knocking on doors, and hosting cottage meetings and town halls to let voters know where they stand before the Sept. 13 primary.

Twitter: @catmck

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