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Mayor wants to stay put, move the city forward

October 09, 2009
CLAREMONT – Mayor Deborah Cutts is running for re-election on Nov. 3 not only because she enjoys the work, but also because she fears for the city's future.

Originally appointed to the council in an at-large seat in Cutts ran for assistant mayor, and won the seat, in the 2007 election. But when then mayor Scott Pope suddenly resigned the following January, she was thrust into the position.

"I originally ran for assistant mayor because I figure it's generally not best to go from the bottom to the top in one fell swoop," she said two weeks ago over lunch at Carmella's on Pleasant Street. "When Scott left, it was critical that we maintained that leadership and continuity, and I feel I was successfully able to do that."

But now, Cutts worries the city's progress could be halted.

"I fear that people will take us back to what we used to be," she said. "We weren't always a full service city. We didn't always allocate the resources to allow it. But now we are, and I want to continue that. I don't want to have a 'skeleton service.' I want to know I have a highly trained fire department and police department who are willing to save the lives of our citizens."

Cutts, who will face former mayor Jim Nielsen in the election, is opposed to the idea of a spending cap, but wonders whether there's something else brewing under the surface.

"Challenging the status quo is fine and I'm all for that," she said. "But I've seen a metamorphosis … there's more anger. Insults and attacks, just insulting everything, even the restoration of the mills."

I think they want the current council out, and they want to go back to a town form of government," she added. "I've heard some people say they see the city council form of government as 'elitist.'"

In Cutts' eyes, the cause is noble but the motives are flawed.

"I don't think their only goal is to affect positive change in Claremont," she said. "But to somehow lessen and minimize the good things that have happened here, and that's disappointing."

They [spending cap proponents] say straight out to us, 'cut the budget by 30 to 60 percent,' and I ask them, what do we cut? I think these people forget that this council as well as previous councils have level funded the budget since 2006, and to me that's a spending cap. We all hurt when it's time to pay taxes, but that's the position we're in. In the meantime it's important to live within your means."

Cutts added that one way to make your voice heard is to vote the council out if you don't think they're doing a good job.

"But I feel I've done a good job," she said. "The mayor's vote is no different from any other council vote. But there is a difference in the position in that the mayor has certain duties, such as conducting the flow of the city council meetings and appearing on behalf of the city at all sorts of events."

Those are very important elements to a successful outcome," she said. "And I feel I've done them well."

If Cutts had a motto, it would go something like, "leadership, continuity, calm, professionalism … and an understanding of the significance that the seat represents the city."

More than anything Cutts said she understands the importance of partnerships.

"That's the key," she said. "Non-advesarial relationships … there's room for improvement but that's what I support."

As for why she thinks there's such an uprising in the city right now, Cutts said misinformation and lack of communication could be the real culprit.

"At the meetings I've noticed a lot of confusion," she said. "For example there were multiple people who didn't understand that the spending cap applies to the city budget only, and not the county and school portions of the budget … it's important that we communicate that."

Cutts is proud of her service to the city, and of the goals the council has accomplished during her time on the council, such as the restoration of the mills and the parking garage, as well as city services.

"It's my role to keep things moving forward," she said. "That's what I want to do, and I feel I've done that."

Matin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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