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After three months of door-to-door campaigning, increasing yard signage and glossy fliers appearing in mailboxes, the race for two Bishop City Council seats will be soon be decided.
Once the polls close Tuesday, March 8, the three candidates vying for those two seats – newcomer Jim Ellis and incumbents Jeff Griffiths and Bruce Dishion – will also know their political fates.
With only five days left before residents within the City of Bishop begin casting their votes, and amidst an election cycle lacking even one public forum or debate in which all three candidates could address voters face-to-face, The Inyo Register is offering Ellis, Dishion and Griffiths a final opportunity to appeal to their prospective constituencies.
The candidates were asked to give the top reasons why they should be elected.
The order in which the candidates appear in this story was selected by drawing names from a hat.
“One, I take the job very seriously and put a lot of my time and effort into it,” Griffiths said, adding he treats the position as a full-time job.
Following on that first idea, “Second, I’m very involved in the community and responsive to the people.” As part of his role as council member, Griffiths is on the Board of Directors for the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority. As a citizen, he is president of the Sunrise Rotary Club in Bishop, president of the Eastern Sierra Foundation, on the Board of Directors for Wild Iris, serves as a 4-H leader, foster parent and volunteer for the Parent Teachers Organization. Griffiths is also a former member of the Inyo-Mono Area Agency on Aging Advisory Committee.
“And, I care about the future of Bishop,” he said. Griffiths explained that a future for Bishop will depend on being able to stay financially in the black during difficult financial times, now and into the foreseeable future.
Griffiths said that the city has and will be able to continue offering its “service package,” such as police, fire departments and infrastructure improvements, by way of conservative budgeting and still be able to invest in business and economic development.
“If we can be creative about partnering with outside sources and finding new ways and places to get grants,” Griffiths said, the city will be able to grow and prosper.
“In closing, I’d like to say I’m very happy with the progress in the last four years,” Griffiths said. “We’ve been able to improve services like street, water and sewer projects, and being able to offer 52 weeks of programs in the city park, all with a declining budget.”
“I’ve gained valuable experience by working in different departments in the city,” Dishion said, referring to his time both in front of the council as Bishop Police Chief and, for the last four years, in a council chair.
Dishion said that he has also been “a strong advocate for protecting people’s property values,” as well as for zoning issues that work towards that same end.
He also had several ideas for “increasing the tax base” for the city, from beautification to easing traffic congestion.
He said his ideas are not necessarily the first on his list; that would be to maintain city services such as fire, police and infrastructure.
He said he would like to see the city work closely with the Local Transportation Committee to try and relieve some of the heavy traffic on Main Street. He mentioned two projects that have been brought before the council in the past that could lead to a brighter Bishop future.
One is the beautification and improvement to Warren Street that runs parallel to Main Street. He said to add sidewalks and repave the busy street would be costly, but it would create another commercial area and perhaps increase retail sales. And, it would be an area away from the busy traffic and noise of Main Street.
As far as relieving traffic congestion, an idea that’s again an expensive and complex one is to try and get semi-trucks off the main drag while retaining tourist traffic. The project would force large trucks off of Main Street onto Jay Street on the south end of town, over the Bishop Canal and out to the airport. Dishion explained that the route would not be an easy thoroughfare for tourist traffic but a way to give large trucks their own access.
Dishion said he and his wife have gone door-to-door to nearly every home in Bishop campaigning in the past weeks. He said the major concern he has heard has been the blight of fenced properties in town, from Cottonwood Plaza to long-closed gas stations.
Dishion said he hopes that the next council will be able to “have a conversation” with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power about replacing or supplementing the fences with some sort of landscaping.
“I’m a candidate who is open to new ideas – looking outside the area and outside the box,” Ellis said. He says he wants to see Bishop succeed and prosper, by perhaps adopting something new, such as a town theme not unlike Solvang. Solvang, located north of Santa Barbara, is an entire town with a Danish theme, including windmills, wooden shoes, pancakes, etc.
Ellis said he would like to see a 1950s or ’60s theme for the city, but these, he said, are just ideas and examples. He said he would like to listen to the citizens and hear what they would like to see.
“We need to spend money to make money,” he said. He added that there is a fine line between spending and making money, “but, it’s not a waste, but an investment.”
And, Ellis said, thinking outside the box would be to find new ways to lure tourists to stop here, beyond the staples of fishing and Mule Days.
Ellis said there is a wealth of “world-class” activities in and around the city – hang gliding, rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking. He said he would like to see how a hang gliding festival, for example, would fare for the area.
Ellis said he also has “common sense, down to Earth ideals.
“I’m in touch with the residents.” He said small-town ideals can allow him to approach and work with various different organizations and open communications.
“I was born and raised here,” Ellis said, “but I’ve also been all over the country.”
On that note, Ellis said that lastly, he is familiar with the city. He was a Bishop police dispatcher for nine years, past president of the Bishop Police Officers Association and a graduate of Bishop High School.
He currently works for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. With his wife, Cami, he is raising six children.