Nancy McNally’s problems with the way Westminster is run start with water rates, but they don’t stop there.
“There are just so many issues right now, water rates are one of them,” McNally said. “Everybody needs water to survive, and right now the rates are not affordable. I don’t know if you’ve looked at prices people are paying now, but wow. As I talk to people and listen to the answers they’ve been given. We don’t need cookie-cutter answers now.”
McNally officially became the first hat in ring for Westminster’s 2021 mayoral race, seeking to replace the to-be termed-out Herb Atchison. She announced her candidacy via a Sept. 7 Facebook video, taken in front of Westminster City Hall.
McNally said the current controversy over the water rates is symptom of her problem with the city.
“My biggest concern is that we have had no way to truly bring people together to hear what’s happening, even before the pandemic started,” she said. “Not to be told by the city but to hear from the community what is happening.”
It’s not her first time seeking the mayor’s job. McNally served as a City Councilor beginning in 2001, seeking the mayor’s job in 2003 and losing to Edward Moss. Moss was appointed a judge before his term was finished, and she took over the seat, serving until she termed out in 2013.
McNally said Westminster’s water rates and the city’s method for calculating the bills convinced her to put her hat in the ring now, more than year before the campaign for Westminster Mayor gets started in earnest.
City officials have said the rate increases are necessary to pay for repair and improvements to the city’s water delivery system. She disagrees.
“They keep saying past council’s did not take care of the infrastructure and that’s just not true,” she said. “I’ve “We’ve had times like COVID before, and there have been times when we’ve had excess money. When that happens, you use that money to get ahead and take some big projects off of the books. That’s what we did when I was on council.”
She participated in the Aug. 17 water rate protest at City Hall — “My first protest ever,” she said — and said she knows people are having a difficulties making their monthly budgets.
“I’m hearing people say, it’s either medicine or water,” she said. “If the city really doesn’t want us to have lawns, they should just come out and tell us.”
But growth issues stemming from the water supply also worry her. She’s not convinced Westminster has a big enough water supply to meet the needs of new housing development approved and proposed in the city.
“One thing I do know is there has to be balance between single family dwelling and multi-family. Are we keeping that balance? I don’t know.”
She said she’s concerned about Westminster’s spending priorities, noting that the city has not furloughed any employees during COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders, despite facing a potential $32 million budget shortfall.
“There is a lot to look at,” she said. “There is a lot to decide what we need, and what we don’t need. There are three core things that we must have, and one is water, one is police and one is fire. Then, everything else needs to be on the table. You cannot have everything during difficult times.”
McNally said she also takes issue with how City staff relates to the council, saying City Manger Don Tripp meets regularly one-on-one with City Councilors.
“Are those horrible? Nope,” McNally said. “If it’s not about City business and things happening in the city, then what is that about? I know some councilors have said they’d like to know what’s said because it is not shared. But for me as a citizen, it means there are several hours of conversation going on that will never be brought to the community. Are things happening because of those conversations?”
She’d prefer having the Council and staff make all of their discussions public.
“You are supposed to have seven people making decisions and having conversations that the public can be part of,” she said. “If those discussions happened around a table, you wouldn’t need seven hours and everyone would know what the concerns are. So this is not how I think we should do business. It isn’t open.”