CLARKDALE -- About 40 residents were able to ask candidates seeking election in Arizona's 6th Legislative District questions on education, economic development and quality of life during a forum Wednesday night at Yavapai College's Clarkdale campus.
Republican Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, was unable to attend, but Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, Democrat Lanny Morrison of Flagstaff, Sen. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, and former Republican Sen. Tom O'Halleran, running as an Independent, answered constituent questions.
O'Halleran said he's running as an Independent because most people have friends in both major parties, and people need to find a way to come together in the legislature.
"There is a real need for us to fund a balance in our legislative process and in our state," he said.
Education was a major issue, with Morrison pointing to the inequity created by charter schools, while Thorpe said these institutions were models for public schools.
Crandell said he will continue to be an advocate for a uniform funding system in the state, where all property tax dollars are collected into a K-12 education fund and distributed to schools. This bill passed the house last legislative session, but was held in the house.
"If we don't revamp how we fund K-12 education, we won't be able to move forward to where we need to be," Crandell said.
Most seemed in favor of a standardized way of comparing students in Arizona to those in other states and around the world.
However, Thorpe said he was concerned Common Core put money in the hands of textbook and testing companies, and the new technology-heavy curriculum would be financially unlikely.
"If we think things are bad now with the budget, as we implement Common Core it's going to get worse," he said. "It's going to be a big price-tag item."
Water conservation was addressed as a quality of life issue. Morrison, Thorpe and Crandell agreed over-populated forests were one place to start.
"It's a critical issue," Morrison said. "We need to look at conservation, at the trees growing along the Verde River, the trees that aren't needed that are sucking up the water."
Voter registration closes July 28 for the Aug. 26 primary.