For the sake of transparency and for the record I am providing the following answers to questions posed to me and all other city council candidates by the GDWCAR (Greater Denton/Wise County Association of Realtors) The GDWCAR is hosting one on one interviews with each candidate on Wednesday, April 8th. I am respectfully declining to participate in that interview but have openly and freely responded to their questions as follows:
I appreciate your organization’s questions and have done my best to answer them. My answers are based on my present knowledge. Like any good leader should, and in the best interest of the people I hope to have the honor to serve, I reserve the right to evolve my position over time based on the presentation of new facts and the unfolding of unforeseeable future circumstances. Please note that I feel many of these questions appear to me prefaced with anecdotal evidence, observations, and opinion. And that is OK as those types of questions make for good discussion. But in fairness, those types of questions also warrant more than a simple Yes or No answer. So, respectfully, I have declined to answer with a simple Yes or No. I hope you find the answers that I have provided to be informative of my position and thought process relative to your organization’s key issues.
My response are provided below.
Keely G. Briggs
Question 1 – Several cities across Texas have undertaken restrictive measures on rental property in their communities in an effort to monitor landlords and generate local fee driven revenues through rental property. Some of these actions are registration of rental property and the inspection of rental property with permitting and other subsequent fees associated with these measures. Are you in agreement with rental registration or rental property inspection fees – Explain?
Answer: Yes No
Explanation of Position: As a city councilwoman I would ask questions. Is there evidence of an existing or emerging issue in Denton that requires this type of registration and inspection action? What are current best practices for municipalities? How are those best practices working or not working in other cities similar to Denton? What are the benefits and drawbacks in those cases? If action is ultimately necessary, what is right approach for Denton residents and property owners? I do not think that rental registration or inspection fees on rental properties should be used as a revenue (profit) center for the city and these fees should be reasonable if at all needed.
Use of City’s Authority
Question 2 – In current discussions, bars that do not have and cannot obtain space for an approved open air patio for outside smoking would likely be in a position of having to close their business. According to recent articles there are more bars in Denton that do enforce smoking only on their open air patio than not. This provides a wide variety of locations for persons that do not wish to be around smoking at a bar. The issue is difficult at best. Please discuss whether you believe the passing of legislation such as this is an appropriate use of the city’s authority and why?
Answer: Yes No
Explanation of Position: I am not a fan of smoking or tobacco companies. But private businesses should be able to make this decision on their own as long as they don’t employ or cater to people under the age of 18. Signage should clearly distinguish smoke free businesses from smoke tolerant businesses. Customers will vote with their wallets. For clarification I do consider vaping to be smoking.
Development within the City of Denton
Question 3 – The process in Denton to obtain approval for development projects large and small has been in a state of change recently. Various entities within the city have different agendas whether it is to expand development; or to limit growth, protect the environment, or inhibit the activities of specific private-sector developers. Denton has historically sought to obtain more regulatory authority over the permitting of commercial and residential development. In your opinion does the City of Denton foster development or discourage it considering:
A) The document flow, procedures and related time required to obtain approval for developments both large and small. Answer: Yes No
B) The local ordinances and requirements used by the City of Denton that define the development process. Answer: Yes No
If you feel there should be some changes please identify those changes as clearly as possible.
Explanation of Position: My decision making requires inputs. Some of those inputs are pure, simple facts. Some of those inputs are the personal observations and opinions of stakeholders. I feel like this question is more a statement of your organization’s observation and opinion than a question. To form valid and informed position as councilwoman I would need to see the facts and hear the observations and opinions of other stakeholders as well. This is reasonable and this is leadership. I can confirm for you though that I believe in the value of streamlining processes, reducing red tape, and keeping government as minimally invasive as possible while still serving to effectively protect people and foster a healthy business environment.
Tax Rates and the Economy
Question 4 – In times of economic downturn, what measures would you propose for this city/county/school district; i.e. tax rate increase, specific cuts in services, etc.?
Explanation of Position: I believe that during a time of economic downturn you have to avoid the temptation to increase the tax burden on citizens and businesses. The city should prioritize how and where monies are spent rather than approach an across the board cut. Some budgets would need to be greatly reduced or eliminated altogether. Some budgets would need to be held steady or possibly increased. I would ask city staff to provide multiple scenarios that would achieve these goals without tax increases.
Gas Well Set Backs
Question 5 – There has been controversy in the city concerning the distance to setback from gas wells when building a protected structure, and the setback from an existing protected structure when drilling a gas well. Also, confusion about what point to measure the setback from, e.g. from the edge of the plat, from the edge of the pad or from the wellhead. These decisions may affect quality of life for some, as well as the value of surrounding property and the ability to develop that property for others. Please provide your position on these issues:
Explanation of Position: Hands down and without apology I am against fracking within our city limits. I also feel gas well drilling, and mineral extraction in general, is an industrial process that is incompatible with residential land use as well as many types of commercial land use.
First and foremost this is a health issue. I do not think that the city with clear conscious can stand by and allow wells to be drilled near homes or homes to be built near wells. Our approach should err on the side of caution. I would push for buffers of greater than 1,000 feet from the edge of a pad site. Let’s live with that decision for 5 years and come back to visit it. At that point we will know more about the negative health impacts of fracking and urban gas well drilling by observing what has happened in other cities in Texas, the United States, and around the world. If we feel that we have been overly cautious we can amend our policy at that time. Personally, I think we have just begun to scratch the surface of health issues related to fracking and gas well drilling in urban environments. Time will tell. Let’s put time on our side.
Secondarily, I realize that these proposed measures would severely limit the geographic area where residential and commercial development could occur should energy companies be allowed to fully execute upon their vision for full mineral exploitation in the City of Denton. This is further reason for the business community to standup and support our citizen’s desire for a ban on fracking within Denton and loud calls for stronger regulations on gas well drilling and mineral extraction within Denton. I believe that people come first. If this is not a city that provides a healthy environment for people to live then this will not be a city that provides a healthy environment for businesses to thrive. It is that simple.
Tax Rates and the Economy
Question 6 – In times of economic downturn or budget deficiencies for maintenance or modification of existing facilities, what measures would you propose for this city/county/school district; i.e. tax rate increase, certificates of obligation, specific cuts in services, etc?
Explanation of Position: See my answer to question 4 above. In addition I prefer bonds over certificates of obligation. If tools like certificates of obligation are to be used it should be for good reason. We should be very transparent and plain spoken with our citizens about why such a funding mechanism is being utilized and how the debt will be repaid.
Question 7 – The Texas Constitution limits the use of eminent domain by requiring adequate compensation for the land on which eminent domain is used. The exercise of this power, while considered a necessary tool of government, has been argued to have been expanded and abused. Recently the University of North Texas announced if necessary, they would use their eminent domain power to acquire commercial property near the Denton UNT campus for some commercial use to later be defined.
A) How do you see this possible use of eminent domain?
B) Is the City of Denton properly using eminent domain?
Explanation of Position: Eminent domain should be used sparingly and in unique situations where all other measures and options have been exhausted. And I think that compensation toward property owners should be fair and above market value (because market value is a figure which can be artificially manipulated to benefit the party exercising their right of eminent domain).
A) UNT may (stress “may”) be using their right of eminent domain properly. But it doesn’t mean that UNT is using this right in a manner that is respectful of the community they are a part of (and I think UNT often overlooks or forgets that they are indeed a part of this community) or toward the property owner(s) in question. It is apparent that there is a lack of executive level communication and coordination between the city and UNT. The city needs to better understand the university’s intentions. Otherwise the edges of the campus will remain economic dead zones where people will fear investing over time.
B) This is a case by case basis. Again I believe eminent domain should be used sparingly and when exercised by the city only in situations that are critical to necessarily updating and expanding our infrastructure. Compensation to property owners should be fair and above current market value.
Local real estate sales & transfer tax
Question 8 – In recent years and at different levels of government, there have been proposals to expand the sales-tax base to include professional services, as well as a sales or transfer tax on the leasing and sale of real estate which currently have exclusions.
A) Would you support a tax on professional services, such as commissions paid to a real estate broker or fees paid to an accountant or architect? Answer: Yes No
B) Would you support a sales tax or transfer tax on real estate transactions of any dollar amount or percentage? Answer: Yes No
Explanation of Position: I do not have all the answers and freely admit so. Leadership is about asking the right questions. As a city councilwoman I would ask questions. Is there evidence of an existing or emerging issue in Denton that requires this change? What are current best practices for municipalities? How are those best practices working or not working in other cities similar to Denton? What are the benefits and drawbacks in those cases? If action is ultimately necessary, what is right approach for Denton residents, service providers, and property owners? Once I have those answers I will ask myself and my fellow council people if this decision (or change in policy) is good for our people, good for good business, and if this decision will hold up four generations from now. That is my process for decision making as a leader.
Energy-Efficiency Standards at Point of Sale
Question 9 – Some city councils have proposed to mandate certain energy-efficiency upgrades in residential properties which must be completed and certified prior to the sale of the property. These mandates would require all properties to be retrofitted to meet the standards of the mandates costing sellers thousands of dollars. If elected, would you support efforts to impose mandatory energy-efficiency upgrades in existing housing? Answer: Yes No
Explanation of Position: I would not support mandates putting this burden on the sellers of existing housing. I believe that there are better tools than mandates to increase energy efficiency in existing residential properties. Economic incentives (programs) to encourage energy efficiency are the correct approach. I would be in support of increasing awareness and effectiveness of these programs.
Question 10 – Most of Denton’s water comes from Lake Lewisville and Lake Ray Roberts. In November 2013, Texas voters approved Proposition 6 established $2 billion in the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT). These funds enable cities, counties, and water districts to apply for low-interest loans for water projects that align with the state water plan. In November 2014, TWDB approved rules that open the door for those local entities to begin accessing those dollars. The Denton area is expected to more than double in the next 40 years.
A) Is our water infrastructure in good condition and capable of delivering sufficient water to properties without loss of volume from the site of inception now and in the future?
Answer: Yes No
B) Does the City and County of Denton have water rights secured for the long term (the next 50 years plus) as it currently exists, and if not what should be done now to establish those rights?
Answer: Yes No
Explanation of Position:
A) If our water infrastructure is anything like the rest of our infrastructure I would assume that, no, our water infrastructure is not sufficient to meet our future needs over the next 40 years. But that is an assumption that would have to be validated and my job as councilwoman would be to ask questions that verify and then work to appropriately course-correct. I think that there is evidence to suggest that for decades our city has kicked the can down the road with regard to establishing a sound infrastructure capable of supporting the population growth that was inevitable and foreseeable given Denton’s geographic position in DFW.
B) I don’t know if we have sufficient water rights established to cover our needs in the next 50 years. But I do know that it is important to have them. I would also add that I believe water conservation needs to be a key part of our long term water strategy.
General Campaign Questions
Question 11- A) Describe your plan to win this election, how much your campaign anticipates spending on the election, and what your current funding needs are. B) If this group decides to support your campaign, would you accept funds from our Texas Real Estate Political Action Committee (TREPAC)? Answer: Yes No
Explanation of Position:
A) People come first. I am working to get my message out one person at a time. This is a grass roots effort. If I win this election it will be because the people of District 2 had a choice and the people chose me, one of their own, to represent them. My experience leading non-profit organizations has sharpened my ability to do more with less. I will spend as little as possible on this campaign and continue to focus on communication that appropriately, efficiently, and effectively raise awareness of my campaign to the voters of District 2. Current funding needs are being met by citizen supporters within District 2. As more funds are needed, these supporters have continued to prove their willingness to answer the call by contributing their dollars and time.
B) I appreciate the interest in my campaign and the opportunity to answer your organization’s questions. I do not anticipate a need or desire to take funds from TREPAC at this time or in the near future. I would encourage you to find a way to get that PAC money into the hands of one of the many worthy non-profits that serve within the City of Denton.