City elections are around the corner and that means that it is candidate forum season. The candidate forums are an important part of the local election process. While I am running unopposed this term for the District 2 seat, there are three other council district seats on the ballot that are contested (eight candidates competing for three seats). Since I am uncontested I have decided to attend the forums but I am yielding my time to the panel of contested candidates. I will however collect the questions asked at these forums and provide my answers on the briggsfordenton.org blog.
On March 7, 2017 the Denton Firefighters Association and the Denton Police Officers Association co-hosted the season’s first candidate forum.
Questions From the Fire Fighters and Police Officers Associations
Q: Why do you want to serve on City Council? Name 3 goals you would like to accomplish during your tenure.
The experience that I have now will only serve to make me a stronger representative of District 2. While serving on council is a volunteer job, make no mistake that this is a job with full-time demands. I am in a position in my life right now where I can continue to give full-time effort. I want the people I represent to have good government and I am working to set a higher expectation for elected officials and citizen engagement.
We have a new city manager. I am excited by the future that our new city manager will help us achieve through clear and honest communication and by instilling a higher standard of accountability across our city’s organization. We also have a city auditor reporting to council for the first time since 2010. And the next council will be responsible selecting a new city attorney. We are turning the page and entering a new chapter in our city government. I feel like I was a big part of getting us there and I want to make sure it gets off to the right start for our citizens. There will be a lot of new faces on our next council. I look forward to a new role… that of an experienced council member bringing a thread of consistent leadership as we start this next chapter.
Three of the goals that I have for the next term are:
1) Increase the stock of workforce housing in our community. Dynamic and diverse communities have dynamic and diverse economies. And dynamic and diverse economies have dynamic and diverse workforces. If Denton is to continue to truly thrive then hard working people of all income levels have to be able to afford to live in our community.
2) Encourage the implementation of collaborative programs to put solar power generation on the rooftops of our community’s publicly funded buildings. There are many taxpayer-funded facilities within our community (federal, state, county, city, and public schools). If we can work together to implement solar projects at these facilities we can help lower operating expenses and decrease our community’s overall energy demand.
3) Enhance and improve our local environment by protecting and expanding our urban tree canopy. Trees have value. Trees add value. When trees are lost to development their value is hard to replace. I want to work with the people, businesses, and organizations of Denton to preserve and expand our tree canopy over the next 5 years as we grow.
Q: What is your opinion about the current climate regarding law enforcement and how do you think it could be improved?
The national climate around law enforcement is tense. However, in Denton our police department has pulled together with the community, doubled down on outreach and education, and has provided our officers with specialized de-escalation training. I give Chief Howell a lot of credit in this area and believe that we are very fortunate to have a police department led by a person of his integrity, compassion, and genuine love of our community. And great leaders are great because they have great teams. We improve our law enforcement here at the local level by continuing to invest in what is working and keeping our department funded at levels that keep pace with our growth. Council has to keep that a priority.
Q: There is a need for multiple new fire stations and new companies to reduce overall response times in this rapidly growing city. How do you suggest we fund future growth within the fire department?
Chief Paulsgrove has a solid plan, timeline, and a budget which has been presented to council. Our council buys into that plan and quite simply needs to make sure that we stick to it. Council has to control spending across the board so that we make sure we are able to fully fund the fire department so that they can reduce response times to fires and medical emergencies across the city.
Q: If the city budget gets tight, would you prioritize public safety budgets or cut them at the same rate as other departments?
I don’t believe that across the board budget cuts are the right way to handle tight economic times. Budgeting is about prioritization. Public safety is priority one and job one when it comes to municipal government. Budget cuts to essential services like public safety have to be minimized and only used as a last resort in very desperate situations which I hope our city is not challenged with any time soon.
Q: Can we count on your support for the funding of an additional ambulance and multiple full-time employees in FY 2017-2018 for Station 4 on Sherman Drive and Kings Row?
Absolutely and without a doubt! This station is located in the heart of District 2 and serves much of District 2. And I would like to thank Chief Paulsgrove, his staff, and the team from Station 4 for presenting the plan for Station 4 to the packed room of citizens during one my District 2 Conversations at the North Branch Library over a year ago. I feel that Chief Paulsgrove has done a good job of educating council on the importance of lowering response times to both fires and medical emergencies. Right now medical emergencies in much of District 2 are covered by an ambulance from one of two other stations from other parts of town. That is hurdle to an acceptable response time for someone experiencing a life-threatening emergency. We simply can’t have the new Station 4 up and running and with a medical unit soon enough.
Written Questions from the Audience:
Q: What type of incentives would you be interested in using to bring businesses to Denton?
I think the most important thing about incentives is that there has to be a pre-set policy in place to guide us on their use. Such a policy provides staff with rules of the road and keeps council from making ad hoc decisions about incentives. We happen to have such a tool in the Denton Economic Development Policy (review it HERE). But it was my early experience on council that the policy was not the foundation of council conversations regarding incentives. My personal belief is that incentives should be used sparingly, should be targeted and aligned with an overarching strategic plan, strongly negotiated, and provide the city with the power to claw back the incentive if certain predetermined performance metrics specific to the project are not met.
Q: In the past there have been many closed sessions. Have you been satisfied with the amount?
In the past there were far too many closed sessions. Excessive closed sessions erode the public’s trust in their local government. When I first joined council it felt as though we spent more time in closed sessions than we did in open sessions. And those closed sessions were filled with assistant city managers, department directors, junior department directors, and managers. There is a proper time and reason to have a closed session. I am happy to have our new city manager on board and even happier to see that he too believes that the use of closed sessions should be kept minimal, and that they should be attended by only council and staff immediately pertinent to the topic. The difference over the past few months is noticeable to anyone who follows our city council. As of right now this issue is fixed. There is a night a day difference in how closed sessions are conducted and how often they are conducted.
Q: What do you consider to be a conflict of interest?
If you, your family, your friends, or business partners directly benefit financially from a decision you make as an elected official it is a conflict of interest. If a decision that you make will negatively impact a competitor of you, your friends, or business partners you have a conflict of interest. If you have to ask for a legal opinion to determine whether or not there is a conflict of interest it is probably best to go ahead and remove yourself from the discussion so as not to erode public trust in our local government.