Election Q&A: Candidates for Plano mayor

Learn more about the candidates running for Plano's mayoral seat ahead of the May 1 election. (Community Impact staff)
Learn more about the candidates running for Plano's mayoral seat ahead of the May 1 election. (Community Impact staff)

Learn more about the candidates running for Plano's mayoral seat ahead of the May 1 election. (Community Impact staff)

Learn more about the candidates running for Plano mayor ahead of the May 1 election.

Editor’s note: Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name.


DALLAS-FORT WORTH



Plano mayor, Place 6










Lily Bao



Occupation: real estate professional








Why are you running for Plano mayor?




LB: In my tenure on [Plano] City Council, I have been blessed to serve side by side with other committed public servants to enact important and necessary changes. After faithfully fulfilling all of my campaign promises as councilwoman, I know that as the next mayor of Plano, I will be able to contribute to even greater improvements to my beloved city. Plano needs a mayor who is visionary, courageous, dedicated and who understands the challenges that the city is facing today. Plano’s next mayor must have the intellect, wisdom and compassion to lead. I am ready and eager to serve and lead as our next mayor and have been humbled by the outpouring of support from the community.




What are your qualifications for seeking this office?




LB: As the only candidate in the mayoral race who has been a council member, I am uniquely qualified to make the kinds of decisions that require council experience. Among all sitting Plano City Councilmembers, I was elected to the Council with the highest vote percentage, and I have taken that trust in me very seriously. See my website for the list of what I have accomplished according to what I promised that I would do. I was honored to be endorsed by the Texas Association of Realtors in the last election, because of my policies on property rights. As a real estate professional, I understand the importance of proper zoning and its effect on home values and school rankings. I was my high school’s valedictorian, and graduated with the highest summa cum laude distinction from college (UMASS-Dartmouth). I also received my master’s degree in computer science from Northeastern University. Having worked in the IT fields, I understand technological innovations and their role in city business.




If elected, what would be your top priorities?




LB: My priorities will be to continue the work that I began as a City Councilwoman to "Keep Plano Excellent." I will continue to strongly support our police, fire and EMS to keep Plano safe. I will continue to promote smart and responsible employment growth and maintain our parks and libraries. I will continue to scrutinize the budget to reduce the tax burdens on homeowners, and defend the over-65 property tax exemption. I will continue to limit density to protect Plano’s suburban character.




As Plano continues to grow and age, what do you see as the city’s top transportation and infrastructure-related concerns? How do you plan to address them?




LB: Increased density in Plano and surrounding cities has placed stress on our transportation infrastructure. Aging roads including neighborhood streets and alleys demand significant repairs or replacement in many areas. Supporting infrastructure need has always been one of my top priorities, and while serving on council, I have consistently voted for infrastructure improvement in the city’s budget. I also supported new asphalt overlays when budgets allowed.




What do you see as the city's top issues related to housing and commercial real estate development? How do you plan to address them?




LB: According to a Dallas Business Journal’s recent article, there are currently 40,000-plus units of multifamily projects under construction in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, yet demand for high-rise apartment buildings is falling. Residents are switching towards buying or renting single-family homes to enjoy the suburban quality of life and new work-at-home work styles. Demand for office and retail space is dropping significantly. Smaller-sized, ownership-based housing is in hot demand, according to data. Balance is the key. As a real estate professional, I also see a growing need for senior housing, and I have supported that while serving on council. I will continue to fight for seniors to have improved options, so they can enjoy retirement in Plano.


What else do you want voters to know about you?




LB: As an immigrant who worked hard to realize the American Dream, I never take for granted the freedoms and representative form of government that we have here in America. I love this country with all my heart, and I want to do all I can to ensure that America remains a free nation. I was baptized on Thanksgiving Day in 1996, and my family attends CCCFC Church in Plano. All four of my daughters have attended Plano ISD, and two are now in top colleges because of their PISD education. We all love Plano’s beautiful suburban character, green spaces and parks, and we look forward to retiring here. This is why I want to advocate for our city and keep alive the American Dream of home ownership, property rights and freedom for the next generation.











John Muns



Occupation: president, Muns Enterprises








Why are you running for Plano mayor?




JM: I am running for mayor because I love this city. I grew up here in Plano [and] graduated from Plano Senior High. My kids went through Plano schools, and now, my grandkids are in PISD as well. I have always believed that if you want to live in a vibrant community, then you have to contribute to its success by serving, volunteering and giving back to the community.




What are your qualifications for seeking this office?




JM: Plano has been my home for the past 50 years. I have raised my family and created a business here. I served on the PISD School Board from 1993-2002 [and] 2004-10 and was president of the board from 1998-2000. For the last six years, I chaired the planning and zoning commission of the City of Plano and was in Leadership Plano Class Six. I have also served on many boards over the years, including Volunteer Center, Practical Parent Education, YMCA, Children’s Medical Center, Journey of Hope, Plano Economic Development Board and PSA. I am running for mayor to serve all of the citizens of Plano and to make sure that Plano continues to be a "City of Excellence."




If elected, what would be your top priorities?




JM:




  • Keep Plano safe by supporting our first responders with the resources they need.



  • Ensure Plano citizens continue to enjoy excellent parks, libraries, recreational centers and trails.



  • Prioritize maintenance of our aging roads and infrastructure.



  • Keep Plano homeowners’ tax rates among the lowest in North Texas by sustaining an optimal balance of businesses and residences.



  • Serve as a strong voice to unite all of Plano.



  • One of our most pressing issues is making sure our citizens are able to get vaccines and that there is excellent communication regarding vaccination information.








As Plano continues to grow and age, what do you see as the city’s top transportation and infrastructure-related concerns? How do you plan to address them?




JM: One of my main priorities is to make sure that we maintain our aging roads and infrastructure. A large part of the upcoming bond referendum is repair to our streets, sewers, sidewalks and streets. We must prioritize these needs to maintain the quality of life that we have come to expect here in Plano.




What do you see as the city's top issues related to housing and commercial real estate development? How do you plan to address them?




JM: Plano only has less than 3% of available land to develop on. Most of what we have seen in the last few years is more redevelopment and renovations of current structures. We need to maintain a balance of businesses and homeownership to keep our tax rate low. We must always make sure that our high-quality standards for new developments or redevelopments are of the highest standards Plano has come to expect while fully maintaining the neighborhood culture we all love.


What else do you want voters to know about you?




JM: I have been involved in the school district and the city of Plano. I have always believed that I need to listen to all voices and be objective in every decision that I make. I will be transparent and make sure to try and clearly communicate the direction of the city of Plano.











Lydia Ortega



Occupation: retired professor of economics








Why are you running for Plano mayor?




LO: In Plano, I rediscovered treasures that I thought were lost forever. They are simple things, such as stating an opinion without fear of being canceled, expressing faith openly without being labeled, or raising children without state interference. We don’t appreciate how precious these are until they are gone. I know how freedoms were eroded. It happened slowly. It can happen here. I cannot bear to lose these treasures again. As a retired empty nester, now is the perfect time for me to do my civic duty: to work full-time, to serve and to be vigilant. My husband and I agree—retirement can wait.




What are your qualifications for seeking this office?




LO: I earned a doctorate in economics studying the works of scholars, like Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell and Milton Friedman. Economics shows that prosperity requires three elements: well-defined property rights, a transparent rule of law and sovereign individuals making choices. With these elements, individual self-interest is redirected to pleasing customers, conserving resources and offering innovations at lowest price. A government that doesn’t understand these elements can inadvertently impede prosperity. As mayor, I will evaluate policies to assure that they don’t weaken property rights, undermine the rule of law or constrain individual choice.

I spent 30 years in academia, 15 of those years as chair of the department of economics. I have extensive experience as an active member on committees, including strategic planning, policymaking and budget committees. I created innovative programs, raised over a million dollars, efficiently incorporated technology and, against all the odds, succeeded in changing the workflow to allow professors more time to mentor students. I am a strong advocate and experienced public speaker.

The university was my day job. I was also a founding board member of two Hispanic foundations. I am currently a board member of Goodwill Silicon Valley, one of the largest and most successful Goodwill organizations in the state. My continued service on high-caliber nonprofit boards provides experience in corporate governance, audits, transparency and all aspects of business decision-making. For a girl born and raised in East Los Angeles, I’ve accomplished much in service to others. One enduring legacy from my roots is a compulsion to be resourceful with every dollar of public funds because I know those dollars come from struggling taxpayers, like my parents. As a mayor, I [would be] comfortable and experienced working with C-level business professionals, entrepreneurs, multimillionaires and hardworking people from all races.




If elected, what would be your top priorities?




LO:




  • Support small business recovery.



  • Focus on the mental, physical and emotional health of our children.



  • Put the [brakes] on high-density development.



  • Prioritize public safety at all levels.








As Plano continues to grow and age, what do you see as the city’s top transportation and infrastructure-related concerns? How do you plan to address them?




LO: Plano residents consider traffic congestion a major problem; it’s right up there with taxes. Some congestion is due to development, some from increasing populations in adjacent cities and some from road repair. There are only two congestion-reducing options: reduce the number of cars at peak traffic times and/or drive at constant rates of speed. Implementing these options requires creative problem-solving, alignment of incentives and collaboration with adjacent cities.

We cannot address congestion without incorporating maintenance issues. Road maintenance is the largest component of a $403.9 million dollar bond package proposed for the 2021 ballot. If the referendum passes, the 2025 tax rate goes from 44.82 cents to 47.98 cents. This is on top of a $44.7 million bond passed in 2019 and a $220.6 million bond passed in 2017.

Borrowing is not the problem. My concern is that only a few Plano residents were consulted regarding prioritizing items that would be in this 2021 bond package. Council members tried to move items into separate lines for voter consideration but were stopped. Voters make tradeoffs according to their budget constraints and preferences. For example, a school bond may also be on the ballot. Voters need more choice, not less.




What do you see as the city's top issues related to housing and commercial real estate development? How do you plan to address them?




LO: My vision is to revitalize Plano as a suburban community of excellence. This means more single-family houses. There are plenty of cities for people to choose, but a service community like Plano is rare. A service community is where people ignore labels as they connect, human to human. Let’s offer people the opportunity to put down roots in this community. People are leaving cities in search of safe neighborhoods, great schools and open hearts.




By Liesbeth Powers
Liesbeth graduated from Baylor University with a degree in new media journalism in December 2018. She gained her newspaper experience as a staff writer and multimedia editor at her campus paper, The Baylor Lariat. Liesbeth joined the Community Impact team in August 2019, where she reports on all things Plano and Richardson, including Plano City Council and Dallas Area Rapid Transit.


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