Candidate Q&A: Missouri City City Council Member Yolanda Ford, Fred G. Taylor challenge incumbent Mayor Allen Owen

Early voting starts Oct. 22 for the Nov. 6 election.

Early voting starts Oct. 22 for the Nov. 6 election.

Incumbent Mayor Allen Owen faces Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem Yolanda Ford as well as newcomer Fred G. Taylor in this year's Missouri City City Council election, Nov. 6. See where these candidates stand on local issues here:

Yolanda Ford
Occupation: urban planning manager
Experience: 20 years in urban planning, land development, community development and architectural design
Top Priorities: fiscal responsibility, economic development, redevelopment of major corridors and improving quality of life

Phone: 281-410-1307

Allen Owen
Occupation: retired bank executive
Experience: two years on the city bond committee, five years as city planning and zoning commissioner, eight years as a council member/mayor pro tem, 24 years as mayor
Top Priorities: Continue to be rated as one of the safest and best cities in America to live in; continue to see our economic development bring in new businesses and employment opportunities for our citizens; and see us continue to look for opportunities to redevelop the outdated corridors.

Phone: 281-403-8500

Fred G. Taylor
Occupation: business owner
Experience: senior manager, Jasper Oil Company and Kilam Corporation; Marine Corps veteran; CEO, Family Advocacy Legal Center; CEO, Ready Go Signs; special education teacher; charter school superintendent; former project manager, Houston Housing Authority
Top Priorities: safety; new business development in all parts of Missouri City; meeting the infrastructure needs of Missouri City; and working with educational leaders to make sure we have first-class schools in all parts of our city.

Phone number: 713-384-6567

The City Council has expressed interest in growing its commercial tax base. What strategies do you propose to accomplish those goals?
FORD: Through various types of community engagement campaigns, I would have residents and multiple commercial real estate professionals engage in a collective dialogue for what is needed, wanted and best suited for Missouri City. I would then take those recommendations from this dialogue and have council, development staff and commercial real estate professionals develop a strategy to achieve these goals.

OWEN: Over the past very recent years, we have seen over 32 major companies move their offices to Missouri City. That has brought over 1,500 new jobs and over $500 million in taxable value to the city. Our economic development goal is to continue to bring quality commercial growth to our three industrial parks and along the Fort Bend Toll road. The city has only two real sources of revenue—property taxes and sales taxes. Right now, that mix is about 15-17 [percent] sales tax, and we would like to continue seeing that number increase so the property tax rate can eventually be reduced.

TAYLOR: Property taxes are the principal funding source for Missouri City, and growing the commercial tax base would ease the tax burden on individual homeowners.  As Mayor, I would grow the commercial tax base by encouraging commercial development in all parts of Missouri City. As mayor of Missouri City, I would look at some of the possible reasons why we have such a low commercial tax base like our neighbor to the west, Sugar Land.  I would look at our regulatory structure, availability of adequate workers, quality of life in the community, educational opportunities and friendliness toward business.

Staff recommended a 3 cent tax rate increase for fiscal year 2018-19. Do you support this and why or why not?
FORD: Cities typically have three major sources of revenue: sales taxes, property taxes and fees from utilities. Due to past decisions by our leadership and several other factors, Missouri City does not control its utilities, gives [the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County] a portion of its sales tax and wasn’t historically developed with a strong commercial or retail tax base. With these factors, it is certain to continually increase the tax rate until the city changes how it operates.

OWEN: The 3 cent tax increase just allows us to provide the same services we did this year. With the cost of insurance for employees, salaries, infrastructure replacement, and the desire to provide the same level of public safety that the citizens demand, we are forced to do this. [Hurricane] Harvey was expensive for the city, and it will take years for us to be reimbursed. Property values overall increased 5 percent, so that level is not that much more than it has been in past years. We are all taxpayers ourselves and understand that raising taxes is not always a favorable thing to do, but is necessary sometimes just to maintain the level of service citizens demand of us.

TAYLOR: I do not support a 3 cent tax rate increase for fiscal year 2018-19, and our taxpayers should not be burdened with a 3 cent tax increase at this time. Many of our residents are still recovering from Harvey and the city already benefits from rising home values that our city officials do not lower as a result of those rising values. As mayor, I would ask for a full review of our current budget to ensure that we are not wasting taxpayer money prior to asking the taxpayers for any more money.

If elected, which challenges to address will be your priority for the next term?
FORD: The challenges that I would address would be increasing city revenue via retail and commercial development, the economic feasibility to control our utilities, encouraging redevelopment along major corridors, improving city staff morale and building partnerships with FBISD to improve school ratings.

OWEN: The biggest challenge the city faces going forward is trying to find funding to replace an aging infrastructure. City streets in many cases are 40-plus years old. They are wearing out and patching is not an option anymore. We currently have almost $100 million in street replacements to make. When we do that, the sidewalks, water and sewer lines, have to be replaced as well. We will be looking at building Fire Station No. 6 to serve the ever-growing population in the southern part of the city. That in itself is a very expensive project but much needed.

TAYLOR: If elected, I will have three priorities: the safety of our residents; easing the regulatory and tax burdens on new and existing businesses in Missouri City; and increasing the salaries of our over-worked first responders.

By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.


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