Election Q&A: Pearland City Council Position 7 candidates

Here are the candidates running for Pearland City Council Position 7. (Community Impact staff)
Here are the candidates running for Pearland City Council Position 7. (Community Impact staff)

Here are the candidates running for Pearland City Council Position 7. (Community Impact staff)



HOUSTON



Pearland City Council Position 7










Jeff Hunkele




Occupation: product manager at PinnacleART


Experience: I received a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science. I have held a variety of computer-related positions, with my most recent job being a product manager. It is in this role that I have interacted with people on multiple levels, from end users of a product to the CEO of my company.


Contact: 281-415-5113. www.pearlandjeff.com




Why did you choose to run for the position?



JH: I’ve been attending council meetings since September 2019 to protest property tax increases. During this time, I have raised issues and offered solutions, but they seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. I decided to try to inform as many citizens as I could as to what was happening in Pearland. Before each meeting, I would summarize agenda items, post it on social media and post results of how council voted. After doing this for several months, people would comment and some even started coming to the meetings to voice their own concerns. People started asking me to run and be the voice of the people because they believe I would run for the good of the people and not for personal gain. I have been honored by their words of encouragement and hope to have the chance to make them proud.



With a limited budget, what do you think should be the city's priorities?



JH: The priority, in very simplistic terms, would be to increase the amount of available funds and decrease the amount of spending. This does not mean increasing taxes, but instead properly using the money the city currently collects. There needs to be annual reviews of the budget and credit card spending and make sure we focus on needs of the many and not wants of a few. With additional funds, we pay down the debt at a faster pace. We focus on the aging infrastructure, like streets and sidewalks, and make sure our police, fire and EMS are properly funded and trained. We also need to address bringing new businesses to come and thrive in our city to also help with the tax burden of the citizens. This will be a higher priority since many of the businesses have been affected due to COVID-19.



What area do you think Pearland leadership needs to focus more on, if any?



JH: I think leadership needs to focus on finding more creative ways to get the community more engaged in the workings of our city. Many feel the citizens don’t have a voice in how our city is run, and there is an elite mentality of our decision-makers. I think council members need to be better connected to the city and not simply say, "Call me if you have an issue," but allow citizens to feel like when they speak, our leaders are listening and actions are being taken in addressing their concerns. Having a computer background, we have the greatest communication tool at our disposal, and we can deliver the information in an easy-to-understand method. I have been summarizing agenda items and posting how council votes on each item which has received a lot of compliments from the people.



How has COVID-19 affected the priorities for the city?



JH: COVID-19 has really made us all change how we live our lives. For more than half of the year, people have limited going out except for their jobs, groceries, and other essential appointments. Businesses got hit hard as well by not having customers to serve and had to limit or fire staff and, in some cases, close permanently. Events like this on both sides will have long-term effects that won’t be cured probably well into next year. That is why I have encouraged council to limit the number of new projects and really think about spending money as if this isn’t even going on. We need to postpone projects until we can see a more stable future to avoid accepting contracts we won’t be able to fulfill in the near future.









Woody Owens*




Occupation: retired from engineering


Experience: public works manager for the city of Houston for 13 years; Pearland City Council member for over 15 years


Contact: 281-652-1662




Why did you choose to run for the position?



WO: I am currently serving as the council member in Position 7 for the last 3 years.



With a limited budget, what do you think should be the city's priorities?



WO: The priorities in the city in this current budget would be to review the budget, to look for opportunities to reduce the expenditures and to place any saved funds into additional funds for streets and sidewalk repairs and carry over to next year's budget. An additional priority would be to resolve the water billing problem. If this is not resolved, it will certainly cause an increase in the city water and sewer rates.



What area do you think Pearland leadership needs to focus more on, if any?



WO: Pearland leadership needs to focus on paying down the city’s debt. Pearland’s current debt, general fund and enterprise fund combined is approximately $848,000,000. If no new debt is incurred, it will take 40 years to pay it off. Additional debt will occur in 2021, and the total debt can reach $1,000,000,000.00.



How has COVID-19 affected the priorities for the city?



WO: COVID-19 did affect the city in many ways this year. This placed the city to work in a different ways during this time. Distancing staff split duties from regular locations and their home and reduced coverage of the city. Some of the front-line staff could not work remotely, so others had to do double duty. This has caused discussions to pay additional compensation to certain staff in response to efforts related to the COVID-19 [pandemic]. Though an extra expense to the city budget for now, this will be paid back through the Texas CARES Act grant.









Mashunda Ivery




Occupation: accountant


Experience: MBA with a emphasis in accounting from Devry; Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas Woman's University.


Contact: 281-865-9109. https://www.mashundaivery.com/




Why did you choose to run for the position?



MI: I’m running for Pearland City Council No. 7. First of all, I love my neighbors and neighborhood. I’m running to support current and future growth of Pearland and for diversity in our city council because we have no women on council. I am running to promote unity for all of us.



With a limited budget, what do you think should be the city's priorities?



MI: If I am elected to be a member of your City Council, there are four budgetary items that will have my primary support, and those are police, fire department, roads and drainage. I chose these four items for personal reasons. Hurricane Harvey was a devastating storm that caused disruption to families all across the region. I had neighbors and family members that lost their home, vehicle and loved ones. I know I cannot prevent hurricanes, but what I can do is make sure that our city is properly funded to handle situations like hurricanes and other natural and non-natural disasters. I was personally affected when my son and his roommate were trapped in their apartment with other residents and had to be saved by police officers and the fire department. I am happy that these brave men and women were there to save our neighbors. Furthermore, roads and drainage require funding to ensure that flood waters are maintained within the drainage system and streets and do not cause damage to personal property and structures. Enhancing the focus on these items is something I will never take for granted.



What area do you think Pearland leadership needs to focus more on, if any?



MI: As a growing city, the city of Pearland needs to focus more on reducing wasteful spending by the city, balancing the budget and bringing in more business to help offset the tax burdens on our residents. New commercial development will bring additional revenue to the city and relieve property owners’ tax burdens. I will consult with the other City Council members and provide diversity in our decision-making in order to create a budget that benefits a greater percentage of Pearland residents.



How has COVID-19 affected the priorities for the city?



MI: COVID-19 has impacted our schools, local business and our daily way of living. Right now, all Pearland city entities are working together to keep our residents safe.



Candidate responses have been edited for length and clarity.
By Haley Morrison
Haley Morrison came to Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after graduating from Baylor University. She was promoted to editor in February 2019. Haley primarily covers city government.


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