Ten of the 11 candidates for The Woodlands Township board of directors squared off at a forum organized by The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Community Impact Newspaper on Oct. 15 at the chamber offices on Lakeside Boulevard, discussing some of the issues that inspired them to run for the seats.

Three two-year seats are available on the board.

Following are several excerpts from remarks the candidates made on the third question posed in the forum, the possibility of an incorporation vote in 2020. Other topics discussed included budget deficits, flood mitigation, mobility and preserving the character of The Woodlands. For the full context of the excerpted comments in the discussion, links to a video of the forum can be found on The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook page. Candidates are listed in the order in which they appear on the ballot.

Position 5

Rashmi Gupta

"You have to look at your current situation ... if there is a deficit in the budget and moving forward we are looking to go into deeper and deeper deficit, our responsibility right now should be to reduce expenses and look for revenue sources. How can we make our Woodlands Township board budget more healthy? ... As of today I do not see any sense in incorporation. ... We need to straighten up our house for today."

Walter Cooke

"I feel the township should not incorporate at this time. There are no advantages. We can't afford it right now anyway because of the deficit budget situation ... and we have a moratorium agreement with the city of Houston and the city of Conroe that prevents them from attempting to annex us until 2058. A city cannot simply reach out and annex an area within an extraterritorial jurisdiction unless the people ... in that area vote to be annexed."

Shelley Sekula-Gibbs

"We should wait for the studies to be completed ... and using best practices and analyzing the data carefully, then let the people make the decision on incorporation. ... Right now, move ahead 38 years, Houston and Conroe can annex us and have the legal prerogative to do so. ... Being independent and autonomous is the most important thing at that time, 2057. I think ultimately they will complete the study ... and I trust the people of The Woodlands will make the right decision."

Position 6

Alan Richel

"There's no rush to incorporate. ... As a city we would have a stronger voice with the Houston-Galveston Area Council. ... It would be putting some teeth into the covenants. The question is, does the benefit outweigh the cost? As far as I am concerned, if it doesn’t then there’s no sense doing it. We ought to be able to keep our tax rates the same or lower, or have the same or better services. Otherwise I see no benefit in incorporating."

Ann K. Snyder (incumbent)

"We’ve hired a consulting firm ... to share with us the pros and cons of what we would look like if we do incorporate. My stance has always been ... you will have to decide if the benefits outweigh the cost. ... Is it worth it? I think there’s no rush ... and have been very vocal on that, but as a board member, I think you as residents need to decide. We have until 2057. State law ... said that we as residents will vote, and if we don’t want to become a city at that time, it won’t happen."

Louis Granados
The candidate was not present at the forum.

Tom Chumbley

"Should we incorporate? ... Right now, absolutely not. If you want to buy a TV you want to know what it costs. We don't know how much it costs. It's ridiculous to ... make a statement about whether I want to incorporate or not incorporate when they don’t have the full facts. ... I think we have to wait until we get the information."

Position 7

Bob Milner

"It’s up to the people on whether or not we should incorporate. ... There are some potential revenue advantages. If the county would agree to take [the Branch Crossing Road and Gosling Road extension] off their current mobility plan ... there might be less pressure from residents ... to even consider incorporation."

David Cassidy

"There are benefits and there are disadvantages for sure. The benefits are we would have sovereignty over our roads, more teeth in our covenants ... but all those things are going to cost more. Are the costs and the benefits going to be worthwhile? It's going to be a hard push to try to convince citizens they have to change what they're doing ... and pay taxes for it. I think self-government is something the citizens should vote on."

Walt Lisiewski

"I am not for incorporation. The original concerns of annexation are no longer there, the concerns about the Woodland Parkway extension are no longer there. We have the best fire department ... the best parks and recreation, so why do we want to change things? There’s no reason for us to incorporate now it’s not going to get us anything better than what we have."

Andy DuBois

"I am opposed to incorporation; I don't think we shouldn’t rush it. ... I heard earlier we need to incorporate to become autonomous—that’s a terrible idea. Our leaders have worked with other leaders ... to make this the greatest community in the world and ... and we need to keep it that way. We need to work with our county leaders to make sure we don’t have unwanted cut-through traffic. ... We need to work with the MUDs [municipal utility districts], the SJRA [San Jacinto River Authority] and the county on drainage."