With early voting three days in, City of Katy City Council candidates discussed a number of issues affecting residents at a forum May 1 hosted by the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce and the Katy Times.
Former city council members Carol Adams and Fabol Hughes are vying for mayor as Don Elder—after six years with his title—reaches his term limit, Betsy Proctor and Jimmy Mendez for the Ward B seat, and Chuck Brawner and Sandra Byrd for the Ward A seat.
With the exception of Brawner, each set of candidates shared one-hour time slots to give two-minute answers to questions on topics such as public safety funding, infrastructure concerns and how to revitalize Downtown Katy. Byrd was unable to attend leaving Brawner a 30-minute window to answer questions alone.
We have included highlights from the two-and-a-half-hour forum.
Early voting continues this week and ends May 7. Residents can cast their vote at City Hall, 910 Ave. C, or the Katy Municipal Court building, 5432 Franz Road. Election Day is May 11, and the polls will remain open 7 a.m.–7 p.m.
Candidates for position Ward B
Jimmy Mendez, who spent years as a private investigator, said he is passionate about fixing and maintaing the city's infrastructure.
"As I campaigned around, I heard same concerns from residents—infrastructure, increase funding for fire and EMS and police. We have quite a stock pile of money over there because we have conservative policies...I want to give the people a tax break, lower permit fees, lower tax rates for senior citizens. So my three priorities are infrastructure, funding for public works and to reduce tax burdens."
Referring to an approximately $18 million surplus in the city's bank account, Mendez said he would like to dip into those funds for various projects without further burdening taxpayers.
"We have to change the thinking on the city council. I just went to the last city council meeting, and in there they wanted to give a tax break to the seniors, and council said that would cost us $52,000. Well, it's not going to cost us anything,—it's not their money. And I want to change that. Because it's not their money, its the people's money."
Betsy Proctor, who has owned a business in Downtown Katy since 1994, is passionate about making old town Katy a destination for Katy area and Houston area residents.
"We should have businesses thriving in old town Katy, and right now five or six vacant businesses. I would like to do everything I can to enhance Downtown Katy. We don't want to see it go by the wayside. It's really important and I know it's important to everyone here."
The city will continue to work on infrastructure projects, and that will not change with new administration, Proctor said, and she hopes to put more efforts into an array of iniatives.
"We can do [additions to] the fire department, build a new city hall, fix infrastructure issues [that come] with growth, and also enhance downtown Katy. I don't think one should take place of the other. I think we can do it all. Why just do one—lets do it all. Katy has the money and the motivation."
Candidate for Ward A
Chuck Brawner, current chief of police for Spring Branch ISD, said his more than 40 years of experience in law enforcement has given him insight into the importance of strategic plans.
"If elected, my No. 1 priority is the condition of the fire department and its ISO rating...We have 20 months to get the fire department where it needs to be...My number two priority is we have a number of infrastructure issues. We need a comprehensive strategic plan to develop along with growth the city is going through."
The plan, he said, would include details on every city department as well as address mobility and infrastructure concerns.
"You have to look at developments that come in and traffic studies as people are using our thoroughfares. What concerns me is, Avenue D is getting busy. We are having Katyland taken are of, but we have developments outside of the city come in and building something in Houston's extraterritorial jurisdiction. In that ETJ of Houston, we have no say in what will be built...So we have to do a study on our traffic flow...Mobility is a part of your strategic plan. It's one piece that goes into all the other pieces of the puzzle."
Candidates for mayor
Carol Adams, a former city council member, said she wants to help lead the city manage growth and ensure its citizens are safe. Part of managing the growth includes developing a plan which could include building a new City Hall.
"I want this [a new city hall] to be proven out by the comprehensive plan which is a little different from a strategic plan. You do a more thorough inventory of what you already have, look at the future, and I hope that plan proves it the new city hall does make sense.
"I do want to see it built it is an important part of our downtown...It will also coincide with original plan of downtown when city laid out in 1896. As far as paying for it, we have $18.1 mil in reserves...The plans we have for downtown is pretty modest too. It is nothing extravagent. It would be beautiful and very efficient but nothing extreme."
A comprehensive plan would also address infrastructure and traffic concerns residents may have.
"I have heard some concerns people have about drainage and traffic. I think those are valid and we do need to be looking into those, but this goes back to the plan. When things come back to city what we have tendency to do is looking at each thing without looking at longterm fallout of if it will really be best thing in five years...I think that's the main issue right now is that we are not working from a plan."
Fabol Hughes, also a former council member, said he also has plans for helping the city cope with projected and current growth.
"We're going to explode in the west and north in the near future. We want our city to remain the way it looks right now with the small-town feel—I know people want to keep that...We can't just sit idly by— we have to get a handle on it. We were in talks with the city of Houston trying to acquire ETJ on north and west and we got put on hold. We need to get back with them to assume their ETJ in north and west to give us more wiggle room."
After spending six years on the council, Hughes said he will continue to stay true to his conservative values and work to preserve the nature of the City of Katy and serve its residents.
"For the past 35 years I have been a business owner and manager. I bring to the city experience in business management as well as life experience. I think these things qualify me to take the next step. Things I stand for are conservative values, less government intrusion, improved infrastructure and drainage, and the safety and security of our citizens."