Buda City Council Place 5 Q&A

Place 5 incumbent Eileen Altmiller is vying to continue serving on Buda City Council as she faces engineer Evan Ture in the city's upcoming election. Early voting for this race and others in the cities of Buda and San Marcos as well as Hays County takes place Oct. 20–Oct. 31. Election Day is Nov. 4. For more information about voting times and locations, look for the Election Guide in the next issue of Community Impact Newspaper, out on Oct. 16.

Why are you running?

Altmiller: I have the time, energy and commitment to serve and have been an effective and hardworking member of the council since being elected in 2012. There is a steep learning curve for anyone who is elected to the City Council. I have attended council meetings, Planning and Zoning, Parks, Historical and Library Commission meetings for 12 years and have been involved in the community for 24 years. Buda is at a crucial point in its development and needs an experienced and educated council committed to the city and its future. Finally, working with dedicated colleagues and excellent staff is always rewarding.

Ture: I am seeking Buda City Council Place 5 so that we have a council that more accurately represents Buda's demographics. We currently have several great council members, but the council's median age is 63, while the median age of Buda's population is only 33 years old. Buda needs someone in Place 5 who brings the experience of working with municipal governments (as I have done), but not so much experience that they form their own independent voice and cease to listen to their fellow residents. I am running because I bring a fresh perspective, and I listen before I speak.

What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing the city?

Altmiller: Growth. Buda needs to grow gracefully, being sensitive to the quality-of-life challenges that accompany rapid growth—transportation, facilities, infrastructure, access to water, public safety, drainage, library services and parks—while maintaining a reasonable tax rate and preserving our quality of life and the things we value most about Buda. I support the updated comprehensive plan and stress careful implementation and execution of the plans we have in place. With limited land and a burgeoning population, every decision is important and strategic.

Ture: "Responsible growth" is spoken of often when this question comes up, but the challenge lies beyond that. The challenge is working with one another to form a community—our city—where we can enjoy our family and friends, where we can serve one another and bless one another. When deciding on what type of businesses to encourage and what city work to be done, we should remember that our homes and neighborhoods are places of rest, and places to celebrate one another and the work that's been accomplished. The challenge is forming this space together, but we can.

Buda is growing at such a high rate that its population could reach 70,000 by 2040. What can be done to ensure that growth continues in a healthy, responsible way?

Altmiller: In 2010-2011, I served on the 2030 Comprehensive Plan Committee, the blueprint for how Buda should develop. As a council, we have commissioned and/or approved the parks master plan, master transportation plan, wastewater plan, Buda Economic Development Strategic Plan, drainage plan and downtown plan. I have championed planning and the careful execution of these plans. Another essential city document that guides development is the Unified Development Code set for revision over the next year. We need to do what we say we are going to do. It is crucial that we are faithful to the vision of citizens.

Ture: The growth comes with momentum, so we need to steer that momentum towards those offers that cultivate safe and sustainable homesteads for years to come. As we evaluate the many options Buda has on the table, I will keep in mind the goal of creating environments that foster healthy families and encourage progress, while celebrating the history of Buda. Healthy and responsible growth is of keen importance to me as my newborn daughter grows up here. We can ensure responsible growth by listening to one another, just as I will do, and just as I want my daughter to learn.

What, if any, facilities upgrades would you have the council explore if elected—not counting the ones proposed in the November bond? Why?

Altmiller: Although each entity likely has different needs and views, the City needs to work cooperatively with other governmental entities, the Buda Economic Development Corporation (Buda EDC), Hays Independent School District, non profit organizations and private partnerships to fulfill the needs for community facilities. The Buda EDC has commissioned a convention center study as part of its budget for the upcoming year. [The convention center] may be an attractive component of a future development. A small convention center can provide additional community facilities and be funded from hotel-motel taxes as long as the majority of its use is for conventions.

Ture: I consistently hear from neighbors and fellow citizens that connecting our communities and shared spaces through safe, walkable and bikeable trails is a high priority. Bond Proposition 5 starts that effort, but there is more to evaluate. Reducing automotive traffic and encouraging more sustainable and local living through effective implementation of mixed-use developments should be evaluated. Existing developments can even be retrofitted for mixed-use. It is very important to note that all upgrades should be weighed against the financial cost to the citizens. Ultimately, I would listen to the needs and concerns of citizens instead of forcing my own agenda.

How should the city balance the desire for more entertainment options with the family environment it hopes to promote?

Altmiller: When I reflect on my favorite family entertainment experiences, I think of Buda traditions and simple pleasures—a Budafest parade, eating barbecue at a Firehall fundraiser, Movies in the Park on the last day of school, hiking through parks, dessert theater fundraisers for the library, driving around and looking at Christmas lights. I would like to see the city of Buda parks department and library program an increasing number of family friendly events throughout the year. Finally, the Buda Economic Development Corporation and city can incentivize and encourage compatible commercial entertainment that diversifies options and brings sales tax income.

Ture: These are not mutually exclusive! If we grow in the ways I hope and seek, then the entertainment options will be those that enrich the families of Buda without having to leave town. This is why I take my daughter and my nieces to attend events and support establishments in Buda that nurture the very characteristics I want for my family. We get to do things like relish in the creativity of local artists and musicians during a festival or First Thursday. We get to practice sustainable nutrition by buying from Buda's Farmer's Market. Family entertainment is my entertainment.