Hollywood Park candidates talk roads, public safety at forum

Hollywood Park mayoral candidate Sean Moore and City Council candidates (left to right) Michael Hall, Tood Kounse and Wendy Gonzalez appear in an April 4 candidate forum at City Hall. (Courtesy Town of Hollywood Park)
Hollywood Park mayoral candidate Sean Moore and City Council candidates (left to right) Michael Hall, Tood Kounse and Wendy Gonzalez appear in an April 4 candidate forum at City Hall. (Courtesy Town of Hollywood Park)

Hollywood Park mayoral candidate Sean Moore and City Council candidates (left to right) Michael Hall, Tood Kounse and Wendy Gonzalez appear in an April 4 candidate forum at City Hall. (Courtesy Town of Hollywood Park)

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Hollywood Park City Council Place 4 applicant Wendy Gonzalez speaks as council Place 2 contestant Tood Kounse listens during an April 4 Hollywood Park candidate forum at City Hall. (Edmond Ortiz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Image description
Hollywood Park mayoral candidate and current Place 1 City Council Member Sean Moore (left) speaks as council Place 2 contestant Michael Hall listens during an April 4 Hollywood Park candidate forum at City Hall. (Edmond Ortiz/Community Impact Newspaper)

The four Hollywood Park residents, whose names will appear on the May 7 city election ballot, appeared at an April 4 forum to answer neighbors’ questions about local streets, public safety and addressing the role of local civic organizations.

The town of Hollywood Park and the Hollywood Park Community Association held the candidate forum at City Hall.

Residents submitted questions prior to the forum, which included lone mayoral candidate and current Place 1 City Council Member Sean Moore, lone council Place 4 applicant Wendy Gonzalez and two men contending for the council Place 2 seat—Michael Hall and Todd Kounse.

An executive with local real estate agency Loopy Ltd., Moore was elected to the council Place 4 post in the May 2021 election. He said he was originally encouraged by neighbors to run for public office based on his work experiences and knowledge of local issues.

Moore looks to replace current Mayor Oscar Villarreal, who declined to file for a ballot spot in this year’s city elections.

Moore lauded Villarreal on his performance since his appointment as mayor in March 2021. But Moore acknowledged that Villarreal’s direct approach on certain issues and in communications with residents may have not been to everyone’s liking in the past year.

“We’ve done a lot of heavy lifting this year,” Moore said of the city’s recent actions and discussions. “Quite frankly, you could thank [Villarreal] for that. Some people don’t like [Villarreal’s] brusqueness or his outward demeanor at times. But he’s done one heck of a job behind the scenes, getting rid of some problems, bringing in some talented people and getting department heads to work cohesively together.”

Moore said, as mayor, he wants to keep city government moving in a positive direction. He also pledged to seek an updated city engineer’s review of current city street conditions.

“My goal is to keep that going, to keep that cohesiveness and keep the forward momentum,” Moore said.

Prospective council newcomers

Hall and Kounse are vying to succeed Place 2 Council Member Debbie Trueman, who declined a re-election bid.

Hall and Kounse both are political newcomers who said they have never served with a Hollywood Park city commission, committee or board. Each candidate said he has personally attended several council meetings and watched more meetings online.

However, Hall and Kounse said they have volunteered with various initiatives and organizations, including church-related activities, over the years.

Having worked as an operations supervisor at the San Antonio International Airport, Hall said he could be a voice for many residents who feel they have no full representation at City Hall.

“I would like to be on the City Council and speak for the people who need to be heard, and I believe there’s a lot of people out there who want to be heard and are not being heard,” Hall said.

Kounse said he wants to serve his community that he said he and his family have come to embrace since moving to town in 2009.

Kounse also said he wants to help the council overcome some tensions that have developed between city government and residents over certain recent local issues.

“I think this is a good time to do that. There’s been a lot of animosity that’s been going on, a lot of ‘us vs. them,’ and I want to get rid of that and just help focus on the community activities that we love,” he said.

Gonzalez said she has volunteered with such organizations as the Hollywood Park Community Association, the Hollywood Hammerheads youth swim team, and San Antonio Youth Literacy. She started practicing law in 2005, and now she works as a real estate agent.

Gonzalez said in recent months she has engaged the City Council, attending several council meetings and asking questions or commenting on various city matters. She looks to replace Place 4 Council Member Delaine Hall, who declined a re-election bid.

“When a [council] spot opened up, I thought of asking someone else to vote the way I think—I can come up here and cast a vote myself,” Gonzalez said. “But I do think I’ll be an asset. I have my finger on the pulse of the community. ... My goal is to make sure the council and the community are in sync.”

Role of nonprofits

According to forum organizers, several residents submitted questions about the role served by local civic groups, and to what extent should such organizations be supported by city government.

Community Impact Newspaper has reported on past tense exchanges between some city leaders and the HPCA regarding the community association and the Hammerheads swim team both leasing storage space at Voigt Park.

The city and both groups negotiated lease agreements for storage space at Voigt Center, but not before some residents questioned whether city leaders were supportive of the nonprofit groups and their respective missions, Community Impact Newspaper has reported.

All candidates agreed these and other local nonprofits and civic organizations have their respective community objectives and deserve levels of support from residents and merchants.

The candidates all also said the city government should not favor one group over another or all others.

“We should be furthering the interests of every group because it’s all for the community,” Gonzalez said.

Answering a question about whether Hollywood Park tax dollars should be used to support a local nonprofit, Hall said “yes” and that such a thing should be considered. Kounse responded “no,” adding that nonprofits rely on membership dues and private fundraisers.

Gonzalez said city government-level support for a nonprofit could depend on the organization in question. Moore said he would not back such direct support.

Answering other questions posed by residents, the four candidates all expressed support for implementing an ethics policy for city government. The current council has been discussing an ethics ordinance with the city attorney in recent weeks.

Addressing the basics

The candidates were also asked what are the biggest issues facing the city. Moore said maintaining basic city operations and getting ahead of road maintenance were the top priorities.

“That’s always going to be my biggest focus,” Moore said.

Gonzalez referenced recent tensions among city officials and residents regarding certain sensitive city issues.

“If people are focused on personal vendettas or trying to right a wrong that was done in the past instead of getting along and doing what’s right for the community, that stymies everything, no matter what the issue is,” she said.

Kounse agreed maintaining quality police, fire and public works departments is crucial, but so is ensuring a positive working relationship between city government and its constituents. Hall said the police and fire departments could both benefit from more support from the city.

“I also believe facilities need more support. They’re understaffed and need better equipment to work with,” Hall said.

Regarding public safety questions submitted by prospective voters, Hall said if elected he would like to put a spotlight on residents’ complaints about crime, speeding, cut-through traffic and noise.

Hall said he is happy that city officials are discussing ways to shore up safety at Voigt Park, especially the basketball court and swimming pool.

“The council that’s in place now is making motions and [setting] guidelines down [at Voigt Park], and that’s good. I’m glad they did that. We need to keep that going,” Hall said.

Kounse said if he were elected, he would focus on any needed road improvements and public safety, particularly at Voigt Park.

“I know the council has addressed the swimming pool issues, and we’re hoping there’s improvement there this summer. I know the basketball court is still an issue,” Kounse said.

Additionally, all four candidates voiced support for the city’s proposed measure that will be on the May 7 ballot—reauthorizing a local sales tax at one-fourth of 1% of total sales tax charged to fund regular street maintenance.

Early polling for the May 7 elections will be held from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. April 25-29; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. April 30 and May 2-3; and noon-6 p.m. May 1 at several locations, including Brook Hollow Library, 530 Heimer Road; and Shavano Park City Hall, 900 Saddletree Court. Polls will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on May 7.

The entire forum is available to view at the city’s YouTube channel.

By Edmond Ortiz
Edmond joined Community Impact as a reporter in August 2021, helping to launch new editions in the San Antonio market. Edmond covers various beats in the North San Antonio coverage area. He previously was the main reporter for Local Community News, covering several areas in and around San Antonio, first as a freelancer and then staff member. Prior to that, Edmond was a community news reporter for Prime Time Newspapers and the San Antonio Express-News, including editing two community weeklies. He's a San Antonio native, and studied mass communications at San Antonio College and Texas State University.