May 24, 2017

Stephenville Council, Place 3

Doug Svien
  • Doug Svien, incumbent – Place 3

If incumbent, time on council:  8 years

 

1. What should be the top priorities of city government? Is the council effectively working to address them? Provide an example as to why or how the council is/is not.

Providing fire and police protection are the most important services any city can provide.  Our public safety program is highly effective and has been successful at keeping the citizens safe.  However, without an effective infrastructure you can’t attract businesses.  Good infrastructure will help attract new business which will provide increased revenue.  That is how we will maintain this public safety service.

Channeling resources to priorities is largely ineffective without long-range planning.  In my opinion the council has just recently begun working to address long-range plans.  Just one example is the council engaged a firm to look at the condition of our streets and develop a long-term and cost effective approach to prioritize which streets get repaired first.  The historical way to prioritize repairs has been “the worst first” strategy.  Meaning, fix the worst problems first.  That is not always the most cost effective way to prioritize.

2. If you could gain the support of council members in implementing a new program/policy/service to benefit citizens and improve the quality of life in Stephenville, what would it be? 

Developing a plan to reduce the city’s debt is a high priority for me.  They city has historically borrowed money to perform routine maintenance projects (repair streets and sewer system).  We have a long history of refinancing debt “to keep the payments the same year to year.”  Since my first year on the council this strategy has been used over and over.  The buzz phrase has been “let’s just wrap the new debt around a current loan that is about to be paid off.”  During one council meeting a few years ago one councilman said “I will ALWAYS have a car and house payment.” They said that trying to convince me that refinancing debt is an ok practice.  Isn’t that sad?

3. What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the city today? Do you have ideas for overcoming the challenge?

Repairing crumbling streets and clay pipe sewers, and developing a long-range water plan to ensure the future needs of the city are met are big challenges we face.  We have avoided making tough decisions by just “going to the bank” and borrowing more money.    Changing this ill-advised practice will require city staff and council members to work together and spend lots of time combing the budgets for wasteful spending, create a plan to redirect savings towards infrastructure repairs with a “pay as you go” strategy and refuse to “go to the bank” every time we think we’re in some kind of crisis.  Surely, no one really believes the city budget is without wasteful spending!  Surely not!  It is going to require political leadership to make hard decisions.

4. Are there certain infrastructure related issue(s) you feel should be addressed immediately? If so, name the need(s), possible solution(s) and possible funding mechanism(s).

Clay sewer pipes and developing new water well fields.  We must develop a long-range plan with a pay-as-you-go strategy.

5. As a taxpayer, do you look at tax increases as a necessary tool for maintaining and increasing services? If not, explain how you feel a city can maintain without increasing the tax rate? 

No!  (1) We need to cut wasteful spending and take the time to approach problems and challenges like a business does!  Start by paying off debt and directing interest payments to infrastructure repairs.  (2) We must become known as a development friendly community.  That will increase our tax base which will increase our revenues.  Just a couple of weeks ago a local realtor who specializes in commercial real estate told me that a major developer recently said they would never consider coming to Stephenville because Stephenville doesn’t like to do business with developers.  THAT PERCEPTION MUST CHANGE!

One way to help that may be to be brave like Texas State Senator Lois Kolkhorst who introduced to the 85th Texas Legislature Senate Bill 210.  Her bill will require a state agency to not adopt any new rule that imposes any cost on any one until they eliminate two other rules that have a similar cost.  (State Representative Ryan Guillen introduced House Bill 4245 which is essentially the same as SB 210.) The city of Stephenville should do the same thing.  “Way to go” Senator Kolkhorst and Representative Guillen!  Maybe the city council can introduce the same kind of ordinance.


Mandy McGee
  • Mandy McGee, challenger – Place 3

Current Involvement: I am a challenger and am involved in this community in many different ways: I run my own business in this community, I am a parent of a young child in this community, we participate in community sporting events, and I am involved in our church community.

1. What should be the top priorities of city government? Is the council effectively working to address them? Provide an example as to why or how the council is/is not.

I believe the top priorities of city government should be to view the city and its needs in terms of how we are not only affected now, but just as importantly, in the future. I believe the top priorities necessary to our growth are sewage, water and road maintenance. Currently, I believe that this council, as well as prior councils, have not been adequately addressing these huge priorities. For example, the East Side Sewer Project has been an issue in front of the city council for over nine (9) years now, and the proposed budget originally was somewhere around 12 million dollars, and now because of the city council dragging their feet, we are facing a price tag of over 16 million on top of our city being fined for not keeping our system in to compliance with state regulations. This is a direct example of where our city council has failed our city, which in turn will have a negative effect on our citizens and growth. I have to ask why now, after 9 years of tabling this huge issue, do current council members want to educate and make public the issues at hand with our sewage? Why were they not talking about this more when the price tag was millions of dollars less than what it is now? Especially considering they were well aware of these now looming fines and penalties. These are just a few issues I plan to bring to the forefront of discussions should the citizens choose to elect me.

2. If you could gain the support of council members in implementing a new program/policy/service to benefit the citizens and improve the quality of life in Stephenville, what would it be?

If I could gain the support of other council members, I believe that our community would really benefit from a recycling program. We are riddling our streets with bottles, cans and other recyclable materials. If the citizens had a place to put those items it would cut down on the waste taken to our landfill. This would benefit our community in that it would encourage everyone to recycle, which provides for a less harmful environment. A recycling program will contribute to the overall health and well-being of our community while helping to extend the current life expectancy of our current landfill which is facing issues of its own already. A recycling program seems to be an obvious benefit to our community and something which I would like to submit to our council.

3. What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing the city today? Do you have ideas for overcoming the challenge?

One of the biggest challenges that Stephenville currently faces in my opinion is the growth and expansion of our University and keeping up with the demands that this brings, while also promoting business growth and job opportunities to our citizens. Stephenville needs to be a community that our young entrepreneurial minds are able to see a future in, and help grow and expand. Stephenville needs to be able to grow and expand along with our University in the manner that is best for our citizens. We need to be able to offer the opportunity to start new business for our citizens as well as provide an enticing job market for our young entrepreneurial minds. This will naturally allow expansion in Stephenville which will benefit all citizens. My ideas for overcoming this challenge is to maintain our city in a better manner and prioritize our city funds in a way that is not only beneficial for our community now, but in the future as well. If we maintain the roads, water, sewage and community better, this will entice other businesses to. be involved in our community. This would in turn allow for more jobs for our citizens and our graduating college students to have a better opportunity to help us grow our community to the standard that we all know we can grow it to.

Also, in speaking with other fellow business owners as well as hopeful future business owners, I feel that our city regulations on new business ventures are incredibly overbearing and has put a major damper on the growth potential of our community. In my opinion, this is in direct correlation to the stifling economy and growth numbers that our city has been experiencing over the past decade. We need drastic change before our community growth gets to a point of no return and our University out grows us, which is not good for anyone.

4. Are there certain infrastructure related issues(s) you feel should be addressed immediately? If so, name the need(s), possible solution(s) and possible funding mechanism(s).

I am very passionate about the growth and future of our community and in my personal opinion the East Side Sewage Project is the number one looming issue. Several of the current council members have been stressing recently that our current pipes need to be addressed before we spend money on “expanding” to areas that “may or may not be developed”. Although I do agree that our current pipes have issues that need to be addressed, the current proposed plan does alleviate a lot of flow from the current pipes, not to mention the fact that it is a state regulation that our community will soon be paying fines for due to action not being taken sooner.

Another reason why this is one of the most important issues facing our city is the fact that we have property that is prime real estate and location to be utilized as an industrial area. This property is the one on which our airport sits on and would be a great area of opportunity of expansion and jobs. However, we currently do not have one sewage line that goes to or from this location, which would be required to entice future business owners to seek out future ventures and development.

I do not understand how this issue has not been made a bigger deal before now, considering we have known that our lack of addressing our sewage issue will result in our taxpayers being fined for the lack of decision making by our city council. Personally, as a local taxpayer, I would much rather know that my taxes were being slightly increased to pay for the future expansion and growth of my community vs. being increased to pay for the inadequacies of past council members lack of decision making.

5. As a taxpayer, do you look at tax increases as a necessary tool for maintaining and increasing services? If not, explain how you feel a city can maintain without increasing the tax rate?

As a taxpayer, I believe there are many different ways to maintain our community services without huge tax increases. After looking through the budget and some of the allocations of funding, there are several areas that our funds could be re-allocated, should that be the will of the voter. In my opinion there are many outside funding options available that could be utilized without making tax increases that just need to be researched and sought after by our community leadership. These options could help to alleviate some of the burdens that past decisions made by our council have put on our community. That being said, I feel that small and necessary tax increase proposals have been demonized by several council members in such a way that is misleading to our constituents to instill fear and division among our leaders. Several of the proposals that have been voted against by our council would have cost the average family in Stephenville between $10-$20 annually, if that. As a taxpayer, I would like to be informed in a more honest and direct way than has happened in the past, so I could make better decisions when these items come up for vote. I feel that any and all tax related issues should be put to vote to our citizens so they can make the decision, without the council having the power to ignore the vote and go over their heads, just like they did with the Proctor Water Project.

This is not a Presidential race, not conservative vs. liberal this is Stephenville Texas. I truly feel that our current council members as well as challenging candidates have Stephenville and our best interest at heart. That being said, I feel that there has been an over-reach in power and much of that power should be turned back over to We the People, and should I have the honor of serving my community, that is exactly what I will advocate for. Thank you.

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