Property rights, power shift at stake
The Ellis County Press
MIDLOTHIAN – Mayor Boyce Whatley is running unopposed and Councilman Ken Chamber isn’t up for re-election this year, but their supporters and slate of candidates are battling for a sizable slice of the Midlothian City Council.
Early voting for the May 10 city council and school board elections began Monday and runs until Tuesday, May 6.
"I have been asked to testify before our state Legislature in Austin regarding annexation laws," Whatley said, highlighting an issue that has pitted the city against the Rural Citizens Against Annexation, a group fighting annexation.
"The current laws are both ambiguous and difficult to manage for both cities and the residents that live in areas under considerations.
"We need to streamline the process and ensure that there’s a fair balance where both sides’ needs are identified and met without creating divisiveness."
Though unopposed for a second four-year term, Whatley – himself a former councilman – recently spearheaded an ethics investigation into Chambers, who was elected last year after knocking off incumbent Jimmy Beaudoin, the author of Midlothian’s smoking ban ordinance.
The candidates for Place 1 – incumbent Dusty Fryer and challenger Ricky Long – did not return repeated requests for comment.
Fryer, first elected several years ago as an anti-annexation opponent, is one of Whatley’s most crucial support votes on the council.
Long is seen as an ally of Chambers, according to political observers.
Three candidates are vying for the Place 2 position on the council, and two of those – Bob Johnson and Bill Houston – are seen as vital to Whatley and Chambers’ agendas.
Freda Wash is seeking to become the first black councilwoman.
Johnson, though not directly linked with any group, has been characterized by supporters of the mayor and Chambers that he could be a component of shifting the mayor’s coalition featuring Steve Massey, Wayne Sibley and Tommy Mitchell, who chose not to seek re-election to his Place 2 seat.
"Judging from the conversations I have had with city residents since this campaign began, a dominant theme in the discussions is concern with controlling city spending, keeping taxes down and accountability in city government," Johnson said.
"Some people believe there is too much spending outside the budget.
"I believe if a budget is done property, there should be very few unanticipated spending incidents during the year.
"If there is a need for funds, and there has been no anticipation, no planning or no preparation for the expense, except for extreme circumstances, I think the spending should e put off, and the item can be included in the budget for next year."
Johnson said he’s also "very concerned" with how bond debt is used by the city council. Though not affiliated with any particular campaign, the Midlothian-based Citizens For A Responsible Government has listed several budget items and receipts on their Web site, www.cfarg.org.
Houston, meanwhile, received a boost recently with the endorsement of former Councilwoman Paula Baucum, the mayor’s opponent in the 2004 election.
"I am aware of the needs of our community based on my experience on various city boards and community involvement such as [the 4B economic development board], Leadership Midlothian, Midlothian Citizens Academy and [the] Midlothian Chamber of Commerce," Houston said.
"I feel I will bring a valuable unique perspective to the city council for the citizens of Midlothian that is not currently represented."
Wash said she got her start in Leadership Midlothian, a school for the city’s future leaders.
"As I learned more about the local government and interacted more with the citizens, I developed an interest in the local concerns of the citizens and then realized that a different representation is needed," she said. "While my objective is to offer the citizens the option of the minority and female representation in the Midlothian City Council, my main goal is to represent all citizens of Midlothian."