Home | News | Community | 2 candidates answer Q&A in Nov. 3 race

2 candidates answer Q&A in Nov. 3 race

By
Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font

STAFF REPORT

The Ellis County Press

MIDLOTHIAN – The special city council election in Midlothian will pit former mayor pro-tem Jamie Wickliffe against Bill Redding, who lost a May council race by 62 votes.

The third candidate, Dustin Mikel, withdrew his candidacy on Monday, Oct. 12.
Early voting for the race to replace Dusty Fryer’s Place 1 seat begins Monday, Oct. 19 and ends Friday, Oct. 30.

A citizen-led group, the Midlothian Citizens Alliance, issued a questionnaire to both Wickliffe and Redding. The answers for both candidates are below.

Bill Redding

1. Midlothian has the highest amount of City Debt per housing unit in our area 4x that of Cedar Hill, 3x that of Mansfield and 50% more than Waxahachie. Is the amount of debt weve taken on necessary for a city of our size to provide services and secure our future?

I believe you answered this question within the question itself. Why would a city our size, much smaller than any you mentioned in your question, need more city debt per housing unit than larger cities offering more services. I do not believe a city our size should have our debt load!

I believe Midlothians tax rate is so high because it is approximately 60 percent comprised of payment for existing debt.

Therefore, I believe we need a moratorium on new debt until a majority of existing debt is paid down so the taxpayers can have some relief on their ad valorem taxes. It appears that prior councils have not been responsible in deciding which projects were worthy of selling bonds and which werent.

2. In the past 10 years, property taxes have risen sharply. What can you do to help reduce the property tax burden on our citizens?

In addition, as I previously pointed out, reducing debt will substantially reduce property taxes. Midlothian needs to become a more business-friendly place to encourage businesses to re-locate here and enhance our tax base. Many restrictions currently in place need to be revisited to determine their relevancy and how those restrictions affect new business acquisitions.

3. Forced Annexation has been a hot issue lately. Briefly tell us your thoughts concerning annexation.

I believe annexation should never be forced. Our nation was not created to violate property owners rights. Unilateral annexation is not something I favor.

4. One of the biggest issues with forced annexation is that annexed residents were never allowed to vote on the matter. Often the city is looked upon as dictator and any faith in democracy is lost. As a compromise, would you support a measure that allows the people to decide this issue by allowing City Residents and ETJ Residents to come together for a vote to determine forced annexations?

Yes, then it would no longer be forced annexation.

Americans were raised on a belief in the democratic process. If questioned almost anyone would heartily agree citizens should be allowed to vote on issues that affect their lives, property and wealth. Unilateral annexation violates that belief so why should it be treated any differently?

5. Tell us your thoughts on Eminent Domain.

Eminent Domain should only be used for critical infrastructure and as a last resort.

6. Midlothian has experienced extraordinary growth in the past 20 years. How can we control growth, yet maintain the small quiet rural atmosphere that so many of us love about Midlothian?

By minimizing the demands from the city on citizens, we can keep the uniqueness of Midlothian and not be a cookie cutter city. We should encourage development of large lot residences. Most people moved to the rural atmosphere of Midlothian to enjoy the space and freedom. To retain that environment we should have a proper mix of medium density developments and acreage developments.

7. Are high density developments good or bad for Midlothian?

Midlothian needs a variety of housing for everyone who wants to live in Midlothian. It should not be a place where you work but cannot afford to live.

8. Should only certain businesses be given property tax abatements or should all businesses be treated equally?

Why not allow the citizens to vote on who they believe should get tax abatements because it IS their money.

9. How can the city help our local entrepreneurs and businesses keep from getting drowned out by the likes of Walmart and the other big boxes moving in?

Neither Walmart nor Target, or their executives, have ever put locks on any local business and thrown the owners out. Sam Walton started out small, so Walmart is now as big as it s customers think it should be. The individual consumer must decide whether they want the large selection, low prices and not-so-great customer service a Walmart provides or the more hands-on and potentially more expensive products offered by local merchants. Government should encourage free enterprise and give no business an advantage over another.

10. Briefly tell us your thoughts on the overall purpose of local government.

Governments purpose is to protect the lives, liberty and property of its citizens and to provide the means to do so.

Candidate Specific Questions

11. Much has been publicized in the past by a certain group about a letter supposedly written by you about boycotting local businesses.

Did you write this letter and what are you personal thoughts regarding local
businesses?

I challenge anyone to produce the original of that letter because I guarantee its a forgery or fake. I did not write such a letter.

12. Youre a recently annexed citizen who was against being forcefully annexed. Some view you as a radical who will only try to de-annex the recently annexed areas or take over Midlothian with your agenda. How would you respond to these claims?

I am now a citizen of Midlothian, period. I am not a radical. Now that the city is collecting my money for taxes, I have looked into the citys spending habits. I was shocked by their annual $53 million dollar budget, and that the city still needs an additional $900,000 to balance the 2009 budget!

The citizens of Midlothian deserve to have better accountability. The current mayor and several of the council members seem indifferent to our very large debt and huge annual budget, with $900,000 in the hole, and yet they are still spending. Our city needs new blood that cares about our current issues, not a repeat of an old council.

As a retired person, I understand the need for budgets and have plenty of time to devote to the council.

Annexation is in the past and Im focused on the future. Ive lived in the Midlothian area for over 30 years and am well familiar with the challenges and issues facing our city. I am retired and have never received any income from the City, hence my only desire is to serve its citizens. I have always been one to stand up for what I believe is right for me and my family.

Quite frankly, there are some out there who dont appreciate anyone who does that.

Jamie Wickliffe

1. Midlothian has the highest amount of City Debt per housing unit in our area 4x that of Cedar Hill, 3x that of Mansfield and 50% more than Waxahachie. Is the amount of debt weve taken on necessary for a city of our size to provide services and secure our future?

Cities are typically forced to go into debt to pay for "big ticket" items such as those associated with safety, roads, utilities, and quality of life. Midlothian has issued debt in the last 10 years for all of these type items. I think its important to recognize that growing cities have more debt, and that debt is often related to the expectations of the citizens. As we grow, the demands of the citizens change.

The expectation of safety, services, parks and roadways expand with an increased population. How much of the current debt was a result of bond issues voted on by the citizens?

A community must issue debt to prepare for the future you cant build the water plant after the need is there. You must plan ahead and put the infrastructure in place to prepare for the future. Midlothian has a fantastic future ahead of it. One of the ways we planned for our future involves decisions and votes from many years ago. As a community we chose, over 20 years ago to acquire substantial water rights from Joe Poole Lake.

That decision was expensive in the beginning but in the intermediate and long run it should prove to be an incredibly wise investment (if managed properly). I have had the benefit of working directly with some of the best water specialists in the state in my appraisal business. I am familiar with long range water planning and costs around the state. Our Joe Poole Lake debt has caused many a sleepless night for decision makers of this city in the past; but, today we are lucky to have a ready supply of water for the future. This should create a long term cost savings and a quality revenue source for the tax payer.

No doubt, in these economic times we must be incredibly careful with every decision. Our decisions should be made based not only on our ability to repay the debt but should also include a careful analysis of the expenditures ability to create a return on the investment. The city is no different than our household budget in that regard. If we cant afford it or if its not a good long term investment, then we should not borrow the money. If, however, the debt is returning revenue, diversifying the tax base, providing a service that is needed and desired and ultimately allows the citizens a higher quality of life at a reasonable cost, then the tax payer wins.

2. In the past 10 years, property taxes have risen sharply. What can you do to help reduce the property tax burden on our citizens?

You must either add value to the tax base (new business) or you must reduce spending. I believe it is critical that the school district and city work together to recognize that the combined expenses affect us all.

3. Forced Annexation has been a hot issue lately. Briefly tell us your thoughts concerning annexation.

Forced annexation always comes with a price. During my previous tenure as an elected councilman for the City of Midlothian we struggled with an annexation issue. In 1997 several thousand acres were proposed for annexation.

There was a mighty struggle between those that did not want to be annexed and those that felt the annexation was necessary. After many meetings, a compromise was reached which did allow the annexation of a large land area; but, eliminated from the annexation several established neighborhoods including Clearview and Country East Estates.

The solution was not flawless and some that did not want to be in the city were annexed in spite of their request but by in large a reasonable compromise was achieved. As we look to the future, we must look for innovative solutions from all sides.

4. One of the biggest issues with forced annexation is that annexed residents were never allowed to vote on the matter. Often the city is looked upon as dictator and any faith in democracy is lost. As a compromise, would you support a measure that allows the people to decide this issue by allowing City Residents and ETJ Residents to come together for a vote to determine forced annexations?

If the process were legal (or could be made so), I would support an open discussion of exactly that type of solution. I like the idea, but it would only be fair if the population counts in the areas were similar. I cant imagine how wronged one might feel if they were outside the city in an area of very low population and were given a chance vote. If the people in the area to be annexed were so outnumbered that they might never win a majority vote, would they be happy with the process? So, there would be substantial issues to discuss; but, its a reasonable idea and worthy of significant consideration.

5. Tell us your thoughts on Eminent Domain.

The right to take the property for public purpose was intended to be used to build roads, utilities, and public buildings. Those rights have been expanded to include items like privately owned football stadiums and shopping malls. I disagree with the use of the power of eminent domain for non public uses.

6. Midlothian has experienced extraordinary growth in the past 20 years. How can we control growth, yet maintain the small quiet rural atmosphere that so many of us love about Midlothian?

Cities control growth through long range planning. The future land use plan should consider the types and sizes (density) of future home sites. Midlothian does have both a zoning ordinance and a future land use plan.

The city must be careful to not "dictate" how the property owner might use their land, but should instead maintain policies that allow the land owner, the economy and common sense to determine the land use with fair consideration of the facts in hand.

You maintain Midlothian’s small town atmosphere by continuing and expanding activities like recreational sports, family events, farmers markets, parades, fall festivals, Lords Acre sales, movie nights and other activities to put people in touch with their neighbors. Midlothians biggest asset is its citizens. They are what make Midlothian such a special place to live.

We know our community is a wonderful place to call home because this community has a heart. Our family has had a first-hand experience with the heart of this community. When our oldest son Eric, was injured in a diving accident and became a quadriplegic, this community poured out its heart to us. The parents we had met on the baseball diamonds, soccer fields, and FFA events and the friends we had made in the churches and schools cared for us, prayed for us and carried us thru our darkest moments. The people in this community ARE the biggest asset we have. The rewards of meeting one another, sharing with each other and caring for one another are big reasons why we all love Midlothian and have made it our home.

7. Are high density developments good or bad for Midlothian?

Too much of any ONE thing is bad for Midlothian. High density development is expensive for this community and must be balanced with other types of land uses.

8. Should only certain businesses be given property tax abatements or should all businesses be treated equally?

Competition is stiff for businesses to locate in a community. It is especially competitive when a high quality business is evaluating new locations. If Midlothian is to compete in the market place, it will be forced to offer incentives those can be in the form of fee waivers, tax abatements, or the offers of free land.

Every community that is successful in attracting high quality new business offer incentives. However, those incentives should not be given to just any business. Only those businesses that are of the type and quality the community desires should receive consideration. Any incentives should be directly tied to the addition of taxable value, quality job creation, and a diversification of the local tax base.

I would love to see the same opportunities made available to small business in town, but previous attempts to establish the criteria required of those businesses have not yet been solidified.

9. How can the city help our local entrepreneurs and businesses keep from getting drowned out by the likes of Walmart and the other big boxes moving in?

BUY LOCAL. Reignite and enforce a buy local policy. When I served on council in the past, I helped establish a "buy local" policy whereby the city could authorize an expenditure of up to 5% more than a competitive bid from out of town. This process is intended to encourage local trade and save the staff time by eliminating out of town trips for supplies.

The city is a large organization. The services, parts, office supplies and even toilet paper purchases made by the city could make a huge difference to the bottom line in a small business.

New ideas I would propose include concepts like: Can we establish a "How To Do Business With The City of Midlothian" course for the local businesses? Can we allow the local business the opportunity to match an out of town price?

10. Briefly tell us your thoughts on the overall purpose of local government?

The purpose of local government is to provide orderly maintenance of the community to the best interest of the tax payer. Local government is charged with handling the business operations of the city, and to provide public safety for the common good of the people of Midlothian. Local government should demand fair and equal treatment of all persons coming before it.

Candidate Specific Questions

11. You’re a very successful real estate agent. Some are worried about potential conflicts of interest between your real estate holdings and being on the City Council. How would you respond to that?

If someone is worried that I would take advantage of my position on the city council to achieve personal gain, I simply respond "You don’t know me." I served this community for 12 years in an elected position. I helped author the governance policy and the ethics code the council currently operates under. I have no need to gain an unfair advantage, and no desire to do so.

I do own some real estate in this community. I own my home, my business location and a few houses scattered across town, that together form a portion of my retirement plan. I do not think that disqualifies me from service, and truly struggle to determine how my serving might benefit the real estate I own or vice versa.

My real estate holdings are far from vast but they are assets that I have worked hard to assemble like many of you. If the concern is that I wont raise taxes because it would cost me more, I simply point out that concern exists among EVERY tax payer I listen to.

I do not believe my chosen profession excludes me from public service. In fact, I believe that diversified backgrounds and expertise are huge assets to the tax payer. Who better to analyze values and impacts than someone that makes their living doing so? Who better to watch over the wise use of tax dollars then someone who pays taxes?

12. There’s a deep divide right now on the city council. Some people have voiced opinions that they think you’re just another ally of Mayor Whatley and will vote however he votes. How would you respond to such accusations?

Anyone that has ever witnessed some of the "near famous" debates between then council member Whatley and myself in the past would find that concern unfounded.

Will I blindly follow Mayor Whatley on any vote? NO! Will I adamantly vote against everything he proposes to prove some personal point? NO!

I will research the issues and come to the table with ideas. I will express my opinions and listen to others as they offer theirs. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with any council member that needs more information in order to make good decisions, and I will do my part to find the best solution for the citizens.

This is not the first time a deep divide has existed at the council table, and I venture to say it is far from the last. Public service is born of people with a passion for an issue. We can disagree, but we must remember that wise people listen and find resolution to the differences.

I believe that it is incredibly dangerous for the well being of this community to elect individuals that arrive at the table with their minds made up.

It is unproductive to allow personality issues to impact the business of this city. We can do better for the citizens of Midlothian.


Subscribe to comments feed Comments (0 posted)

total: | displaying:

Post your comment

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • Underline
  • Quote

Please enter the code you see in the image:

Captcha

Log in

  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text
Nelson Propane

Tagged as:

No tags for this article

Rate this article

0
Powered by Vivvo CMS v4.5.2