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City council candidates make their case, share stances at Denton Matters Forum

City council candidates make their case, share stances at Denton Matters Forum

City council candidates make their case, share stances at Denton Matters Forum
February 23
22:52 2019

All but one of the city council candidates showed up to Dan’s SilverLeaf on Saturday night to participate in Denton Matters’ city council candidate forum, discussing a variety of issues and their priorities.

Speaking to an audience of more than 50 people, the candidates shared their thoughts on issues including red-light cameras and the current ethics ordinance.

Moderated by Mat Pruneda, a former Democratic candidate for the Texas House of Representatives, and Sara Bagheri, a board member of Denton Housing Authority and former city councilperson, the forum divided candidates by the district they are running for, beginning with current District 2 councilwoman Keely Briggs, who is running unopposed.

District 2 candidate Keely Briggs answers questions about her plans for Denton. Image by: Ayron Walker.

One question Briggs was asked regarded the ethics ordinance and if there is anything she would change about it.

“When we approved it, we knew that there were going to be things that would come up and we would just have to address,” Briggs said. “So as things come up, we will look at them and we will address them. But I am so glad that we have it and I’m not going to say that we shouldn’t have it and that we need to get rid of it because it will do more good than it will harm.”

On the issue of red-light cameras, Briggs said she is ready to get rid of them, following the results of a pilot program where the yellow-light time was extended and there was a reduction in violations.

“But you need more data,” Briggs said. “You want to make sure you’re doing the right thing and you’re not making a mistake.”

Following Briggs, Pruneda and Bagheri asked District 4 city council candidate Emily Meisner questions. Her opponent, incumbent John Ryan, was not able to make it to the forum.

“A number one, top priority for me [is] to make citizens feel heard,” she said. “To show citizens that they are heard and to engage in activities where they can be heard such as monthly town halls or having a Facebook dialogue.”

In her closing statement, Meisner thanked those who attended and said she would do her homework and is very prepared to tackle the responsibilities of a council member should she be elected.

“I’d like to bring responsible growth, innovation, forward-thinking growth and community action to my constituents,” Meisner said. “I want everyone to feel heard and I want to address issues collaboratively as we move forward, as Denton becomes bigger. Let’s make it a place we’re all proud of.”

District 1 city council candidates Gerard Hudspeth, the incumbent, and George Ferrie followed Meisner as they also spoke on their priorities and stances on various issues. The first question posed to them was what they would like to accomplish in the next two years.

“I’d like to make sure we have an equality ordinance here in Denton,” Ferrie said. “I’ve lived in this town for 14 years. I’ve worked with many different communities and I want to make sure that our city stands for every single citizen that lives here.”

Ferrie also said he would like to “revisit, restructure and strengthen our tax incentive and abatement policies.”

In his answer, Hudspeth said his focus is on street infrastructure, taxes and increased transparency.

“Also, police and fire,” Hudspeth said. “Continue to increase that. We have to increase our police force and we’re working towards that, working with staff and I want to continue [working] towards that [in the] next two years.”

One issue which both candidates agreed on was red light cameras and whether to renew the contract for them.

“I’ve been on record saying I don’t like them,” Hudspeth said. “And I look forward to not renewing the contract. I’m happy to see those terms expire.”

Ferrie agreed, adding that he thinks it’s doing a disservice to Denton and it’s not working.

“I think it’s putting people in a tight spot that can’t financially handle dealing with this problem,” Ferrie said. “And I think it’s just a bad contract all together. I would not vote for it again.”

Mary Ann Brooks, a 70-year-old psychotherapist who lives in District 3, said she attended the forum to hear what the candidates had to say before she heads to the polls.

“I just don’t see that George Ferrie has the experience,” Brooks said. “I mean I think he has a good heart and he has good intentions, but I think you need more experience. I just think Hudspeth is more experienced and I’ve met him before and I like him.”

Brooks said the only issue she disagrees on when it comes to Hudspeth is his stance on red light cameras. She said she thinks the city should have them.

“I think they do save lives,” Brooks said. “I’m sorry to see them go.”

District 3 candidates Matt Farmer, Diana Leggett and Jesse Davis discuss their intentions for if they win the city council seat. Image by: Ayron Walker.

Following the District 1 candidates, Matt Farmer, Diana Leggett and Jesse Davis — the candidates running for District 3— took to the stage to answer questions.

Pruneda first asked them what specific cause made each of them want to run for city council.

“I can tell you honestly this is a labor of love,” Davis said. “I’m very involved in the community, that’s something I enjoy. I think it’s important as a member of the community, when you have time and talent, to lend that where you can. So, I see this [as an] opportunity to serve my community.”

For her answer, Leggett talked about Denton homelessness while Farmer talked about getting people engaged in voting.

The District 3 candidates were also asked if they would change anything about the current ethics ordinance and if, under the current ethics ordinance, they would see any potential cause for recusal.

“I don’t want to make this awkward [but] I don’t think that if you are a candidate for a local election, that you should be able to serve on an ethics board, especially as the ethics chair,” Farmer said, referring to Davis.

When asked the same question, Davis mentioned conflicts of interest.

“Our code of ethics is written differently than any other code of ethics that I’m aware of in the state of Texas or nationally,” Davis said. “We started from scratch and we should have gone and gotten best practices from other places.”

Leggett said she was amazed that so much was left out of the ethics ordinance and that there are many loopholes to it.

“Why in the world we started from scratch when there is already, in the United States, a gold standard, I do not understand,” Leggett said.

Denton City Council elections will take place on May 4.

Featured Image: The crowd in Dan’s Silverleaf Bar gathers to hear the Denton City Council candidates. Image by: Ayron Walker.

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Lizzy Spangler

Lizzy Spangler

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1 Comment

  1. BER
    BER February 24, 08:44

    I’m curious as to why you quoted the opinion of a district 3 resident on the candidates for district 1? Is it a mistake and Ms. Brooks actually lives in district 1?
    Otherwise, it just looks like the writer or paper is trying to caste a negative image of one of the district 1 candidates.

    Reply to this comment

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