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Victoria City Council candidates debate economic strategies

By Melissa Crowe
April 12, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated April 11, 2013 at 11:12 p.m.

Economic strategy topped the issues for the three candidates jockeying for Victoria City Council Super District 5.

Incumbent Joe Truman, 50, former councilman Gabriel Soliz, 40, and Andrew Young, 39, met for a debate Friday afternoon at the Victoria Advocate.

Super District 5 covers the southern half of Victoria.

Young, who owns a podiatry practice in Victoria, took the first question, regarding solutions to the city's biggest problems.

He said balancing growth with maintaining infrastructure will be a challenge, but the city can "walk the fine line" with strong leadership.

While infrastructure may be an issue, Young said the underlying solution is growing the tax base to provide jobs, housing and improve quality of life.

Soliz, who previously represented District 2, said the focus should be on revitalization. He mentioned a recent issue: whether to expand Mallette Drive or focus on downtown infrastructure projects.

He mentioned using 380 agreements or designated zones to help balance the need to maintain existing or outdated infrastructure with growth.

"Revitalization to me still has to be a priority over expansion," Soliz said.

Truman defended the city's efforts to repair and build residential streets and major thoroughfares.

"We're doing it at a reasonable tax rate," he said. "We're doing it judiciously and not borrowing beyond our means."

He commented on Soliz's statement for 380 agreements.

"We lose money upfront, but we gain money in the long run," he said. "It's a judicious investment."

However, Young said the city needs to be careful that it is getting that money back in return.

Truman and Young agreed that the city has a strong relationship with the economic development corporation and sales tax development board.

Young highlighted his goal to diversify the city's job base.

"When oil goes south ... if something happens to Caterpillar, we have something to fall back on," he said. "It will set us up in the long haul for success."

Soliz said the city should look toward successful economic plans other communities have implemented.

"We shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel," he said. "How we ... implement an economic development plan tells the business community whether or not we're business-friendly."

He agreed that the city needs to diversify from machinery and manufacturing industries. He said he wants to nurture the small businesses in Victoria.

Truman disagreed with using other cities' economic development plans. He said each opportunity in Victoria needs to be assessed independently.

"It has been the wise decisions of our leaders past and present that have helped generate the growth spurt in our community," Truman said.



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