Candidate profiles for Victoria City Council District 6 election
Editor's note: The Advocate is profiling candidates in the May 11 City Council election with the help of the League of Women Voters of Victoria. This profile features candidates for the District 6 election.
• Tom Halepaska
Born and raised in Victoria County. Graduated St Joseph's High School, Victoria College and Texas A & I University. Owner of Halepaska's Bakery with 41 years of business experience that employs 50 people. Has served 3 terms on City Council for Super District 6.
Why are you seeking this office?
Victoria has made a lot of progress in recent years. It is gratifying to see long overdue projects such as Sam Houston and Laurent completed. I am proud of my record on council and wish see through to completion other much needed projects. Such as the TCEQ mandated Wastewater Treatment Plant and Downtown Utility Rehabilitation. We have much more that needs to be done in a measured balanced manner. The issues we face as a city going forward are huge. I am volunteering to sign up for a 3 year term to help solve those problems.
What are your top three priorities?
1. Increase the rate of repair of our residential streets. The average life span of residential streets is way below the rate of rehabilitation or replacement it is now getting. We should address this need in coming years before it gets to a critical stage.
2. The Capital Improvements Projects (CIP) are a list of projects that need to be done. Council and staff set priorities of which project on this list has the greatest need. We need to continue this progress.
3. Provide additional off-channel storage of water for times of drought when access to the river rights are curtailed.
Where do you see opportunities for efficiency in city government?
Automated garbage collection has proven to be much more efficient than our old system. Curbside recycling has been popular as well. We are constantly looking for ways to be more efficient in the delivery of services such as the automated meter reading system. Efficiency is not an endpoint but a never ending search for a better way to do things. Updated software in the Police Department and Municipal Court system seem to hold great promise in reducing manpower in those areas. Centralizing our Streets Maintenance facilities will help as well.
What is your position on tax abatements as an incentive for economic development?
With the recent success with Caterpillar, there should be only one position. That position is that it works. If it works, then we should do more of it. Economic incentives are open to everyone, not just out of town businesses. Our local PFG received an incentive when they expanded their facility and hired additional employees. The incentives only kick in after the project is completed and the jobs are here. They get back a small amount of what they put in. If no one comes to Victoria, then our citizens get back 100 percent of nothing and no new jobs.
What is your position on the city seeking state and federal grant funds for projects?
The city uses grants to help get back some of the money paid into the state and federal coffers. Grants to our police and fire departments for upgrades in equipment, body armor, software, cameras and training help make our first responders better and safer. Continuing Development Block Grants (CDBG) is money received that is used to rehabilitate substandard neighborhoods with sidewalks and drainage. While it might be popular to try to send a message to the fed by refusing these funds, that message would only fall on deaf ears while the burden would fall on our shoulders.
• Russell Pruitt
I have been attending City Council and County Commissioners court meetings for over thirty years. I am running for City Council because of my deep concern of the "easy come, easy go" policies of the City Council, and the unrestricted tax spending policies of the City.
Why I am seeking this office:
The enticement of money at low interest rates creates debt beyond the financial stability of the City's budget. The interest payment is still over 50% on the bonds at present time.
What are my top three priorities:
1. Minimizing the loss of 30 veteran police officers by adopting a benefit and pay package that will keep city employees. Possibly this will bring some veteran officers back into Victoria.
2. I propose to use the "reserve fund" to pay for residential street improvements, as well as other projects on the city's "needs and wants" list.
3. I would to take the actions necessary to truly balance the budget of the city of Victoria.
Where do I see opportunities for efficiency in the city government:
The City Council needs to repeal the "no questions asked" policy on the $25,000 check writing limit. The city's financial policy is designed to expedite spending by allowing departments a blank check up to $25,000. The City Council needs to take control of the financial expenditures by having a financial report at every meeting before they begin spending money on projects. The City Council needs to vote on all expenditures before payment is made even if it is $5.
What is my position on tax abatements as an incentive for economic development?
Tax abatements and incentives should only be used to create jobs in Victoria. They should not be used to bring in competition for businesses that are paying for these abatements and incentives.
What is my position on the city seeking state and federal grant funds for projects:
I am in favor of most state and federal grants which aid our city departments in being more efficient in their jobs. This would include such grants which would provide safety equipment, safety training or new technology. I am not in favor of state and federal grants which offer matching funds for experimental projects.