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Victoria City Council District 5 candidate profiles

May 1, 2013 at 12:01 a.m.


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 5 election.

• Joe Truman

Background/Qualifications:

Fourth generation Victorian. Graduate of Nazareth Academy and St. Joseph High School. I attended Baylor University, where I studied anthropology and archeology. I have studied business, marketing and accounting at Victoria College and UHV. I have served on and chaired many boards and civic organizations in Victoria.

Why are you seeking this office?

To continue working for the betterment of Victoria's future. In my four years on Council we have made great progress on long standing problems in Victoria. We are updating deteriorating water and sewer systems. We have invested tax dollars into renovating our worst roads and continue to move forward in improving our neighborhood infrastructures. Our downtown area is coming back to life and is a sight to behold. We accomplished this while reducing our tax rate three out of those four years. I wish to continue in efforts in attracting new businesses to our area to diversify our industrial base.

My top three priorities are:

1. Reduction in tax rate. I will strive to bring expenditures in at a level that will allow for an effective tax rate. An effective tax rate brings in the same amount of revenue as last year, but with an increase in property value actual per $100 value tax is less.

2. Work with city staff to expand the quiet zones along the railroads that run through our city. This is one of the most requested issues brought up by my constituents.

3. Addressing drainage issues in most flood prone areas of city. Maintaining outfall system will help in many of these locals.

Where do see opportunities for efficiency in city government?

Our greatest opportunity to create efficiency in our city is to address the problem caused by the exodus of trained personnel. We spend a great deal of money training people only to loose them to greener pastures. They leave looking for better employment opportunities where they feel appreciated for the skills and experience they bring to the table. We have started to address these issues, but we have only just begun. The monies used to train replacements could be better used to increase the pay and benefits of existing first responders, keeping our best and brightest here in Victoria.

What is your position on tax abatements as an incentive for economic development?

Tax abatements are a necessary tool to motivate businesses to move to our community. We are competing with the entire world for these future employers of our citizens. We must use everything we have that will give us an advantage. Being centrally located with excellent transportation systems are often not enough. It is these additional incentives that close the deals. The long-term benefits of these additions to our tax base far outweighs the initial loss of revenue.

What is your position on the city seeking state and federal grant funds for projects?

I believe that the city should seek every available source of revenue to fund our needed projects. The federally funded Neighborhood Block Grants help us build a better city. They fund bus stops, sidewalks and area nonprofits. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's grant payed for half of the new splash pad and surrounding park. I did not agree with the Federal Solar Power grant because the return on investment was very low. It would have required 19 years to recoup our investment of $50,000. We have more pressing needs for this money than an educational display of expensive, inefficient technology.

• Andrew Young

Background/Qualifications:

Licensed physician practicing locally since 2001. Biology Degree from Monmouth College and Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M) Degree from Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine. Co-Owner of Podiatry Associates of Victoria. Active supporter of community groups and organizations. Avid sportsman and member of Trinity Episcopal Church. Married with two precious children.

Why are you seeking this office?

Victoria has a proud history and a bright future, and I want to put my experience and energy to work in making it the best place it can be. While I originally came to Victoria for a job, I also found a place to call home. I married and started a family here, and I want my kids to have the educational and economic opportunities to stay in Victoria and raise their children. One of the most important things I do every day as a doctor is listen, and I will listen carefully to the people of Victoria.

What are your top three priorities?

My top three priorities are improving city infrastructure, keeping taxes as low as possible and creating jobs. In strategically prioritizing what city government does over the coming years, we must look to the future while keeping an eye on the past. As a businessman, I know that keeping taxes low is vital for growing the local economy and creating jobs. I believe that balancing growth with the need to maintain and update what we already have is critical. While we should encourage this growth and the jobs it brings, we cannot let our existing streets and neighborhoods deteriorate.

Where do see opportunities for efficiency in city government?

We will have to work both hard and smart to increase efficiency in city government. When I'm looking to increase efficiency at my business, I examine all parts of my budget and operations to see if money is being spent on things that aren't core functions or essential parts of my business. At the city level, any spending that doesn't meet a core city responsibility or need should be looked at first for cutting at budget time. We should think outside the box when looking to increase efficiency, and consider further collaboration with entities such as Victoria County.

What is your position on tax abatements as an incentive for economic development?

Several tools are available to communities for attracting businesses, with tax abatements being one of them. I believe that it's vital to continue reaching out to bring in new businesses, and we should use abatements in focused and strategic ways. Encouraging businesses to locate here will help build a broad-based economy and create a financially secure future for Victoria. While the jobs and investment that new businesses bring help Victoria directly, this also generates other positive effects. When new businesses come, they bring in new people and increase demand for housing, retail, and services. This further fuels our local economy

What is your position on the city seeking state and federal grant funds for projects?

The city should consider seeking state and federal grant funds when it makes strategic sense, and when the grants align with the city's functions and mission. I understand that "there's no such thing as a free lunch," and many grants come with extensive strings attached, however, if a grant can meaningfully enhance our city, then City Council should at least consider applying for it. I believe it comes down to using common sense and being responsible with the taxpayers' money.

• Gabriel Soliz

Background/Qualifications:

I recently completed a full term on Victoria City Council for District 2. During that time, I proved to be a voice for the people and a vote for the fiscal conservative. I will do my best to continue bringing transparency to issues and provide logical, Constitutional arguments in decisions.

Why are you seeking this office?

A city official once told me "In Victoria, Whites hate Mexicans." I was initially offended by this statement but then decided to take it as a challenge to change the underlying social issues between ethnicities and dispel animosities or misgivings we as a city never addressed. To me, this is a critical issue because it is who we are. How the council addresses issues in the future should be done with economic consideration as the priority. But we also need to consider its social impact. I never want ANY Victorian to feel like this is a 'separate but equal' community.

What are your top three priorities?

1. Economic Development - Create a pro-business environment using economic incentives which are available to ALL business sizes, home-grown or relocated.

2. Debt Services - In a budget where 42 cents of every ad valorem tax dollar is not used on maintenance or operations because of debt payments, a debt buy down plan must be implemented. Lowered debt offers the option of lowering the tax rate which would help to attract businesses.

3. Infrastructure Revitalization - If the city expands too quickly, it will only stress the services like fire and police. Too many older parts of the city need priority. Current citizens trump potential citizens.

Where do you see opportunities for efficiency in city government?

City government efficiency could be broken down in two categories, budget and operations. The purpose of budget and operation efficiencies should improve services to the citizens. I would not assume a department budget cut or policy change would result in a better government. Only after direction from Council on the issue, the improvements should come from the department heads through reports and recommendations. The only other option to consider would be a City department organizational overhaul. Just like staff recommendations about employment contracts, we could mimic other cities in this situation as well. Again, only if this improves city services.

What is your position on tax abatements as an incentive for economic development?

I consider tax abatements as one of many tools that the City has at its disposal. It is an option I would only use for primary job creators in manufacturing and service industries. This incentive should not just be used to entice outside businesses to Victoria but local businesses as well who look to grow. The abatement policy needs to be expanded to include small businesses as well, similar to programs in other cities with pro business environments. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. After all, when the economy grows, the economy flows.

What is your position on the city seeking state and federal grant funds for projects?

It would depend on the purpose of the grant, the responsibility or liability to the city, the duration of the grant commitments and any additional project costs to the citizens. And finally, what is the benefit to the citizens - the return on investment. There is no such thing as free money. There are always conditions and consequences. Just because you can enter a grant application does not mean you should enter into one.

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