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Candidate brings new leadership, vision to city

By BY OMAR RACHID
May 2, 2013 at 12:02 a.m.

Omar Rachid

One of the attributes of the American electoral system that makes it truly great is the fact that elections aren't about popularity contests, they are and should be about new ideas for the voters to consider. I've entered the race for the mayor of Victoria because I have ideas that can propel Victoria to the next level and make it better for those who call it home. My purpose in writing today is to put a few ideas in front of the voters of Victoria and welcome vigorous debate upon them.

First, as the largest city in this region, we should be recruiting the best and brightest law enforcement officers and first responders. Sadly, the opposite is true. We have lost 30 officers to cities like Cy-Fair, Hallettsville and Port Lavaca simply because our compensation package is inadequate, and the current council has done nothing to fix it. By losing our best police officers, our community becomes less safe and, as a result, suffers from a lower quality of life. This situation encourages higher crime rates and discourages new businesses from relocating to our community. We must take action now to stop this exodus and to fill the 11 vacancies currently on the police force.

Speaking of bringing new businesses to our community, Victoria is suffering a shortage of new housing demanded by the middle class. Homes between $100,000 to $200,000 are simply not available. The availability of housing at various price points will enable teachers, young people, police officers, firefighters, retirees and others to remain and/or relocate to our community. Housing is incredibly essential to our economic development, simply because newly recruited enterprises as well as established businesses can't recruit workers if housing is not available.

We on the City Council must collaborate with the leadership teams of Victoria Economic Development Corporation and the Victoria Area Association of Realtors to recruit a builder or several builders that specialize in large-scale housing developments to address this need.

Economic development provides a good example into another important idea - government transparency. City business should be carried out in the most open and accountable way possible. For example, if the city grants tax abatement to a new business in return for providing a certain number of jobs, they should report back regularly to the City Council on the progress they are making in creating those jobs. And, through the council and city's website, that information should be readily available for all the citizens to see.

We can also make government more transparent by changing the way we are paying for street and infrastructure improvements. Our current rolling bond package system makes it far too easy to conceal the true cost of improvements from the taxpayers. I will advocate for moving to a "general bond" election to fund desperately needed repairs to our roads and neighborhood streets. This will make it easy for the voters to know exactly how much these projects will cost and how and when it will be paid for.

How about term limits? Absolutely! Term limits help prevent stagnation in government and government officials. Too many of our elected officials make a career out of city government instead of sharing their ideas and then finding new ways to serve our community. I think a charter amendment to add term limits for the mayor and City Council members should be strongly considered and will personally advocate for a charter amendment for the citizens to vote on it.

Furthermore, I believe that our City Council should provide more opportunities for its citizens to volunteer their time and talents to serve their city. All commission and board positions should be advertised on the city's website and the local newspapers. This will assure that the best person will be chosen for the given position. This will also encourage more folks to be involved in city matters. All of these positions should have term limits as well.

Indeed, elections are about debating ideas even more so than about choosing a candidate. I hope these few thoughts I've shared will spark a vigorous debate and discussion on ways to make our community a better and stronger one. If you agree with my ideas, please cast your vote for me so that I can put them into action. If you have any questions or thoughts of your own to share, I welcome them at orachid@omarformayor.com.

Omar Rachid is a candidate for the office of mayor of Victoria. He is president of Rachid Business Consulting and serves on many community boards, including president of the Board of Directors of Theatre Victoria, board member of Mid-Coast Family Services, member of the University of Houston-Victoria Presidents Regional Advisory Board and a member of the City of Victoria Planning Commission. More information is available at omarformayor.com. Voters can contact him with questions or comments at 361-571-7662.

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