Incumbent Victoria mayor squares off against 4 challengers

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

April 27, 2013 at 5 p.m.
Updated April 27, 2013 at 11:28 p.m.

Will Armstrong

Will Armstrong

Depending on election results, Victoria City Council could see as many as four new faces.

With incumbent Mayor Will Armstrong seeking a fourth term and District 3 Councilman Paul Polasek looking to move up or move out, the race for mayor was already tight.

When three other candidates decided to put their names on the ballot, things really heated up.

Armstrong said he wants to see the city finish the projects started under his leadership.

"One of the biggest challenges we're going to have after the new council is seated is establishing priorities," Armstrong, 72, said. "The council has been polarized on several issues. The most important one, in my opinion, has been the sewer plant."

Henry Perez, who is running to unseat Armstrong, said his main issue is stopping the new wastewater treatment plant in its tracks.

In addition to blocking the new plant, Perez, a 76-year-old Alcoa retiree, wants the Willow Street sewer plant to close and the city to rely solely on the regional plant.

As a member of Concerned Citizens for the Health and Safety of Victoria, Perez went up against the city to get a state judge's ruling whether the city could or should build the plant.

"The reason we stopped it is because we didn't have any money for the lawyer," he said. "We didn't want the sewer plant there. There's nine houses of families across the street, and those sewer plants stink."

Armstrong said the council is facing "some hard choices" centering on balancing development with maintenance.

Polasek, who has served as District 3 councilman for seven years, has supported the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant.

He said the city needs a change in leadership.

"My goals are to improve public trust, grow our tax base, reinvest in the public works projects and support economic development projects and incentives the best we can," Polasek, 47, said.

He and Armstrong have typically supported the same issues during their council terms.

While serving on the council, the two men supported rebuilding two major thoroughfares with concrete, building two fire stations and creating hike and bike trails.

They increased the general fund balance to 22 percent from 15 percent and lowered the tax rate annually.

Polasek said his governing and communication styles are different from the incumbent's and that he will avoid the current shift in the council becoming "more political."

"We need to have thorough, fair, open discussion," Polasek said.

Richard Deases, a 22-year-old mayoral candidate, has been vocal about his opposition to the incumbents running for election.

During a candidate forum Tuesday hosted by the League of Women Voters, Deases alleged Polasek and Armstrong are solely responsible for the city's $167.5 million debt.

The debt has added up over several years, and no debt has been issued for 2013.

Deases said, "The city is crumbling."

However, Polasek, who has a master's degree in business administration and a degree in finance and accounting, has defended the city's use of debt.

"We've been able to take advantage of the low costs to borrow in the past decade to fund capital projects that were needed," he said.

Polasek said projects such as reconstructing Sam Houston Drive and Laurent Street could not have been funded or completed without using debt.

"It's similar to a household," he said. "Just as a family has to borrow money to buy a house, we have to borrow money for our large projects."

Deases said he wants to cut taxes, trim the budget and allocate more money to fixing streets.

"We can't keep building on a city that's falling apart in the center," Deases said. "Eventually, it will all collapse."

Omar Rachid, 52, has avoided much of the battle between Armstrong, Deases and Polasek. He said he wants to lead the city because he is passionate about Victoria.

"What I bring to the table is fresh perspective and proven leadership, a proven skill level at marketing and achieving success," said Rachid, a business consultant and physician recruiter.

During his campaign, Rachid has championed first responders' benefits.

The City Council, during the previous budget session, approved a complete pay-scale overhaul for the fire and police departments.

Rachid said that "is a step in the right direction, but it needs more work."

He said he wants the city to be more competitive with its salaries and benefits packages.

"It makes no sense to train those officers at our expense for another city to go recruit them," Rachid said.



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