LWV forum asks the hard questions

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

April 30, 2013 at 11 p.m.
Updated April 29, 2013 at 11:30 p.m.

Victoria voters turned out Tuesday evening to hear the Victoria City Council candidates' take on how the city should or shouldn't be run.

The forum, hosted by Victoria's League of Women Voters and Victoria College Student Government Organization, included candidates for mayor and districts 3, 5 and 6.

Trevor Finster, a member of the student group, stressed the importance of voting in this election during the forum's opening remarks.

"Local politics are a foundation of what our country is made of," Finster said. "The people we elect will influence our daily lives with the decisions they make."

Early voting is open through Tuesday. Election Day is May 11.

For District 5, which covers the southern half of Victoria, the three candidates talked about protecting property values from trailer parks, distributing hotel tax dollars and what global initiatives they would support like green energy, fine arts initiatives or community service.

However, only one candidate was asked direct questions - specifically, if it is ethical for him to run for office.

Gabriel Soliz represented District 2, which is now held by his mother, Josephine Soliz. Although he said his mother's position "calls into question nepotism, honestly, it's not."

"A lot of people say it's wrong or unethical," Soliz said. "It's ethical, it's legal, and as far as I'm concerned, it's a moral obligation to participate."

The biggest discrepancy among the three candidates - Soliz, incumbent Joe Truman and Andrew Young - was about changes to the city charter.

Young said he wants to set term limits for serving in any specific seat on the City Council. That issue also came up for other races, in which the majority of candidates said they supported term limits.

Soliz said the change he wants to make to the charter is repealing the amendment that puts the city manager in charge of hiring the city secretary.

Truman, who has served on the council the past four years, said keeping the city secretary under the city manager prevents council members from pressuring that employee politically. He said the voters spoke when they voted in the previous city election what amendments to enact.

The candidates also disagreed on the city's most "plain wrong" action during the past three years, a question asked by the moderator.

Truman said how the city acquired property for the proposed wastewater treatment plant on Hand Road was wrong.

While condemning land can "be a good way to spend too much money," in the end, the council spent too much regardless, he said.

"Technically, we could put this plant anywhere if you're willing to pay for it," Truman said.

However, he defended the decision, saying it kept water and sewer rates from drastically increasing and was the best option for Victoria.

Soliz said the council's biggest mistake in the past was paying for legal defense and the wastewater treatment plant.

"I have to respect the majority," he said. "We live with the consequences of the majority's action."

Young said the biggest mistake in the past three years was a recent decision to allow a taller billboard sign on the north part of Loop 463.

"They say it's a one-time variance, but we've opened Pandora's box," he said. "It could happen again."

He said the vote for the variance, which went against the planning commissions recommendation, "was a slap in the face."



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