Brannan ready to weigh options
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
For Bill Brannan, there is no single burning issue driving his campaign for Liberty Hill City Council, Place 5.
What he says is behind his run is a desire to serve and be part of the public process.
“To me, this is an act of service to my community, because I care for the city and I care for this community,” he said. “By God’s grace I’m hoping to plant roots here for a long time. That would be my ideal life, and I’d like to stay for a long time and make this where we live.”
This is Brannan’s second run at a Council seat, after running against Wendell McLeod last year. Brannan stepped into the race when it looked like McLeod was not planning to run again. Since that election, he has spent time weighing the commitment of running a full campaign and serving on the Council.
“I looked at the time required and calculated it, because you have to look at what are the responsibilities and can I handle them, and can I readjust my life to those responsibilities,” he said, adding that he was ready to dedicate that time and energy.
As much as anyone would like to say no to new taxes or yes to reducing taxes, Brannan believes it is not so simple.
“The basic principle is none of us like new taxes,” he said. “All of us hate increases in taxes, and there better be a darn good reason that you can stand in front of me and convince me that was the right decision.”
The City Council, though, must consider more than just whether a higher tax rate is unpopular or not.
“That is the challenge and responsibility of such a position,” he said. “Once you get into that position you need to know what the real needs are. What will happen if we don’t do this? Are there alternatives that will accomplish the same thing?”
Issues such as economies of scale as the community grows can make a difference, but it will take diving into the numbers and needs for Brannan to know for sure where he stands.
“A lot of these bread and butter issues I’m only going to be really informed on when I know what do we need to fully accomplish, what is the cost, are there other sources of funds available, what is our expected income, even based on growth?” he said. “As the number of people in the actual city grow, does that change the situation economically? When you start to wrestle with these things, you have got to really figure out what is needed and how do you fund it?”
Among the expenditures and investments considered in a community are parks and recreational activities, and Brannan supports the growth and expansion of parks, with one eye on cost.
“Generally speaking, if you can afford to make things more beautiful, and not just think about how we can build the park, but can we maintain it, because you have to think long term, having nice parks and having nice amenities, I generally like that,” he said, adding that the city has shown great creativity in how it develops parks. “Some of the ways the city is doing this creatively with development is absolutely wonderful. But I’d have to see our whole budget and see if this is something we can afford.”
Quality of life issues are one way to build community pride and a sense of identity.
“I’ve been in small towns where the mantra of the people was almost being ashamed of their town,” Brannan said. “There’s something so simple about seeing beauty and seeing care for your community that helps people have respect, dignity and pride.”
If growing the city population is a goal, then creating a better quality of life is important.
“Thinking long term, do we really want to help stimulate the economy, do people want to come to Liberty Hill, do they want to spend time in Liberty Hill?” he said.
The same investment in transportation is needed to help an expanding population comfortable with its road and traffic situation.
“There’s no question in my mind if we’re going to really create a good community here we need to do something about the traffic,” he said. “You want to keep a frustrated community? Keep a traffic jam on 29 regularly. You want to stifle an economy? Make it a nightmare to go downtown. You are wrestling with state versus local issues. We need the transportation and the roads to be able to support the growth we’re going to have. There’s no question about that. But again it comes down to funding, how you’re going to fund it and can you fund it?”
Preparing for growth in these ways is not something Brannan sees as a choice. The choice centers on to what degree and in which direction?
“I do think you can plan for growth intelligently, and I think you need to,” he said. “But again I think it goes back to defining priorities. The bottom line is the numbers are going to increase. There will be more people in the area.”
Steering that growth to have the most positive impact possible is where Brannan wants to focus his attention.
“What should people’s experience of the city be?” he said. “As we are growing, if you are not thinking about what you want the city to be like, then what you are likely to get is a stream of purchasing and building that will just happen on its own. Does the city want to participate in helping decide what the end product will look like when we’re done?”
Annexation is a factor in the growth discussion to protect Liberty Hill’s ability to expand in the future.
“Whether you want it to or not, Liberty Hill is growing,” he said. “We are going to grow, and whether you want to acknowledge it or not, other cities are going to be growing, and to put it bluntly, there is a little need to claim territory, if we’re honest.”
When asked about staffing issues within the City, particularly the level of staffing in the police department, Brannan said a number of questions should be asked before making a decision.
“First, you ask what are the actual legitimate needs?” he said. “If we take a step back, is Liberty Hill safe? That’s our first big question for the police department. I don’t think there is anyone who would disagree with, if things are unsafe, that we need to divert the funds to this issue. What I don’t know right now, is there a legitimate reason it needs to be built up?”
Most questions about governing the City or how it should approach the future lead Brannan to discussions of information gathering, number crunching and community philosophy. That requires good community communication.
In his position as Head of School at Fortis Academy, Brannan said the school’s focus on classical education reminds him of the history of community engagement in other societies and he hopes that the community in Liberty Hill feel that same responsibility of participation.
“They saw it as their moral responsibility to be participants in the state, but those kinds of values have no longer been passed on to our children,” he said. “So on one side there is this kind of need to really figure out how to get people valuing and motivated to be involved. It’s not just putting the information out there, you have to change a culture, and to change a culture you’ve got to get at motivation. People are motivated when they’re inspired.”