Place 4 Council candidates talk future growth
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
The two candidates for City Council in Place 4 took the stage first at Tuesday’s Candidate Forum.
In front of a crowd of about 100 voters, incumbent Wendell McLeod and challenger Bill Brannan shared their vision for Liberty Hill.
The following are questions that were asked of each of the candidates during the forum along with their answers. Answers have been edited for length. To hear the complete answers and view the candidate forum in its entirety, visit Facebook.com/LibertyHillIndependent.
Q: What would be your first priority in sustaining or enhancing the quality of life in Liberty Hill?
McLeod: I think we’ve done that pretty much. We’ve got a good police department and I was one of the ones that fought for the police department. I think if I was going to prioritize things I would say we need to work on our transportation – our roads are in pretty bad shape.
Brannan: My first priority would be to make sure that Liberty Hill is a safe and thriving community. Let’s be honest, money is what gives us the ability to grow the community well. Most of us don’t want property taxes, so really the best way to create revenue is to really stimulate the economy. When you stimulate the economy you create jobs, or you bring in wealth, and you are able to take care of the people.
Q: Define smart growth. What impact can the city council have in facilitating your definition of smart growth?
McLeod: We need to be careful what we’re letting in town, what type of business we’re having here in Liberty Hill. We need to be selective.
Brannan: I would say smart growth is acknowledging that Liberty Hill is going to grow and you make sure that you put in the infrastructure necessary to support that. Obviously the roads so that we don’t have too much traffic, growing the city so that we’re able to provide the services and it doesn’t just sit on the backs of a few people. It really is about knowing what’s going to happen and preparing for it.
Q: What specific measures should the council take to protect the appearance of the community as development continues? Do we need more restrictive design standards (such as landscaping, facade requirements) for commercial development?
McLeod: I think we have enough right now. I think we’re on the right track the way we’re going. We’ve done a lot for downtown and we’re going to continue to work on downtown. That seems to be what people want.
Brannan: Do we need more? I’d need to look at it more carefully. The fundamental question there, do we need to make sure that we keep Liberty Hill beautiful, and continue to make it more beautiful, absolutely. Appearance of our city is absolutely critical to attracting people. It’s also critical to the psychological health of the people who live here. We need to keep it beautiful, but we also need to be careful when we put policies into place that we do it intelligently because I was in another city where they put too many measures in place and they ended up choking the economy. Nobody wanted to open a business because it was too costly. The outward appearance does need to be protected.
Q: Do you support a drainage fee for commercial and residential users? How should it be structured?
McLeod: I don’t think I agree with a drainage fee. I think we bring in enough taxes to support things like that. I’m not in favor of charging certain businesses or persons a fee. I think the whole city needs to support anything we do.
Brannan: The fundamental principle always is to keep taxes and costs as low as possible, help stimulate business and help take care of families. To make a decision on what you’re asking, you need to have all the information. No fee should be put in place for no reason. There’s always something that needs to be paid for and you pay for it in the best possible way. Without actually seeing what the fee is needed for, I can’t really adequately answer that question. Fundamentally it is easy for me to sit here and say absolutely, don’t charge any fees, don’t raise taxes, but honestly I have to be able to see what we need money for.
Q: What is the issue that worries you most regarding the future of Liberty Hill? What specifically should be done to address that issue?
McLeod: I think we’re doing okay the way we are right now.
Brannan: The issue that worries me the most would be to have a community that isn’t really prepared for the growth that is going to happen, and that we end up shrinking – we end up losing vibrancy, losing life, losing health. I think that would be the biggest mistake. Liberty Hill has this incredible opportunity that we’re being given, but we have to steward it responsibly. If we don’t, just look down (Hwy) 29 east and west and we know what’s going to happen. We need to stake our claim here. We need to grow the city, we need to make it beautiful, healthy and vibrant.
Early voting for elections is April 23 to May 1. Election day is May 5 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Liberty Hill High School.