Flour Bluff Business Association Holds Candidate Forum

Business, Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Government and Politics

FBBA

     The Flour Bluff Business Association hosted a candidate forum at their regular monthly meeting on October 12, 2016, at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff.  The turnout of candidates was impressive and noteworthy:

  • Mayor Nelda Martinez (incumbent)
  • Dan McQueen (mayoral candidate)
  • Greg Smith  (District 4 City Council)
  • Dr. Lloyd Stegemann  (District 4 City Council)
  • Chad Magill  (at large incumbent)
  • Paulette Guajardo  (at large candidate)
  • Michael Hunter  (at large incumbent)
  • Joe McComb (at large candidate)
  • Margarita Fratila (at large candidate)
  • Jimie Owsley  (at large candidate)
  • Flo East (Flour Bluff ISD School Board candidate, Place 3)
  • Jeff Rank  (Flour Bluff ISD School Board candidate, Place 3)

     All mayoral and city council candidates thanked the association for inviting them and then launched into their ideas and concerns for the Flour Bluff area.

mayor-martinez

     “One of the biggest challenges facing Flour Bluff is its growth.  We need to strategically manage that growth and look at land use development plans out here in Flour Bluff,” said Mayor Martinez.  She went on to commend the work the city has done in Flour Bluff on the streets but explained how Laguna Shores is a significant safety issue and that this street would be placed on the next bond.  Mayor Martinez thanked the FBBA for its work in the community and the members of the Flour Bluff Citizens Council for coming together.  Martinez is an ex officio member of the organization.

dan-mcqueen

     Dan McQueen, mayoral candidate said, “We need to focus on growing business and high-paying jobs at every opportunity we have.”  He stated that many of his friends who now work on the Black Hawk helicopters at the base will not have jobs in a year.  “The key is all of us uniting and working towards our common goal, and then we’re going to be successful.”

greg-smith-forum

     Greg Smith, District 4 candidate, expressed how pleased he was that Flour Bluff was coming together through the Flour Bluff Business Association and the newly formed Flour Bluff Citizens Council.  “This is exactly what we need.  To get a turn out like this gets the city that Flour Bluff cares, and Flour Bluff votes.”  Smith is one of the founding members of the FBCC.  He went on to explain how important the base is to Flour Bluff. “We need to do everything we can to protect our air spaces and do the things that make the base a good place to fly from.”  He added that many of the streets in Flour Bluff are deplorable and that we need to come up with the funding source to repair and maintain them.  Smith said that anything the city could do to help the school is crucial to growing Flour Bluff since Flour Bluff ISD is the main draw to the area.

lloyd-stegemann-forum

     Dr. Lloyd Stegemann, a Flour Bluff resident who runs a successful medical business in the area of bariatrics expressed a concern about Flour Bluff lacking a unified voice.  “When I hear my neighbors talk about all the issues we’re facing – streets, drainage issues, waste water, homeless issues – they get drowned out.  One of the most important things we can do is make this Flour Bluff Citizens Council work.  I’m going to do everything I can – whether I get elected or not – to make this work, and I encourage each and every one of you who care about Flour Bluff to get involved in that.  Once we have a unified voice, we’re really going to see things happen in our community.”  Stegemann ended by saying that he would be a fiscally responsible leader who understands that the money being spent is not his money, but money earned by the hard work of the citizens.  Stegemann is also seeking a position on the FBCC Board of Directors.

     

paulette-guajardo-forum

     “I – like you – want to prioritize some issues.  We could sit here all day and talk about one issue after the other, and they’re all very important.  I went on a little field trip out here this week, and it is the streets and the storm water that seem to have been neglected, but they are an absolute priority for everyone,”  said Paulette Guajardo, a 44-year-old wife, mother, and business woman who grew up in Flour Bluff and makes her home in Corpus Christi.

magill-fbba-forum

     Incumbent at-large candidate, Chad Magill, spoke with a great deal of knowledge as he outlined the issues that have plagued Flour Bluff for many years.  He, like Mayor Martinez, expressed a desire to put Laguna Shores on the 2018 bond election.  “Laguna Shores, many say, is the Ocean Drive of Flour Bluff.  I agree.  It has some waste water issues that we are addressing now.”  He went on to discuss problems in specific neighborhoods like Turtle Cove, the Flour Bluff Drive debacle where the sewer main was left out of the project, and various other issues that are unique to Flour Bluff.  Magill also commended the community for coming together and forming the Flour Bluff Citizens Council, something that Magill chose to join as an ex officio member.  “The fact that you’re coming together and formalizing your voice is exceptional.  That means you can provide a clear direction to us on council.”

margaret-fratila-forum

     Margaret Fratila, at large candidate, came to Corpus Christi from Romania penniless and in need of work.  She moved into the Glenoak Apartments in Flour Bluff and went to work for Glen Johnson at Johnson Greenhouses.  She told the audience how she went on to earn her master’s degree in business from A & M.  “I feel like Flour Bluff gave me my start.”  Fratila echoed the Flour Bluff issues of poor drainage and streets in dire need of maintenance and reconstruction, and added that she will work to keep the bays open.

joe-mccomb

 

     Joe McComb, former city councilman and former county commissioner, has entered the at-large race.  McComb declined to repeat the obvious issues already highlighted by his opponents and said, “What do we do with the tax money that we have?  Do we want to tax you more to get more?  A concern I have is that the city has a tremendous amount of debt, and we spend a lot of money on that debt in interest.  This year in the budget, if I read right, $75 million will be paid on the principal, and $75 million will be spent on interest.  You can do a lot of things with $75 million.  We ought to reduce the debt as soon as possible.”  McComb went on to encourage everyone to read the twelve propositions carefully, especially Proposition 3, which would amend the City Charter to establish a dedicated fund to be used solely for residential street reconstruction and allow the council to levy a property tax increase to do it.  “I don’t think doing it through the Charter Amendment is the way to do it.”  He went on to say that it is the job of the council to look at the available funding and prioritize what gets funded and to what degree.  “It may require cuts in in other areas to do that.”  McComb ended his talk saying, “I want to be a watchdog for your taxes and address the issues you’ve been promised.”

owsley-forum

     Dr. Jimie Owsley, a veteran, wife, mother, and trauma surgeon, hopes to bring to City Council some of the social issues facing the city, issues she believes ultimately affect our taxes.  “I think the City Council forgets that its job is really public health and safety.  If you take care of those, we’ll have more money to do other things.  That which is affecting Corpus Christi is affecting Flour Bluff, as well.  Poverty in the city is at 20%; crime is twice the national average; and homelessness needs to be addressed.”  Owsley, like McComb, expressed a great concern for the amount of debt the city has.  “We spend a significant amount of money servicing debt and not paying off the debt.  Buying houses is difficult for people because of the increase in taxes.  We need to reign all of that in and become more efficient.  We may just have to wait a little longer to get the things we want.”

michael-hunter-forum

     At-large incumbent, Michael Hunter, thanked everyone for turning out at the last Flour Bluff Citizens Council and at the Flour Bluff Business Association forum.  “When we see the turn out at your meetings, we are encouraged to reach out to you.  We appreciate what you do for our community.”  Hunter then said, “The most important issue in Flour Bluff is infrastructure.  You need quite a bit of help out here with roads like Yorktown Boulevard.  We probably need to widen it.”  Hunter was appointed to the Council to finish out Lillian Riojas’s term.  He was immediately faced with street, water, waste water, and storm water issues.

     Flour Bluff School Board candidates were also present.  Michael Morgan and Jennifer Welp are running unopposed, while Jeff Rank and Flo East are vying for the Place 3 seat.  Click on the video below to see how Rank and East responded to a question from the audience about what the school might do to attract more families with children to the area.

     FBBA President Melanie Hambrick thanked the candidates for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak to the business people and residents of Flour Bluff.  “To our candidates, we really do appreciate and value your commitment to serve our community and city.  We face many issues in our community and elsewhere.  We take great pride in our community, and we hope to have a strong voice in helping you help us move forward.”

For more information on candidates, visit the League of Women Voters site.

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Ethics Commission Reports to Council

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Government and Politics

     Today the Corpus Christi City Council named Rob Bailey as the newest member of the City of Corpus Christi Ethics Commission with a vote of 8-1, which meets the two-thirds vote of the full council required for this position.  Councilwoman Lucy Rubio nominated Bailey and all voted in his favor, save Councilwoman Colleen McIntyre who voted for her nominee, Craig Rogers.  Bailey, a husband and father who serves as the pastor at South Side Community Church in Corpus Christi, will replace Rod Wolthoff whose term ends on October 1, 2016. His appointment was the first of several topics related to ethical behavior.

     First came the discussion about a cap on what cab drivers can charge their rides.  Several council members saw a cap as necessary to prevent drivers from charging exorbitant fees.  According to McIntyre, Corpus cab drivers charge some of the highest allowable rates and that a cap is the best way to keep them in check.  Then, during public comment, Joe McComb questioned an assistant city manager’s credentials, saying that the Board of Professional Engineers lists Mark Van Vleck as “inactive”, which could pose a problem if Van Vleck presents himself as a PE (professional engineer) while conducting business for the City.   McComb suggested that the Council look into the matter in order to save everyone some trouble and embarrassment later.   Then, there was the case of a high-ranking city official making inappropriate and heated comments on a social media site over something said by a local pastor during public comment.  This was mentioned in passing as the commission submitted its report, a result of several months of work revising the Ethics Code.  Ethical behavior was the order of the day, especially when the Council received the Ethics Commission’s recommendations for changes to the City’s Ethics Code.

     Chairman Dr. Haysam Dawod presented the following recommendations:

  • Remove Section 2-311(4) which currently allows Council, but prohibits employees and board members, from using the prestige of their position with the City on behalf of any political party or cause.
  • Amend Section 2-311 (8) (A) which currently prohibits City officials, employees, and board members from taking action on a matter before them that benefits any of their “relatives”. The term “relatives” is currently defined as spouse, parents, children, siblings, spouses of children, spouses of siblings. The proposed amendment would expand the “circle of influence” to also grandparent, grandchildren, clients, members of households, outside employer of spouse or member of household, entities in which any of the relatives listed has an economic interest or entity in which the City official serves in policy making position.
  • Add new Section 2-311(8)(B) to prohibit any City employee/official or their family member or friend from profiting from privileged information discussed in confidential city meetings.
  • Add new Section 2-311(8)(E ) to prohibit a city official from using their position to influence a contract or business transaction before the City involving an individual or organization who contributed $2,700 or more to the official’s most recent election campaign.
  • Adds new Section 2-311 (16) to prohibit use of confidential information other than for performing official duties. Also Adds new Section 2-311 (17) to prohibit disclosure of confidential information relating to city affairs. Confidential information is any information not available to the public under the Texas Public Information Act and also any information from a closed session meeting.

     Some of the recommendations generated a great deal of discussion among council members.  Questions arose regarding the actual meanings of words such as “recusal” and “clients.”  Council members Chad Magill and Carolyn Vaughn expressed their approval for the changes, agreeing with the commission that once a council member has recused himself/herself from the first step of a multi-step issue that the council member should do the same throughout the process.  Councilman Mark Scott said he understood that it might address something  such as PlanCC 2035, a project for which his wife received a contract.  He recused himself initially but later took part in the discussions.  McIntyre said she has no problem with that kind of scenario because the council member is still responsible for speaking for his constituency after the point of conflict of interest has passed.

     Carolyn Vaughn disagreed.  “If you profit from the beginning, you should not discuss or vote on it at all.”

     Earlier Vaughn said, “I am so happy this is coming back.  It’s the one thing I wanted to do when I first got on council.”  Later she added, “The purpose of going over the Ethics Code is to close the loopholes.”

     Of all the commissions and boards in the city, some consider the Ethics Commission the most important.  Megan Comlossy of the Center for Ethics in Government National Conference of State Legislatures, “Following the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s, ethics laws received new attention at all levels of government.  State governments have enacted stronger ethics laws and created an ethics infrastructure, including ethics training and oversight agencies to monitor compliance by public officials. Both internal and external oversight entities now provide that oversight.

     “As regulatory agencies, ethics commissions serve a vital role in a democratic government. They work to ensure voters’ trust in policymakers and political institutions by monitoring compliance with ethics laws and ensuring ethical conduct by those under their jurisdiction.  Ethics commissions represent the public’s interest and work to maintain public trust in government.”

     As per the City Municipal Code, the Ethics Commission has jurisdiction over complaints involving any “city official”, which includes:

  • the mayor and members of the city council,
  • city manager,
  • deputy and assistant city managers,
  • city secretary,
  • city attorney,
  • department heads,
  • municipal court judges (including substitute judges), and
  • all members of any board, commission or committee of the city, including the board of any corporation created by the city.

In addition, the commission is charged with:

  • preparing and publishing pamphlets and other materials explaining the duties of individuals subject to the code of ethics;
  • reviewing all statements and reports filed with the city;
  • annually reviewing the code of ethics and making appropriate recommendations to the city council;
  • reviewing all public opinions related to the code of ethics that are issued by the city attorney;
  • preparing and disseminating a report listing all campaign contributions and expenditures for each candidate within 30 days following the deadline for filing the last campaign finance reports for each city council election;
  • complying with the Texas Open Meetings Act.

      It was clear that not all the council members were in agreement with the commission’s recommendations.  The next step is for the council to consider each item, amend as they see fit, and vote to accept or not.  Dawod asked Mayor Martinez if the commission would get to review the council’s final changes.  After jokingly saying they would not, Martinez assured him that they would indeed be able to review the final draft.

     Martinez thanked Dawod and the other commissioners for their service.  Dawod repeated what he said several times during the presentation:  “Our recommendations have been made to remove the perception of impropriety and give us a code to follow.”  He added, “Our job is never done.”

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