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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Corpus Christi Council Approves Mid-Year Adjustment to Budget

Corpus Christi, Front Page

City Hall

     City Councilman Chad Magill’s questions raised about sales tax revenue at the October 17, 2015, council meeting seemed to foretell the message delivered to Council by City staff at the April 16, 2016 meeting.  At that time, Magill said,  “Corpus Christi has a strong economy right now.” Later he added, “Why I’m asking the questions I am is to prepare for potential challenges that may or may not come. But it’s better to be prepared and ready than not.”

     “We have been losing revenues through March 31 of this year,” said Deputy City Manager Margie Rose to City Council at the April 16, 2016, regular meeting. “We’ve lost about 4.9% of what was budgeted.  We believe we will continue on this track through the end of the fiscal.  If that is the case, we do believe that we will be short about $8 million as is outlined on the left side of the chart.”

Mid Year Budget Adjustment

     This shortfall staff attributes to a loss of sales tax revenue, a decrease in the property values for Flint Hills and Valero, and municipal court costs outweighing revenues.  Councilwoman Carolyn Vaughn said, “The municipal court really stands out to me.”  This concern was echoed by several other council members.

     “Whatever the issues are, they occurred beginning in Fiscal15,” said Rose, in response to Vaughn’s comment.

     City Manager Ron Olson explained what was being done to rectify the problems.  “The dip in the revenue is a result of the lag in receipts due to the implementation of technology.”  He explained that they are currently looking at this problem and at the judicial policies about setting payment plan.  “We’re in the process of looking at both,” Olson said.  “But cutting expenses is probably a bad idea in court, but getting all the planned revenue is something we really need to do first.  We’re working on that now.” Magill pointed out that outstanding warrants may also have potential revenue capture.

     Rose explained how the City could adjust the budget to make ends meet.  “We have about $10 million in of unreserved funds in our debt service funds that  we would like to use.  The $4,179,000 (See chart) would come from these unreserved funds,” she said.  Rose also told Council that:

  • $500,000 earmarked for Development Services would remain in the General Fund;
  • $151,000 of the budgeted $208,000 for Intergovernmental Relations Contracts with lobbyists at the state and federal levels would remain in the General Fund;
  • Cutting fuel costs and leaving open positions vacant in all departments except in the areas of engineering, streets, and public safety would leave $2,144,370 in the fund;
  • Rebates from MIS, Fleet, and Development Services would add another $1,025,630 to the kitty.

     Councilwoman Lucy Rubio asked about the Council’s request made last year to look into car allowances and electronic expenditures.  Olson gave an update, explaining that the car allowance policy has been amended to include contract positions only and that take-home cars have been reduced by 30 or 40 cars.  He also said, “The big money saver is going to be in electronics, like cell phones and iPads.” Olson related that in the past 10 years, each of the 34 city departments had its own service contract for the devices.  By bringing all departments under one umbrella using the same carrier, Olson said he believes the City will see about a 35% savings.

     “I know it doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but at the end of the day, it all adds up.”

“No one likes to be in this position where we have to make adjustments because we’re over budget,”said Mayor Nelda Martinez.  Referring to the drop in sales tax revenue, she said, “We knew it was going to be lower, but we didn’t know how much, but we’re prepared for it.”

     Magill reminded everyone that the debt fund balance was at $15 million two years ago, then dropped to $9.9 million, and to around $5 million with the mid-year adjustment.  Magill asked if the City was still meeting the fund balance requirements in the fiscal policy, to which Rose answered, “Yes.  We are required to keep a reserve of 2%, which would be about 4 or 4.5 million dollars.”

     Earlier in the meeting, Magill said, “I’ll start at the bottom line, and the bottom line is that healthy fund balances see us through challenging times.  This is why we have a mid-year budget adjustment.”  He continued, “Fund balances make all the difference.  I always try to push to be as clear as possible on our fund balance policies.  Policies on both ceilings and floors of fund balance give predictability to our rating agencies.  That’s what helps our ratings in the future, too, and helps us pay less interest on our debt service.”

     Magill cautioned City staff, saying, “We don’t want to compound the shortfalls in sales tax revenue by not lessening our dependence on new property growth values. Often the city over the last few years has paid city employee raises – and more – with the 6-8% property value growth each year. Everything I am hearing right now is that 2016 is stable, but 2017 is where we see 2-3% property value growth.”

 

 

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