Eight candidates are vying for three seats on the Killeen City Council.
District 2 candidates are Will Baumgartner, Mellisa Brown and incumbent Debbie Nash-King.
District 3 candidates are Sandra Blankenship, Tolly James Jr. and incumbent Jim Kilpatrick.
District 4 candidates are incumbent Steve Harris and Brockley King Moore.
District 1 Councilwoman Shirley Fleming was unopposed, and the city canceled the District 1 election.
Since the filing period ended Feb. 15, candidates for Districts 1, 2 and 3 have participated in several forums, starting March 4 with one sponsored by the Killeen Daily Herald.
In the Election Guide April 21, the candidates answer questions about the city’s financial struggles, the main things they want to accomplish, the evening activities for youth, crimes in their districts and no-knock warrants. The responses are at the end.
Baumgartner described himself in his candidacy application as a disabled veteran and KISD substitute teacher. He has been in the area for seven years. In his online mini-profile, Baumgartner said his top three issues are: Responsible spending along with a better balanced budget; a more effective police, fire/EMS to include more officers and firefighters and more training; bringing bigger businesses and better paying jobs
Brown is a caregiver. She listed her top three issues as citizen accessibility to elected officials and the ability to address their representatives regarding all issues at meetings; Infrastructure improvements without additional fees to residents and business owners; Balanced growth to improve revenue and allow sustainability in the City
Nash-King is a career counselor and the District 2 incumbent who has lived in the area for 23 years. She said her top three issues are: Adequate funding for the First Responders; continue to maintain a balanced budget at the current tax rates; increase planned programs for the youth and senior citizens
Blankenship, a nurse and former candidate for House District 54, listed her top three issues in her online mini-bio. “We need to secure Killeen’s water supply with new storage methods & review current agreements to keep utility costs low. We should incentivize new industries to bring better jobs for a diverse economy. And we must ensure spending is transparent & directed at the issues that are the most pressing for Killeen.”
James is an HVAC contractor, who has lived in District 3 for 16 years. At the March 4 candidates forum, he said his priorities were being transparent with the residents about issues; striving to bring industry with good-paying jobs, supporting police and fire.
Kilpatrick is retired and has been in the area for 34 years. He said in his news video his priorities are retention of first responders; strong economic development with the Natinoal Mounted Warfare Museum; increase youth, teen and senior citizen’s activities.
Harris is a teacher and 12-year resident of District 4. Harris said his top three issues — economic development, police and fire and youth activities, fall under one umbrella — balanced growth in the city. He said his prime focus is economic development to bring larger businesses with higher paying jobs that would help increase spending in Killeen. He said a growth master plan would increase police officers and build fire stations as the city grows.
Moore retired from the military and is a former councilman who has lived in the area 20 years. In his video at kdhnews.com/centerforpolitics, he said his priorities are providing equipment and tools for first responders; economic development; infrastructure and development.
In addition to the Q&A in today’s guide, more information about candidates for local office and local issues are on the Herald’s Center for Politics, kdhnews.com/centerforpolitics.
RF - pending 1 more: Still waiting for Moore as of 4 p.m. 4/17
ELECTION GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR KILLEEN CITY COUNCIL
QUESTION 1: Killeen has had financial struggles in recent years. How will you ensure wise choices are made when spending taxpayers’ money?
Will Baumgartner: My 6-year-old knows when he goes to the toy store to buy toys and he only has $20 that he can’t get two $10 toys because he won’t have enough money. Why is it that grown people can’t figure this out? If you don’t have the money in the budget, you don’t get to keep spending like there’s reserves. That reserve money is for other things like natural disasters and lawsuits.
Mellisa Brown: First, I would request that the private meetings that are held to discuss the proposed budget are opened to public attendance. Second, I would evaluate each expense in the proposed line item budget to make sure it is carefully considered and evaluated to see which are wants and which are needs to prioritize them. Finally, I would propose that all change orders are presented to the Council so that project costs do not become inflated without public knowledge.
Debbie Nash-King: First, I would work with the city council and city manager to ensure the city has a balanced budget. Secondly, I would research all expenditure agenda items to ensure that they are needed for the good of the residents. Thirdly, I would make sure proper procedures are followed to ensure that city staff purchases the best product and service at the lowest bid.
Sandra Blankenship: We need to prioritize spending for the City without overextending into unnecessary projects. As a City Councilperson, I will do this by ensuring that the funds we have available are going first and foremost to increasing the reliability and efficiency of city services, especially our emergency services and youth programs. Without these, it will be hard to maintain and improve the quality-of-life for residents and businesses.
Tolly James Jr.: Zero-based line item budgeting is a method of budgeting in which all expenses for each new period must be justified. Nothing is automatic. This form of budgeting improves cost consciousness and increases the effectiveness of discussions between city manager, departments and city
council about how money is spent. Secondly, monitor monthly reports comparing revenues vs. expenditures.
Jim Kilpatrick: First, determine if the item requiring funding is a ‘want’ or a ‘need’. ‘Needs’ always go to the top for consideration, ‘wants’ will only be considered after ALL needs are fully funded. Second, determine if existing funds are available to fund the ‘need’, if not then determine where the funds would come from. Third determine the critical impact to citizens if not funded. Gain citizen input through open hearings, town halls and neighborhood meetings. Fourth, determine how the item fits into the existing priorities. If the ‘need’ is not critical, not within the established priorities, funds are not available and adversely impact the financial stability of the city, then I cannot and will not support.
Steve Harris: The decision on how and what to spend taxpayer money on should be a medium size task and decision. Why? If you have revenues coming into the city from all economically sound directions and, knowing that you will have more monies to play with outside of taxpayer money, the effort to ensure responsible spending will be easier. I will work to ensure this gets done by helping to create that more balanced and economically sound revenue stream from all available and feasible directions.
Brockley King Moore: No reply
QUESTION 2: What is the main thing you want to accomplish in office and how would you do it?
Will Baumgartner: My top priority is and always will be the safety of the citizens of Killeen. From extra lights on darkened streets and sidewalks to funding for more gear and personal in the Fire/EMS and Police, to fixing roads and infrastructure. The money is there, and we need to stop wasting money on things that others operating a normal business could do without. Pennies need to be pinched and fat needs to be trimmed.
Mellisa Brown: Ensuring the citizens are heard and their opinions considered. I would propose a protocol change that allows for citizens to speak about any agenda item at all workshops and meetings, and add a provision allowing an open address to the council at a minimum of one meeting a month.
Debbie Nash-King: The main thing I would like to do with the council is to increase more revenue for the city by working with Economic Development Committee and Chamber of Conference to recruit IT companies in Killeen. If this goal is accomplished; it would give the city more funding for pay increase, youth activities, and affordable homes for senior citizens.
Sandra Blankenship: As a City Councilperson, I want to make sure that our city’s water supply is secure by working to make that Killeen gets back our title to water from the Brazos River Authority and get back our Certificate of Convenience and Necessity from Georgetown. Securing control of our water rights is critical to the security of our city’s future growth and development plans. Without a say in how our water is used, we risk increased utility fees for residents and potentially losing our competitive edge in attracting new businesses to Killeen.
Tolly James Jr.: The most important thing I can accomplish, is the building of a consistent working rapport with our citizens. I will do this by establishing a District 3 Advisory Committee, and having quarterly workshops to enlighten our citizens on city government issues. Community engagement will empower our citizens to be a part of the process and share our legislative success during my service to them when elected.
Jim Kilpatrick: Be a part of making the city financial stable while continuing to provide the same high quality services that exist today. I would accomplish this by continuing to support the financial policies, goals and wise business practices this Council and the City Manager has put into place. I would encourage quarterly reviews of operations by the City Manager and semi-annual reviews by the City Manager to the Council on our progress. It is most important that we stay the course in our long term plans and not make short term financial changes for political reasons.
Steve Harris: My primary goal for next two years is to work to increase our city’s efforts in bringing in larger commercial and industrial businesses to the southern corridor of Killeen. According to our 2015 ThoroughFare Plan, the predicted path for commercial and economic growth is in the southern corridor. Through implementing a plan of balanced growth, I will work with the citizens, the council, city staff and all pertinent parties to make this a reality and no longer a “talked about dream.”
Brockley King Moore: No reply
QUESTION 3: What evening activities do youth want and how can the city help make that happen?
Will Baumgartner: The city has a responsibility to its citizens. One group of those citizens are our youth. While there are several organizations in the Killeen area that offer various programs, two main issues seem to be brought up, “How do we get the youth there, and how do we get the parents involved?” We need to have concerts, outdoor plays, festivals whatever. I am a big
supporter of the arts, be it music, theater, or visual, it doesn’t matter, it’s still important and can be a big influence on a lot of the youth in Killeen.
Mellisa Brown: I have not had an opportunity to speak with a large enough portion of the youth to fully answer what they want. I do feel that the City can collaborate with KISD to survey the youth of all ages in order to implement a variety of age appropriate activities and coordinate facilities. The City also owns a number of buildings that could be utilized after hours for youth and family activities.
Debbie Nash-King: The city needs to provide the youth a safe place to hang out with their friend’s after school and during the summer. The city should continue to work with KISD and local organizations to provide free entertainment and events for our youth. For example, free classes such as, dance classes, gymnastics classes, karate classes, singing classes and cooking classes can be hosted at different locations throughout the city during the summer. The funding can come from taking advantage of federal and state grants in order to offset some of the cost. The city should also work with local businesses to start an internship program for middle school and high school students in order to prepare them with practical skills that can be used to enhance their leadership skills and social skills.
Sandra Blankenship: The first step to increasing youth activities would be to open the Killeen Community Center on Monday evenings. As usage peaks in the after-school hours, Killeen’s youth should have the ability to access low-cost activities all seven days of the week. In the long term, we need to directly survey our city’s youth to see what activities they want offered to ensure that we’re spending money on programs and resources that will actually be used.
Tolly James Jr.: The city could lead a forum discussing possible activities for youth including youth, parents, churches and other non-profit organizations, city officials and representatives of KISD. Solutions would need to be a collaborative effort to effectively use resources and see all possible problems and solutions.
Jim Kilpatrick: We don’t have a good grasp of what the youth want, we have not conducted a comprehensive poll to determine this, we only have thoughts and ideals what they want. So first I would call for this to be done. What can the city do, it can facilitate gaining the physical resources (buildings, parks, venues, etc) and work with private, non-profits, other governmental agencies to gain funding opportunities.
Steve Harris: Youth in our city would like to see evening opportunities that provide more “activity” and “leisure” choices. While the movies are part of our city’s entertainment for our youth and they enjoy it, opportunities for safe places to just “hang out”, to participate in low to no cost aerobic (basketball, dancing and etc.) events to keep them “moving”. Food and games activities (i.e.: Dave & Buster’s and gaming tournaments and etc)” are also desired. The city can help make this happen by creating a “Youth Master Plan” aimed at addressing our diverse youth population in our city and investing in the plan.
Brockley King Moore: No reply
QUESTION 4: What crimes do you see in your district and how would you rally the community to fight the crimes?
Will Baumgartner: My District, for the most part is divided by I-14/Hwy 190. I live on the south side and therefore I don’t get up to the north side very often. Looking at various crime rate maps, the majority of crimes are assault, burglary and theft. We all need to be vigilant. Most of the crimes in this area appear to be crimes of opportunity, and with due diligence, we can each help Killeen be a safer place.
Mellisa Brown: District 2 has the same variety of crimes as the rest of the City of Killeen including robberies, assaults, and shootings. Unfortunately, District 2 was also the site of a human trafficking location. I would work with KPD to encourage more interaction and familiarity with the citizens to build trust so citizens feel confident in reporting suspicious activity when they see it so the City can be more proactive on crime.
Debbie Nash-King: The crimes that are the most prevalent in District 2 are auto and home invasion. I will work with the Police Department and Community by continuing to host Crime Prevention Forums and Neighborhood Watch Program in the local churches in order to keep the residents informed and safe.
Sandra Blankenship: As many District 3 residents unfortunately know: property theft, vehicle burglaries, and malicious mischief are the most common form of crime in our District. As a City Councilperson, I will spearhead a push for renewed cohesion in our community. It is imperative for us to encourage our neighbors to get involved in neighborhood watch and other community safety and crime-prevention programs as well as closely integrating such community policing with Killeen Police and other law enforcement to keep our District safe.
Tolly James Jr.: Over the last couple of weeks in our district 3, we have had one murder, and 2 drive by shootings of cars and homes in neighborhoods. As a community, we can cooperate with law enforcement and be attentive to our surroundings and even light up our neighborhoods, but we do not fight crime. Instead of eliminating 19 police positions as we did, and cutting the training budget, lets increase funding to our number one priority, Safety.
Jim Kilpatrick: The major criminal activites are burglaries and drugs!! The first is a major activity to support the latter. First and foremost is to take the night away and “light up our neighborhoods”. A simple porch light on, a dusk to dawn structure corner light or a parking area motion detector light is an excellent way to deter neighborhood crime. In the case of drugs, citizens must SEE, REPORT AND TESTIFY! The police will do the rest.
Steve Harris: The crimes I see happening more in District 4 are the crimes of attempted to successful vehicle break-ins, vandalism to homes and vehicles and some package thefts. As there have been 3 shootings that have taken place, 2 drive-bys and one fatal shooting, the aforementioned crimes are the most consistent in their happenings. My plan to rally the community to help fight crime would be to engage the citizens in consistent crime prevention commitments to themselves and to their neighbors before a crime occurs. This will lessen the possibility of an “emotional” interest, which tends to fade after time.
Brockley King Moore: No reply
QUESTION 5: What is your opinion of no-knock warrants as a crime-fighting tactic?
Will Baumgartner: I don’t like them. I, myself and no one of the members of the city council have the authority to tell the Chief Kimble and DA Garza not to use them. There is a process that would have to be implemented to make that happen. No-knock warrants are considered a safe alternative to protect all parties involved and the public. If that is so, ask the families of Detective Dinwiddie, Marvin Guy and James Scott Reed. While no-knock do end with no casualties, there is no actual evidence that has been presented to say that it is.
Mellisa Brown: I am against no-knock warrants. There is no objective evidence that it increases safety for anyone. We have had an officer killed, a suspect killed for a crime that was not a capital offense without due process, officers injured, and at least one child that was put in danger and traumatized all based on the inclination that something bad might happen if the officers announced themselves. In these 3 cases, the officers did not announce themselves first and people were still injured or killed. No-knock warrants are a “Minority Report” mentality.
Debbie Nash-King: As a resident, I am personally against no-knock warrants, but I do respect the law. A local, state, or federal judge will make the decision on if a no knock warrant is needed based on the evidences presented to him or her from the police officer. We need to do our very best to prevent a resident or police officer from being hurt. The police officers utilize the tactic as a crime prevention measure.
Sandra Blankenship: Unfortunately, no-knock warrants are a tactic that are ordered by criminal courts to our law enforcement agencies by criminal courts with no input from the city council. However, our community unfortunately know the human costs of this arrest tactic with the death of a Killeen Resident last month. No-knock warrants involve high risks to both the officers involved and neighboring residents, and as such I believe that they should be used as a last resort.
Tolly James Jr.: The discussion of this tactic is a very emotional one, due to the death of one of our citizens recently. This case is open and under review. Because of this, making an emotionally charged decision, without all the facts would not be good. The evaluation of this tactic should be done under the guidance of the police chief and his leadership team.
Jim Kilpatrick: No-Knock warrants are a personal and emotional issue. I do think it matters as a representative of the citizens of Killeen what my opinion is but it should be the will of the people if this tool should be available to our First Responders. Thus I believe this issue should be decided by a referendum vote by ALL the citizens after hearing all the facts.
Steve Harris: I am definitely not fond of them but, understand the logic of its controversial use. I believe that it should only be used as a last resort pending reliable and verifiable information before it is implemented anywhere in Killeen. If an outside agency comes in and wants to execute one, I would rather they execute it than our KPD officers who can be used to provide back up if necessary.
Brockley King Moore: No reply