ELECTION 2018

While Fort Hood is the primary economic partner of the city of Killeen, job growth and good wages are a central concern for residents as the city’s population continues to grow.

For Killeen City Council and mayoral candidates in the May 5 election, getting a grasp on finding and enticing innovative industries will play a big role in selling their campaigns to voters.

The city’s economic development policy currently is defined by its relationship with the Killeen Economic Development Corporation and Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, which work to attract and develop local businesses, respectively. Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra and council members Juan Rivera and Debbie Nash-King sit as voting members on the corporation’s board.

In lieu of a sales tax allocation, which is common for many cities, Killeen pays the two organizations $700,000 a year combined to perform those functions, but there has been continuing suspicion the city’s funds are not adequately utilized.

Transparency is also a concern.

Residential and council outrage reached a fever pitch in July, when the EDC signed a performance agreement with MGC Pure Chemicals America for a super-pure hydrogen peroxide plant at the Killeen Business Park on Roy J. Smith Drive.

After the agreement was signed, the corporation issued a press release to announce the contract — taking council members and residents who were left out of the loop by surprise.

This week, the Herald reached out to the 12 council candidates and five mayoral candidates for their opinions on increasing transparency in the operations of the city’s business attraction and retention arms.

The 12 council candidates are:

Incumbent Gregory Johnson, 35, a businessman

Incumbent Juan Rivera, 67, a businessman

Patsy Bracey, 72, a registered nurse

Mellisa Brown, 36, a caretaker and student

Bruce Bynum, 50, a family consultant and substitute teacher

Den’Mica Eugene, 42, a salon manager

Leo Gukeisen, 52, a security company manager

Tolly James Jr., 49, an HVAC contractor

Hugh “Butch” Menking, 57, a financial adviser and former Killeen school board member

Brockley Moore, 50, a former councilman

Placidio J. Rivera, 53, a retiree

Kenny Wells, 65, a business owner and a former councilman

The five candidates for Killeen mayor are:

Mayor Jose Segarra, 53, a Realtor

Hal Butchart, 70, a local businessman

Arturo Cortez, 65, a retiree

Jimmy Parker, 48, a local automotive technician

Holly Teel, 47, a dog trainer

Johnson, Juan Rivera, Eugene and Cortez could not be reached for comment.

QUESTION 1: Killeen residents and council members have recently complained of a lack of transparency surrounding the operations and contracts signed by the Killeen Economic Development Corporation and Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce. As the council is tasked with approving the city’s agreements with the two bodies, would you support amending the agreements to promote more transparency with the council and the public? What other changes would you seek, if any?

Patsy Bracey: “The Chamber of Commerce is a group of professional people acting as spokesman for the development of commercial and industrial opportunities in the community. Should not receive a salary or any city funds. KEDC needs to be amended allowing more citizens input and support. No missing of funds should be allowed.”

Mellisa Brown: “I would fully support amending the agreements to promote more transparency with the council and the public. I would require KEDC to make all announcements of meetings through the city of Killeen’s website and not just post them on bulletin boards, hold them to actually updating the Council regarding the businesses that have been brought in to the City and what incentives and concessions have been made, and require that the financial information for KEDC be made as easily available to the public as the City’s financial information.”

Bruce Bynum: “My number three promise is open and honest communication, which means transparency with our community. So, I would support amending the agreements. I fully understand that at times we must have confidentiality for certain projects; only because it is essential for the success of the project. The other changes are that it will never take away from safety, and or being fiscally responsible.”

Den’Mica Eugene: Did not reply.

Gukeisen: “I would support amending the agreement because the agreement we have now appears to keep the City Council in the dark until the last minute. I would seek that both the Killeen Economic Development Corporation and Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce would be required to make monthly briefings to the council on exactly what they are doing in the name of Killeen. This would allow the council to see where the annual allocation of roughly $700,000 is going.

Tolly James Jr.: “Yes, I would amend the agreement. As currently constructed, the KEDC has two current city council members and our mayor on its board, and they can not share any information about what is discussed in the KEDC’s operation with anyone. Once a quarter, or more often if necessary, the members on the KEDC from our city government should update full council on KEDC activity in a closed session. During this session, the full council should prepare information to update the public without giving information that would be detrimental to any current negotiations contracts, or land acquisition.”

Gregory Johnson: Did not reply.

Hugh “Butch” Menking: “I am definitely a supporter of transparency in all facets of city government. However, the relocation of a business from another community carries with it a responsibility of confidentiality that a business would logically expect. The KEDC and Chamber would most likely be expected to maintain this confidentiality at the request of the business until they allow it to be released publicly.”

Brockley Moore: “Yes, I support all actions to be transparent. There cannot be transparency without being ethical. There are some actions during the negotiations which are private, closed session and only selected parties are involved.”

Placidio J. Rivera: “Absolutely yes. For far too long the KEDC/GKCC has been a routine agreement that has been passed every time it comes up for review. Business as normal. That shouldn’t be the case. The council should require both groups to be on a performance-based contract. Actually, the problem is rooted much deeper than that. You have two organizations that by all appearances have no distinction between them.”

Juan Rivera: Did not reply.

Kenny Wells: “Generally, there is transparency of the efforts and successes of the organization in quarterly or annual reports to the Council. Unfortunately, it is impossible to be transparent about specific contracts for several reasons. There is always a second company involved that demands total confidentially. When working to attract job producing companies, Killeen is competing with the world. Competing cities are looking for information leaks they can use to their advantage to attract those companies to their cities instead of ours. Absolute transparency is simply impossible in these complex negotiations.”

Harold Butchart: “Yes, I would. I believe that the KEDC and the chamber of commerce are basically the same people. There is no transparency and there is no accountability with money. The two council members and mayor on that board kept it a secret how money was spent. It’s not right or democratic. We should closely monitor and keep track of taxpayer money.”

Arturo Cortez: Did not reply.

Jimmy Parker: “I feel we should make the two bodies one body in hand and then it would be much easier to come to agreement. As far as the mayor and the councilmen, yes we do need to get more in involved with the public. The only way to acquire more local business owners and outside businesses is through building the community strong through education and good health.”

Jose Segarra: “I think it’s important that Council understands the value of what these two organizations do for our city, and I would support policy that provides regular updates to Council members and encourages council members to attend their meetings, outside of council meetings.”

Holly Teel: “Transparency builds trust between people. The lack of transparency between Killeen Economic Development Corporation, Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, the city of Killeen and the people of Killeen is concerning. Yes, amending for the betterment of transparency is always in the best interest of the people.”

QUESTION 2: There is a difference of opinion over the city of Killeen and the Killeen City Council’s role in attracting businesses to the Killeen area. Do you believe a City Council member or mayor has a role in attracting businesses to Killeen and how should that role look?

Bracey: “City council and mayor play a major role in the developing of policies, supporting city government and appropriating funds necessary for the city. Must be involved in the future development of the city by community visibility and leadership, not for self-worth or status.”

Brown: “I believe that the City Council and the Mayor have a role in attracting businesses to Killeen in the form of networking, advertising the City any time they are traveling on official business that is being paid for or being reimbursed by the City, and by being open minded to all businesses while listening to the desires of the citizens. This is another reason why it is so important to have KEDC be more open and transparent, especially with the Council.”

Bynum: “Now that I live in Killeen I have always talked and supported the businesses in Killeen. I also believe that before one can attract any businesses, they need to be fully informed and have the ability to help make offers to bring businesses in. At this time not all of our council members have the ability to do that.”

Eugene: Did not reply.

James: “Yes, they both do. First and foremost, the vision for the comprehensive plan of Killeen must be cast clearly by our city council and mayor. Secondly, we should have streamlined and transparent regulations. We should draft policies that allow our city and businesses to enter into mutually beneficial agreements on tax incentives. Finally, evaluation of current incentive plans and marketing strategies effectiveness must be done to ensure that our tax dollars are not being wasted on a plan that is not working.”

Gregory Johnson: Did not reply.

Menking: “Marketing a city for relocation or establishment of major enterprises is a specialized function. Council members individually aren’t educated or trained in this profession. That being said, city leadership has a critical and indispensable role in promoting our city’s openness and willingness to support these businesses should they consider locating here. The long term financial risk to our city is too great to be handled solely by inexperienced people.”

Moore: “The mayor and two appointed council members along with other businesspersons represent the city. They work hand and hand with the KEDC and the Killeen chamber to attract businesses. The mayor and the city manager coordinates operations and procedures with partners. The city manager is not a voting party. Therefore the council is represented directly and indirectly with the vision of attracting businesses. The KEDC and chamber are responsible for all coordination, scheduling and heavy lifting. The mayor and council creates the city vision.”

P. Rivera: “This could be a slippery slope. If a member of the council or the mayor owns a business we need to make sure that there isn’t any personal gain for the council member or mayor as related to their businesses. Having said that, the governing body should play a role to the extent that they approve what concessions the city is willing to concede to bring a business to the city. They have the responsibility to promote a plan with goals and milestones to the KEDC as well as to the people of Killeen.”

J. Rivera: Did not reply.

Wells: “I do believe that the Mayor and City Council members do have a role in attracting businesses to Killeen. When I served previously on the council, the Mayor and I met with every prospect in the final stages of negotiations. These meetings served to convey confidence that the city government was on board. City leaders with varied backgrounds and experience including business people are vital to a growing city. New businesses must be confident that the city government is solid, unified and business friendly.”

Butchart: “Yes, I do. The mayor is the face of Killeen and if I’m elected, I will be the face of Killeen and I will recruit business wherever it can be recruited. We have enough Wal-Marts and chains. We need real industry that pays real money, not minimum wage. The mayor has to have an active part in recruiting. We now have an interstate, and we have an opportunity.”

Cortez: Did not reply.

Parker: “Yes we do play a big role and bringing businesses. The only way to attract more local business owners and outside businesses here to Killeen, we have to make sure good health and safety for one another, a good education is the solution to build economic growth in Killeen.”

Segarra: “I think the Mayor and Council have very important roles in attracting businesses to the city and that is through strong positive leadership that believes in the many opportunities that our great city has to offer. As leaders, we also need to provide clear guidance on our rules and regulations as businesses look to our city.”

Teel: “Yes, both can work together marketing our city. If our Mayor and City Council can market our city to hire a new police chief, a new city manager, and market our city for a new waste disposal company, then they should have no problem marketing our city for industrial growth.”

kyleb@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

kyleb@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

(5) comments

THUGNIFICENT KILLED ME

CORRECTION noted below:
Fort Hood is the host, KILLzone is the parasite. Fort Hood is self sustaining, while KILLzone leeches its host, bleeding it dry. From the EXTRA money scammed by KILLzone (and the other parasites) for educating children, to forcing the Commissary and AAFEES to INCREASE their prices to allow KILLzone merchants to charge HIGHER RIPOFF prices to scam more money from patriots and young soldiers, to harm the benefits retired and disabled patriots EARNED by standing on the wall against our nation's enemies, to keeping FORT Hood rents by Fort Hood housing so local slumlords can scam housing allowances from patriotic families; the parasites are sucking the life out of Fort Hood. The real enemies are the predators preying on patriots all across Central Texas.

THUGNIFICENT KILLED ME

Fort Hood is the host, KILLzone is the parasite. Fort Hood is self sustaining, while KILLzone leeches its host, bleeding it dry. From the EXTRA money scammed by KILLzone (and the other parasites) for educating children, to forcing the Commissary and AAFEES to lower prices to allow KILLzone merchants to charge HIGHER prices, to keeping FORT Hood rents by Fort Hood housing so local slumlords can scam housing allowances from patriotic families; the parasites are sucking the life out of Fort Hood.

Teel4Mayor

@Alvin
Long time to see. How have you been.
In all honesty, I feel this city lacks in transparency and those representing us, lack the will power to fix it. I do not approve of close door meetings and hidden agendas. I do not like how this chemical plant was brought in, the public and most of all dist. 1, should have been purvey to all this.
The citizens should have accesses to all information from council and workshop meetings and so on. Like you, I hear many elected officials talking about educating the voters. Well, if one seeks to educate, then one most be open and transparent with everything.

As for the Chamber of commerce, it needs a major overhaul.
City Chambers work on the local level to bring the business community together to develop strong local networks, which can result in a business-to-business exchange. In most cases, city Chambers work with their local government, such as their mayor, their city council and local representatives to develop pro-business initiatives.
Chambers of commerce in the US operate almost exclusively as non-profit entities known as 501(c)(6) corporations. Unlike charities, these 501(c)(6) non-profits have the authority under state and federal tax rules to represent their members in public policy debates. They may lobby and take positions on actual or proposed legislation, subject to local, state and federal laws. Chambers may legally endorse candidates for public office and/or ballot propositions (but most do not). The use of general fund revenues for chamber political and lobbying purposes is strictly regulated. The chief executive or another member of the staff is sometimes a state-registered lobbyist. The portion of any member’s dues investment allocated to direct lobbying is not deductible as a business expense. (NOTE: In a few cases, for-profit chambers have been established in some communities. These business ventures are routinely shunned and fought by traditional non-profit chambers.)
Some chambers may offer services and products that appear to compete with businesses operating within their own territories. One group of chambers may affiliate with a service provider to offer discounts or other benefits to chamber members (from low-cost office products to health insurance), while another group aligns with a completely different vendor. As a rule, larger chambers tend to rely less on membership dues revenue than their smaller counterparts. About one-third of the chambers of commerce in the US also include economic development corporations and/or tourism and visitors bureaus. Virtually all chambers have revenue sources other than dues; event income is the most common.
Chamber missions vary, but they all tend to focus to some degree on five primary goals: Building communities (regions/states/nations) to which residents, visitors and investors are attracted; Promoting those communities; Striving to ensure future prosperity via a pro-business climate; Representing the unified voice of the employer community; and Reducing transactional friction through well-functioning networks. Chambers have other features in common. Most are led by private-sector employers, self-funded, organized around boards/committees of volunteers and independent. They share a common ambition for sustained prosperity of their community/region, built on thriving employers. Most are ardent proponents of the free market system, resisting attempts to overly burden private sector enterprise and investment.

I do not think that the GKCC is being ran the way it should be, I agree with you on all points on this Alvin.

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

With Fort Hood sitting as the primary economic partner, this should not be the case. I seen other city's draw on the goodness of a military base which when folded up, the city went defunct. We need other industrial bases with which to strengthen our societal needs and wants.
It's all fine and good to say that this city's 'economic development policy is defined by the 'Killeen Economic Development Corporation and Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce', but are we getting the maximum bang for our buck???? I think not. What they really accomplished besides getting local stores to continue expanding. The Dollar stores are a great example followed by 7/11 and they all or for the most part address low wages. And to say that mayor Segarra and council members Debbie Nash King and Juan Rivera are classic examples of movement in the would of business ventures, well need I say more????

Copy: 'In lieu of a sales tax allocation, which is common for many cities, Killeen pays the two organizations $700,000 a year combined to perform those functions, but there has been continuing suspicion the city’s funds are not adequately utilized.' End of copy.

In my opinion this $700,000 dollars a year might as well be flushed down the toilet. In my opinion, What's the business sense of having a 'small with low personnel, that pays a minimum wage' when we should be going for a larger corporation that is into the industrial, light or heavy', that can produce more jobs, at higher wage conditions, that can year in and year out feed this city with sales taxes that can be used to produce more infrastructure, maintenance and continue to be a draw in this city. I don't think that the businesses that have bee produced in this city in coordination with the type of services that has been offered is wroth the money that we pay these two organizations.

Also, I am against having the 'Killeen Economic Development Corporation and Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce' as members of our city council with voting rights and the ability to produce contractual agreements that can come back on the city of Killeen, with no recourse being offered as to 'the rest of the sitting city council'. To date, it is my understanding that this chemical company that is in the works now this chemical company has not gone through a formal request to be introduced, has not been offered up as a organization in which this city is inclined to do business with, this company has not, to my way of thinking, offered up any safety measures that would produce the desired effects, and would equate to a minimum number of jobs especially in the higher paying jobs.

This is only marginalized through a simple majority of 4 out of 7 votes and this can influence the city's direction which a population of somewhere between 130,000 and 150,000. Only 4 can be the directing influence.

Look at what is known as 'Transparency'. In my opinion this is a lark, there is no transparency due to the number of 'secret meetings that are conducted', salary structures is another void. I agree with the 2 councilmen that voted no on the city managers salary, increase in vacation to 6 weeks and he is only starting his 2nd year, and an additional deferred compensation so that he will now be making almost $247,000. And I fault him on such things as spending money be the heaps on a city hall that was not a city hall but a school house whereas the design parameters were not that of a commercial building, setting up the basic guidelines of a corporate structure, etc.

This city manager nor the legal arm of this city has not demonstrated to my satisfaction the conditions surrounding the new city water plant at 10 MGD, nor the structure surrounding the aforementioned ' MGC Pure Chemicals America', nor the road conditions that continue to deteriorate while we speak.


Copy: 'QUESTION 1: Killeen residents and council members have recently complained of a lack of transparency surrounding the operations and contracts signed by the Killeen Economic Development Corporation and Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce. As the council is tasked with approving the city’s agreements with the two bodies, would you support amending the agreements to promote more transparency with the council and the public? What other changes would you seek, if any?' End of copy.

As to the question: I can say that all of the candidates offered what be classed as an evasive and ineffectual answer. To me, These two organizations should be completely divorced from the city administration group, they should not have any voice in the operation of the city concerning what effects the company's would have on city operation. They should not have any voice as to having the ability to make/write contracts, they should not have any voice in what the city will agree or disagree in contractual agreements nor declining sales tax agreements. And I propose a complete dissolution of any city procedures, holding of office of any nature for a period of 3 to 5 years going both ways. These groups should entertain a notion, submit a proposal to be voted on in an in session city council meeting in which a discussion is to be presented, discussed and voted on to proceed with holding future discussions and that be called for any future discussions be conducted by an appropriate committee, not some Walmart employee seeking to discuss say a chemical company, one in which hazardous materials may be present and/or explosive. The nature of the game is to 'look at the potential hazard and identify'.

These two organizations should be looked at and paid accordingly, and not $700,000 dollars or anything even close to it. There should be a total separation of these two company's and the land development that are now sitting on, and as a private land development company, they should be paying the appropriate taxes.

In the arena of having a simple majority of 4 which can introduce legislation that will impact this city's population of somewhere between 130,000 and 150,000. This charter should be reintroduced with features that can surpass the simple majority say to a superior majority. We have to have a basic voting scheme in that the majority of city council members, which equates to more than a simple majority of 4 individuals. Say we put into the charter that 'No member of the Killeen Economic Development Corporation and Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce be admitted to be a city service seat of any caliber, no Killeen Economic Development Corporation and Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce be introduced to holding or maintaining guise of contractual involvement whatsoever.
There is to be total separation of city administration and any business holdings.

This city council should conform to an open and transparent body, not hold secret meetings, and be above board in dealing with it's citizenry including what the wages are for all city employee not with standing. After all the employee is being offered by this city so it's the citizens money.

I am not in favor of holding seances as to how the employee goes about his job and the amount of retribution he is paid. Finally, there should be a committee or board that id set up to field questions of complaint and not just the single individual and their decision stands.

As to the answer by Ms. Teel: I don't think we have a 'transparent form of government when we go into a huddle to decide on a city manager, a chief of police or a waste disposal company'. What is the transparency in the method of operation. We used to get minuted city council meetings and they would be posted on the city site, but how many minuted meetings have you been exposed to as for obtaining votes, by member of the city council. I've been looking at the city agenda and I don't see anything, except there's nothing here. We used to have this segment fully documented, but not no more.

This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.58 % who voted.

Choosewisely

Most candidates offered more extensive answers but the paper edits them down for space. Several of the candidates posted their extended answers on Facebook pages. You can Google the candidate name and should be able to view those responses even without an account. If not, I would encourage readers to email the candidates or the reporter and request a copy of the answers in full.

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