Candidates running for Killeen mayor and City Council shared their views with more than 30 people at a forum hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 4535 and the local NAACP on Monday night at the Lions Club Senior Center in Killeen.
Three candidates are vying to be the next Killeen mayor — Scott Cosper, Dick Young and Hal Butchart.
When asked if the voice of the residents should be heard regarding the 2011 recall that unseated Cosper and four other council members, Cosper said the recall was “a tough time in our city’s history.”
“Absolutely, the voice of the people should be heard. Absolutely, we should listen to those people,” he said.
Cosper said although he was recalled, he remained working for Killeen, serving in various capacities including on the Texas Department of Transportation Metropolitan Policy Board and on the Association of the U.S. Army Board of Governors.
“That was three years ago, and I don’t think that was a recall that disallowed anyone to continue to serve,” he said. “Certainly, I have stayed engaged … I am willing to come back and serve. I am listening to citizens, community leaders and my friends who have asked me to re-engage and work to serve (the city) as mayor.”
Cosper was elected to the council from 2000 to 2006, returning in 2008 and serving as mayor pro tem until the November 2011 recall.
Butchart said, if elected, his first order of business would be auditing the city and re-evaluating the salary of each city employee.
“I want to be mayor of Killeen because I have something to offer. I have energy, I have enthusiasm and I have initiative,” he said. “I think the first thing I should ask the City Council to do is audit the books. Let’s pay for an independent audit and start off fresh. The same with the salaries of the employees of the city of Killeen.”
Butchart said he believes the council should also look at the city’s charter.
“Eleven larger cities in Texas have paid mayors and paid members of the city council,” he said. “It lends itself far more transparency and honesty than folks have had in the past.”
Young said his vision for the city includes job creation and security.
“When I talk about security, I’m not talking about police and fire, we need that and we have a great police and fire department,” he said. “Security involves, not just personal security, but it’s security for the future, for your children and for the investment you’ve made in Killeen. We’ve done a good job providing affordable housing, but we need upscale housing also. We need a method to attract jobs to the city of Killeen.”
Seven candidates are eyeing three at-large council seats: Elizabeth Blackstone, Jared Foster, Jonathan Okray, Randy Doyle, Gary “Bubba” Purser, Juan Rivera and Doris Mims-Owens.
When asked how an incentive-based recycling system would work, Foster said he looks forward to the city receiving its rate study back from an engineering firm hired by the current council to conduct a rate study and solid waste master plan.
“The city is currently engaged with a contractor to help us design both a rate study and a concurrent path forward,” he said. “When that rate study comes back, the city is going to have a number of options to consider (regarding) how to do single-stream recycling.”
Doyle said an incentive-based program would be a pay-as-you-throw system.
“I am not for sending our recycling materials south to Austin to some multibillion dollar company to pay for their stuff. It needs to stay in the local area,” he said. “Everything we keep here is more sustainable and it’s going to keep (residents’) cost down. Recycling is not a money-maker. It’s a cost off-set. The more we can recycle we can off-set.”
Okray said an incentive program would work in terms of a rebate on residents water bills.
“If we (the city) receive any revenue, then you receive a portion of that revenue,” he said. “But first, we need to ask you if you want a recycling system. That needs to be an item that needs to be on a ballot. Everyone needs to have a say-so on a recycling program.”
When asked how the city should prepare itself for a potential troop drawdown, Mims-Owens said she would address the issue by looking at the “conditions of the city.”
“(I would) find out where the weak parts and where the strong parts are,” she said. “Then, i would come up with a formula as to what we can do if military drops. … Come up with a workable solution as to what to do if we lose those troops. We’re going to have to have some kind of avenue to fall back on to help us look forward to the future.”
Rivera said a troop drawdown couldn’t be addressed until it happens.
“We went through this already in the early ’90s when the military drew down,” he said. “When the military takes off, most of the families take off, too. They move out, and the problem with that is we are talking jobs. … When we start drawing troops out of here, if that happens, then we take action.”
Blackstone said she’s “not as afraid as many people are.”
“Fort Hood has a strong base and I think if a (base realignment and closure) occurs with downsizing, we won’t fare that badly,” she said. “We may even prosper, who knows? Our community is much more diverse than it was in the past, and we are better able at this point to handle that.”
Purser was not present at the forum.
Contact Natalie Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7555