1. Why do you think you are the best qualified candidate for office?
Elizabeth Blackstone: I have served for the last two years as a city council member and have been the mayor pro tem for the last year. Killeen is my home. I have worked in our schools for 28 years, raised my family here and have been active in community affairs. My experience and my heart belong to this city. If re-elected, I plan to continue to vote with the best interests of all the people in this fast growing, diverse community in mind. I have learned much during my time on the council and would like to continue serving.
Randy Doyle: I’m a DOER: Dedicated, Organized, Efficient and Responsible. I’m a fact finder, a good listener and a respectful debater. I know how to compromise and I’m results oriented. I strongly support the triple bottom-line concept of sustainability: people, profit and planet. I seek tangible projects and outcomes. My alliance is to the people I serve: the residents of Killeen. I am approachable and strongly believe “if the people will lead, the leaders will follow” — Gandhi. I do, and will, support my fellow council members and city staff as part of the resolution. My paradigm is to present solutions as part of any problem/challenge identified.
Jared Foster: The privilege of incumbency is to stand on experience, but my prior service is not how I wish to characterize my qualification for office. I care deeply about keeping responsible custody of not only our fiscal health, but also our infrastructural and cultural health. I struggle to maintain civility in discourse, to champion the role of planning, and to at least reach for consensus before deliberations come to a vote. I would like to think I bring a thoughtful perspective to the conversation, but even when I fail I try to take pride in the attempt.
Doris Mims-Owens: I am dedicated and committed to serving the residents of this great community. I have served on numerous boards and was a director. I was appointed by three mayors and council members for 13 years. I am a college graduate, knowledgeable of the city’s rules and regulations, an effective communicator and a leader. I have volunteered more than 2,000 hours to the residents of this great community and was food director at the Bob Gilmore Center during Hurricane Katrina. I support our troops, their families and veterans. I take a common-sense approach.
Jonathan Okray: I am objective and passionate; my demeanor is direct in respect to considerations before the council. I am ready to continue to serve the residents of Killeen with a low estimate of my own importance. I have no strings or ties that will compromise my voting integrity or fidelity. I want to continue to represent all residents, as I have in the past.
Gary “Bubba” Purser Jr.: I have spent the last 35 years working in our family’s construction businesses, which were started by my father over five decades ago. As a native of Killeen, I have seen this community grow from a one high school town (Killeen High, where I graduated in 1975) to four high schools. I have had the unique opportunity to not only watch Killeen grow, but to be a part of that growth. As a member of the council, I will employ the same principles that have made me a successful businessman — honesty, integrity and good old-fashioned hard work.
Juan Rivera: As a candidate, I believe I possess the following traits that make me a good candidate for the Killeen City Council. I have more than 20 years of community involvement, including five years as a former councilman, and many more years closely observing legislative bodies at work. I have more than 27 years of prior military service and before that I served four years as a civilian criminal investigator and have been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police. I am also the chairman for the Hispanic-American Chamber of Commerce, in which we help bring businesses to the area.
2. What do you see as the biggest issue facing Killeen?
Blackstone: I feel that the biggest issue facing Killeen is ensuring a better quality of life for our residents. Our city has grown so rapidly in the last years that quality has often not kept up with growth. While needs like security through police and fire protection, adequate water and sewer lines, and other basic areas have been well addressed, we must now also focus on things to improve life for our people. Job growth, parks, entertainment venues, increased code enforcement and zoning restrictions can make Killeen a more attractive place to live and work.
Doyle: Public safety. Our city is growing faster than our public safety services can effectively manage. I seek comprehensive reviews aimed to ensure comparable pay and benefits for our first responders and city employees. Killeen can, and will, be comparable to cities of similar size and importance in this region, if properly guided and funded. My plan ensures our community receives the recognition and resources commensurate to, not only our size, but our contribution to Texas. I will support the fire and police departments with facilities to improve or sustain response times and sustain police operations in the North Precinct.
Foster: I am committed to the promotion of economic diversity in Killeen. Fort Hood will always be our dominant engine, but the ways in which we respond to changes in the Army’s mission will help determine our economic fate. The nature of economies is change, and we need to be mindful of technological and demographic shifts in our chief industry. Through the development of entities like Central Texas College and Texas A&M University-Central Texas, opportunities will emerge inside the interrelated worlds of defense, medicine and education. If we can harness these opportunities to the mission of Fort Hood, we position ourselves for infinite economic possibilities.
Mims-Owens: Recycling — a process to change waste materials into new products. Killeen wants to implement single-stream recycling, which will allow for mixed paper, various plastics, steel and aluminum. Presently residents of Killeen pay from $14.38 to $17.50 per month under the curb-sorted program. The new system the city is proposing is $20.89 for all residents getting a 96-gallon recycling can. Everyone may not need that large can and I believe they should not pay. The rate study is being done and it should allow the taxpayers to have a voice in the decision. I will like to be the council member to advocate for the taxpayer.
Okray: The biggest issue facing our city is the maintenance and redevelopment of our city north of U.S. Highway 190. I believe it would be the height of irresponsibility to disproportionately prioritize plans of action that defer redevelopment of north Killeen. It is bought and paid for and we should keep what we have. There has to be balance in our priorities as we grow.
Purser: The biggest issue facing Killeen is its growth and the management of its resources. As Killeen grows, so do the needs of its residents. I believe my background makes me uniquely qualified to tackle the city’s need for water and sewer availability as well as traffic flow issues created by growth. As a successful businessman, I am very familiar with the need to accomplish tasks within budget. As a resident, I am concerned with the quality of life for all residents. As a council member, I will attempt to address issues facing Killeen and come up with common-sense solutions.
Rivera: Planning strategically for growth is really important, so that we can accommodate and provide adequate services, transportation and a great quality of life to our citizens and the businesses in our city. I believe the better we prepare for growth the better our citizens will benefit, and in the long run will attract good jobs. Public safety is one of my big concerns when it comes to growth and we need to ensure that we are providing our public servant the tools and resources they need to protect our citizens.
3. How do you stand on the adoption of impact fees, which are fees put on a new development to pay for improvements it requires (water, sewer, roads, etc.), by the city?
Blackstone: Impact fees have only recently been talked about in Killeen. In the two years I have spent on the council, we have not studied these fees, looking at how they would help and hurt in various areas of finance and development. While I am not opposed in principle to having a development pay for itself, I would need to know more about the experiences of other cities that have impact fees in place, about how Killeen would use these charges and about their implementation to decide if they are right for our city.
Doyle: I support impact fees. Impact fees are an equitable means of distributing the burdens of new developments to the development where capital improvements are required. The main reason municipalities impose impact fees on developments is to shift to the developer, the owner of the land converted to development or the consumers of the housing or other land use the costs of the public infrastructure that the development requires. The fee varies by development (housing, commercial, industrial, etc.), and is set by a mandated formula. About 60 percent of U.S. cities of a population greater than 25,000 impose impact fees.
Foster: Other communities in our state and region have found economic impact fees beneficial. While I don’t yet know that their adoption is essential to Killeen’s future, I do know that it is time to have the conversation. When growth occurs, it can place a demand on existing infrastructure that, in our city’s experience, is born by taxpayers. Impact fees are highly regulated for the protection of the private sector, but they are intended to lessen the burden on those who did not create the need, shifting it more proportionally toward those who are actually using the additional services.
Mims-Owens: My vision of impact fees would be to assist with maintenance of a swimming pool, parks and recreation center or soccer field for improvements to the development. I would not adopt such fees for water, sewer or streets.
Okray: Chapter 395 of the Local Government Code has been a statute in our state to finance capital improvements since it was enacted in 1989 by the 71st Legislature. We are 25 years behind industry in this aspect. My perspective is that the current mode of funding capital improvement, with regard to development, is not fiscally sustainable or prudent. I reject the notion that we continue borrowing, either certificates or general bonds, to continue funding capital improvements in this manner. We can give residents some of their money back through the tax decrease doing another way.
Purser: I believe the city has a responsibility to keep housing affordable for all its residents, to include the soldiers and families of Fort Hood. Impact fees will be counter-productive to that goal. I am opposed to impact fees because they will ultimately increase the cost of a home for the buyer. Impact fees are a very misunderstood topic; developers already pay “impact fees.” Developers pay 100 percent of the expenses to put in roads, water, sewer, etc., in their developments. The developer gives that infrastructure to the city, free of charge and that infrastructure generates $20 million annually for the city.
Rivera: The increasing use of impact fees and the costs that they may add to the development process raise serious concerns about the effect using impact fees to fund infrastructure will have on the affordability of housing. These fees will eventually be passed down to the consumer and raise prices, which will cause our citizens to pay more for housing, and eventually raise their property tax value, making them pay more taxes. It would be an issue that I hope, if it comes up, we would thoroughly examine all the pros and cons before a decision is made.
4. How big a role should housing affordability play in the city’s future development?
Blackstone: Affordable housing is a double-edged sword. Having very low housing prices certainly makes it easier to purchase a home. This has allowed our city to grow rapidly and has been a help to Fort Hood. It has also meant that people who live in Killeen and want to sell their home may find that they make very little return on what is often their biggest investment. We have many empty homes in our city and Fort Hood has had empty quarters for the first time in my memory. We must take our current home owners into consideration.
Doyle: Affordability is in the eye of the payer (i.e., determined by the consumer, not the entity providing the goods or services). Killeen has and will continue to offer affordable housing, because that is what our constituency demands. We must continue to offer affordable, quality and sustainable housing options. On the other hand, we have a need for suburban and upscale living options. I plan to ensure that our building standards transcend prescriptive measures to allow builders and developers ingenuity for high quality structures, sustainable designs and construction techniques.
Foster: Affordability is important, but perhaps we rely on the term itself more than the reality of its effect. If city participation is required to extend a road to a new neighborhood, does the retail price of its homes really reflect the true cost of their construction? Diversity in our approach to growth is key, and a city should have the right to strive for a high, middle and a low in its housing stock. True affordability would reflect the economic costs of development at all price points and not just those that characterize our current housing climate.
Mims-Owens: One-hundred percent, because a family would have more funds to have quality of life without the stresses of high cost of living in the housing industry. It would especially assist with the lower-rank enlisted soldiers and their families, contractors and their families and any resident that requires affordable housing in our great city.
Okray: I am unsure of the current supply and demand trend for affordable housing. However, moving forward, we should focus on housing quality. I believe that focus originates from masonry standards centered around the preferred use of brick, stone or cinderblock in house composition. We should be careful not to conflate standard with design. Sensible standards equate to greater value and higher quality homes that correlate to a healthy ad valorem for our city.
Purser: Affordable housing has built the city of Killeen and ensures the continued existence of Fort Hood as our neighbor. Affordable housing is a critical component of Killeen’s support for our soldiers and their families. If we continue to provide housing that meets the needs of all levels of income, retail and commercial development will follow. Without affordable rooftops, there is no future growth for Killeen.
Rivera: I believe that keeping our housing at levels that our citizens can qualify for and make their monthly payment every month is very important. Being that our city is right outside Fort Hood, we have a housing market that is primarily driven by our military, which is our main economic driver. Another factor is our retirees who choose to remain in our city because of affordable housing and the ability to make house payments with only their retirement income.
5. What would you do to help bring higher paying jobs to Killeen?
Blackstone: We are now beginning to diversify our economy, which is the first step to higher paying jobs. Our new university, our growth in the medical professions, and our new businesses are examples of this. I serve on the Killeen Economic Development Corporation board, and I can assure our residents that new businesses with better jobs are being sought. Tax incentives, low land prices and a talented workforce will serve us in this area. Another factor that will help is the work being done to get U.S. Highway 190 designated an interstate highway. That should be forthcoming.
Doyle: I will ensure our city promotes sustainable design and development to foster positive growth and encourage industries to locate here. I want to ensure that our taxpayer dollars to the chamber of commerce and economic development corporation are prioritized to foster higher paying jobs and industry locations in Killeen. We must take advantage of the medical and educational institutions currently in Killeen. High-wage and low-wage job growth can go hand-in-hand, but we must focus our efforts on higher paying jobs. The service and retail industry will locate to Killeen because we have consumers.
Foster: I tie the creation of jobs back to our need for economic diversity. Manufacturing is not the only type of highly skilled work, and it is crucial that we attract creative and technologically talented professionals to our community. We can accomplish this by using Fort Hood to our benefit and tailoring our role as its host to the shifting nature of its mission. This partially involves partnering on the kinds of efforts that have created universities, but it also requires thinking about the kind walkable, people-focused and sustainable communities in which the creative class already desires to call home.
Mims-Owens: I would build working relationships with other corporations in larger cities in search of higher paying jobs such as factories, computers, manufacturing, health care, science, etc., promote advanced technology, interstate transportation to include additional railways, airport expansion and affordable housing.
Okray: I will support tax abatement offsets for businesses that will bring high-paying jobs to our city. Particularly, jobs that pay over $12 an hour. Marketing of our water assets to industries that have use of them would also be a farsighted approach.
Purser: Higher paying jobs come with growth. I believe that the initiatives that are currently in the works, such as: the A&M Central Texas Solar Project, the Medical and Bio-Science training facilities and the Career Pathway Center for vocational job training, will bring higher paying jobs to our residents. I would support these projects, and projects like them, to help bring higher paying jobs to our area.
Rivera: The best way to bring high paying jobs is to continue to promote higher education in our city, to encourage entrepreneurism and help small businesses grow into larger ones. More than 70 percent of major industries were grown from within. So I think first, we need to help our smaller businesses grow. At the same time we need to continue to promote our city in a way that will attract larger employers to come to our city. We must continue to develop our infrastructure so they will remain here as they grow.