By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
Killeen City Council candidates fielded a variety of questions Monday during a forum at the Community Center.
Police, conflicts and voting were among the issues discussed after audience members submitted questions.
There was little difference in the candidates' opinions on whether they would support a council-appointed citizen committee for appeals against the police department.
"It sounds like a good idea on the surface," said Kenny Wells, candidate for District 1.
He added that it might disrupt the current chain of command.
Doris Owens, candidate for District 1, said she would not support it.
"If you want to go on the outside and ask citizens to come on board, this would open a whole new ball game," she said, also noting citizens are not usually familiar with all the rules and regulations.
Juan Rivera, unopposed candidate for District 2, said he does not support it.
"The police department already has internal affairs," Rivera said. "They are professionals; that's what they do. Let them do their work."
Fred Latham, candidate for District 3, echoed Rivera's comments.
"I don't know, in a court of law, what authority would this committee have?" Latham asked.
Claudia Brown, unopposed candidate for District 4, said unfortunately things like racial profiling still occur in the United States.
"Citizens do have a right to look at what law enforcement is doing and that it is done correctly," she said.
The candidates were also asked under what circumstances would they step down from the council due to a conflict of interest.
Latham, City Council incumbent and real estate businessman, said anytime there is a small degree of conflict, he steps down during a discussion and vote.
"I have done it several times," Latham said.
Brown said she would step down if she thought there was a potential of a conflict of interest.
Owens said any zoning cases or real estate deals she might have a stake in would prompt her to step down.
Wells said he would step down on anything related to his business.
Rivera, a local insurance broker, said he has no conflicts of interest.
"I've got no personal agenda," Rivera said.
The candidates were also asked to give the advantages and disadvantages to single-member district voting. Whereas in the past all Killeen voters cast ballots for every candidate, this is the first year voters will choose only candidates who live in their respective district.
Brown said the single-member district system is bad because, due to a lack of candidates, only half the city will get to vote in the City Council race. She said the advantage comes as the council member is a voice for a more specific group.
"We have similar interests and I need to work for the people in that area," she said.
However, Wells said the advantage with a single-district is the election, as candidates do not have to spend as much time and money campaigning.
"A few people elect someone to make decisions for the entire city," Wells said about the disadvantage.
Owens said she sees no disadvantages.
"I know the district well," Owens said. "You can better control your area."
Rivera did not list any disadvantages.
"In a single-member district, everyone has an opportunity to run," Rivera said.
He also said it makes the council member more accountable by having a specific crowd to answer to.
Latham said the advantage was supposed to be the attraction of more candidates, but added that it did not work for this election, as there are two unopposed candidates. He said in the future the city needs to better educate voters and better define the districts.
Harold Butchart, candidate for District 3, was unable to attend the forum as he had to go out of town.
Killene Independent School District
The Killeen Independent School District Board of Trustees candidates also participated in a forum at the Community Center on Monday. They addressed questions about dress code enforcement and uniforms across the district.
April Noronha, Place 1 candidate, said there needs to be a more effective way for schools to communicate the dress code to students and parents, rather than stating it only in the thick school handbook. Noronha also said she would support uniforms district-wide. While she shares cost concerns with parents, Noronha said she feels it helps students focus.
"That was one less thing I had to worry about," she said about the times she had to wear a uniform in school.
Shelley Wells, Place 1 candidate, said dress code enforcement should never have to reach the board level, as it should be an effort by the parents, teachers and administrators for enforcement. Wells said she had "mixed feelings" about whether to require uniforms district wide.
Thomas Moore, Place 3 candidate, said the dress code enforcement is first the responsibility of the student and parent, then the teachers and administrators must enforce it equally. He also said he doesn't like uniforms.
"I don't think that helps problems," Moore said. "I don't really think they work."
Joe Maines, Place 3 candidate, called dress code enforcement a "team effort," with the school, home and students. He said consistency is the key to enforcement. Maines also expressed disagreement with uniforms.
"It's a learning opportunity that's being missed," he said.
Terry Delano, Place 5 candidate, said the school board should support the dress code each campus enforces. He also said he prefers the current system for uniforms: a decision left up to each individual campus.
JoAnn Purser, Place 5 candidate, missed the dress code and uniform discussion as she had another obligation. She arrived in time to answer questions about whether the district should ensure the administration is as diverse as the student population.
"We want to be competitive, we want people to want to come here and want to live here," Purser said.
The other candidates also agreed diversity is important in hiring, noting the students need role models that fit the dynamics of the community.
Wells said diversity is fine as long as the job candidate fits the bill. Maines said he agreed.
"It should be the absolute best person for the job without regard to their ethnic background," Maines said.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7550