It’s election time again.
Monday marks the start of the nine-day early voting period for the May 1 municipal and school board elections — and area residents will have a lot to consider.
Not only are the stakes high in some elections, but a large number of candidates are competing for local voters’ attention as well.
In Killeen, 13 candidates are seeking four district seats on the City Council. Four candidates are vying for two open Killeen ISD board seats, and six candidates are battling for two council seats in Harker Heights.
Other local cities and school boards, including those in Lampasas, Belton, Florence and Salado, also have contested elections on the calendar.
In Killeen, the last few months have been eventful ones.
The city has agreed to embark on a controversial $350 million upscale apartment project on the city’s north side. It has created a city council-run Public Facility Corporation to facilitate the loan agreement with the developer, who will have a 75-year tax exempt agreement with the city.
Was this the right move for the city? Voters will have a say in the matter next month.
The city manager last year responded to a drastic drop in hotel/motel tax revenue, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, by zeroing out the city’s arts funding. The council ultimately restored about $85,000 in funding, but the public outcry was considerable.
Should the council have had more input in shaping the original budget? How voters cast their ballots may send a message on this issue.
This year, the city had to respond to the weeklong weather crisis that brought subfreezing temperatures, snow and ice to the area. With many residents without power and some without water due to frozen pipes, city officials were pressed to offer assistance with water pumping stations, a nightly warming center and distribution of emergency food items.
Was the city’s response adequate, or should it have been more proactive and better coordinated? Voters can offer their support or register their frustrations at the polls.
Recently, the city council approved wastewater impact fees to be charged to developers as a way of helping the city pay for infrastructure. But will it be an effective revenue producer, or just serve to discourage homebuilders and dissuade homebuyers, as some developers argue?
Voters can speak up by standing behind candidates who share their views on this issue.
Finally, the City Council approved the city manager’s appointment of the city’s public works director as the new assistant city manager — despite not being kept in the loop regarding a nationwide search that yielded 59 candidates, 13 semifinalists and six finalists for the $160,000 position. In addition, the final salary for the new ACM ended up being $175,000, nearly $27,000 higher than the salary of the highly qualified assistant city manager who resigned in October. Before that assistant city manager was chosen, his biography — along with those of the other four finalists — were shared with the council and the public. Not so this time.
Should the council expect more transparency from the city manager, or should the city’s top administrative position come with a certain level of autonomy?
Killeen voters can choose council members who think the way they do on this question.
The fact is, many important council decisions came on split votes, with last week’s hiring of the assistant city manager passing by a narrow 4-3 count.
With the election of four council members next month, the voters have a say in not only what issues are addressed and how they are handled, but how the council conducts business in general.
Two incumbents are on the municipal ballot, and both have challengers. In the other two district races, voters will select new council members, as the District 1 councilmember is term limited and leaving the council, and the District 3 councilmember is a short-term replacement who is not on the May 1 ballot.
This is an opportunity for voters to register their support for the incumbents, or to express their displeasure. It’s also a chance to see how political newcomers will perform in the role, as none of the candidates for the open District 1 and 3 seats have served on the council previously.
The same holds true in the Killeen school board election, where voters will be asked to choose between an incumbent and a challenger in one race, and to pick a successor to an outgoing representative in another.
The school district has not been without controversy of late.
The district’s handling of the winter storm crisis — which shut down the district because of damage to dozens of district facilities — has the been the subject of considerable discussion, particularly the lack of communication early on between the district and the public regarding the extent of the damage.
Did the district do a good job of managing that difficult situation? Voters can express their views at the polls.
Many parents also have pointed out shortcomings in the district’s virtual instruction initiative. Ohers have spoken up about perceived lapses in the district’s coronavirus safety protocols.
If voters feel strongly on these issues — one way or the other — they can say so at the ballot box.
KISD also has been in the news concerning the operations of its transportation department, where several employees have spoken up about short staffing, maintenance delays, poor supervisor-employee relations and generally low morale. A 2019 audit of the department reported many of the problems that have been cited, but administration and board members have downplayed the situation.
Again, the upcoming election provides district voters with the opportunity to speak up on these issues — to voice their support for the board and administration’s efforts, or to call for new leadership.
Of course, voters may face a bit of a challenge in trying to figure out where each candidate stands on the issues and determining what their priorities are.
That’s especially true in the Killeen council race, where five candidates are competing for votes to win the Place 1 seat. In addition, just two incumbents are on the ballot among the 13 office-seekers for the four district seats, so platforms and priorities are particularly important this time around.
The Killeen Daily Herald hopes to provide some assistance to voters with today’s election guide.
In Section A of today’s edition, readers can find summaries of most local races, including the Killeen council and KISD elections, Harker Heights council election, Kempner mayor’s race, as well as municipal and school board races in Lampasas, Belton, Florence and Salado.
Several question-and-answer features and candidate biographies are also included in the section, as well as a list of early voting locations and times.
Please take time to look over today’s guide and learn about the candidates vying for your vote. Then make plans to go to the polls — either during the early-voting period or on election day.
Keep in mind that the people we choose to govern our cities and run our school districts are our employees.
In other words, we elect them to work for us.
It’s time to begin the hiring process.