For the first time this election season, candidates from one of the Twin Cities got their chance to sound off on the issues.
College Station's candidates for mayor and Place 1 on the council were greeted with questions from the Foxfire Homeowner's Association at a forum held at Aldersgate Methodist Church.
The race for mayor pits former councilmember Dennis Maloney against the current Place 1 seatholder, Ben White. The current mayor, Ron Silvia, cannot run due to term limits.
Maloney pushed for the embracing of a city-wide vision as it braces for significant growth. Among his platforms, Maloney moved to make College Station unique -- which he says will help draw tourism dollars -- and also pushed for small area planning, a technique the city employed during Maloney's time on the council.
"We did this with University Drive when we came up with an overlay, which allowed us to restrict what we developed over there, and that was to only have an entertainment, restaurant area," Maloney said. "You can see the success that we've had."
White pushed the idea that change for the sake of change isn't necessary. The current Place 1 rep extolled the current positives in the city, pushed for convention and city centers, and advocated what he termed a "citizen's city" with an open dialogue.
"Is College Station perfect," White asked the gathering. "No, it indeed is not. Can we improve? Yes, we certainly can. I support the continuing, positive direction this city is going."
For the last year on the Place 1 term that White is leaving on the table, John Crompton tried to woo voters with talk not only of a greener city and one with more proactive code enforcement, but added that a pro-growth agenda shouldn't be adopted.
"Growth in recent years, in my view, has eroded our quality of life and left the city with a catch-up bill for infrastructure of between $80 and $100 million," Crompton said.
Seeking one last year on the council, current Place 2 rep John Happ talked of finding funding means to alleviate traffic woes like those at Rock Prairie and Highway 6. But Happ, like White, talked of a positively impacted life in the city due to growth.
"With that growth, some really good things have come this way," Happ said. "I think we have some pretty nice hospitals that we didn't have 10 years ago. I think we have some pretty beautiful neighborhoods, probably some of the nicest in the area."
Businessman Robert Miksch, the third man in the Place 1 mix, talked of the preservation of neighborhoods despite the commercial growth, and talked of improving on what may be the city's hottest topic.
"We've got to continue to focus on our traffic needs because we're not behind the eight-ball yet," Miksch said. "We don't want to end up like an Austin."
While all the candidates differed slightly, they all agreed on a number of topics, including the need for a tree ordinance to protect and plant trees in the community, and also an increase in the radius from which people are notified of a potential change in zoning or development.
College Station's nationally-recognized parks system were also a hot topic of discussion. On the question of whether land for parks should be purchased ahead of commercial or industrial purchases, the Place 1 candidates differed.
Crompton, an A&M professor and well-known parks advocate, said the city is now behind on its plan for the parks system, adding that development fees should pay for parks.
Happ said the city spends the third-highest dollar amount on their parks (behind police and fire), and that with growth of the city will come more parks on land that can't or won't be developed.
Miksch said it would not always be economically feasible to buy parks before business, though it is certainly something that could be looked at in the future. He added that the city should have larger, more centralized parks instead of many smaller ones around town.
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