Katy Area Chamber hosts city council election forum

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 4/19/21

The Katy Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum for the Katy City Council Election for which early voting began April 19. Dan Smith and Diane Walker discussed their positions on issues …

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Katy Area Chamber hosts city council election forum

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The Katy Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum for the Katy City Council Election for which early voting began April 19. Dan Smith and Diane Walker discussed their positions on issues facing the city as they compete for the Ward A seat, while Gina Hicks provided her stances as a candidate for Ward B.

Ward B incumbent Jenifer Stockdick was unable to attend because she was unwell after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

Candidates were asked what characteristics were required to be a good council member. Generally, all candidates agreed with one another regarding honesty, integrity and transparency. Smith said his education and business knowledge and focus on customer service were strengths if he were voted in, while Walker said her ability to research relevant issues and listen to constituents – including those she may disagree with – were her strengths.

Hicks said she would also focus on partnering with Katy’s three overlapping counties and local businesses to get work done. Stockdick has previously stated that her experience on local boards gives her insight into how government works and that she would focus on continuous improvement in city programs.

Katy Area Chamber of Commerce Vice President Rick Ellis, who moderated the forum, then asked candidates if they would vote in favor of a measure put before council if they did not support it personally. All three candidates present at the forum said they would generally vote in the best interest of the city and with their morals. They also alluded that they might vote to move a motion forward if they did not favor it if their constituents whom they represent favored the measure.

“Certainly, these are elected roles,” Smith said. “We have constituents as we sit there and make those decisions, and those constituents and residents are who we’re making decisions for, so if I support something, it’s because I believe that it is the best for the city (and) the best for residents.”

Candidates then had to show their knowledge of the role of a council member in day-to-day operations at the city. All three agreed that the role of a council member is not to interfere with daily work at City Hall, but rather to act as a liaison between residents and city staff by developing relationships in the community and with staff at City Hall.

“No, it is not the councilmembers’ role to be involved in day-to-day operations,” said Walker. “This is why the city’s staff was hired – we have a great staff with our city. They know what their job is. They know what they’re supposed to be doing. The last thing they need is a city council member trying to tell them how to do their job.”

Both Walker and Smith said they would focus on maintaining safety within the city through the fire and police departments from a budget perspective. They differed in that Smith said he would focus on measures that improve retention of quality firefighters while Walker said she would like police call boxes, sometimes referred to as “blue lights,” installed in the city that allow residents to call for aid if they do not have access to a phone.

Hicks’ focus was on building permits where she said additional training and technology and establishing an advisory board could ease frustrations with that department. Stockdick has previously told the Katy Times that permitting concerns could be curbed through more consistent communication and educating permit applicants regarding the permitting process.

Regarding animal control, all three candidates applauded the city’s progress so far on improving the department after accusations of misconduct became public earlier this year. Walker said she would like to implement adoptions through Katy Animal Control while Smith stated that the department does not see enough volume in strays to warrant that function being implemented. Both said focusing on improving partnerships with nonprofits could help with ongoing improvement for the department.

Stockdick has expressed her support for establishing Katy’s city-run animal shelter as a no-kill shelter, which would include adoptions and a catch, vaccinate, neuter and release program for cats. Hicks said that, like all of the candidates, she would like to see stronger partnerships with nonprofits, but said part of her reasoning was fundraising which would save money for the city.

“I think the partnerships with the 501(C)3 organizations are critical because those are the ones that have the funds (and) that can do the fundraising in order to provide the best placement for animals,” Hicks said.

Hicks said that, from a long-term goal standpoint, she would like to see the city’s comprehensive plan reviewed along with the strategic plan, both of which have not been reviewed in some time. Stockdick has previously told the Katy Times that she supports ongoing efforts to manage growth responsibly and to continue the city’s flood mitigation efforts.

Meanwhile, Smith said he would like to see the city hire an economic development coordinator and establish an economic development board. Walker agreed with Hicks regarding reviewing the strategic plan and said she wanted the city to continue to manage growth to bring tourism dollars to the city which would support sales tax revenue and help keep property taxes low.

To view the archived video of the Katy City Council Candidate Forum, visit the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/katychamber

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