VICTORIA, Texas - Steve Meacham, Dr. Vic Morgan, Rawley McCoy and Brent Carter attended a live mayoral forum on 25Now April 10, 2019. The 30 minute show will re-air Saturday at 5 p.m. on ABC KAVU Newscenter25, Sunday at 7 a.m. on CBS, 10 a.m. on KMOL NBC and FOX at 5 p.m. The show will post to CrossroadsToday.com next Friday. The following is a transcription as the candidates answered seven questions live on TV.
Steve Meacham: "What I'd like to say about myself is I am a lifelong Texan. Born and raised in Beaumont, raised in Waco, moved here to Victoria in the mid, early nineties. I left and came back and I've been here for the last 23 years. I actually serve our community as a financial advisor, helping people with their longterm planning as far as retirement planning, college savings, planning long-term. And I think a lot of that I can transfer into what we need to be doing in the city for long term. We need to be thinking long term and how we're going to shape our future. And I think that's what the mayor is going to get a chance to do, is get to shape the vision for the future of Victoria."
Dr. Vic Morgan: "I spent about 25 years serving as the president of a University. Universities are a great deal like cities. We have a lot of the same issues, parking, all the infrastructure issues, and in addition to that we have no money, just like the city has no money. I have a lot of proven leadership and experience. I have had a lot of opportunities to serve and to be creative. I'm the newcomer, having been in Victoria about five years. I'm excited to offer new ideas and new perspectives to the mayor's job. I'm a mathematician by training that makes me a problem solver. In addition to that, I am the only one of the four candidates who will be able to devote full-time to the job."
Rawley McCoy: "I was born and raised in Victoria, Texas. The only time I've been away was my little stint at Texas A&M where I earned two degrees. That culminated in a Master's of Architecture. I came back to Victoria in the mid 1970s and began a practice of architecture. I practiced architecture in this community for over 42 years and in that time period I've been involved in many civic organizations. I helped found the Victorian Business Education Coalition. I was one of the co-founders of it. I've been a Rotarian for over 20 years in this community. I've served on boards and commissions for the city of Victoria for a long time. I had to resign as chairman of both committees to run for office. But I know a lot about Victoria through that service. And I feel like I'm imminently qualified to be mayor because of my involvement."
Brent Carter: "I'm running for mayor because I think Victoria deserves the best. I was raised here, educated here. I'm a VISD product. I went off to the University of Texas and moved back. I've three children. My older children are graduates of Victoria East High School and I've got two little ones that my wife Dawn and I are raising here now. So, I am excited to make Victoria the type of town where folks want to stay. We want to keep these young people home and we want to make Victoria a place where everybody knows we're open for business and that we're doing the things that make Victoria a place that people want to live and prosper. I'm excited to be serving."
Talk about homelessness.
Steve Meacham: "I get to see that on a weekly basis because one of the things that I do here is volunteer at Christ's Kitchen. I actually should be there this morning cooking in the kitchen. I cook on Wednesday's down there and help serve the meals. Often the people who are homeless here in this town, those are not the people that you see on the streets panhandling. Often it's a mental health issue and there's lots of other things that we need to be working on. To try to collaboratively assist those people. Homelessness and housing is not necessarily a city service, but we can lead and we can work with people to make things happen with that."
Dr. Vic Morgan: "Homelessness will be solved only when we can solve all of those issues. Everything from mental health to PTSD to other things that cause people to be homeless. So, we've got to look at the reasons for the homelessness and then we've got to work with the nonprofits and with city officials, and county officials. It's a collaborative effort to try to see what we can do to resolve the issues and to get these people back into a place where they don't necessarily feel like that they've got to be homeless or are forced to be homeless. So, it's an effort that's got to be done across the city. Citizens, the city, the county, the nonprofits and others."
Rawley McCoy: "I too agree that mental health is a big issue. I've personally been involved with Gulf Bend, a collaborative initiative dealing with the mental health issues in our community. I've assisted the Promise Pointe Community to try to establish a layout for their facility out there. But what really concerns me about homelessness is the fact that we have to recognize it is a problem. And I truly believe that how a community responds to the issue of this speaks to the heart and soul of a community. And I truly believe that people who are thinking about coming here and taking businesses here, they look at how you deal with these types of issues in your community. So I think it matters. I think it matters a lot and we need to do everything we can to help mitigate the problem."
Brent Carter: "I agree obviously with everything these gentlemen have said, but the key is what can the city council in the role of mayor do in dealing with this situation? I've had extensive conversations with Chief Roy Boyd about the mental health initiatives and Sheriff A.J. Louderback over in Jackson County for example. Immerse myself in conversations with Trish Hastings at Christ's Kitchen, Cindy at Habitat and Jim Cole who's spearheading a lot of the effort at Promise Pointe. These conversations must be on going and then I believe we have to do everything we can as a city to get out of the way and allow these folks to have an opportunity to prosper. We've talked about turning a F.W. Gross if it ends up being actually closed as a school into a community center. If we can turn it into a community center, then we can help folks there with a meal, maybe a clinic, maybe some educational opportunities."
Let's talk about game rooms. Recently, the city put a moratorium on permits. Some say commercial space rent goes up and down based on the game rooms being in operation.
Steve Meacham: "I've actually had a couple of conversations with one of our city council members who's brought this up on a, on multiple occasions. I've asked her what is your motivation for bringing up the game rooms? Are you representing people in the community that are really interested in trying to do that? Or is it something that you want to make sure that the people in that area and where these are popping up, is there crime associated with it? Is there something that we need? Is it a safety issue? And I think it's something that we absolutely as a city have to look at it. I mean the safety and of that particular deal, I think it draws, in some instances, it draws elements to those deals that we need to be wary of. So I'm very interested in the will of the people. We're here to be responsive to the will of the citizens of Victoria. And I'd like to know what their thoughts are on that deal. I think that ought to be one of the things that we ought to have a session on down at city council."
Dr. Vic Morgan: "I would agree totally with Steve about dealing with the community, finding out what the community wants to happen relative to a game rooms. I know there are issues with people who spend enormous amounts of time at game rooms. I know there are neighborhoods that have a game room and they're concerned about the traffic at all hours of the day and night and about the lighting and other, other safety issues. So, I'm certain that there are some concerns among the people in the community, particularly those that may live close to game rooms. I don't know what the solution is for the game room problems if there is a problem."
Rawley McCoy: "Personally I don't participate in gambling or anything. On a personal level, but that doesn't mean that I don't begrudge anybody who finds pleasure in doing it like my wife for instance. They're established under state law. I mean state law has guidelines for them and as long as they open and they follow the law, I don't really have a problem with them. If people choose to do that for their form of recreation, that's their business. But it has to be done within the confounds of the law. And that's where I think the city has gone forth. I know they took a lot of criticism when they wrote into the new ordinance, making the owner of a building responsible for the activities in there. And they didn't quite explain it enough that all they were doing was pointing out that that's what state law says."
Brent Carter: "I think it's incredibly naive to believe that these game rooms operate legally. If you pull up to what appears to be a game room and there's 35 cars out in front of it, those people are not inside playing for cans of corn and toilet paper. It's just not happening. It brings a seedy element to our city, elements of prostitution, drug abuse. There's people hanging out at all hours of the day and night. It's a blight on our city and I would like to do everything I can to eliminate game rooms from within the city limits. I think it's a bad witness to our children. I'm totally on a different page than these gentlemen on this issue. I don't believe that the people's will, wants these rooms that continuously violate the law. And I don't think there's any doubt they do it. So honorable charities, Palace Bingo that provides money to charities and church groups, they suffer for that as millions go out of our community every month."
Talk about your leadership style and also your idea of diversity.
Steve Meacham: "One of the things that shaped a lot of the way I think about leadership is I was a member of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University and went on to become commissioned in the United States Army Reserves and served eight years doing that. So one of the things that we're taught is a little saying that goes on our piece of corp brass that we get. It says in Latin, through unity strength. We're stronger together than we are individually. And I think bringing this community together, the mayor is going to have to be a leader in this deal. He's going to have to shape the vision of the community and we're going to be stronger doing this together. I told somebody at a meeting we had yesterday, don't elect me if to solve all your problems, elect me because I'm going to come and ask you for your help."
Dr. Vic Morgan: "I've been in leadership positions for a huge part of my life. My philosophy of leadership is basically to find out what people want and help them get it. I don't have all the answers and don't pretend to have all the answers. So, I looked for collaboration among all sorts of groups in the city and the community on the city council. You build those collaborations and you build them with patience and with the planning and with the care. And once you've made those decisions and build those collaborations, then you move forward with the right ideas to provide the leadership that the city needs to move forward. And diversity, I've, I've lived with diversity all my life as a college president. Most of the institutions had no significant majority population. So it was an opportunity to serve all people. And that's what I want to do with Victoria."
Rawley McCoy: "On the issue of diversity, the mayor is the only at-large position on council, that means the mayor must represent everybody in our community. Everybody in this community, their ideas have value. Every person in this community has worth and should be invited into the conversation on how the City of Victoria moves forward. As far as the leadership style, I would love collaboration. I think you should try to inspire each one of the members of council. There's seven different diverse people on that council that are all intelligent, smart, have a mind of their own and we need to enter into conversations that bring the best out of everybody. I've advocated and I've said it before, we need to have more work sessions. We need to have real, true discussion on that council. And then that's when you're going to see ideas flourish through collaboration and building consensus that we move forward."
Brent Carter: "My leadership style is always centered on the idea of my skillset. What led me into commercial insurance is the ability to think in terms of finances and the ability to get folks together to get things done. I'm totally excited and want to bring in the energy level to the council that reinvigorates what are some absolutely wonderfully qualified folks. As pertains to diversity, we all drive on the same streets. It doesn't matter where you go to church or what your nationality is or your background. The infrastructure, that's a major issue for the city of Victoria. We all use the same utilities, we all use the same roads and we should all have exactly the same opportunities. I'm most excited about the naming of Jesus Garza from Kingsville as our new city manager. I think he brings a little bit of diversity to our community and gives us an opportunity to grow for all Victorians."
Describe your idea of transparency at city hall.
Steve Meacham: "Transparency. I love the fact that as a community, we can attend those meetings. They do it in an open forum. This is how we govern. We govern openly in this town. I encourage every single person in this community. I just recently, along with Dr. Morgan graduated from the Citizen's Academy here in town. You learn so much and I encourage everybody to learn more. You'll be more satisfied with what goes on here, when you know what's happening here. There is opportunity for us to learn about what goes on here, show up, get involved. It gets back to this "through unity strength" thing. It takes all of us to make this happen and we all have to, as a community have to make this happen."
Dr. Vic Morgan: "I think the citizens of Victoria don't know enough about what's going on in city government. And I don't think that's a function of the city government. City government puts out the material. It's there. The people simply are taking advantage of the opportunities they have to know what's going on. I don't know how you change that. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. And so I think we've got to do a better job of enticing people to participate in the council meetings, to look at the website, to understand what's there, what's available to them, what the opportunities are. If you've got a pothole, there's a place on the Internet where you can go and report that and usually get it fixed pretty quickly. The city's long range plans for fixing the infrastructure is there, it just takes time to go and look at it. And I think people don't take that opportunity."
Rawley McCoy: "Well, what transparency isn't is simply televising meetings. And I think some people think that that's enough of transparency. I don't think so. I think we have to actively go out as leaders and engage our community. One thing I sort of disagree with, if in my own business, everything about my company's on my website, but that's not enough. I can't rely on prospective clients to go research me on my website. I still have to reach out to those people. I think on certain key issues, important issues in the city, they ought to be held in work sessions. Where council goes into other settings than the city council chambers. You could go to the community center, the Leo J. Welder Center, make it known in the community that we're going to discuss a very important issue and then invite the community into that discussion."
Brent Carter: "I think Mayor Polasek and the current council do a tremendous job of being what I would call absolutely transparent as it pertains to their discussions and what they do. There are laws involved. I think we've got to do a better job of engaging the city. They say in coaching, you know, winning solves all the problems. When the city sees an energy level out of its leadership and an engaging personality and someone out there promoting their best for Victoria, then Victoria would be the best it can be and people will get more engaged and more involved in the system at that point. So I think winning solves all the problems and I applaud our current council and mayor for their transparency thus far and I intend to continue that."
Talk about your ideas for attracting new business to Victoria.
Steve Meacham: "We have had a lot of discussions in our various meetings at this Victoria Economic Development Council. Just kind of the primary thing that gets up there and sells our community. We've talked about how we actually have to give them a product that they can sell as a community. We need to make sure that we have the infrastructure in place to support new business, that when it comes time to provide an incentive or a tax abatement or something like that, that we do that in a rational and thoughtful manner. We have to be putting ourselves out there, Brent uses the deal about open for business, but open for business actually just about who we are and we've got to be be in love with ourselves first. We've got to love ourselves, love our community and people are going to see that and this is what's going to draw business here. We also are blessed, our geographic location, we in the Crossroads, what's called the Golden Crescent and God blessed Victoria with our geographic location and we need to make sure that that's out there and we talk about what happens."
Dr. Vic Morgan: "I think that many of the things that are going on are positive things, both the city and the VEDC are doing what they can to attract visitors. Or at least they're there working at that. It needs some polishing. It needs some extra work. One of the things that we can do to grow Victoria and grow the business in Victoria is to encourage our young people, college graduates and others who have skills and ideas for adding businesses to the community. And we have a great asset in the Small Business Development Center that will help folks build a business or help keep a business going. Retention is as important as new business. If you lose a new business, you've got to recruit to grow. So, the Small Business Development Center can help these folks and can help them create businesses and help them maintain businesses."
Rawley McCoy: "First thing has to do with infrastructure. It goes back to that planning. If we're behind on fixing our streets. We need to fix the visual part of Victoria. When people come to Victoria their first impression isn't always great. Let's say somebody flies into our airport and they're out there with the Economic Development person and they've been given all of the positive things about Victoria: you'd start leaving the airport and start driving into Victoria and they're hearing one thing in their ear, but their eyes are telling them a different story about our community. People believe what they see. And when you see all the overgrown ditches and all the railroad ties and along the highway out there, it doesn't give a good impression of Victoria. So, we have to hit our infrastructure needs to make a community that's attractive enough so that we can start attracting retail businesses."
Brent Carter: "We can do better and we will do better. Good has been called the enemy of great. And I think Victoria needs to strive for greatness. I know that when I looked at the practical things that the mayor and council can do, we can review and remove any possible impedance to the development of business. Whether you're wanting to build a building and you're having to deal with sidewalks to nowhere and these crazy ordinances, I want folks to come to city hall to find an ally there to help pull their project through the system. Too often I hear of people saying, well, I went to city hall and I wanted to do this and I have to do this and this and this and these inspections and these fees and all of a sudden projects become too cumbersome to even attack. So I want to remove those things, review those, and then obviously we need to move. Make Victoria as safe and clean as we can make it to make Victoria the best that it can be."
Talk about improving the cost of living in Victoria and creating better paying jobs.
Cassie Cameron monitoring social media: Some of the arguments happening are definitely about wages and one of the comments is that wages are just over $800, but rent is $1000. How is the economy booming and how can you continue to defend the economy as candidates? Reader feels that a lot of tap dancing has been done around the question for affordable housing and for what they plan to do to change it. She wants a direct answer if wages aren't going up, but rental rates are, how can we fix that and how do the candidates plan to institute changes?
Steve Meacham: "It has to be on the wage side. We've all talked in various forms about how we have to grow Victoria just to do the same thing in Victoria all the time. It's going to cost us more money every single year to get the same thing. That's inflation and the way we're going to have to spread that out. Otherwise somebody's going to dig deeper in our pocket. It costs us more for everything unless we spread that base out and unless we can grow the city and we can raise wages here and that's going to solve a lot of it. We don't get to dictate as a city, we don't get to dictate what somebody is going to charge for rent or what something costs. We can actually influence the wide side of the equation by growing Victoria."
Dr. Vic Morgan: "I believe wages are critical issues, especially for our city employees or the people who provide services the waiters and waitresses and the restaurants, and ambulance drivers to the first responders. We've got to look as a city at what our priorities are. We've got to spend time thinking about how we can reorganize the things we're doing to make more money available for the wages, for our first responders and our city employees. So we have a lot of work to do to find where those resources are to prioritize where we want to spend those resources and then move those priorities to the front."
Rawley McCoy: "The shocking things that I discovered in researching our economy in Victoria using workforce solution data: the cost of living in Victoria, Texas is 98.7% of the national average. The rest of Texas is 94.3%. The average wage in Victoria is just a bit above $44,000. The Texas average is $56,000 and some odd dollars. The Nation is $55,000. So, one of our big problems is the wage situation in Victoria. I think we need to, when we attract businesses, we need to try to attract businesses creating high-paying jobs. Some cities recently when they do a tax abatement deals, they talk about the number of jobs created, but they also specify a minimum amount that those jobs need to pay. Now people like I'm a free economy guy, so they would say, well, that's government dictating a wage. No, it's not because in this instance you're giving something away as a tax abatement and you could expect something in return. It's all right."
Brent Carter: I believe you have to get back to the root and what you can and can't control. I believe we have to demand a better product being turned out of our V.I.S.D. system. I think we need young people that are educated, whether it be in a technical training where they go to Victoria College and master a trade and get a good job that way. Or if, if they go on to UHV and get a bachelor's degree. We need to broaden the master's degree programs over there and turn out young professionals. We need to find a way, whether it be through a thriving economy, that I think our economy is stagnant in Victoria. We need to find a way to keep those young folks here and their expectations will go up. And rent is somewhat of a function of supply and demand. So, the way to control that or to make that affordable is through education and through folks just seeking to better themselves.
Early Starts April 22nd and ends Tuesday, April 30th. The last day to apply for a ballot by mail is April 23rd. Election Day is Saturday, May 4th.
Other races include:
Councilmember, Place 5, City of Victoria
Andrew Young vs. Justin Urbano
Councilmember, Place 6, City of Victoria
Zach Smith vs. Mark Loffgren
Trustee, Single Member District 7, Victoria I.S.D.
Henry Wood, Mike Mercer, David Steves
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