Candidates unanimous against charter amendment
All five city council candidates came out strongly against the charter amendment election at last Tuesday’s candidate forum.
The event, held at Hill Country University Center and sponsored by the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce, drew roughly 60 citizens, who heard candidate opinions on issues ranging from amenities funding to affordable housing.
Mayoral candidate Jeryl Hoover, the incumbent, and challenger Linda Langerhans, joined the city council candidate field consisting of incumbent Tim Dooley and challengers Jerry Luckenbach and Bobby Watson. Incumbent Kathy Sanford did not run for re-election.
The amendment, on the May 10 ballot, would limit the city from using surpluses or reserves from enterprise funds unless approved by voters.
Mayor Jeryl Hoover said the amendment “went from being a bad idea to being a terrible idea.”
“These are well-intentioned people, but they are attaching the amendment to one issue — the golf course funding,” he said.
Dooley said if the amendment were to pass, it would damage the city’s ability to function.
“I do understand where their frustration came from,” he said.
Luckenbach said he worried about the city’s bond ratings and the tying of the staff’s hands to make decisions.
“Nine thousand out-of-town golfers played at Lady Bird (Municipal Golf Course) last year,” he said. “They bring benefits other than green fees. They stay the night, shop in our stores and eat in our restaurants.”
Langerhans stood out as the only candidate to firmly oppose the potential “alternative transportation route,” or traffic loop around Fredericksburg. She said questions about land, fences, cost and construction were still in question.
“I believe the state needs to step up and do more, because it’s their Highway 290 and their Highway 16,” she said. “If I lived on land that had been in my family for generations, and this project would intersect, I would not want it.”
Hoover said he was “on the fence” about the project, believing a number about construction costs would eventually be calculated.
“But,” he said, “I also am concerned about the unintended consequences of this project. The problem with Main Street is the success of Fredericksburg as a tourist destination.”
All three council candidates were in favor of it, with Dooley saying he had wanted it since 1971. “Some merchants were scared of it. I was not,” he added.
Candidates were asked their opinions about finding affordable housing for the city’s many service workers who are generally priced out of the local real estate market.
Luckenbach, who served eight years on the council previously and shared ownership in several nursing home facilities, said it has been a problem for decades.
“The lower wage employees have a hard time finding a place to live,” he said. “Some companies have approached the city, but we have to be careful because some of those projects ended up only being 20 percent affordable housing and the rest different projects.”
Watson, a retired businessman who has been engaged in civic efforts since moving here, said affordable housing is needed to attract a labor force. He said the city should look to private industry to get involved.
Dooley said Kerrville has benefited from its economic development sales tax, but Fredericksburg does not have that tax to fund efforts such as affordable housing.
Candidates also gave brief biographies on themselves and answered other questions on the Hotel Occupancy Tax distributions, how the city could combat future water shortages in the city and if the city was too hasty in leaving the Gillespie County Tax Assessor-Collector’s office. Also discussed was what the city could do to support possible “zero waste” efforts.
Emcee Penny McBride finished the night by asking candidates to describe in one sentence why voters should vote for them.
Candidate forums sponsored by the Gillespie County Tea Party and the Gillespie County Democratic Party also were held over the past week.
The Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post worked in partnership with the chamber on last Tuesday’s candidate forum.