Just returned from my second candidate debate/forum. This one was put on by the Mockingbird Hill Neighborhood Association, a well-to-do enclave just north of Callahan between Fred Rd. and IH-10. Briones and Nirenberg also participated. The format was similar to last week’s Pachyderm forum, except this event was more of a debate because we were each allowed to respond to the initial answers, which enabled us to point out the flaws in those answers. The questions were suspiciously similar to last week’s, and one of the hosts later admitted that they had called around for help in developing good questions.
The questions were as follows:
- What exactly do you consider to be the responsibilities of a City Councilman and what assets do you bring that you feel make you particularly qualified to do the job? A councilman serves like a director on a board, but also like a legislator. I am particularly qualified because of my background (growing up on a farm), my education (UND & UT), my experience (lawyer at USAA), and most importantly my values and politics (limited government, fiscal conservative).
- The city capped the only permanent water source for the pond in Denman Estate Park and failed to find a suitable replacement. This has resulted in very low water levels which endangers the heritage trees and aesthetics of the park. What would you do to help allocate funds to find a permanent water source for the park? I don’t know anything about whether I could obtain funds for water. That is something I would have to investigate.
- Discussion of the Express/News coverage of the District 8 race. The reporting of the Express-News has been appropriate and the information revealed has been relevant to the voters, but the E-N does seem to relish exposing Briones. By contrast, the coverage for Nirenberg has been cloyingly fulsome and totally lacking in any attempt to vet.
- What do you consider to be the responsibility of the city to fund social programs? As a fiscal conservative, I think city government needs to focus on core responsibilities (streets and public safety), and resist the temptation to social engineer. But the city does have a responsibility to fill any gaps in the safety net established by state, county, and federal programs.
- What are your views on development in the district, the roles of developers and lobbyists in the district an how do you intend to operate the zoning and development process? Developers have property rights that must be respected, but lobbyists will have no special access to me. I will listen to all stakeholders, but ultimately I will make decisions based on the best interest of our district as a whole.
- What is your view of metrodistricting? I had never heard of this term, but a preliminary call to the moderator revealed that the term means the same thing as city-county consolidation. This is obviously a good idea, but not a big priority for me because, as a practical matter, some players with vested interests are usually able to obstruct the consolidation.
- Why do you want to obtain the low paying, relatively thankless job of City Councilman? The politically correct answer is that I want to serve the public and give something back, but the truth is I think the job would be enjoyable and satisfying. As I recently learned in a book called Drive, the ultimate job affords autonomy, mastery, and purpose. The job of Councilman is one of those ultimate jobs.
After the debate, I was interviewed by Ryan Lloyd, a reporter for Texas Public Radio, and he asked me if I had a persona while I was debating. I told him that was an interesting idea, but I hadn’t given it any thought. Perhaps I was like a boxer who was feeling out his opponent in the first rounds to see what works and what doesn’t.
While chatting with people after the debate, I was told by some that they appreciated my plain talk and authentic nature. That prompted me to realize while driving home that my persona was Jimmy Steward in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, with me as the citizen politician who is contending with Briones and Nirenberg as the unauthentic guys who will say whatever will make themselves sound good.
I called Lloyd and thanked him for my new mindset. Can’t wait for the next debate to try it out.