Mike Kueber's Blog

February 20, 2013

My first candidate debate/forum

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:51 pm
Tags: ,

Last night, I attend my first City Council candidate debate.  The event was put on by the Alamo Pachyderm Club, a county-wide Republican group, and all three candidates attended.  There were perhaps 25 other attendees. 

The event was called a debate, but it would be more accurate to call it a forum because, although we provided our views on 12 pre-identified topics, we did not have the back-and-forth that is essential to a debate.  The 12 topics were sandwiched by a 3-minute introduction and a 2-minute summary.

I found the event to be interesting and challenging.  Because I ran for Congress three years ago, I have some experience giving a stump speech, but then I was never able to finish within the 3- or 5-minute limit.  Last night, I pushed myself and succeeded with two minutes on my background and one minute on my political philosophy – i.e., a frugal, pragmatic conservative. 

I thought it was important to talk about who I was in the introduction, and then use the 12 topics to provide more specifics about my political philosophy.  Unfortunately, the questions focused too much on the inner workings of City Hall (not my forte, while Ron Nirenberg and Rolando Briones are the ultimate insiders) and too little on political philosophy.  The following questions were sent to me the afternoon before the debate:   

  1. Having read the San Antonio City Charter, describe your views on the responsibilities of city government and that of a City Councilman.  What are your views on the Ethics of City Officials, Staff, Appointees, and Contractors?  Should the ethics policies be expanded / how?  Should violators be dealt with more harshly?  Do we need an Ethics Auditor?  No, we don’t need an Ethics Auditor, with its associated bureaucracy.
  2. In the area of fiscal policy and social policy where would you place yourself on a spectrum with conservative on one end and liberal on the other?  What are your priorities for our city budget and where should increases and cuts be made?  Fiscal conservative and social liberal. 
  3. What are the most important transportation issues in the city and how will you solve them?  Please comment on funding, toll roads, VIA, street cars, and light rail.  Cost-effective public transportation.  No, to toll roads or light rail; yes, to street cars.
  4. District 8 has several serious road and traffic problems. What roads do you consider problems and what are your solutions?  Please comment on any changes you plan for the Infrastructure Management Program (IMP).  What will you do about the additional traffic on Wurzbach due to completion of the Wurzbach Parkway?  I haven’t ranked the problematic roads in District 8, but the IMP appears to be an effective tool for doing that.
  5. SAWS wants city council to approve multi-year rate increases.  Please comment on SAWS multi-year rate increases, revenue requirements, expense trends, and capital expenditure projections.  The recent request for dramatically increased rates reflects problems with SAWS management and Castro’s politicization of it.  
  6. What are your views on development both in District 8 and throughout the city?  How do you view the role of developers and lobbyist in District 8?  Over the last 4 years District 8 has a remarkable record of gaining consensus on zoning issues before they reach council vote. How do you intend to operate the zoning and development processes?  The interests of property owners and neighbors must be balanced, but my ultimate priority is satisfy the District residents as a whole.
  7. The fire and police contracts are due to be renegotiated.  While the pension fund is well funded the City’s contribution is quite high.  The fire and police employees do not contribute any portion to the premium.  What is your understanding of the current costs and what changes to the benefits would you support and why?  Pension reform should be one of the most important issues facing the City Council.
  8. San Antonio civilian employees will probably push for a real contract.  Do you understand and what is your position on “meet and confer”?  Are you endorsed by or receive funds from SEIU?  “Meet and confer,” which is one level below collective bargaining, is not needed by San Antonio’s public employees.
  9. How do you intend to communicate with and solicit input from District 8 citizens? How often?  How available will you be?  Will your council votes be representative of your views or those of your constituents?  How will you gain support from other council members to gain success for your constituents’ views?  I will have an open door, and will consider having Town Halls.
  10. What is your position on salaries for City Council members?  Opposed.
  11. What are your thoughts regarding the City of San Antonio’s Pre-K for SA program?  Opposed.
  12. What plan would you propose to curtail overestimating the project costs, over-selling bonds and resulting budget diversions?  I don’t know anything about these problems.

During my responses to these questions, I twice criticized candidate Nirenberg based on his campaign literature – once for his opposition to “getting lean” with spending for police and fire and once for his rhapsodizing about the importance of the arts to San Antonio.  Unfortunately, I never found a good time to discuss Briones’s history as a fat-cat player and mover & shaker in local politics and government contracting.  In hindsight, I should have noticed that affirmative action in city contracting was not one of the listed questions and carved some time out of my introduction to broach the topic. 

Because I’d forgotten to prepare for the debate summary, I failed to make my case – i.e., Nirenberg is a big spender, Briones is too much a player with a revolving door.  Instead, I simply thanked the club for the opportunity and suggested that I was the candidate who could best represent them in the Council. 

Next time, I will do better.

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