Glance at weekend Denton City Council forum

Glance at weekend Denton City Council forum

April 25
15:42 2016

Julia Falcon | Staff Writer

@falconjulia22

Over the weekend, candidates running for Denton City Council debated at a forum hosted by the Denton County NAACP and LULAC.

The candidates discussed diversity on city council, homelessness in Denton, education and safety, and gas plants. Here’s a brief recap of what happened.

Moderator Sheryl English asked candidates to discuss what they think their role on council means to students.

“I am a teacher and a parent, and we have two areas to work on, food and safety,” Deborah Armintor said. “I, as a parent, don’t think the kids are getting nutritious food to power them through the day. We need to work on getting better food and better safety.”

Will Wooten, a current graduate student at UNT, wants schoolchildren to be more involved with the community.

“I would say the primary responsibility of council is to help students once they are out of school,” Wooten said. “We need to promote neighborhood activities and rec center activities which would be a good place for us to provide more opportunity.”

Candidates were all asked to complete this sentence: “The city of Denton desperately needs…” All of the candidates mentioned fixing budgeting issues, transparency, helping the homeless and planting more trees.

Sara Bagheri said she thinks Denton needs new people in council to cater to the needs of the younger population.

“Right now, we are led by the same people who have led us for however many years it has been, we need new blood and ideas, we need people unafraid to challenge the status quo,” Bagheri said. “Fearlessness is a great quality of a leader with honest conversation about what will happen, we need to get to the business of running the city better than we have been.”

(Joey Hawkins faces recall election)

When candidates were asked how the city should work to meet the challenges of continuous growth, Dalton Gregory said it begins with planning for the future now.

“We invite all citizens to give input for our plan, how we want to grow, how we want to change, we also need to prepare and think about infrastructure needs,” Gregory said. “What we will need for not only the next few years but the next 50 years, like the current 50 year water plan we have in place.”

Mayor Chris Watts also agreed that growth is continuous, mentioning construction on Interstate 35 and that the work with growth in Denton needs to be hands on.

“Growth is coming, and it is critical that we continue to review policies and that we can make sure we can afford and get the right businesses and organizations to benefit,” Watts said. “Housing affordability is a continuous problem, we also need to bring higher paying jobs.”

A member of the audience asked what the necessity of the “at-large” positions are and if they should be eliminated, leaving single district seats except for the mayor.

“I think we need more community involvement,” Ortiz said. “I think what we need to do is help the community get involved by bringing it to them, asking them what they feel about what is going on, getting it directly from the people who live there and how they believe about it.”

Greg Johnson is in favor of keeping the at-large seats and compared the scenario to government systems in the state capital.

“I happen to like what we have now, the at large positions give the ability for districts to have a majority for any issue,” Johnson said. “I think it is interesting.”

Dianne Costa, coordinator for Denton County LULAC, said she thinks the candidate forums are important for the knowledge of residents.

“I believe that the greatest gift for citizens is to be educated and know who the leaders of their community is. Education is power,” Costa said. “Willie [Hudspeth] and I met up and spoke about planning a joint forum and we spent three hours to plan the whole thing.”

President of Denton County NAACP, Willie Hudspeth, said he noticed at previous forums that his questions would never get asked or answered, and wanted to fix that.

“The behavior is geared towards white upper class citizens, and questions asked by minorities were not being answered, so I thought NAACP should host a forum,” Hudspeth said. “We need to look at what to accomplish and how to communicate as a community.”

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