Wazny talks ethics, UNT and big debt

Wazny talks ethics, UNT and big debt

Wazny talks ethics, UNT and big debt
June 12
01:44 2015

Paul Wedding | Staff Writer

While she has been interacting with local government for the past eight years, it has always been from the outside. But now, keen on Denton’s needs, she has made the leap from citizen activist to District 3 councilwoman.

Kathleen Wazny won the seat over Amber Briggle with about 70 percent of the vote on May 9. Wazny received 1,255 of 1,815 votes. Her numbers were boosted by Precinct 4003 where more than 1,100 votes were counted.

Precinct 4003 is home to Robson Ranch, where Wazny lives. She officially took office on Tuesday, May 19.

The key to Wazny’s victory was the support from Robson Ranch, she said.

“It was person-to-person,” Wazny said. “And then asking that person to reach out to their sphere of influence, and that’s what won the election.”

All of the campaign management was run entirely by herself, though she had a campaign treasurer, Elinor Hughes.

A primary focus for Wazny is openness and government transparency, and she said she wants more big debt items on the ballot for the citizens of Denton to vote on.

Big debt items are any city projects that would be paid for through the taxes of Denton residents.

One item excluded was a Denton convention center. She wanted Denton to have a convention center, but the one voted on was not at an ideal location and didn’t follow the business model successful convention centers in the past had followed.

UNT collaborated with the city to get the center built across from Apogee Stadium near Interstate 35, but UNT Chancellor Lee Jackson said it did not go through due to poor financial backing.

The convention center would have cost $25 million while the hotel accompanying it would have cost $60 million.

The project was unable to obtain sufficient backing from outside developers, and the council chose not to move forward with it.

Denton had already spent $500,000 on the project when it was shut down.

Part of Wazny’s transparency push is to create a city council ethics ordinance. Currently, city council is self-policed using an ethics policy. Wazny said she wants to bring in an ordinance that gives teeth to the rules.

“People make mistakes and they need to be held accountable,” she said.

District 1 councilman Kevin Roden said it is something voters have wanted for years. He’s open to ethics reform, but said there has been some confusion.

“The state has a number of laws in place that help protect the city from elected officials,” Roden said. “It seems like there are sufficient laws already in place.”

Wazny said historic preservation is very important. She wants to strengthen it so Denton will look the same as the city did when she first visited and fell in love with it.

She hopes to preserve personality, not just by maintaining its historical locations, but by protecting its flourishing music and arts scenes.

To Wazny, UNT is a Denton neighborhood.

“We have a think tank here,” she said. “They bring so much to the table and they need to be a part of this conversation to make us go in the direction we want to go.”

The debate on hydraulic fracturing has been Denton’s signature issue as of late.

“It boils down to safety,” Wazny said of fracking. “We’re going to work hard to work on distance and the other safety issues.”

For Wazny, fracking is an ongoing conversation.

“We’re always going to need gas and oil,” she said. “Maybe 100 years from now there will be energy sources that replace fossil fuel. But for right now it’s a fact of life.”

SGA Executive Board Officer Hannah Bagheri said she admires Wazny’s concern for ethical and fiscal responsibility and said she will bring more credibility to city council.

“A lot of times, college-aged students see an older Republican woman and they just think, ‘yeah she’s not going to be in favor of the things I care about,’” Bagheri said. “But in reality Kathleen is actually very knowledgeable, she’s very experienced and she’s very open-minded.”

File Photo of Kathleen Wazny. Hannah Ridings | Visuals Editor

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