While it might feel like we just had elections in Jersey Village not that long ago, election season is upon us once again. On the first Saturday each May, citizens in Jersey Village head to the polls to elect members of their city council. This year we are asked to select our representatives on Places 1, 4 and 5 on city council.
With the deadline for filing having recently passed, we have one contested election for Place 4. That position, currently held by Sheri Sheppard, is an open race since Sheri chose not to run again. The travel demands of her job simply made it impractical for her to continue at this point, and I greatly admired her perseverance over the last year as she worked hard to balance the various demands on her time. Her contributions to city council will be greatly missed.
Simon Hughes and James Singleton, Jr. are both running to fill Place 4 for a two-year term. I know both candidates personally, but I am going to be quite interested to see how their positions on the various issues facing our city are developed and communicated to us over the coming months of the campaign. I’ll share my opinions on their positions as we get closer to voting, and if I feel strongly enough about one candidate over another, I may choose to endorse one of them. That said, I commend both of them for stepping up and offering to serve in such a critical role in our community.
[Edit, April 3, 2018: Today I announced my endorsement of James Singleton for Place 4 on Jersey Village City Council. Click here to read more.]
In the meantime, I thought it might be helpful if I shared some of my opinions on what I believe to be the important issues that may come up during this year’s election, and provide you with a perspective on how I will evaluate the candidates. It goes without saying that everyone has to make their own judgment as to which candidate better represents their interests, values and vision for the future of Jersey Village. For those looking for a little guidance, however, I hope this article is helpful.
On the Issues
While candidates may be evaluated on a number of factors, I believe that elections often hinge primarily on differences in policy. Therefore, let’s examine some of the key policy issues that may arise during this year’s election.
Very few issues have elicited such strong opinions in Jersey Village as flood mitigation. The passion surrounding this issue is well justified. Although I have never flooded, my friends in Jersey Village who have flooded describe the devastating impact it has on their homes, their lives, and their overall well being, even well after the waters have receded.
You can find a summary of what city council has done regarding flood mitigation over the past year by reading my issue page regarding Flooding, which also covers the various projects identified in the Jersey Village Long Term Flood Recovery plan.
The key message I will look for from the candidates in this election is an understanding of the challenges involved in implementing the flood mitigation projects in our plan. While it would be tempting to promise the world to flood victims, the hard reality of governing is that the mere desire to solve the problem isn’t enough. There are a myriad of legal and regulatory obstacles to implementing any civil engineering project quickly, and that goes double for flood projects. Between state laws restricting the ability of cities to procure engineering services at a good value, environmental impact studies, surveys, review by the Harris County Flood Control District, and finally working out contracts for construction of the various projects, it has not been an easy path so far and will continue to be a challenge.
Although you might not recognize the term “comprehensive plan”, surely you’ve heard council members and candidates for council positions refer to policies that come from the Jersey Village Comprehensive Plan. For an explanation of this very important roadmap for development in our city, click here to read my blog post on the subject.
The more you hear a candidate draw inspiration for their policy initiatives from the Jersey Village Comprehensive Plan, the greater your reassurance should be that they are interested in pursuing a vision of sustainable, effective and fiscally responsible development in our community.
While I would never go so far as to ask any candidate for office in Jersey Village to agree to every single line from the comprehensive plan, I would expect that anyone seeking to represent the people of Jersey Village will refer back to this document as often as possible in order to better understand the collective vision of our community developed by a citizen committee, with input from their fellow citizens.
I am most interested to hear the candidates’ positions on the issue of economic development particularly because both of them are members of the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) board, of which I am the council liaison. Although the board has only met twice thus far, both candidates have surely had plenty of time to read up on this issue before they filed to run for office. I expect this to be a major point of discussion.
I recommend revisiting my article on tax increment financing titled “Common Misconceptions about Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones” in order to get a better understanding of what a TIRZ is and why it is important to economic development in Jersey Village.
We are in a unique position to see extraordinary growth in and around Jersey Village. With the economy continuing to improve and grow and U.S. Highway 290 construction coming to an end, Northwest Harris County is primed for an economic renaissance. Our city government has a significant role to play in attracting businesses which fit with the character of our community. We must also continue to review and adjust our building codes and zoning to ensure that this development doesn’t negatively impact our residents.
When the candidates express their opinions regarding economic development, I hope they will go into detail regarding how they envision supporting responsible and positive growth in our city.
I won’t rehash the recent discussions concerning the finances of the Jersey Meadow Golf Course. I encourage you to click the link to review all of the data and documentation presented to show that the golf course is not only capable of being self-sufficient, but will likely do so in the next year or two at its current level of improvement.
While I have always known that support for the golf course in Jersey Village was strong, particularly among those who consistently vote year after year, I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction to my article defending the continued investment city council has chosen to make in the golf course. My own analysis has shown that the downturn in recent years has much more to do with the challenges posed by U.S. Highway 290 construction and the downturn of the economy precipitated by a drop in the price of oil.
My point in this article is not to try to sway your opinion regarding the golf course. I think most people who regularly vote in municipal elections in Jersey Village have a strong opinion one way or another on this issue. Rather, I think it’s important to insist that candidates clearly articulate their vision for the golf course and back up that position with clear reasoning. While it may be easy to simply say “keep it” or “turn it into a detention basin”, I think voters should ask tough questions on how each candidate would execute their preferred plan.
Of course, while substantive issues are extremely important, I think many voters also want to know more about the experience, values and character of each candidate. I encourage all voters to work to get to know each candidate, preferably by meeting them in person.
Candidates typically choose to go door-to-door to meet their neighbors and introduce themselves prior to elections. Use this opportunity to get to know the candidates. Ask tough questions. Get a sense of how they respond under that pressure. It will surely be nothing compared to the tough issues they will face when one of them is on city council.
If you don’t get a chance to meet the candidates when they come by your house, reach out to them. Work out a time to schedule a phone call. Better yet, meet them in person at some point to have a short conversation about your aspirations for our community and your concerns. In an election where low turnout is often the norm, candidates should always be willing to meet voters, even if its only for 5-10 minutes.
While election day is set for Saturday, May 5th, I highly encourage all of you to make use of early voting to cast your ballot. There’s rarely a line to do so, and it takes all of 3 minutes to do. It also gives you flexibility to use election day as a backup in case some unexpected event keeps you from making it to city hall on the day you intend to vote early.
Early voting will take place at the Jersey Village Municipal Government Center on the following dates and times:
Monday, April 23, 2018 from 8:00am to 5:00pm
Tuesday, April 24, 2018 from 8:00am to 5:00pm
Wednesday, April 25, 2018 from 8:00am to 5:00pm
Thursday, April 26, 2018 from 8:00am to 5:00pm
Friday, April 27, 2018 from 8:00am to 5:00pm
Saturday, April 28, 2018 from 8:00am to 1:00pm
No Sunday Voting
Monday, April 30, 2018 from 7:00am to 7:00pm
Tuesday, May 1, 2018 from 7:00am to 7:00pm
Take care to note the abbreviated voting hours on Saturday and the extended hours for the last two days of early voting.
I will have much more to share between now and when early voting begins. In the meantime, though, I encourage everyone to do their research on each candidate and go to the ballot box reassured that you are making a well-informed decision. We have about nine weeks before the first votes will be cast.
I wish both candidates the best of luck and I look forward to talking with both of them extensively between now and the start of early voting.