Candidates for Flower Mound Town Council answered questions in front of a packed house on Thursday night at a forum held by The Cross Timbers Gazette at Flower Mound Town Hall.
Lewisville ISD Board of Trustees candidates also addressed the crowd for 3 minutes each at the beginning of the forum.
The forum was moderated by longtime Flower Mound resident and newspaper columnist, Bob Weir.
Flower Mound candidates include Mayor Tom Hayden and challengers Janvier Scott and Jim Berendt; Place 2 candidates Bryan Webb (I) and Sandy Fambrough; Place 4 candidates Don McDaniel and Jim Engel; and candidates for the unexpired term in Place 1, Jason Webb and Cathy Strathmann.
Fambrough was unable to attend the forum due to a work commitment but had a statement read by Kathy Banes.
Lewisville ISD Board of Trustees candidates for Place 4 are Katherine Sells and Fairooz Adams. Place 5 candidates are Will Ferson, Allison Lassahn, and Jenny Proznik.
The questions to Flower Mound Mayoral and Town Council candidates were provided by the candidates themselves. Each of those questions was asked of a candidate on a random basis. Questions submitted by the public were answered by all the candidates.
Each candidate was allowed to make a two-minute opening statement. [Key points are included; comments may be viewed in their entirety on the video above.]
Hayden: “In the past four years as mayor and on the council for three years before that, we’ve brought 6,000 jobs; brought in more than 60 new restaurants; reduced the general fund debt by 17-percent; reduced the tax rate; secured $200M in transportation funds that impact the town directly; increased salary for the town staff; and, created new parks— both neighborhood and sports fields— in western Flower Mound.
Scott: The beginning of her opening statement was not audible, because her microphone wasn’t turned on. “If you see apartments up against the street around town and the backside of rows of attached garden homes with no green-space, just solid concrete as you drive up from the airport, like we’re going to get in Southgate. If the ‘degradation of our town’ continues, at the current rate, we’ll have to offer more tax dollars and incentives to attract desirable businesses. When we have a highly-desirable town, we shouldn’t have to offer incentives to get restaurants to our town. The “bull-dozer crowd” took over and they’re knocking down all of our magnificent old-growth trees so they can have more apartments and high-density at the entrances of our town. No more high-density, no more ignoring congested roads and schools, no more bonds to pay a developer $16M to build apartments.
Berendt: “I didn’t want to run for mayor, but I don’t agree with the current mayor or Janvier. We can’t stop the growth in this town. We can accept it, and attract quality business. Now it’s a terrible grind; awful what’s going on with the QT people.”
J.Webb: “I love the town’s amenities, schools and parks. I believe the best of the people of the town. I’m not offended because someone may have a different opinion, or because someone may stand opposed to me. We are a community of people and we need to reflect that.”
Strathmann: “The town’s at a cross roads. Drive around and look at the empty spaces. It’s important to maintain our high standards. Rules should applied fairly. Developer agreements should be like road contracts with timelines and incentives and penalties if they’re late. Waived-impact fees should not be in the millions. Staff should be free to tell how things will impact the town. “
B. Webb: “I’ve served on Town Council for four years; with a background of 17-years in local government. My passion is local government. It’s how people can have a direct impact. We all want to do the best for our town, we just have different ideas how to do that. As for the divisiveness issue … I don’t know how to tame the beast of social media.”
McDaniel: “Service is dear to me; a way for me to expand my family. Only way to build a coalition is through service. I am who I am. I’m consistent in who I am. Part of the divisiveness in town is being who you are consistently.”
Engle: “I’m an 11-year resident and has 30-years of professional business experience. We need to have a consensus and we need to be kinder/gentler to each other. I joined Facebook because of the campaign; the way we treat each other just isn’t right.
Are you in favor of reasonable senior housing; both rental and other?
Hayden: “Absolutely; 100-percent. I’ve been convinced it’s necessary. We need to help our seniors find housing.”
Scott: “I’m in favor of existing and rental senior housing. I’m open to looking at new development, depending on the area.”
Berendt: “Why is it always seniors, seniors, seniors? Why isn’t it reasonable housing for everybody? I’m one of them. I’m 73. Why is it always coddling of seniors?”
J. Webb: “The problem is, there isn’t enough on the market. Need to have opportunity and would mean a change to the Master Plan with an amendment for high-density housing. Where we need senior housing is in the core of the city. They want to be near the hospital, they want to be near the Senior Center, they want to be near the grocery store and restaurants. What other opportunities are available, if people don’t want a Master Plan amendment?”
Strathmann: “The problem with new construction is, it may not be affordable. Maybe we can help them be able to stay in their own homes, but I don’t see affordable new construction senior housing in Flower Mound.
B. Webb: “Ms. Scott’s fliers says “low density” and that’s not senior rental housing; that’s high- density. Yes, we need to do this and yes, Jason [Webb] is correct; it’ll mean a Master Plan amendment and I’ll champion it.”
McDaniel: “Yes, I’m ready to make those hard decisions we need to make. And, I’m sure Mr. Engle is going to say he’s in favor of high-density senior housing, but he’s about 18-months too late. When they [developers] were trying to put senior housing in Highland Court, they were sent packing. Would you consider the 60-acres near you for high-density senior housing?”
Engle: Let me go back to an April 2012 meeting, when P&Z passed a non-single-family residential development with 6,000-units throughout the town and about 1,200-units built; 80-percent haven’t been built. What we should’ve done is to take a number of The River Walk units and done it then.
Do you belong to a PAC [Political Action Committee]? And if so, what does it stand for and why did you join?
Scott: “I’m not part of any Political Action Committee.”
J Webb: “No.”
Addendum: “I’d like to go back to my opponent [Strathmann] who said she doesn’t want new construction for senior housing— if you don’t have new construction, where are you going to have it? Are we going to convert an existing neighborhood into senior living?
Strathmann: “A group of residents have created a PAC to support candidates; I don’t belong to it, but I think it’s awesome that they step-up and support what they want.”
Addendum: What I meant is that I don’t think seniors could afford new construction.
B. Webb: “I don’t. I’ve been endorsed by GLAR (Greater Lewisville Association of Realtors) and they’re a PAC. Years ago I created Flower Mound Forward and I did it so that residents could have a voice. When I decided to run for council, I passed that off to another individual and have nothing to do with it since. I would ask any candidate with PAC supporters to disavow any negative message.
McDaniel: “I have been endorsed by GLAR, but am not a member.”
Hayden: “No. But, how do you feel about if you’re running for office, but are taking donations from someone else running for office? We want people who are individuals running for council and making individual decisions. If you have a slate of people running for office, it’s not a good way to run our government.”
Is there any part of the budget that you’d increase or decrease and how would you pay for your answer?
Berendt: “Increase tax rate to 8.5% to fill the coffers; can’t live off developers contributions forever. We have to build big cash things.”
B. Webb: “Focus on infrastructure and roads. We’re getting increased funds from our commercial and property values are increasing. As the tax base increases we can plan for the future of parks and police and fire department needs.”
Strathmann: “Priorities should be adjusted, look at what goes where. Looked at a CIP and we’ve lost millions [of dollars] with impact fees. We need a fire station and parks.”
J. Webb: “We already have a new fire station being built west-of-377, which has been on the plans for decades. The library expansion; the TIRZ partnership with county, while interest rates are low and before it expires”
McDaniel: “HOA’s were not required until 1992, so code enforcement needs to have an increase to help update our older neighborhoods. We need to finish the walkways and pathways through town and recover those funds at the back-end from developers at that time.”
[EDITOR: these walk and roadway improvements are required to make the town ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991] compliant; the deadline for which was September 2010.]
Engle: “Increase commercial taxable to eliminate some of the property-owner; have staff consolidation from Town Hall and the Atrium.”
Hayden: “We have the highest town reserves in history; competitive salaries, need to build parks while the land’s available, by adding 6,000 jobs.”
Addendum: Engle was against the proposals for keeping Stryker in town and the MiDia proposal to come to town.
Engle: “I thought the MiDia incentive was too rich for a restaurant and the cost of land, a 380-Agreement and using the Senior Center parking lot.
Scott: “Stop giving away tax dollars and waiving impact fees and tax abatements. Let the developers do the development for parks.”
INDIVIDUAL QUESTIONS (Submitted by the candidates)
How would you protect the old-growth Post Oaks?
Hayden: “We are currently working on our Tree Ordinance. Council’s being pro-active to protect our old Post Oaks and I’m going to bring more trees with the creation of a town tree farm, which will be used to plant trees all over town; like Bob Rheudasil did.
Addendum— He then reminded Janvier Scott that a former council in 2007 approved the original River Walk project [with its apartments], which included the hospital and if it hadn’t been approved then, there would be no hospital in town now.
What capital improvements do you see as being needed and how do you propose to pay for them?
Scott: There’s infrastructure problems in both far west and east Flower Mound. There may be TIRZ [Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone] money available for that.
What are your views on personal property rights for Master Plan and zoning cases?
Berendt: “Some of the trees are so valuable, that we need to identify them. The trees belong to all of us. If you cut down a tree on your property, it’s like sticking a knife in your neighbor The Master Plan is not etched in stone. Like any law, it’s meant to be changed.”
What kind of Public Transportation would you support?
J. Webb: “A call-and-ride program through the DCTA is under Town Council consideration— to get to the grocery store or to the Senior Center— is something I would support. I don’t believe we need a full system.”
Addendum: He corrected Janvier Scott saying that TIRZ funds could be used for infrastructure in the western part of Flower Mound; TIRZ funds can only be used within the TIRZ zone; located adjacent to FM 2499.
[Editor: TIRZ funding must be used for infrastructure within the TIRZ district prior to the TIRZ expiring in 2025 or a large portion of the funds will be forfeited to Denton County.]
Do you see a need to slow-down or increase our residential/commercial growth and how would your plan affect the tax base?
Strathmann: “I don’t know if slow-down is the right way to do go. We need to be more responsible. How we’re growing. I do want to preserve some trees. Quality development more important for commercial or residential.
Do you support a change to the super majority [council vote] for SMARTGrowth or Master Plan amendments in the Town Charter?
Addendum: He corrected Janvier Scott’s earlier reference to $16M in debt for the [River Walk] PID [Public Improvement District funding]; which is not a town debt and was passed by 70-percent of the voters. He added that council did listen to the residents when it approved the PID.
Addendum: “The person [Strathmann] who just said the town staff should be empowered, called for the Town Manager to be fired and she did it on social media.
If a current Flower Mound business-owner asked you to justify giving business incentives to a new, incoming competing businesses, what would you say to them?
McDaniel: “I don’t like incentive programs. I don’t think we should be calling winners and losers. But, if we don’t offer those incentives to the businesses the residents of Flower Mound asked for and want, Corinth, Grapevine, Lewisville and elsewhere will; and we’ll miss out on those opportunities. Those are jobs, tax dollars, services and conveniences that we want.”
If your goal is to slow growth, what specific steps would you take to accomplish that?
Engle: “Growth is inevitable. Flower Mound’s a dynamic place located near the airport and between the two highways. I think the question is how you manage the growth.”
When is the use of eminent domain appropriate?
Hayden: “It’s only allowed by State law for use of public benefit—roads, sewer and so on. It is not used for commercial use. Typically, first we try to negotiate with the people; so, eminent domain is not the first step.
Addendum: Glad to hear the Ms. Scott is in favor of infrastructure, because I’m her guy. We’re paying for infrastructure with sales tax revenue and are finally keeping Flower Mound money in Flower Mound
How do you feel about the town using incentives to attract new businesses?
Scott: “If that new business brings new, high-paying jobs— absolutely. We should not be paying for new restaurants.”
Addendum: By the way, I find it interesting that you [Hayden] know Texas law for eminent domain, but you were willing to use it to get my property when it was not for the public good, but when it was good for the business.
Addendum: The Southgate homes I was talking about were the patio-homes’ backs without any green-space; concrete.
If elected to this office, what skill-set would you bring to enhance the Town Council?
Berendt: “I’m a forensic accountant and I can read a spreadsheet and look at it differently from anyone else. I can pick-up three expense reports and tell you if the company has a good expense review system. When I look at things, I see numbers; what I am, is focused.”
Should advice from our Town Attorney always be followed?
B. Webb: “If it’s legal advice, but maybe not where to go for dinner. I’d say yes, but maybe a circumstance means we should get another opinion.”
Share your thoughts about one of the Charter Review 9 items?
Strathmann: “I’m pretty happy with the way things are, for term limits.”
Is the Master Plan outdated?
J. Webb: “It’s been put together over time by elected representatives with the best intentions and information they had at the time. As soon as they passed that Master Plan, it was out-of-date. After 2001, the first change was within six-months.”
With the FBI investigation into UDF [United Development Funding] and its ties to Centurion American, are you concerned about the completion of The River Walk and its amenities?
McDaniel: “I think the amount of funds loaned from UDF to Centurion is so minuscule, compared to the entire budget for The River Walk; even if UDF were to fold and call-back on that debt from Centurion, I do not believe that would have a significant impact on the development. I am concerned about the time limits for completion involved with the The River Walk.”
How would you insure we get the right kind of businesses coming to town and protect the current businesses we have?
Engle: “We have an Economic/Development Manager who’s working with the staff making sure they’re the best development and opportunities.”
Would you amend the Tree Ordinance to apply to all landowners equally— currently, it doesn’t apply to single-family homeowners?
Hayden: “That’s a difficult question. We are amending our Tree Ordinance to preserve our older trees, and we’re pushing to preserve Post Oaks and to allow for mitigation. I support our Tree Ordinance.”
Addendum: “Going back to the road issue and eminent domain with Ms. Scott; it was a connector road, it’d been on the map since 1993 and she was against it. I was there and said we should work to see if there was something we could agree on. I was the one who voted to stop eminent domain; it’s on tape.”
Do you believe changes to the town senior staff should be made, and if so, why?
Scott: I absolutely do not think that any staff members should be changed. I think they have done an excellent job.
Addendum: Again, Tom, both sides of that spine-road were private. My property and the two businesses used that private road; it was private.
Should Board and Commission members have term limits; if so, why?
Berendt: “If you look at the hierarchy of organizations, they tend to promote people just like them. If you look at Lee Iacocca [former CEO who revived Chrysler during the 1980’s], he went and picked people out to stir-the-pot. We need to start reaching out for people, not replicating what’s there.”
After last year’s election, the result can be described as a difficult transition at best; and, an embarrassing mess at worst. Is there anything you would do differently than the last council?
J. Webb: “Yes; last year is the reason I’m sitting here. It was an embarrassment to our town. We had two new Town Council members kick-off any P&Z or board members who didn’t agree with them. It set us on a course to an investigation with one council member resigning and the other one being investigated by the DA. I will not support anyone kicking-off anyone on any board or commission. Another thing I promise is that I am not part of a slate. I am 100-percent independent and will vote for the people of Flower Mound.
What is your position on a candidate taking campaign donations from the development community?
Strathmann: “I don’t like people taking any money from people who do business with the town, past, future or present. I think it sets a bad precedent. I like residents pitching-in and supporting the candidates they like.
Addendum: Asked Bryan Webb if the Master Plan gets outdated in six-months and amendments [since 2001] continue to be made, if he [Webb, elected in 2012] is taking into consideration the first responders response time and the infrastructure and the effect it has on the schools? She answered that she didn’t think so.
Addendum: Webb declined to use his 30-second rebuttal time for her question.
Have you taken a stand or cast a vote in the past two-years that you regret?
B. Webb: “Yes. There was project brought before the council, we were given information and I voted against. After that vote, I learned new information and that impacted the reason why I’d voted no. I asked to put it on a future agenda and I changed my vote.”
What are your thoughts on town council members interacting with the public on social media?
McDaniel: “They have a First Amendment right to speak their minds share their thoughts. We have a code of ethics in the State of Texas that forbids certain types of communication of confidential information; products of executive session which should be shied-away from and prosecuted if they are discussed. We talk about openness, inclusion and transparency; what’s more transparent than talking?”
How would you encourage inclusion and diversity in Flower Mound?
Engle: “You’ve got to listen to people. Certain factions we listen to are special interest groups, but we need to talk to everybody. More feedback, the better a town we’ll be.”
Engle: “Each of us in our own way want the best for the town.”
McDaniel: “I’m consistent with who I am and what I represent. You’ve heard people who say they want senior housing, but don’t want it near them or to make the Master Plan changes necessary; want parks, but don’t want to incentivize businesses to come here and pay for that. Pay attention, because there are some folks up here who are saying what you want to hear, not who they are or how they’ll vote.”
B. Webb: “Earlier you heard ‘lots of rental houses,’ put them on the market. I checked today, there are only four $300,000 or under. Good people, but they don’t have a solution of how to get things done.”
Strathmann: “I will work hard to listen and work hard. It’s stopped being the town it was; there are special cliques and exclusive clubs and it’s divisive.”
J. Webb: “Elections are about choices—I have history of service, of building bridges and a voice of reason in the chaos of town government.”
Berendt: “We need affordable housing; not “senior” housing. It cost $6.5M to build Senior Center and it costs $500,000 in maintenance per year.”
Scott: “I’ve been here for 48-years and decided to run [for Mayor] not to let Mayor run over the residents in favor of the developers and the banks. The leadership must market this town without selling us out.
Hayden: “In the past four years, we spent $200M on transportation infrastructure, which was my 2012 platform. I need voters help, because the past year has not been good for the Town of Flower Mound. My opponent says she supports somebody on council now who’s being investigated by the District Attorney for Ethics Violation charges, for an investigation that he asked to start. We need to elect people who can collaborate. Last year, Strathmann wrote: ‘I want to fire the Town Manager’ on Facebook in big, bold letters. We don’t need that kind of animosity. We need people who can work together and support our town management. We need to bring that collaboration back and it hasn’t been that way this past year because of some of the people elected last year. There are candidates who still support the Town Council member under investigation.
Sandy Fambrough submitted statement:
When I filed to run for Town Council on February 19, I realized I would have to balance campaigning with working full time, and accepted that some difficult choices would have to be made. The first one happened immediately – listed in the filing packet was the date for the Candidate Forum at the Senior Center, April 14. A quick check of my work schedule showed I would not be available.
My job as a representative requires I attend hearings with my clients; often I travel out of town. With rare exception, I am able to set my own schedule. The hearings are usually scheduled at least 45 days in advance, if not longer. Once the date is set, it cannot be rescheduled without a compelling reason such serious illness or a death. The hearing I am attending today was scheduled in January.
I considered asking my supervisor if a coworker could cover the hearing so I could attend the forum today, and he most likely would have done this. Yet I found myself unable to even ask. My client been waiting a more than 18 months for the hearing, which is the only opportunity to meet face to face with the decision maker for the case. I have been working with my client for months in preparation for the hearing. So to essentially abandon my client at the last minute goes against everything that makes me a passionate advocate and a skilled representative. From past experience, I know how difficult it can be to sign on to a case weeks before the hearing and try to get up to speed. I’ve had to do it, so to ask one of my coworker to do it is not something I want to do. Honestly, it feels like I would be abandoning my client. So I have made the decision that I will not do that. I made a commitment to represent my client at the hearing. I have too much integrity to do otherwise.
Difficult choices are nothing new to me. As a single parent raising a young son, those were common. I strived to provide for my son while making sure he knew that he was my top priority. I was fortunate to have several understanding supervisors and a flexible schedule that allowed me to be involved in school and other activities. I hope I was a good role model for my son and am proud of the adult he has become.
So that brings up the inevitable question – how can you run for Town Council and commit to attending meetings when you cannot even make the campaign debates? The answer is simple – the day I filed, I blocked out the Town Council regular meetings and work sessions on my work calendar so I would not schedule anything on those days or the following mornings to avoid any overnight travel.
I hope that the residents in attendance today will understand and appreciate my dedication to my clients. I take my job as their advocate seriously, as I know the impact that winning their cases can have on their lives and the lives of their families. It can literally be the difference between life and death, between having a roof over their heads and being homeless. With so much at stake, I need to do the job they hired me to do for them.
If I am elected to serve on Town Council, I intend to provide the same advocacy for the residents of Flower Mound.
I am running to be an advocate for all residents, including those who believe their voices are not being heard. I am running to keep Flower Mound the special town that drew so many of us here. I make no promises other than to listen and vote based on what I believe is best for residents and the future of Flower Mound. That is what the job of Town Council should be, not maximizing profits for special interests. I am running because our residents and our Town deserve RESPECT.
My campaign platform is available on my website – sandyforfmtc2.com. There is the option to ask question or provide feedback and there are also links to the interview in the Cross Timbers Gazette and the voter’s guides from the Dallas Morning News. In addition, I will be responding to all debate questions in writing and this will be posted to the website. I will also be at the polls during early voting to talk to residents.
Again, I apologize for not being able to talk with you in person today.