More than 100 people filled the Wimberley Community Center to watch local candidates from eight different races take questions at the Wimberley Valley League of Women Voters Candidates’ Forum on WednesdayQuestions for candidates were placed in labeled baskets before the debate began. Debate Moderator Bonnie Leach sorted the questions, selected a few and made it clear before the debate started that she would not ask questions that were personal attacks or questions intended for only one candidate.
Candidates for State level office took the stage and debated issues. Incumbent Texas State Representative 45th District Patrick Rose and challenger Matt Young were asked about Chapters 41 and 42 of the Texas Education Code. These Chapters provide an estimate for the amount of taxpayer money allotted to independent school districts according to the weighted average daily attendance in each district. The larger the weighted average daily attendance, the greater the tax payer money allotted to that district.
Rose said he has fought hard for the people for six years and fought for Chapters 41 and 42.
Young did not share Rose’s stand on the issue.
“It needs to end tomorrow,” Young said. “Folks, Robin Hood is broke. Our system is broken and it doesn’t work. What we need is a fair tax and a consumption tax with one percent GSP (Generalized System of Preferences).”
Rose called Young’s plan “silly” and one that will never work. Rose offered a proposal to create a coalition of “wealthy” and “non-wealthy” school districts to make the implementation of Chapters 41 and 42 effective.
On the issues of health insurance, Young said he supported a plan that gave businesses tax credits to help give their employees health benefits.
Rose advocated a plan that continued to grow health programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid. He also suggested allowing small businesses to have more pull in purchasing power so health insurance plans could compete for their bid.
One question that took the candidates slightly off-guard was in regard to the amount of money each candidate raised for their campaign. Young said his campaign had raised less than $60,000; roughly 40 percent of which he said came from outside the district and none of it from special interest groups.
Rose’s campaign had also received donations from outside the district, but had raised more than $1 million, which he said was normal for the average race.
The candidates’ theme of wanting to work hard for the people continued with the views of the candidates running for Hays County Commissioner Precinct 3. Incumbent Will Conley and Steve Klepfer started off by agreeing on the proposition for collective bargaining for firefighters. The two disagreed about the management of Ranch Road12. Conley called it a “dangerous highway” and said he worked with the Wimberley Transportation Advisory Board and proposed a design to make safety improvements to the junction while preserving the RR 12 area by building a parkway.
Klepfer said that plan never came through the mayor’s office and there was no guarantee that the parkway would be built.
On the topic of tax breaks and alternate energy Klepfer said he supported tax breaks for rainwater collection.
“We don’t have enough water to support the growth that’s coming,” Klepfer said. “Right now water companies can’t sell rain water. I know 26 families completely sustained with rainwater collection.”
Both candidates were opposed to Aqua Texas Inc., having business in Wimberley as they said the company does not have the residents’ interests at heart.
Conley said he has plans to bring a sewer system into the area, but intensive research has to be done in the area first.
The forum opened with the candidates for Hays County Sherriff, which ended up as a one-man show. Incumbent Sheriff Allen Bridges was not in attendance and Bill Huddleston was allowed to answer questions intended for the debate. When asked about his plan to prevent crime in Hays County Huddleston said crime prevention is in the hands of the public.
“Having eyes in the community,” he said. “That’s the best source of crime prevention.”
He added that criminals are more likely to hit a soft target and in order to remedy that there needed to be more staffing of police officers to create greater police presence.
Huddleston said he would work with what Hays County has to offer in its citizens.
“I’ll take the depth and the wealth of talent in the Sherriff’s department now and tap into that,” he said. “I’m going to tap into those with experience.”
Incumbent Luanne Caraway and Robert Avera, candidates for Hays County Tax Assessor-Collector, took the stage next. The candidates were asked what it meant to be a Republican or a Democrat at their political level. Caraway said her job is to serve all citizens of Hays County.
“Our job is to serve the people, regardless of what party you belong to,” said Caraway.
Avera made a similar statement where he said as the office is non-partisan; he would serve Democrats and Republicans equally and be an advocate for tax payers.
On the issue of property taxes, Avera said the process of protesting a tax statement should be changed and be made less complicated. He suggested there be a liaison between the tax payer and collector. He also said there should be a system in place that helps ensure fair home and land appraisals.
Caraway countered the argument by saying Avera was misinformed on the processes behind protesting a tax statement and added that the process in place did not need to be changed. To make it easier on taxpayers, Caraway said she would set up a system that allowed tax-payers to pre-pay their property taxes on a monthly basis instead of paying it all in one lump sum at the end of the year. She also said that all appraisals are already fair because they are based on market value, a statement which Avera opposed.
“Appraisals are out of control,” Avera said. “Foreclosures for sale is not a fair market value.”
While many audience members were already publicly supporting certain candidates for each office, some residents like Barbara Gibbs, of the greater Wimberley area, came to the meeting out of curiosity.
“I think it helped me decide who not to vote for,” Gibbs said. “There were two of the candidates, and I’m not going to name them, who just didn’t sound like they knew what they were talking about at all.”
Carol Pino, League of Women Voters of Wimberley Valley President, said the event was a success.
“We had a much larger turnout than we were looking forward to and we had to bring out extra chairs,” Pino said. “It’s just great that so many community members are interested in the election.”
The San Marcos chapter for the League of Women Voters will be hosting the Candidates’ Debate Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. in the San Marcos Activity Center.
by: Rasmi Hunt