Candidates field questions from citizens at public forum

With answers to some questions and some questions left unsaid, the candidates for this Saturday’s local elections took a public stand for their campaigns at a public forum last Thursday night at the Brady Schools cafeteria. With all but two candidates in the local elections present for the forum, the audience presented questions that gave the panel of candidates an opportunity to persuade voters to their point of view. The tone of the forum was positive and upbeat as candidates introduced themselves to the audience. The local radio station broadcast the entire forum live which may have contributed to the sparsely attended gathering. All candidates for the two positions on the council were present with the exception of Jesse Castanuela. Incumbent Donald Barley, running for re-election to Place 5 on the council, kicked off the evening after a random drawing was held to determine the order of the candidates. Each candidate was given a predetermined amount of time to present his or her platform. After a brief introduction about his personal background, Barley issued a brief statement about his part in a mass resignation of the Council that occurred last November. He explained his views about the situation and what led to his and several other council members’ resignations and then stated that he would not answer any other questions concerning that topic. From there, the theme of his speech focused on what the current council is doing and what things need to be focused on in the future. He specifically mentioned two projects’the current water plant project and the idea of a plan to repair or renovate the streets throughout the city. Barley’s opponent for Place 5 is Dub Smith. He addressed the audience second and based his platform on three points’infrastructure, utility costs and overbudget spending by the City Council. Smith gave specific examples of why each of the three topics were part of his campaign speech. From the infrastructure’s condition and its effect on the value of property rates to what he called “uncontrolled spending of income by the current council,” Smith told the audience why they should vote for him rather than his opponent. “I believe that the current council has become arrogant and distant from the people who elected it,” said Smith. “It is time for a change. . .” Three candidates are running for the Place 4 seat on the council that is currently held by Jack Browning. Rick Melcer and Barbi Jones attended the forum and each presented their views about what key factors they were concerned with in their bid for the council seat. Melcer spoke first and told of his desire to encourage the citizens of Brady to speak out, participate in their local government and vote in any and all elections. Citing recent and past occurrences in the Brady city government, Melcer expressed a desire to facilitate growth in the area. He also expressed a desire to improve the cooperation and communication between the government and the citizens and also between the city and county governing bodies. He charged the council with changing the way in which they act in order to avoid the possibility of any future negative publicity. “I believe that it is vital for our economic and social growth that our city and its surroundings be publicized for our strengths and not our shortcomings, but that does not mean sweeping bad news under the rug. It means that our public figures must act and behave in mature, responsible manners so that there is no embarrassing news,” said Melcer. Jones was the final candidate to take the floor and focused on her intent and desire to work together with the leaders in the city to advance positive movement of the city. “We need open minds and a willingness to be aggressive in making progress and moving forward with our city government.” Jones spoke of her belief of being involved in the community and working together to advance the overall progress of the area. After the candidates presented their speeches, questions presented to a panel of forum officials were read aloud to the candidates. Some of the questions were directed at individuals and others were for the entire group. The round of questions was answered on a rotating basis giving each candidate the opportunity to present their answer to a chosen question first. General questions asked to the group included candidate opinions about the condition of the city of Brady in relation to where it was three years ago. Each of the candidates agreed that the city is better off now and each gave his or her personal reasons why they thought so. Several candidates also stated that although there may have been some bumps in the road, the city seems to be headed in the right direction. The group also answered a question about why they believed several businesses have closed their doors in recent months. They were also asked to give their suggestions for what the city should do to recoup the loss in tax base dollars. Barley was the first individual to be asked an individual specific question. As the only current member on the council, he was asked for details about the amount of money earmarked for underground utility repairs that has been spent on those projects. Barley responded with a list of projects and figures totaling approximately $750,000 that have been used on designated projects. After detailing many of those projects, he concluded with this statement, “There is some work to be done, but a lot has been done.” The group of candidates also entertained a question that asked for their individual opinions about the city’s cooperation with the county in replacing the radio tower located at the G.R. White Complex. The answers given by the candidates were all in line with the fact that each agrees that the two governing bodies must work together in order to ensure that the citizens are best served. Some of the candidates expressed some concern with the way in which the project was being handled, but the consensus was that both parties must continue to work together. Several other individual questions were posed to the candidates. The final group question asked each candidate to explain how they can avoid favoritism of special interest groups when making political decisions on a city project. In answering this particular question, the candidates once again looked to their campaign speeches and reiterated the fact that each citizen in Brady is their own special interest and that ultimately it is very difficult to avoid being impartial in each and every decision. Five of the six candidates in the Brady Independent School Board’s election for the board of trustees also participated in the candidate forum Thursday night. Joseph Jordan, the oppnonent of Andy McBee for single-member district 6, was the only member absent from the forum. Incumbent Al Pearson and Monte Owens are each seeking the District 4 seat while incumbent Jason Jacoby is seeking re-election against Leslie Schumann for District 2. Each candidate took several minutes to explain his individual platform and why citizens should vote for him rather than his opponents. The main theme of the entire forum was how to continue the positive and progressive steps that have been made over the past several years. Positive statements, encouraging and reassuring speeches by each candidate gave the audience some assurance that no matter what lies ahead, each individual is concerned with what is in the best interest for the youth of Brady and McCulloch County. Following the introductory speeches, several questions heaped together by the moderator led to each candidate addressing whatever topics he felt were top priority is his particular campaign. Budget cuts, experience, teacher salaries, number of coaches and number of buses and vehicles along with a host of other topics were discussed in random order as the candidates worked to convince the audience to vote for them. In all, each candidate present supported all of the candidates up for election. A general feeling of cohesiveness gave the audience reassurance that the board of trustees is there to help further the progress of the school district and promote better education throughout the district.

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