Candidates forum highlights hope for Dayton

Make no mistake, the city of Dayton is in trouble and voters have a chance to make their voices heard at the polls. After the former city manager and CFO moved to other cities, a path of economic destruction was left in their wake. Inaccurate information was presented to city council members and initiatives that exploited the city for all it had were put in place. Now citizens have to pick up the pieces as their roads are congested with increased traffic, a train that pulls up several times a day on a busy highway, schools filled to the brim, and swimming pools filled because it doesn’t there is no money for repairs. For years, there’s been talk of businesses moving into the area, the Grand Parkway bringing Dayton face to face with big city life, and infrastructure improvements. Citizens are now wondering where these things are and why the city is millions of dollars in debt. Five candidates are willing to sacrifice their time for free to help get Dayton back on track.

Last Thursday, the Dayton Chamber of Commerce hosted a Dayton City Council Candidates Forum. The event was an opportunity for citizens to meet the candidates and hear how they would carry out their duties as members of the city council.

Tonya Smikal, who is currently chair of the DCDC board and is running for Position 1, explained that she wants Dayton to be a place where her children and grandchildren can live, play and find well-paying jobs. She discussed the importance of unified development codes to set standards so that the city does not have mixed residential, commercial and industrial areas. Smikal talked about using Liberty County’s mobility study to help repair streets, and TxDot fixing the progressive sign system will help with short-term traffic. She also believes the answer to taxes lies in economic development, with retail taxes helping to increase city revenue, easing the burden on taxpayers. She also feels that trust has been lost with citizens, and to regain that trust, there needs to be a greater sense of transparency. She explained how a forensic check could have prevented this situation and what needs to happen.

Dwight Pruitt, who served on the Dayton City Council from 2012 to 2017, is also running for Position 1 and has spoken about moving Dayton in a positive direction for families. Pruitt spoke of his concern about the duplexes coming into town, the increase in crime and the attraction of quality people to the town. Pruitt thinks the funds should be found in other budget areas and by making cuts instead of increases. Pruitt spoke of a common-sense approach with face-to-face interaction with citizens. He believes the money has been wasted on studies and litigation, and that legal action should be taken against the former chief executive before doing the same thing again.

Sherial L. Lawson currently serves as #2 City Council member and has served on the council since 2013. She explained that some decisions made in the past were not the right decisions. She also said some of those bad decisions were shared with two others onstage, alluding to Pruitt and Townsend. She intends to work with the new city manager and chief financial officer to make tough decisions and stressed that she will not commit to not raising taxes if that is what is necessary to keep the city going. afloat. She urged people to vote for the two Texas Constitutional Amendments on the ballot. She also thinks that industry and business are the way not to raise taxes. Lawson explained that the information presented to the city council by the former city manager and chief financial officer was not accurate and that decisions were made based on that. She thinks a more forensic background check needs to be done as there was no transparency and integrity. She also thinks the current City Manager and CFO are transparent.

Lawson has stiff competition when it comes to Janette Goulder-Frick and Josh Townsend.

Goulder-Frick, who has held numerous financial management and project leadership positions, spoke of driving growth without losing the city’s uniqueness. She expressed concern about the effect the growth will have on the water supply and how the water table could drop to the point where there is no more water. Goulder-Frick said the two main complaints are traffic and trains, and while she’s glad there are plans to fix those issues, she thinks there needs to be a workaround to move the big trucks in downtown Dayton. Goulder-Frick also thinks corporate tax revenue will ease the burden on taxpayers. Goulder-Frick believes integrity needs to be challenged going forward, there need to be many questions and checks and balances need to be in place.

Townsend, who has already served two terms on the board, also spoke about growing up, family and his commitment to quality of life. Townsend wants to have firm plans in place, doesn’t want new subdivisions to determine the fate of current citizens, and wants developers to pump money back into the community. Townsend then addressed the audience with a quote from a famous speech by George HW Bush, declaring no new taxes. He promised to vote no on the upcoming tax rate hike in October and agreed with Pruitt to find money in other budget areas, but said he would not cut anything from the police department or in water. Townsend believes the town should be run like a business rather than a family by selling off assets and trying a new approach instead of the same old decisions.

Pruitt referred to Lawson’s previous statements about bad decisions made in the past. He declared she was wrong, and when he served the town was financially strong and had money in reserve, which Townsend agreed with him later in the forum.

Early voting began April 25 and runs through April 29 at the Dayton Community Center from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., May 2-3 from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Election Day is May 7 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Be sure to follow The Vindicator for all your election news.

Melvin B. Baillie