City commission candidates face off
Candidates seeking a seat on the Kingsville City Commission took part in a candidate forum Thursday, with participants fielding questions from community leaders on a variety of different topics.
Thursday’s forum was the third such event held in the past month, with Kingsville Independent School District School Board candidates participating in a forum last month, and Kleberg County Democratic Party candidates holding another
Thursday, as well.
Five of the nine City Commission candidates – Incumbent Al Garcia, Al Lopez, Diane Leubert, Lance Hamm and Noel Peña – took part in Thursday’s event. Incumbent Arturo Pecos and challengers Tina Galvan, Jesse Rios and Tomas Sanchez did not attend the forum.
Candidates answered questions ranging in topic from what the city charter is, to whether those seeking election favored staggered terms for commission members.
In response to a question on whether a city manager should attempt to advise or influence commissioners on matters of public policy, Hamm said he felt that was a normal part of the administrator’s job.
“He knows what’s best for the city, that’s why he’s getting paid good money – to run the city as a manager,” Hamm said.
Garcia said he was in favor of staggered terms for city commissioners, and suggested that terms could also be extended to three or four years in order to provide a stable presence for city government. He pointed to the decision by two commissioners – Charlie Wilson and Stanley Laskowski – not to run for re-election as an example of what might happen if the city commission winds up losing all of its incumbents in one election.
“Their experience is going to be lost,” he said. “Between those two guys, there’s approximately 25 years of experience, and that’s a lot.”
“Two-year terms is too short for anyone, unless you continue to get re-elected,” he added. “You don’t learn everything in one term, because there’s a lot to learn.”
When the subject of how to pay for street improvements came up, Peña said he would be in favor of seeking state and federal assistance to pay for future repairs. While he credited some of the work being done by the current city commission, he said much more is needed.
“When you get out into some of the neighborhoods, some of the streets are just really bad, and I just don’t know what the plan is,” he said.
A light-hearted moment arose when Hamm was given a question on how he would grade the current commission on a scale of one to 10. Hamm has appeared before the council on a number of occasions in the past in regard to a variety of issues, and the question drew some laughs from the audience.
“Can I pass?” Hamm joked, while Garcia interjected a “10” from beside Hamm.
Hamm later said he felt the council has done a good job, offering a score of seven, though he acknowledged they do have some differences in opinion on certain issues.
“Overall, my opinion of the city commission is favorable,” he said. “I think the mayor is a good leader. He represents the city well. All four city commissioners truly are good men and they want what’s best for the city. I think all of us want the same thing – what’s best for the city.”
The 45-minute forum was held at the Elk’s Lodge on Sixth Street, and was sponsored by the Kingsville Chamber of Commerce.