Make no mistake about it, The City of Dayton is in trouble, and the voters have a chance to let their voices be heard at the polls. After the previous city manager and financial director moved on to other cities, a path of economic destruction was left in their wake. Inaccurate information was presented to city council members, and initiatives that milked the town for everything it had were put in place. Now citizens are left picking up the pieces while their roads are clogged with increased traffic, a train that parks across a busy highway several times a day, schools filled to the brim, and pools being filled in because there is no money for repairs. For years, there has been talk of businesses moving into the area, the Grand Parkway thrusting Dayton face-first into the big city life, and improvements to infrastructure. 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 steer Dayton back onto the right path.
Last Thursday, the Dayton Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum for the Dayton City Council. The event was a chance for citizens to meet the candidates and hear how they would perform their duties as city council members.
Tonya Smikal, who currently serves as Board President of the DCDC and is running for Position 1, spoke about how she wants Dayton to be a place where her children and grandchildren can live, play and find good-paying jobs. She discussed the importance of unified development codes to set standards so the city does not have mixed residential, commercial, and industrial areas. Smikal spoke about utilizing the mobility study done by Liberty County to help with street repairs, and TxDot repairing the progressive traffic signal system will help with traffic in the short term. She also thinks the answer to taxes lies in economic development, with retail sales taxes helping increase revenue for the city, taking the burden off of taxpayers. She also feels like trust has been lost with the citizens, and to gain that trust back, there needs to be a greater sense of transparency. She talked about how a forensic audit 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 spoke about moving Dayton in a positive direction for families. Pruitt spoke of his concern with duplexes moving into the city, increasing crime, and attracting quality people to the town. Pruitt believes funds should be found in other budget areas and by making cuts instead of raising. Pruitt talked about a common-sense approach with face-to-face interaction with citizens. He believes money was wasted on studies and litigations, and legal action should be taken against the former city manager before doing the same thing again.
Sherial L. Lawson is currently serving as City Council Position 2 and has been on the council since 2013. She talked about how some decisions in the past were not the right decisions. She also stated that some of those wrong decisions were shared with two others on the stage, alluding to Pruitt and Townsend. She intends to work with the new city manager and finance director to make tough decisions and emphasized that she would not commit to not raising taxes if that is what is needed to keep the city afloat. She urged people to vote for the two Texas constitutional amendments on the ballot. She also believes industry and businesses are the way not to raise taxes. Lawson spoke about how the information presented to the city council by the previous city manager and financial director was not accurate, and decisions were made based on that. She believes a more forensic background check needs to be done because there was no transparency and integrity. She also thinks the current city manager and finance director are transparent.
Lawson has stiff competition when it comes to Janette Goulder-Frick and Josh Townsend.
Goulder-Frick, who has held many positions managing money and leading projects, talked about driving growth without losing the specialness of the city. She voiced her concern about the effect growth will have on the water supply and how the water table could decrease to the point where there is no water. Goulder-Frick said two top complaints are traffic and trains, and even though she is glad there are plans to correct those issues, she believes there needs to be a bypass to move large trucks through downtown Dayton. Goulder-Frick also believes tax revenue from businesses will take the burden off of taxpayers. Goulder-Frick believes that integrity needs to be challenged in the future, there needs to be many questions and checks and balances need to be in place.
Townsend, who previously served two terms on the council, also spoke about growth, family, and his commitment to quality of life. Townsend wants to have firm plans in place, does not want new subdivisions determining the fate of current citizens, and wants developers to put money back into the community. Townsend then addressed the audience with a quote from a famous George H.W. Bush speech, declaring no new taxes. He vowed to vote no on increased tax rates coming in October and agreed with Pruitt on finding the money in other budget areas but said he would not cut anything from the police department or water. Townsend thinks the city should be run like a business instead of a family by selling off assets and trying a new approach instead of the same old decisions.
Pruitt brought up Lawson’s previous statements about wrong decisions made in the past. He stated that she was incorrect, and when he served, the city was financially strong and had money in the reserve, something Townsend agreed with him on later in the forum.
Early voting began on April 25 and runs through April 29 at the Dayton Community Center from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, May 2-3 from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, and election day is May 7 from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. Be sure to follow The Vindicator for all of your election news.