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Longview City Council rejects LEDCO board pick

By Angela Ward award@news-journal.com
Oct. 11, 2012 at 10 p.m.

The Longview City Council voted Thursday to disregard the recommendations of its appointments committee, instead approving the original slate suggested by the Longview Economic Development Corp. to serve on its board of directors.

As it now stands, the board consists of five voting members and five ex-officio members, all of whom are white and all but one of whom is male.

The appointments committee, which consists of council members Kasha Williams and Wayne Frost, on Tuesday had agreed not to accept the LEDCO nominees, instead deciding to place Andrea Mayo, a black woman, on the board in place of Ed Banos. They said the change would provide the board with much-needed diversity as requested by members of the community.

Mayo is a Longview ISD administrator; Banos is former president and CEO of Good Shepherd Medical Center.

Though Frost supported the substitution Tuesday as an appointments committee member, he made the motion at Thursday's council meeting to instead approve LEDCO's original slate.

"I second guessed the LEDCO board, and that was wrong of me," he said during the meeting. "I apologize for putting us in this situation, but I think we need to go with the slate as originally presented to us."

Williams, however, did not waiver from her original stand.

"This isn't personal; I have nothing against Mr. Banos. It's an attempt to diversify the committee, because we had members of the community come to us with concerns about this issue," she said. "I do not share Mr. Frost's sentiments. I believe that we, as a council, have the right and sometimes the duty to override committee recommendations."

Frost, Sidney Allen, John Sims and Mayor Jay Dean voted in favor of the motion.

Williams, Gary Smith and Richard Manley voted against it.

Dean said it is unfortunate the council found itself in the situation.

"One of the problems we often encounter is getting people to sign up to serve on boards and commissions," he said. "I agree that diversity is good, but there are sometimes situations where we've asked people who would increase the diversity of our boards to serve on them and been turned down."

Smith, the newest council member, said he believed it was important to bring in people with fresh views.

The LEDCO board as it stands consists of voting members Keith Honey, Lester Lucy, Steve Metcalf, Joe Bob Joyce, and Banos. Ex-officio members are Jim Kendrick, Phillip Ford, Dan Droege, Julie Fowler and Paul Stephenson.

LEDCO owns two Longview business parks, and it oversees economic development projects with the aim of creating or retaining jobs in the city, including providing financial assistance and incentives.

It has a nearly $5 million budget, which includes more than $1 million in its incentive fund.

The diversity issue was raised by Branden Johnson, president of the Longview chapter of the NAACP, who urged council members at their Sept. 27 meeting to bring more diversity to the board. He questioned why, with growing minority populations in Longview and the business community, there was no Muslim, Asian or Latino representation on the LEDCO board.

In other business, the council approved seven capital improvement projects totaling $6.3 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Council members allocated funding for the following projects:

<ul> <li>$1.2 million for bridge and culvert improvements;</li> <li>a $300,000 drainage improvement project;</li> <li>$800,000 in wastewater system improvements</li> <li>$730,000 for a sludge thickening project at the wastewater treatment plant;</li> <li>a $1.825 million co-digestion project at the wastewater improvement plant;</li> <li>a $675,000 project to install flow monitoring devices at the water treatment plants;</li> <li>and $800,000 worth of water system improvements.</li> </ul>

Staff members said they believe funding for the 2012-13 projects will be available from existing sales tax revenues and money generated from the city's utility capital reserve funds.

The council also approved a resolution to name the commercial kitchen at the Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center the "Gerard Cace Kitchen." Cace, a local restaurant owner and longtime civic promoter, died in July.

The council also authorized a request from Fire Marshal Johnny Zachary to accept a grant from BP American Production Co. for construction of a Fire Safety Interactive Theater at Safety City. The initial grant is for $50,000, but Zachary said more money will probably become available after the first of the year.



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