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Longview City Council hopefuls make their case

From staff reports
Jan. 13, 2018 at 11:22 p.m.

Wray Wade on Thursday November 30, 2017.  (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

The race to replace outgoing District 3 Longview Councilwoman Kasha Williams is a family affair.

Candidates Wray Wade and Lonnie Murphy, who are brothers-in-law, are competing in the Feb. 3 special election to fill Williams' unexpired term. Early voting begins Wednesday.

Williams, in the first year of her three-year term, is resigning to run for Gregg County Pct. 4 commissioner.

Wade, 49, has lived in District 3 for about 10 years and is a business owner in the education industry. The Longview High School graduate, who holds a bachelor's degree from St. Martin's University and a master's degree from Oregon State University. is a board member for the Texas Workforce Commission and Longview Symphony Orchestra.

He stepped down in November as a Longview Economic Development Corp. board vice president when he decided to run for City Council.

The youth basketball coach and volunteer Japanese interpreter sought the District 3 seat in May 2011 before losing in a three-person race to Williams.

Wade said he has never been arrested or involved in criminal proceedings and that he has never declared personal or professional bankruptcy.

Murphy, 67, has lived in District 3 for 38 years and is retired. He holds a bachelor's degree in social work and economics and is a past chairman of the Longview Planning and Zoning Commission.

Murphy previously sought a seat on the Dallas City Council. He has never been arrested or involved in criminal proceedings but said he has declared bankruptcy, explaining it as business dissolution.

In advance of the start of early voting, both candidates were asked a series of questions and allowed to respond at length.

Here are their answers in their own words:

Wray Wade

QUESTION: Why should Longview voters choose you over your opponent?

ANSWER: I have a history of creating meaningful jobs and mentoring youth in Longview for over 10 years. Over the past several years, I have developed and maintained working relationships with city officials to create opportunities and improve the lives of all citizens in the city of Longview.

Q: What do you see as the most pressing duties of a City Council member? How are you qualified to fulfill those duties?

A: Acting as a liaison between the city and the citizens of District 3 would be my principal duty as a City Council member. A City Council member should be concerned with the daily affairs of the city and future developments as it pertains to the citizens of District 3.

Q: What do you see as the single most pressing issue in the city and your district in the coming term? How would you address those issues?

A: Creating new jobs for the citizens of District 3. I will build on the existing work done by our city officials to increase impactful employment and help oversee the development of the Interstate 20 corridor. Longview has a comprehensive plan for improving the appearance and business development along the I-20 corridor; I will work with the city and LEDCO to attract commercial development along this major throughway.

Q: Is there a specific item (or items) you would add to or remove from the city budget? If so, please explain.

A: Upgrade city parks inside my district. I would like to see our parks upgrade their walking paths, basketball courts and playground sets. I would also like to continue improving existing sidewalks and creating new sidewalks so citizens can easily move around our district.

Q: What measures should the City Council take to generate economic development opportunities for Longview?

A: As a LEDCO board member, I worked closely with LEDCO board members and Longview City Council members in structuring the contract which attracted the Dollar General distribution center to Longview. The Dollar General distribution center is projected to be a $70 million capital investment in Longview and expected to create an additional 400 jobs locally. (LEDCO Executive Director Wayne) Mansfield and the LEDCO board have created 600 new jobs for the city. Longview is moving forward in the right direction. If elected, I will champion the responsibility to create economic opportunities for the citizens of District 3.

Q: Did the City Council act appropriately in moving the Convention and Visitors Bureau back to City Hall?

A: Moving the CVB back to City Hall was well thought out and agreed upon by the City Council and Longview Chamber of Commerce. I was appointed by Mayor (Andy) Mack and approved by the City Council to sit on the LEDCO board, which was indirectly involved in the decision to move the CVB back to City Hall. The move has worked out well. Each party is continuing to work well together to move Longview forward, which is the ultimate goal for everyone.

Q: Please assess Longview's crime situation and discuss what, if anything, you would do to address or change it.

A: In 2017, Longview saw a decrease in crime compared to 2016, thanks to the efforts of the LPD. I will work with the LPD to encourage our citizens to police their neighborhoods and to report crimes or potential crimes. Our police department works diligently to protect Longview citizens, but the police officers need help from the community to be able to perform their jobs at the highest level. The addition of body cameras will work to increase the safety of everyone involved. Fighting crime has to be an effort of everyone.

Q: What should be done to encourage people who have information about crimes to be more forthcoming with police?

A: Making everyone feel they are a part of the solution. I strongly believe if someone has information about a crime, he or she should feel comfortable reporting the crime to the LPD. The LPD has set up an anonymous tip phone line to encourage citizens to report crimes. We need to continue to educate and encourage our community members about assisting the LPD in its efforts to fight crime.

Q: Do you believe sex trafficking is an issue in Longview, and, if so, what should be done to address it?

A: Sex trafficking is a sad existence in our society. I believe sex trafficking prevention starts at home. The average age of victims of sex trafficking is between 11 and 14 years old. Getting involved with our youth is imperative. We must be involved with our children after the school day ends, weekends and when the schools are closed. I was raised not only by my family but by the community.

Q: Is Longview's practice of funding infrastructure improvements through bond issues the best way to achieve those goals? If not, what means would be preferable?

A: I don't like to take on new debt, but sometimes our infrastructure needs do not have the time to wait for tax revenue to pay for the repairs or improvements. The city has done an excellent job of maintaining cash reserves to pay for unexpected expenses and infrastructure repairs/improvements, but we cannot spend all of the city's reserve money to avoid taking on occasional bond debt. Debt is neither good or bad, but how it is handled will determine if it will be good or bad. Hopefully with the new companies coming to Longview and the new jobs associated with the new companies, the city will have additional tax revenue to fund infrastructure improvement without incurring new debt.

Q: What quality of life amenities does Longview lack? Is it the city's responsibility to provide those things?

A: As a LEDCO board member, I supported the expansion of Cargill Long Park to Akin Park and the $4.6 million pledge by LEDCO to complete Cargill Long Park to Paul G. Boorman Multi-Use Trailhead. This action alone made Longview a more attractive city for corporations, such as Dollar General, searching for a city to start or grow their businesses. This is the kind of effort I will continue to make for the citizens of District 3.

Q: Does Longview lack affordable housing? If so, what can be done to address the need?

A: Affordable housing is a constant debate between city officials and its citizens. I believe a combination of public and private development can begin to address a long overdue issue for the city of Longview. Affordable housing is a must have for a city looking to grow.

Q: Where should development and/or redevelopment be most emphasized in Longview?

A: As a City Council member, my focus will be to improve the lives of the citizens of District 3. Development and redevelopment should be along the gateway to our city, District 3! My district has the I-20 corridor. Longview needs to capture the potential revenue driving along I-20 every day. Longview is continuing to work on the long-term plan that includes the I-20 corridor development.

Q: What challenging demographic changes have been taking place in Longview and your district? How should the city respond?

A: A good amount of our citizens are retired or near retirement. Longview needs young citizens to fill these holes in the job force when our citizens retire. We need to find a way to keep our young citizens in Longview, instead of seeing many of them move away from Longview. Without a strong workforce, it will be hard to attract more business to Longview.

Q: What new traffic or transportation initiatives are needed in Longview?

A: In representing District 3, I will work with the city to improve the entrance into Longview along I-20 and Estes Parkway. I want to entice development to these key areas. A feasibility study must be conducted on the widening to the service roads for traffic to flow smoothly. Longview needs increased bus routes that would minimize bus riding time for citizens.

Q: Does Longview deliver services in the most cost-effective manner? Please be specific about improvements that could be made.

A: I know city of Longview does a good job of staying on budget. When our city stays on budget, the city does not have to increase fees for its services. I feel like the city offers its services at a fair price to our citizens.

Q: Please rate the transparency at City Hall.

A: Longview has excellent open City Council meetings. The meetings are played on the public access TV channel at various times throughout the week. I feel like the city does a good job of informing its citizens of important issues and events. I will interact with our citizens by visiting different local business and churches to get a sense of what is happening in my district.

Q: What is an uncomfortable truth about Longview that voters must confront?

A: Longview is not Dallas, Houston or Austin. Longview will not be able to offer everything those large cities offer, but that is a great thing. Longview is a community where you know your neighbors, can be anywhere in town in less than 15 minutes and the quality of life is second to none.

Q: Are current term limits for City Council members appropriate?

A: I agree with the current term limits. It is great to have new people serve their district and bring new ideas and new energy to the City Council.

Lonnie Murphy

QUESTION: Why are you running for this office?

ANSWER: Because the people of District 3 need a strong, independent representative who will give voice to the concerns and issues of our community.

Q: Why should Longview voters choose you over your opponent?

A: I have the experience, qualifications, dedication, and I will be available for the people of District 3; my interests are wholly in Longview.

Q: What do you see as the most pressing duties of a City Council member?

A: Listening and responding to the needs and concerns of the people in District 3; effectively communicating those needs to the council and city manager until they are satisfactorily resolved.

Q: How are you qualified to fulfill those duties?

A: I am available, and I have the time to devote to my community and the people of District 3. I have served on many civic and nonprofit boards, most recently as chairman of the Longview Planning and Zoning Commission. I have a working knowledge of the city structure and council meeting/decision making process.

Q: What do you see as the single most pressing issue in the city and your district in the coming term? How would you address those issues?

A: District 3 needs the resources of the city to help build and maintain our neighborhoods, streets, parks and safety — that is why we pay taxes. As councilman, I will work to ensure District 3 is not overlooked or left out in the allocation of the city resources.

Q: Is there a specific item (or items) you would add to or remove from the city budget? If so, please explain.

A: Perhaps the discussion should be "ideology" rather than "items"... who, what, and how are we spending; who is benefiting; and how is it benefiting my district directly and/or indirectly.

Q: What measures should the City Council take to generate economic development opportunities for Longview?

A: Start talking with actual developers who construct buildings and locate businesses to occupy them. Work to remove obstacles within development services.

Q: Did the City Council act appropriately in moving the Convention and Visitors Bureau back to City Hall?

A: Where it's located is not as important as what is it accomplishing.

Q: What should be done to encourage people who have information about crimes to be more forthcoming with police?

A: We should increase our efforts to promote greater communication and involvement between the LPD and the communities we serve.

Q: Do you believe sex trafficking is an issue in Longview, and, if so, what should be done to address it?

A: I do not know how much of an issue sex trafficking is in Longview, but any is too much.

Q: Is Longview's practice of funding infrastructure improvements through bond issues the best way to achieve those goals? If not, what means would be preferable?

A: The urgency, impact and cost should be assessed for each project in relation to available funding processes to make good decisions rather than following practices.

Q: Does Longview lack affordable housing? If so, what can be done to address the need?

A: Quality of life amenities and affordable housing are matters the city must promote and take leadership in providing if we are going to be successful in attracting large employers/jobs and realize economic redevelopment.

Q: Where should development and/or redevelopment be most emphasized in Longview?

A: District 3, including downtown.

Q: What challenging demographic changes have been taking place in Longview and your district? How should the city respond?

A: Perhaps the demographic changes are impacting Longview ISD to a greater degree than the city, (for example), the new schools which change traffic flows and require new studies.

Q: What new traffic or transportation initiatives are needed in Longview?

A: Addressing the U.S. 259/Hawkins Parkway area.

Q: Does Longview deliver services in the most cost-effective manner? Please be specific about improvements that could be made.

A: A review of the trash collection and pickup service (is needed) to determine if the city is actually realizing savings that were projected by the outsourcing of this service.

Q: Please rate the transparency at City Hall.

A: Good.

Q: What is an uncomfortable truth about Longview that voters must confront?

A: That growth and development do not always complement a small-town atmosphere.

Q: Are current term limits for city council members appropriate?

A: Perhaps shorter terms (are more appropriate.)

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