The Hays Free Press asked our three Kyle mayoral candidates the following eight questions. Following, are their responses.
1. Why did you decide to run for a seat on the Kyle Council?
2. What are the top three issues affecting Kyle?
3. How will you address the number one issue affecting the city?
4. Kyle is considering joining the Lone Star Rail District, which will connect Austin and San Antonio with light rail. Kyle is asked to give 50 percent of their sales and property tax growth within a half-mile radius surrounding the proposed train station to be located next to the ACC campus. Should the city join LSTAR? Why or why not?
5. Do you have any professional experience that will help you as an elected official?
6. Why should voters elected you over your opponent?
7. What should our readers know about you?
8. If you won a $1 million lottery, how would you spend that money?
1. I talk to lots of people in Kyle to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening. I’ve gotten the message from people – Kyle city government should represent all the people of Kyle, and not get tied up with special interests. The support I’ve gotten from my fellow citizens makes me feel like I’ve been called on to serve as Mayor, and to provide leadership to build Kyle into the great city it can be.
2. Taxes, Water, and Infrastructure. Kyle is caught up in Central Texas’ time of tremendous growth, and decisions we make right now are going to have a huge impact on whether we are prepared to handle the continuing expansion that’s coming. Increasing our tax base, Securing our water supply, and Planning our infrastructure are key to Kyle’s quality of life in the future.
3. In the same way The City of Kyle should address every issue affecting the city – according to the City Charter, which established a City Manager driven form of government.
Every issue requires thorough effort into getting citizen input and opinion. There are committees and departments set up for that work, and if the council recruits competent, trustworthy people, their recommendations don’t need to be rehashed and challenged in every council meeting.
4. I haven’t studied that issue in depth, but traffic control and mobility are important elements of the infrastructure. My first impression is that – this Rail Service is already planned to pass through, so it may as well stop and contribute to Kyle in the process.
The tax sharing plan sounds similar to an abatement, which I don’t support, so I still have questions to ask. I’d say it’s worth further consideration, at least.
5. Three terms Mayor of Kyle. Before that I went to grad school in Corrections Administration. I know how to administrate – been doing it for over 34 years. I was Mayor of Kyle for three terms, and we got things done.
One thing I learned in my former terms as mayor is how to efficiently conduct City Council meetings to legislate City Business and direct the City Manager to carry out those decisions. I think taxpayers want, and deserve, efficient and responsive city government.
6. My experience and proven track record. I intend to let the people of Kyle know that the doors of City Hall will be open to them, and that – when I’m elected – they will have a mayor they can talk to and voice their concerns.
7. That I have a love – and a compassion – for the city, and for the people of Kyle and that they will come first in city business, no matter what the issue. I’d like them to know I don’t seek this office to pad my resume’ or stroke my ego; I seek this office to serve the people of Kyle, and to work with them to build a better future for the next generations.
8. First place, there are a lot of underprivileged people and kids. I would set up some kind of fund to help the needy. Of course, you know I’d keep some for myself, but I would share that. When you can be helping, help where help is needed. That’s what I believe in, and that’s what I do all the time.
1. I am frustrated with what appears to be a decline in the quality and quantity of city services in many areas during a period when taxes and fees have been increasing dramatically. I want to bring fiscal restraint, accountability and a sense of urgency to those issues. I have become more aware of the need to immediately address deteriorating infrastructure within the city. While poor road quality and inadequate transportation planning are most noticeable, I also want to ensure that we are appropriately planning for our future water and wastewater needs. The lack of progress in these areas will seriously inhibit our ability to attract the type of commercial investment that is necessary to reverse the city’s trend toward higher taxes and fees.
2. The most serious issue affecting our community is the impact of higher taxes and fees on our residents. At time when many people in Kyle are living on a fixed or reduced income, the city has expected residents to pay more only to get less in return.
The deterioration of the city’s infrastructure and the impact it is having on our ability to accommodate future growth and attract commercial investment and future employers.
The lack of a cohesive economic development vision with a focus on family sustaining job creation and large-scale capital investment. We need to pursue manufacturing, research and development, distribution centers, etc. These type of employers will provide economic opportunities for our residents and have an extensive positive impact on other businesses in the city.
3. Like the tax rate, the city staff and the operating budget have more than doubled since 2008. I will work with city council to reduce the city’s operating budget by 10% in my first year. Additionally, many have pointed their finger at the city’s debt portfolio as justification for tax and fee increases. As such, I will oppose issuing new debt for non-critical projects or that otherwise will not result in a net economic benefit to Kyle. I will also oppose raising taxes and fees for the sole purpose of overinflating fund balances in the city treasury. Finally, robust and diverse economic growth will be necessary to reduce the tax burden on our residents. We will compete for capital intensive, high wage, large scale employers so as to add an extra dimension to our economy and reduce the financial burden on our residents.
4. A rail station or any transportation corridor has great economic development potential. This proposal would provide an alternative to IH 35 traffic congestion and would reroute the majority of current freight rail out of the city. As with any project of this scope, city leaders need to act cautiously to ensure that the financial arrangement is sound and that the project is a net benefit to the community. If bringing rail to Kyle were to significantly expedite development and double the property and sales tax base in the identified development zone, then the 50% proposal may be worthwhile. While the proposal does not require the city to issue debt, we will need to ensure that it does not interfere with existing financing for FM1626 and that we have an aggressive strategy to develop the area within the rail development zone to cover the future costs of operating the station.
5. In addition to my prior service on the City Council, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Adjusters, I was Chief of Staff at an agency with over 1,000 employees and a $23B budget. I served in numerous other roles in state government. I was a Legislative Aide to the Lieutenant Governor, a Senior Budget and Policy Advisor to the Governor, a Policy Advisor to three State Education Commissioners and a consultant to several large national philanthropies, working with state leaders in many states. I was also the Assistant Director of a regional economic development and education initiative called Edvention that brought together 126 partners in higher education, public education, business & industry and local government. I have participated in efforts to bring major economic development projects to the state of Texas and have the public sector budget and governance experience to provide strong oversight of the city’s operations.
6. I am a dedicated and able public servant with a great deal of experience that will be beneficial to the community as we work to balance our needs and the financial pressures we are facing. I am running for no other purpose than to help make Kyle a better place for all of us to live, work and raise our families. The city is facing a lot of challenges right now and I bring an uncommon level of commitment, common sense and skill to address these challenges. My prior service to the community is well-documented. I always gave 100% effort, didn’t miss meetings and came prepared to engage on every matter brought before the council. I will not seek credit and will help the other members of the council and the city staff be successful. I do believe these characteristics distinguish me from the other candidates in this race.
7. I am 45 years old and have been married to my wife Barbara for almost 20 years. We have three children, Rachel (19) who attends Texas State University, Elizabeth (17) and Connor (11), who attend Hays CISD schools. We moved to Kyle in 1998. Like you, I want Kyle to be an affordable and great place to live, work and raise my family. We live in a community that has so much untapped potential and I think that we need leadership that continuously strives to provide greater economic opportunity and a higher quality of life for the people of Kyle. I am asking for your support because, if given the opportunity, I will work hard every day to ensure that your city government is not complacent, doesn’t waste your money and strives to provide you and your family with the community that you deserve.
8. Assuming the $1 million is net after taxes, I would hire a financial planner and invest $200k each for my three children to receive when they reach age 25. Out of the remaining $400k, I would pay off our mortgage and my law school loans. I would then set aside $50k for charitable purposes and would give more to our church and to scholarship programs for students who have to work while they are in school. Finally, I would travel at least once with my family to see some of the great places in the world we have always wanted to visit. The rest would go into a supplementary retirement account.
1. After a lot of fasting and prayer it was decided for me, from Our Heavenly Father. I wasn’t to run for re-election to the city council last May, but to tend to several family health concerns, including my own. Those health concerns have been resolved and we are healthy again. We were to run for mayor and continue sharing our principles and values again with Kyle, as your servant. I have been blessed with the necessary knowledge and wisdom in Finance to continue helping our wonderful city through its trying financial issues that we are facing. Working with council to bring about the Debt-Limit and a much improved budget process were only the beginning. We need to continue with someone who has finance experience. I am Brad Pickett and I am asking you to choose me as your next mayor.
2. Tax and water rates, infrastructure, and a lack of vision.
Kyle needs a better vision from those who have strategic and financial business experience. We deserve better. In the previous decade we gave tax incentives to businesses where we didn’t need to, and failed to capture other business opportunities. The citizens of Kyle will be paying for those mistakes for another 10 years. Let’s not go back to making more of the same mistakes.
We absolutely must manage our debt. We already have over $70 million in principal debt ($99mil. with interest) and have our much needed $36 million road bond recently approved. While everyone is accepting the amount of $36 million to be our cost for these projects, I do not accept this figure. We still have multiple funding sources that we can utilize to complete these projects at a much lower cost to our city. My goal is to be able to complete all of the projects at a cost of less than $20 million. If we could meet this goal we could keep the savings or discuss completing a much needed city-wide sidewalk plan that connected our schools and our neighborhoods.
3. Taxes and water rates have been soaring for years and is causing many of our neighbors to move to surrounding areas. The council has approved unnecessary incentives over the past decade, to already incoming businesses that will continue to inhibit the ability to collect millions of dollars in revenue over the coming 10+ years. We have also bypassed 10s of millions of dollars in project funding that have left Kyle taxpayers with over $70 million in debt, which should be closer to $30 million in debt. The mismanagement of our revenue and debt have caused the current squeeze we are all feeling in our tax and water rates.
I propose first we seek after opportunities for the right employment growth to our city, increasing revenue and relieving the tax burden. Next we do away with budget amendments unless it is an emergency, allowing council to better prioritize the city’s needs and how to pay for them. Spending without planning is an inefficient use of our money. We need to continue to reduce the transfer of funds from the Utility Fund to the General Fund, so utility funds can be used to purchase the water we will need in the future. We need to aggressively seek after funds for our city from other entities such as CAMPO and other Federal agencies for use on our city projects, again relieving our tax burden.
4. Regarding the current available information my initial response is, No. However, there is still too much due diligence that needs to be done before anyone can make an informed decision on this project. April 29th will be the first time the city council, or the citizens, will have the opportunity to ask the necessary questions to see if this is the right thing for Kyle. It is a 36 year commitment that is aimed at Kyle giving upwards of $100 million towards the overall project. And the cost of riding the rail will be more expensive than the cost of us driving ourselves. Even if 20% of us ride the rail, there will still be 100% of us paying for it through much higher than necessary property taxes.
5. My degree is in Finance and I have had a 24-year career in all facets of that field. My expertise are in financial analysis and strategic management. Previously I served on the Kyle City Council from 2010-2013. I also served for the city on the Board of Adjustments and the Planning and Zoning Commission. I also served on the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) Executive Committee from 2012-2013. The CAPCOG work was particularly helpful in gaining relationships with surrounding governments and state officials for the benefit of the City of Kyle.
6. During my term serving on the city council we were able to bring a debt limit that was approved overwhelmingly by the voters of Kyle. I also spearheaded a zero-based budgeting process to the city council. I have a degree in Finance and a 24 year career in Finance. The revenue and debt failures over the previous decade (2001-2010) are due to a lack of Finance experience. This lack of experience is what we are paying for now in higher taxes and water rates. My Finance experience will bring much needed stability to our rates, while still moving forward with our road bond projects, a vision for growth, and most importantly, how we’re going to pay for it. The things I have mentioned will allow us to start planning not just for the year ahead but for 5 and 10 years ahead. We can develop a plan for renewing our city equipment, for increasing staff as our city grows, and maintaining our infrastructure. The key is to have a financial plan that we follow, and not change constantly throughout the year. And someone with the financial experience to lead us in following the plan and keep us on the right financial course.
7. I am a family man above all else. I will serve my family, the Lord, and my neighbor, in that order.
My sweetheart and I have been married for 26 years. We have 3 beautiful children, two teenage daughters at home (Arianna and Olivia), and our son Michael is currently serving in the United States Air Force. He has a beautiful wife Jennifer and an 18 month old son Landon that we cherish as a part of our family. This is where I find the most joy.
I enjoy spending time with my family, reading (scriptures and history), and playing golf.
8. First, I would pay the Lord my tithe (10%). Then, of course, there’s taxes. After that I would see to any needs within my family, starting with our parents. Family always comes first. If there were any funds left over we would invest them, in preparation for any future family needs. Of course, taking the family on a nice vacation might have to happen. As always spending the money as the Lord directs, it is His after all.