The Hays Free Press reached out to both candidates running in the Jan. 25 special election to replace Daphne Tenorio on the Kyle City Council. Here’s what Brandi Heindl and Michael Tobias had to say.
1. The city has embarked on an ambitious goal of a 2020 bond election for the purpose of acquiring a new police station that will likely include a tax increase. What do you see as the best way to present this to voters?
Heindl: I think this has to do with choices about where we want to spend our dollars. I think that it should be presented to voters as, a just that, a choice on the priorities that we have as a community much like we do with every budget item, every capital expense, every year. I want to involve the community in these decisions and be their voice when it comes to fiscal policy of the system. In the end, we use budgets to make decisions about where our interests, priorities and future rest.
Tobias: The city can encourage voters to participate in the election by making everyone aware of the bond election through the city’s website, social media and to include newspapers. The city would need to provide complete information on the plans of the police station, its accurate cost and to include site location so the voters can make their own, well-informed decisions. I know in the past bond elections, for both the city and the county, individuals have formed PACs to advocate for or against a bond proposal. This activity should be initiated by and paid for by individual citizens. For the record, I would vote in favor of authorizing an election for this bond proposal. But it is up to the citizens of Kyle to make their own decision.
2. You will serve during two budget cycles. How would you reapportion city spending to better reflect the wishes of Kyle residents?
Heindl: I want to be the peoples voice when it comes to all decisions in the city, starting with how we spend the money that we have budgeted. At times this will mean that we have to make tough decisions, but these discussions should be out front and visible to the public. I want to support participation in the process of our local decisions and elections. I want everyone’s voice to be heard, considered and acknowledged.
Tobias: I would have to study both city’s budgets closely and see where we could reduce unnecessary spending. Most of the voters I have spoken with during my campaign want to see our tax rate lowered. It is currently one of the highest tax rates in Hays County and could have an impact on our future development. I would study the budget to reduce unnecessary spending in all departments. Any savings from cuts I would spend on roads, the police/fire departments and the parks department. I would also look very hard at hiring any new employees with large salaries. I believe it is important to listen to the citizens who participate in the budget process and remain within your approved budget.
3. The Kyle City Council has launched a new initiative of accountability. Where do you think the city needs more accountability, and why?
Heindl: I think we need more accountability through visibility in how the process works and doesn’t work. We should make sure that we have excellent communication on city matters, updated information is key to citizens having a voice. The city has made excellent strides, but having up to date information available to the citizens in an easily digestible format is a cornerstone of accountability.
Tobias: The City Council can begin improving its own accountability by continuing to be transparent on decisions made and listening to the citizens. The City Council only has direct oversight for the city manager, the city attorney, and the municipal judge. They can, however, set priorities for the city as a whole, but it is up to the city manager and the directors of the different departments to make their departments “accountable.” Overall, I hear great things about the city’s departments and the great work of all its employees.
4. There seems to be no end in sight to the city’s rapid growth. Are there measures beyond those the council has initiated that would better prepare the city for the future?
Heindl: We need to involve the residents in more of the decisions about what is happening in our city. That starts with better accountability surrounding communication to make sure that residents have the information to ask the hard questions of council, city management and myself.
Tobias: The best way to prepare for future growth is through good planning now. The city is about to begin preparing a new Comprehensive Plan for the city. I would encourage every citizen to participate in the process of deciding what our goals should be over the next 10 years. Providing road improvements and maintaining our existing roads, as well as expanding our wastewater plant, are essential to the future growth of the city as our population keeps growing. My priorities would be (1) to reduce spending wherever possible to reduce our tax rate; (2) improve the recreational opportunities for families; (3) ensure our crime rate remains low.
5. Most Kyle residents must commute to work in Austin. What are three measures you would support to bring more living wage jobs to the city?
1. Making sure that we bring the correct mix of businesses to Kyle through a sound economic development team.
2. Looking to what is working in Kyle right now that brings living wages in both a traditional sense of onsite employment, but also supporting a workforce that works from home offices for major employers that will most likely never have a traditional brick and mortar location in Kyle’s city limits.
3. Make sure that through our economic development team and other city departments that we are putting the best foot forward as a community to make Kyle a great place to live, work and play.
Tobias: Companies locate (or re-locate) in order to lower their operation costs. They also look for places with an educated workforce and a high quality of life and affordable housing for their employees to improve productivity.
(1) We should reach out to companies and ask them what they are looking for in relocating to our city. Kyle can do more to “sell” our city as the place to locate. The city needs to improve the type of information being provided to companies, particularly our low cost of energy provided by PEC, the educational opportunities at ACC and nearby Texas State University, our low crime rate, our access to the Interstate and even our climate. It is all about “location” and Kyle is well-positioned to sell itself with our location midway between Austin and San Antonio, its access to a major interstate, and the availability of rail transportation for freight.
(2) We need to continue to make Kyle a great place to live and work by lowering our tax rate, increasing our recreational (parks, running /walking trails) opportunities, and providing a diversity of affordable housing options.
3) Kyle has relied heavily on providing economic incentives such as rebates on sales tax and property taxes. These types of incentives place a larger tax burden on our homeowners. I would work to replace this with other types of incentives, such as streamlining the permitting process, continuing to improve our infrastructure, and working with the State of Texas and Hays County to help provide economic incentives.
6. What’s your favorite pie?
Heindl: Strawberry/Rhubarb, sweet sour and rare!
7. What is Kyle’s biggest selling point?
Heindl: Our two surprising hidden gems, Lake Kyle and Steeplechase dog park.
8. Caffeine? Yes or no.
Heindl: Lots of Caffeine (coffee)
Tobias: Yes lots of it.
9. What do you think Kyle needs more of?
Heindl: I would love to see Kyle have a family friendly healthy community program. This program would use our parks, trails around Kyle. We have a walking track at Gregg Clark Park, Frisbee Golf at Steeplechase Park and paths at Lake Kyle. You can walk, run or roll East to West and back with ease. There is so much we could incorporate into a healthy community program. Then we can all go have a piece of pie.
Tobias: Family restaurants. Kyle is growing with some many new and established families that it needs more options for families to dine in a friendly environment.