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City Council candidates answer questions

By Bev Barr BCC Editor

The League of Women Voters hosted a question and answer forum for Bandera City Council candidates on Oct. 10, at the Silver Sage Coral. Four of the five candidates were present. Candidate Christine Morse was unable to attend.
Those in attendance wrote questions for the candidates on note cards. After brief introductions, the candidates proceeded to answer 9 questions. The candidates took turns in answering questions first, so the order of the candidates’ answers changed with each question. But for purposes of this report and to provide a snapshot of each candidate, answers to the following questions will follow a candidate’s introductory remarks.
• What do you think are the top 3 challenges for Bandera and/or the city council?
• How many city council meetings have you attended this year? Last year?
• If you are elected to the city council, what will you do differently?
• What are your thoughts about the proposed hotel on Main Street?
• What motivated you to file as a candidate for city council?
• What can the city council do to increase economic development in Bandera?
• What are your thoughts about the current tax rate?
• What is the most important problem facing the council? And, how would you proceed to solve the problem?
• Why are you qualified to serve on the council?

Candidate Introductions:
Cindy Coffey introduced herself first, stating that serving on the city council is “all about reaching a consensus.” Coffee said she would have an “open door policy” and would address the concerns that are brought to her, and that she would say “thank you for bringing it (citizen concerns) to [her] attention.” She said that she owns several businesses in town, and thus sees herself as “vested in the success of the community.”
The second candidate to speak was Gregory Gibson, a building contractor from Northern California who has lived in Bandera for two years. (Gregory Gibson and city council incumbent Rebeca Gibson are not related.) Gregory Gibson broke the ice by stating, “I moved here for political asylum,” which produced some laughs from the crowd. Gregory Gibson said he didn’t want to be a councilman because of the pay, and that his knowledge about “how infrastructure is supposed to work,” and government contracts and laws, would be valuable to the council. “I have something to offer,” he said. “And I love this community.”
Rebeca Gibson is running for reelection. Rebeca Gibson described her term in office as a “good learning experience” and said that she has taken every opportunity to learn what she can to serve on the council. Rebeca Gibson has been a teacher with Bandera Independent School District for 12 years and her skill set reflects qualities of effective teachers: problem solving, strategic planning, and setting goals and measurable objectives. As an educator and councilwoman, she is an advocate of continuing education, civil discourse, and “getting along with others."
Lynn Palmer, another incumbent up for reelection, has called Bandera “home” since 1977. Palmer served on the city council before, from 2001 to 2007, and was appointed this year to fill a vacancy. In the last 40 years, she has seen “a lot of good changes” in Bandera. A successful business owner, she wants Bandera to “remain a small town.” “I know the duties —and the limitations — of the city council,” she said. Her priority is recognition of the fiduciary responsibilities of the city council; that is, prudent care in spending the dollars of the taxpayers.
Q & A: Cindy Coffey
Coffey (and all of the candidates) named infrastructure and water supply as big challenges and priorities for the city. She specified that a good water supply is essential for “guests” and tourism. Continuity of city projects is also a problem, she said, as is the handling of employees. Coffee is an advocate of the hire slowly, fire quickly school of business, stating that the council needs to recognize good employees and get rid of those who are not performing the duties of a job because they were inadequately vetted. “Cut your losses,” she said, “And don’t reward employees because it’s fun.”
Coffey said that she hadn’t attended any city council meetings this year, but that she reads the minutes which are posted on the city website. She said that she attended all but one meeting when she served on the council last year. (Coffey was appointed to fill a vacancy on the council May 19, 2016, and served through the end of December 2016. According to the minutes, Coffey missed about 25 percent of the meetings during her tenure and has not attended city council meetings since the forum.) Coffee said it was time for the city council meetings to be live streamed and suggested that the council take advantage of free cable and other modern means of communication. “That’s how you get more engagement (with citizens),” she said.
Coffey said that she does not support the hotel proposal. She said she was motivated to file as a candidate because of “public outcry,” and because “people want things to change.” She said that “the ends don’t justify the means,” and that the council needs to hold town hall meetings on divisive issues, such as the hotel development and the skateboard park. Those meetings need to be held when people can attend, even if that means Saturday afternoon.
Coffey said that the businesses she is building in Bandera will generate more and better paying jobs than the jobs generated by the proposed hotel. She said it was imperative to do something for young people (but didn’t specify what).
Coffey thinks the current tax rate is too high, and that the solution to the financial problems the town faces is “better management of resources and employees.” She emphasized the need for the city to make “real world” decisions, and that “raising taxes is not the answer.”
Coffey said that the most important problem the council faces was with job applicants not being vetted adequately before being hired, and with not building a sustainable, local economy. She said, “I’m vested in this community. My decisions [when serving on the council] will affect me as they affect you.” Coffee ended her comments by stating that there was a need “to change the infrastructure of government.”
Q&A: Gregory Gibson
G. Gibson said the top challenges Bandera faces are “infrastructure” and coming up with a plan to protect the town from San Antonio sprawl and expansion. He said it was important for there to be growth, but that we “can’t have our head in the sand” and allow ourselves to be “bull-dozed.”
G. Gibson said he attended 4 or 5 city council meetings last year and none this year, but that he keeps up by reading the newspaper (he didn’t say which) and sometimes the minutes online. He thinks the meetings should be available to view online or on Cable TV. (G. Gibson didn’t attend any of the city council meetings held since the forum.)
G. Gibson doesn’t like the location of the proposed hotel. “The city doesn’t need to give money to developers,” he said. “It’s not a good idea at this point.” G. Gibson said that many small towns similar in some ways to Bandera have a “franchise area” — but it is “not in downtown.”
G. Gibson said that since he moved to Bandera, he’s made friends and everybody complains that government is horrible. “So I decided to throw my hat in the ring — and TRY,” he said. “If you’re not willing to do something, then don’t complain. I also don’t like for people to run for office unopposed.”
G. Gibson said he thinks taxes are a “fact of life,” and that he will have to learn a lot about the subject of taxes and city finance if elected. He believes better management of resources will help, but in the end, taxes may have to go up to pay for necessary services. He thinks Bandera really needs a coffee shop and lamented the loss of “the Dogleg.” (G. Gibson really enjoyed the Dogleg.) He said the city needs to be “more business friendly.”
G. Gibson believes his experiences as a Marine and a businessman have prepared him to serve on the city council and have provided him with leadership abilities that will be of service to the community. “I’m not afraid of bucking the system,” he said.
In closing, G. Gibson reminded the audience that he had “plenty of knowledge” and that he “knows how to negotiate a contract.” He said, “If you don’t like what’s going on, vote for me. I’ll do the same thing Donald Trump did.”
Q&A: Lynn Palmer, incumbent
Palmer said the top three priorities for the city are infrastructure, (which she said includes the water supply and the waste water treatment plant); making adjustments to the city’s Master Plan; staffing; and following through with projects. Palmer has attended almost every city council meeting and workshop last year and this year, and —for years before that. “… Because I wanted to be knowledgeable about the things that concern the city,” she said. Palmer wishes that more citizens would come to the meetings, let their voices be heard, and be involved in city government.
Palmer said that she thinks the city needs a new hotel, but that she doesn’t agree with everything about the current proposal and ongoing negotiations. She does, however, agree with some of it.
Palmer has always been interested in city government and is committed to serving “my community to the best of my ability.” She thinks that the city needs to become more pedestrian friendly, which could be accomplished with sidewalks. She suggested partnering with the county in order to turn the old jail and courthouse into interesting destinations for tourists.
Palmer approves of the current tax rate, but underscored the likelihood that there will probably need to be an increase in the future to pay for the necessary services and upgrades to infrastructure that the community is going to need. In closing, Palmer said, “The city is almost like a business,” and reiterated her strengths as a businesswoman and commitment to community as long-term resident of Bandera.
Q&A: Rebeca Gibson, incumbent
R. Gibson described the top challenge for Bandera as infrastructure, and pointed out that the council is successfully acquiring funding sources such as grants, matching funds and low interest loans to make necessary and in some cases required improvements. The second challenge she recognizes is consistency in government despite changes in staff; and the “perseverance in accomplishing goals.”
R. Gibson attended all but one meeting last year and this year, and encourages citizen participation in local government meetings.
R. Gibson pointed out that at this point the hotel proposal hasn’t been finalized, but noted that there has always been a hotel in the spot on Main Street where the Best Western hotel is being proposed. She said that the EDC incentives were allowable by law and that the hotel had potential for generating tax revenue for the city.
R. Gibson described herself as an honest person with integrity. She likes to learn, and she makes good decisions. She would like to see more continuing education and post-secondary education programs in Bandera and some affordable housing in town. She approves of the current tax rate and thinks that citizens need to express themselves and ask themselves: “What does the community want?” The answer to that question will predict and determine the future tax rate.
R. Gibson would like for the council to engage in stronger long term planning, make revisions to the Master Plan and execute the plan. She wants to improve conversations between residents and city government and businesses as a step in establishing and achieving the community's objectives and goals.
In closing, R. Gibson spoke about her love for the community and that it goes beyond her attraction to the quiet, peaceful, quaint town. Again as a teacher, her interest is also in “what this place looks like for our youth in the future. We have a responsibility to protect this beautiful