Music City Mall hosted a city council debate moderated by The Lewisville Texan Journal publisher Steve Southwell Thursday evening. The debate featured incumbent Rudy Durham against Winston Edmondson for mayor and incumbent Neil Ferguson against Ronnie Cade for place 2.
Place 2 candidate Mary Smith had an emergency the day of the forum and could not attend. Mayoral candidate Penny Mallet had previously said the date would work for her, but also did not appear.
Questions ranged from how to develop the retail sector of the city, projects on the 2025 plan, the overall role of the city and what needed to change and general background about the candidates.
Throughout the debate, Durham and Ferguson explained what the city has done to grow during their tenure, but maintained several of the processes are complicated. An example of this occurred when Durham spoke about the city’s involvement in the retail sector, saying the market is changing and suggested it may be necessary for new, innovative laws.
Cade also harkened back to her experience, where she served on council from 1994 to 1998, but maintained the city should make sure it’s not doing too much. Namely, the city should focus on fitting needs and work at a rate of development that will not mortgage the future.
Edmondson proposed the most change throughout the night, suggesting the role of the mayor be more visible to the public and expand commissions and committees so residents can have more say.
“What can a mayor do to go above and beyond to be the face of the city?” Edmondson said. “With a little bit more effort … we can take things a little bit further.”
Transparency and mayoral involvement was a topic Edmondson hit on consistently throughout the debate, specifically saying the council and city should work to be more involved and open with the people. Ferguson pushed back on this idea, saying people have always been heard at meetings since he was in office and the information given out to citizens, specifically on the 2025 plan, is abundant. He also said the role of the government is to do things people can’t do alone.
“In a perfect city, there would be no government,” Ferguson said. “Except there are some things people can’t do, like set up a water treatment plant or a library.”
Where Edmondson said the city should be doing more, the rest of the candidates focused on and expressed the difficulty they have faced trying to get residents more involved and informed on what is happening around them. Durham told a story of someone who once came to city council and complained about public involvement being so low.
“This person said, ‘you make a whole lot of bad decisions and force people to come down here … and they’ll get involved,’” Durham said.
The 2025 plan was a key point of the discussion regarding how things get done in the city and whether or not the city is developing too quickly. Ferguson said the plan is the driving force for everything happening in the city and harped on how efficiently and quickly things are moving. Durham shared this sentiment but added the plan was more a guideline than set-in-stone. Cade also tied this in with budget and expressed the city has been known to be one of the leanest operations in the area.
Castle Hills was discussed as well, with all candidates agreeing and supporting the eventual annexation of the area, but listing specific challenges that may arise. Ferguson gave his history on this issue and his past pitches regarding how to deal with the potential cultural difference between the two areas. Cade disagreed with this assessment of the problem.
With light of the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland County, Florida and the continuing national conversation surrounding gun violence, school safety and the role of the city was also discussed. Edmondson used it as an opportunity to say the city needed more police, adding we are over 40 officers short. This was a sentiment Durham agreed with, but said it would be difficult to fund that size of a police force, specifically to assist on campuses. Ferguson and Cade were on the same page about a limited, but effective role the city can have in assisting Lewisville ISD.
The election for mayor and place 2 will be held on May 5, 2018.
The full video of the forum is below. (Candidate intros begin at 6:40)