Arlington City Council District 4 incumbent faces newcomer in re-election bid

Posted Monday, May. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Political newcomer Daniel Wood seeks to oust longtime west Arlington representative Kathryn Wilemon in the District 4 City Council race.

Wood, 29, a medical technician, said he decided to make his first run for public office because he felt that some council members had “lost touch with the fact that they work for the citizens.”

“The city of Arlington is way over-regulated. They talk about how they have kept taxes low, but there is a fee for everything,” Wood said. “If you want to build a shed on your property, you have to ask the city’s permission and you have to pay a permit fee. A fee is a tax. We need to concentrate on bringing that kind of stuff down.”

The election is Saturday.

Wood’s top concerns include Arlington’s estimated $425 million street maintenance backlog, the nearly $1 fee increase that residents will soon see on their monthly water bill for a new recycling cart program and the city’s decision last year to stop broadcasting the public participation portion of council meetings.

While Wood is a new resident to west Arlington, incumbent Wilemon’s community service stretches back decades before she joined the council in 2003.

Wilemon, 76, vice chairperson of the Regional Transportation Council, has spent 15 years focusing on improving transit in Arlington and North Texas.

Projects Wilemon has pushed for include extending Texas 360 south to Mansfield, securing a high-speed rail stop to serve Arlington and a proposed two-year pilot program set to start in August that would bus people between downtown Arlington and the Trinity Railway Express CentrePort Station.

“North Texas is growing. We can’t build wider roads. We have got to go to a different mode of mobility. We have got to move people to jobs and all the amenities in the region,” Wilemon said.

Partnerships

Wood said he opposes the city entering into more public-private partnerships, such as helping finance Cowboys Stadium or paying for Republic Waste Services to buy new trucks and equipment for the upcoming switch from recycling bins to carts.

“Those kind of deals, they seem pretty incestuous to me. I don’t like them,” Wood said, adding that he was against the city spending taxpayer money on projects that may not be successful.

Wood is particularly troubled by the council approving a 94-cent monthly increase for residential water bills. That fee is expected to generate about $9.3 million in additional revenue over 10 years, which will help Republic recoup most of its planned $10.1 million investment in the recycling program and a natural gas fuel station.

“We are saving Republic millions of dollars by having the taxpayers pay for the upgrades. How the City Council allowed that to happen is mind-boggling to me,” Wood said.

But Wilemon said the switch to the larger rolling carts will encourage residents to recycle more and help extend the life of the city landfill. Republic will also allow Arlington to use the company’s new natural gas fueling station at a discounted rate, which will allow the city to buy more cleaner-burning vehicles and help reduce air pollution, she said.

As part of the contract revision negotiations for the recycling cart program, she said, Republic agreed not to increase its garbage collection fees. She also said that she is pushing for the council to tap the city’s landfill reserve to pay for the carts, which would reduce the fee increase.

“It was a give-and-take bargaining situation. It wasn’t all one-sided. We got many things out of the deal. The biggest was the landfill retention,” Wilemon said.

Public-private partnerships, such as the stadium deal or the proposed shuttle bus pilot program, help promote economic development, increase the city’s commercial tax base and attract new residents, she said.

“Without economic development, we deteriorate so quickly into a city that is just a bedroom community. Your core services would have to diminish,” Wilemon said.

City streets

Wood said he is also concerned about the city’s backlog of needed street repairs. If elected, he said, he would focus on fixing residential roads, sidewalks and curbs.

“Our residential streets are falling apart,” said Wood, who believes that the city has focused too much infrastructure improvement on the entertainment district and not enough on neighborhoods. “We live here. Our roads should be taken care of also.”

The council recently approved increasing road repair spending from $30 million to $40 million annually to reduce the backlog.

“It’s most important,” Wilemon said. “I’m all in favor of working on our streets.”

Other issues

If re-elected, Wilemon said, projects she will continue pushing for include an off-leash dog park in west Arlington, bioengineering to reduce erosion along the creeks and tributaries, and a centrally located multigenerational recreational facility with a pool, fitness center, meeting spaces and areas for families and seniors to gather to play games, drink coffee and eat lunch.

“It’s been my dream for years,” she said. “It would really be a service to everyone.”

Wood shrugged off criticism from the Arlington Police Association, which endorses Wilemon, that he hasn’t lived in west Arlington long. He said he believes that fixing the roads and reducing fees and regulations would raise property values, putting people to work and reducing crime.

“Just because of the fact that I wasn’t born and raised in Arlington, that doesn’t mean I don’t love Arlington. I am running for City Council because I want to see Arlington continue to prosper,” Wood said.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock

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