Candidates for Mansfield school board and city council squared off last week in a forum that had little dissension, but offered voters a chance to weigh their choices before the May 9 election.
Mansfield Matters, a nonpartisan community group, hosted the event in the community room at Newsom Stadium on Thursday evening, drawing an interactive crowd of approximately 60, asking questions ranging from reducing homework to keeping down taxes.
City council incumbents Darryl Haynes, Stephen Lindsay and Cory Hoffman promoted the city’s healthy growth as reasons to keep the status quo - and re-elect them.
“We’re riding a tremendous amount of momentum,” said Hoffman, who is seeking is fourth three-year term in Place 5.
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Tamera Bounds, who is challenging Hoffman, countered that “Mansfield could benefit from fresh eyes and a fresh voice.”
Eighteen-year-old Anthony Gonzales admitted that he did not have as much experience as the rest of the council candidates, but that “The status quo isn’t always a good thing,” said Gonzales, who is challenging Lindsay for Place 3. “Nobody has all the experience when they begin in government.”
Lindsay, who has been on the council since 2010 when he was elected to fill an unfinished term, said he thinks of government as a “participatory process,” with residents getting involved as much as possible.
Larry Menendez, who is also challenging Hoffman for Place 5, was unable to attend the forum. Haynes, who is running for his fourth term in Place 4, is unopposed.
All of the council candidates agreed that they didn’t like taxes, but that they are necessary. The disagreement came in who should pay for the city’s growth.
The incumbents agreed that issuing bonds to pay for roads that will attract new homes and businesses, which pay sales and property taxes.
“The focus is not on putting the growth back on our citizens,” Lindsay said. “Retail follows rooftops, that brings in retail and industry. Debt issuance is a critical tool for the city.”
Bounds said she “didn’t know that I totally agree with bonds. I say we look at the people here.”
Growth needs to be managed, Gonzales said.
“All of this growth can be positive, but it can also be a negative,” he said. “It’s only positive if we stay ahead of the infrastructure.”
Mansfield school board race
In the school board election, things were even more conciliatory. Beth Light is running unopposed for her fourth three-year term in Place 2. Michelle Newsom and Nicole Wooldridge are battling for Place 1, which trustee Terry Moore has held since 2006. Moore is not seeking re-election.
The hottest topics facing the trustee candidates were schedules and homework, which they all agreed need to be weighed -- but with caution. Several parents have spoken at recent school board meetings against the 45-minute classes in intermediate, middle and high school, and the burden that short class periods puts on students to do a lot of work outside the classroom.
“Homework hits home for me,” said Newsom, who has middle school and high school students. “I have strong feelings about it. You can’t just flip a switch. I support (Superintendent Jim Vaszauskas) and the process he has set in motion in response, the forums and surveys.”
Wooldridge agreed, saying there could be many different solutions, and that the district should study the options.
Light said she wanted to hear from more members of the community.
“We have 30,000 students in the district, 10,000 in high school,” she said. “We have heard from less than 50. We have got to have a good balance to make a decision. We have got to do something about the homework.”
The three candidates also agreed that the district could be looking at another bond election soon.
“We have got to fix the problem of how to utilize Ben Barber (Career Tech Academy),” Wooldridge said. “As it gets larger, there may come a time when we need one on the other side of town.”
“We have 3,300 rooftops coming (in planned residential developments),” she said. “We would be lying to think a bond package is not in our future.”
Angie Thor, the moderator for the Mansfield Matters forum, said she believes it’s important for voters to know their local representatives.
“The local community has a larger impact than the state and national level,” she said. “If you have a city council that makes a bone-headed decisions and you can’t have roads, then people don’t move here and that affects the tax rate.”
Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451
City council and school board candidates will be featured in a Candidate Forum at 11:30 a.m. April 23, hosted by the Mansfield Area Chamber of Commerce at Walnut Creek Country Club, 1151 Country Club Drive. Luncheon is $30; $25 for members until April 21. RSVP to 817-473-0507; www.mansfieldchamber.org.