Southlake Journal

June 10, 2014

Grapevine City Council hopefuls face off in debate

The sponsor was A Better Grapevine, in advance of the runoff.

The two challengers vying for the City Council Place 6 seat being vacated by Roy Stewart, who chose not to seek reelection, faced off in a debate June 6.

The debate was sponsored by local watchdog group A Better Grapevine.

Kathleen Thompson, a member of the group founded in 2011, said she wanted the voters to get a better chance to get to know the candidates — LuAnn Chapman Gatts and Duff O’Dell — in lieu of the June 21 runoff election.

O’Dell, who co-owns a business in Grapevine, says her platform is a vested interest in helping keep Grapevine great for generations to come.

Chapman Gatts, who owns a financial planning and investment business, says it is important to keep Grapevine’s unique mix of historic preservation with being a premier destination for both convention and leisure visitors.

The two met at Stacy Furniture & Design. Georgia Kidwell of the League of Women Voters was the moderator.

O’Dell, who is “passionate about Grapevine,” said a prominent issue was working on the city’s downtown area parking problem.

Chapman Gatts, who is an “action taker,” said she would address getting more people out to vote, with an emphasis on younger voters who did not turn out heavily in the May 10 election.

In that election, City Council’s Place 6 drew four people seeking to take Stewart’s spot. Four ran — the other candidates were Deverick P. Jordan and Marc Blum.

At election end, a runoff was required between O’Dell, who had 1,025 votes, and Chapman Gatts, who had 645 votes.

The runoff will be June 21, with early voting Friday through June 17.

In the entire election, there were 2,524 valid votes out of a possible 28,783 votes, representing 8.77 percent, according to Jodi Brown, city secretary.

The debate came one night after the June 3 City Council meeting, where City Council members informally said goodbye to Stewart, who offered the invocation.

After 18 years of service, Stewart, 82, said he is retiring because “it’s time,” knowing he is leaving the city in good hands.

The City Council meeting is available online, a new addition provided by the city.

At a March 4 City Council meeting, a unanimous vote paved the way for the videotaping of City Council and Planning & Zoning meetings. At that time, meetings were available only with audio.

The multimedia services contract from Plano-based Swagit Productions includes live streaming and archiving.

Mayor Pro-Tem C. Shane Wilbanks noted early on that while audio recordings only were helpful to him because he knows all the voices of the city staff, that others interested in city government might not have that ability.

The mayor pro-tem said it would be a “great educational tool” allowing visitors to the site — including students — to not only see the city officials in action, but be able to view interesting elements such as when area Boy Scouts lead the pledge of allegiance at meetings.

Mayor William B. Tate agreed that it was important for people to be able “to see” their officials at work.

Swagit installed cameras in the council chambers and in the room used for planning & zoning commission meetings.

Prior to the new arrangement, representatives for A Better Grapevine had been shooting video of the City Council meetings and posting them online for months.

Kathleen said she and her group — which is dedicated to increasing accountability, stewardship and transparency in local government — were “very happy” at the decision to go with video.

“Residents have the right to know what decisions are made and how,” she said.

Thompson wasn’t at her usual post filming the City Council meeting June 3 because it was no longer necessary.

“I celebrated that night by having dinner with my family at home and watched the video afterward,” Thompson said.

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