On May 10, residents of Arlington will vote to stay the course or change things up a bit, when two of the city’s three at-large City Council seats are up for grabs.
A long list of civic involvement precedes incumbent Robert Shepard’s six years on the City Council, including seven years on the planning and zoning commission.
In an interview with the Star-Telegram editorial board, Shepard, 55, defined his role on the council as one of a “steward.” Maintaining transportation infrastructure, growing the tax base through economic development and redevelopment, and ensuring public safety have been and would remain his priorities if reelected.
As a councilman, Shepard, who is also an attorney, worked to improve Arlington’s bond rating, increasing the city’s borrowing power. And Shepard reminds those who balk at rising municipal debt that unlike the federal government, the city is required to balance its budget and is “not operating in a deficit situation.”
Opponent Chris “Dobi” Dobson is a 35-year-old massage therapist with a less conventional approach to government.
A perennial candidate, Dobson challenged Rep. Kay Granger in 2008, ran for City Council in 2009 and 2010, challenged Rep. Joe Barton in 2011 and ran for mayor in 2013.
Dobson says he would work to institute public banking to improve bond financing, streamline the city’s permitting processes that he believes encumber residents and businesses, restore the police department to an agency of peace officers instead of “revenue generators,” and improve transparency at City Hall, which he feels is grossly lacking.
A product of the AISD and a graduate of TCU, Dobson is motivated by a belief that uncontested elections deny the public of a choice, and he is determined to give them one.
District 7 incumbent Jimmy Bennett, 53, a CPA who has lived and worked in Arlington since 1990, has served on the City Council since 2008.
As an at-large member, he is mindful of serving the “city as a whole” and looking after the needs of all communities, businesses, neighborhoods and organizations within his jurisdiction.
Bennett sees setting the city budget as the most important function of the council. During his tenure, he worked to increase transparency in the city’s financial dealings — which he says is now unparalleled — while improving the city’s efficiency and increasing procurement opportunities for local businesses.
Challenger Gerald Kern, 38, has some innovative ideas but has never served in city government. Still, his record of service elsewhere is worth noting. He spent eight years in the military and was named soldier of the year for the state of Texas in 1999. He also sits on the advisory board of the Aidmatrix nonprofit organization.
Kern says his experience owning and operating a luxury transportation company would keep him plugged-in to the needs of the business community, which is critical because he believes that Arlington’s success lies in the development and execution of a long-term economic plan.
Street maintenance sales tax
On election day, voters will also decide whether or not to reauthorize the street maintenance sales tax, which raises an estimated $13 million each year for repair and resurfacing of municipal streets.
Star-Telegram reporter Susan Schrock reported that the tax pays for as much as 95 percent of all street maintenance in Arlington, a task which seems endless in the ever-expanding Metroplex.
Improving transportation infrastructure is a priority for the whole of North Texas. Since it was passed in 2002, the tax has helped the city avoid dipping into its general fund to maintain roadways.
The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends Robert Shepard for Arlington City Council District 6, Jimmy Bennett for Arlington City Council District 7 and voting for reauthorization of the street maintenance sales tax.