Arlington mayoral candidates mostly agree but debate anyway

Arlington mayoral candidate Jeff Williams.
Arlington mayoral candidate Jeff Williams. Star-Telegram archives

Two men with few disagreements about their vision for Arlington managed to have a lively discussion anyway Monday night at a mayoral candidate debate.

Jeff Williams, the first significant challenger that Mayor Robert Cluck has faced in six terms, was on the offensive early, vowing to involve people of diversity and youth to bring “new energy to city government.”

When Cluck pointed out the successes of the Viridian development in north Arlington, AT&T Stadium, The Highlands shopping center in southwest Arlington, and the increase in business at General Motors, Williams countered.

“This is about doing more,” Williams said. “I spent two years of my life trying to convince Mayor Cluck that [the Viridian development] was a good idea.” He said similar ideas often stayed on Cluck’s desk without going to the council.

“You’re confused about what comes across the mayor’s desk,” said Cluck, who remained unflustered. “Everything across it goes to the council.”

Cluck repeatedly pointed out that city government is a working relationship between a mayor and a city council.

“It won’t be one person who will lead us; it will be nine,” Cluck said. “You think you can just snap your fingers and get things done, but it doesn’t work that way.”

During the debate at the University of Texas at Arlington’s Maverick Activities Center, topics including red-light cameras, the reduction of lanes for Abram Street, downtown development similar to Fort Worth’s West Seventh Street, and one of Williams’ most colorful ideas, to turn Division Street with its numerous used car lots into an auto-themed attraction of eateries and spots for classic car shows.

“Right now, we’re not even in the marketplaces,” said Williams, a construction engineer whose firm has notable projects in a number of cities. “The Deloittes, the Fidelities, the Liberty Mutuals and the Federal Expresses, we’re not there to compete.”

Allan Saxe of UTA’s political science faculty was moderator, adding a light and entertaining touch. Questioners were the presidents of the campus Republican and Democratic student clubs.

About 450 people had reserved seats early for the debate.

The debate was hosted by the Arlington Voice news publication, which did not invite the other two candidates on the ballot, Jerry Pikulinski and Didmus Banda.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @shirljinkins