Arlington

North Arlington council candidates offer views on short-term rentals, transportation

Barbara Odom-Wesley and  Helen Moise are running for the Arlington City Council District 1 seat.
Barbara Odom-Wesley and Helen Moise are running for the Arlington City Council District 1 seat. Handout photos

North Arlington is a mix of sprawling apartment complexes, new restaurants, the entertainment district and the fast-growing master-planned community Viridian.

It's District 1 on the Arlington City Council, a seat that for six years has been held by Charlie Parker, who is not seeking re-election.

Issues in the district include the regulating of short-term rentals, traffic and the need for more public transportation.

It's one of two contested City Council races. In the other, District 6 incumbent Robert Shepard is being challenged by Chris "Dobi" Dobson who has run numerous times for mayor and council seats, losing each time.

Arlington boosters would say it's already happening with 26 restaurants, new downtown apartment complexes and a new library opening in June.

Voters will also decide whether to renew dedicating a quarter-cent of the sales to street repairs and maintenance. The sales tax generates about $14-15 million annually to repair potholes and cracks in roadways. It will expire on Dec, 31 if voters don't approve it again.

District 1: A short-term plan

In the District 1 race, Helen Moise, a retired real estate consultant and chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, will be facing Barbara Odom-Wesley, a retired healthcare professional who is the daughter of former mayor, Elzie Odom.

Odom-Wesley, who retired in 2015, also pursued a career in academia, teaching at Texas Woman's University in Denton, her alma mater, for 32 years. She and also worked as an adjunct professor at UT-Arlington. and was a health information management professor at DeVry University when she retired.

Moise said her real estate experience and time on the P&Z gives her a good understanding of economic development and commercial real estate growth.

She worked in commercial real estate and asset management for 35 years before retiring in 2015

Moise pledged to "bring a sound, reasonable approach" to the job.

Both candidates are troubled by short-term rentals impact on neighborhoods, especially in District 1.

The proximity to the entertainment district has led to more north Arlington short-term rentals, such as those rented through websites like airbnb and vrbo.

"I think north Arlington is far more effected by short-term rentals than the rest of the city," Moise said. "I'm watching it carefully."

But Moise acknowledges that there's a chance the Arlington City Council will decide before the election whether to regulate short-term rentals.

Arlington "absolutely needs an ordinance" to deal with noise, garbage and parking issues that come with short-term rentals, Odom-Wesley said.

She has also repeatedly heard residents say they want more affordable housing and some form of public transportation within the city. She would consider using the remaining quarter-cent of sales tax available toward some type of public transportation.

While Odom-Wesley is intrigued by the Via rideshare program and Milo, an autonomous shuttle that operates in the entertainment district, she said neither of those programs will pick up residents in most of north Arlington.

"I visited with residents in the Viridian neighborhood in north Arlington where teenagers would like to work at Six Flags and there's no way for them to get there," Odom-Wesley said. "I know the city has done some innovative things but I would like to see some more public transportation."

Arlington voters have rejected public transportation every chance it has been placed on the ballot.

"The citizens made that decision and they've decided three times," Moise said. "I'm not sure we have enough tax money left to do what my opponent wants to do."

In her most recent campaign finance report through March 26, Moise maintained a balance of $5,460.58 in contributions while Odom-Wesley had a balance of $5,122.12 through April 2.

Arlington Council 3rd Smoking Vote 5_9_17 2.JPG
Arlington City Councilman Robert Shepard, left, is seeking reelection for Arlington City Council District 6. Star-Telegram

District 6: Economic development

In District 6, which is an at-large seat, voters will decide between incumbent Robert Shepard, an attorney, and Chris "Dobi" Dobson a substitute teacher and massage therapist. Dobson has ran repeatedly for public office, including against Shepard in 2014, and decided to run on the last day of filing.

"I use it as a mechanism to speak directly to the City Council," Dobson said. "Sometimes, I find it hard to reach them."

Shepard, who was first elected in 2008 and is chairman of the economic development committee, said he is running again because attracting new businesses is one of his major priorities.

"Before I end my career, I want to make some of our economic development strategies are a little more concrete than in the past," Shepard said. "All of that is really just a way to grow the tax base and attempt to lessen the burden on homeowners. More businesses mean mean more ad valorem taxes."

Arlington is doing fairly well in economic development, Shepard said, even though it has less funds to play with than other cities.

"We're hampered in Arlington because we don't have the economic development tax that many, if not all, of our neighbors have to fund economic development," Shepard said. "We're really limited to incentive packages to retain and attract new businesses."

Despite these challenges Shephard noted that the Dallas Business Journal named Texas Live!, the $250 million entertainment complex that is scheduled to open in August, as "Deal of the Year." Arlington also won the publication's best industrial deal for the $278 million Arlington Automotive Logistics Center on the site of the old Six Flags Mall while the UPS Regional hub was a finalist in the same category.

Frisco and Plano often get touted for their economic development and Shepard said those cities have more undeveloped real estate, which can be used to entice companies. But Shepard said Arlington's proximity to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport is an asset.

"I think that's part of the reason that D.R. Horton chose to come back to Arlington," said Shepard, referring to the nation's biggest home builder's moving from downtown Fort Worth in 2017.

Chris Dobson for District 6 City Council
Chris Dobson is running for District 6 on the Arlington City Council. Star-Telegram

Dobson said he is troubled by the city's cozy relationship with sports franchises, including the agreement to help pay for a portion of the $1.1 billion Globe Life Field that is currently under construction.

"The city gave money with absolutely no consultation about what the final design and amenities would look like," Dobson said.

He believes any tickets the city receives should go to residents in some type of a lottery or raffle.

He is also troubled by Arlington's continued pursuit of relationships with professional sports from the recent renaming the Chester Ditto golf course as the Texas Rangers Golf Club. to the announcement of renovating the Arlington Convention Center to serve as an eSports stadium.

Dobson also believes the City Council is insulated from its low-income population and doesn't fully understand their needs or problems.

In his most recent campaign finance report that ran through April 5, Shepard maintained a balance of $8,760.34 in contributions. Dobson had not filed a report.

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna
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