In an exchange of ideas — mostly mirroring those of their opponents — four candidates for City Council faced off at a debate in which they noted that economic development is the Grapevine’s most important issue.
Candidates for Place 5 and Place 6 seats took part in the April 17 forum held at The REC of Grapevine and moderated by the Tarrant County League of Women Voters.
The candidates were asked questions submitted by the group’s supporters as well as from questions submitted anonymously by the audience on note cards.
Incumbent Chris Coy is facing challenger Debi Meek in the Place 5 City Council race. Coy is director of finance at GameStop. Meek is the owner of Bermuda Gold & Silver.
Running for reelection to the Place 6 seat is incumbent Duff O’Dell, retired from Delta Air Lines, who is facing Cory Huddleston, who works in digital marketing.
Asked about the biggest issue facing Grapevine, all four said economic development but gave different perspectives.
O’Dell said it is important to make economic development work in a way that “benefits all of our citizens. She said the city is in a “great position” where businesses and companies are coming to the city “every day” and it’s their duty to continue to capitalize on that.
Meek pointed out that the city has “so little property” to be developed commercially and residentially, so it is “critical” that they maintain their “standard of excellence we’ve had.”
Coy said that it’s important to develop the remaining tracts of land the city has, noting that some of those tracts have weird topography” and that they need to be “a little creative” and find projects that help the city in terms of sales tax revenue and property taxes. He noted that it is important to address alleviating traffic congestion.
Huddleston said that “it’s more than finding something that works.” He talked about threats from other cities “that are realizing what we have and they want it.” He took exception with businesses that would threaten smaller mom-and-pop stores, saying, “Amazon right now is destroying the brick-and-mortar retail side of everything, so how are we going to handle that?”
A question on one note card asked about the candidates’ positions regarding the TEX rail project.
Last summer, ground was broken on TEX Rail, a 27-mile commuter rail project that will extend from downtown Fort Worth, through Colleyville and Grapevine, and into Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Terminal B.
The rail project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018 and will include eight other stations in addition to Grapevine, which will be located downtown at Main Street and Dallas Road. Proponents said Northeast Tarrant County will be greatly served by the project, where mass transit advocates have long held that public transportation is sorely lacking.
In addition to a hotel, plans are underway for other transit-oriented development including retail space, an observation deck, an outdoor plaza and a parking garage.
O’Dell said she was “very excited” about the project, adding: “We’re developing a beautiful train station” that will feature a boutique hotel. “I think it’s only going to add great things to Grapevine.”
Meek said that “there’s no stopping the train,” adding that their challenge is to preserve the city’s “history and our brand and what we’re known for. It’s going to be an amazing addition to our city.”
Coy said TexRAIL is “a good example of turning a challenge into an opportunity.” He said the project offers the opportunity to redevelopment the downtown property at Main Street and Dallas Road and turn the intersection into “a really cool train station” with a hotel and parking.
Huddleston said, “It is what it is. It’s here now” and that they needed to “make the best of the situation.” He said he was worried about “the crime rates increasing as time goes by,” adding that “time will tell.”
Local watchdog group A Better Grapevine sponsored the debate. 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 through their forum.
A Better Grapevine is a group of non-partisan Grapevine residents with diverse ages and backgrounds, united by the goal of increasing accountability, stewardship and transparency in our local government, Thompson said.