In the first of our week-long series of brief interviews with city council candidates, we sent five questions to Kevin Roden. Roden is running uncontested for his second term, however, he didn't let that fact deter him from giving us detailed responses to each of our questions.
What are the three most important issues facing the city today?
BUILDING OUR LOCAL ECONOMY – Denton is in the admirable position of being a city where smart, creative, and ambitious young people want to live. We must be about the business of figuring out how we can keep them here and substantially employed. First, it is time to expand our economic development strategy to grow our innovation/creative/tech sector. Along those lines, I advocate the development of a downtown Innovation District in order to foster an environment for start-ups and established innovation leaders. Second, we should add “economic gardening” to our business development toolbox and partner with existing resources, including our universities, to incubate and accelerate local businesses who demonstrate the potential to scale. Third, as a community we should identify and work toward developing key amenities necessary to attracting employers and retaining our growing creative class.
STRENGTHENING NEIGHBORHOODS – Just beyond the family, one’s own neighborhood is the foundation of a healthy local democracy. Investing in our neighborhoods also improves our local economy. First, develop a neighborhood improvement program aimed at the first and second ring of downtown single family neighborhoods (including Austin Street area, PECAN area, Stroud area, SE Denton, etc.). What were once written off as places for landlords to invest in rental properties for college students are becoming the most sought after houses in the city, thanks, in part, to their proximity to downtown and the limited stock of early-century homes. Second, encourage the development of neighborhood “branding” and begin the development of multiple, distinct districts throughout the city. Third, with attitudes toward density and mixed-use development shifting, the city should reevaluate development policies and goals, particularly as they relate to neighborhoods in the core.
FIXING LOCAL DEMOCRACY – A mere 4-7% of registered voters participate in local elections. I have made it one of my main priorities over the course of my first term to better engage the citizenry and widen the paths of meaningful public discourse and engagement. I agree with Alexis de Tocqueville who wrote that the health of a national democracy was dependent on the robustness of democracy in the cities, for at this most concrete level is where we learn just how to be democratic citizens. I plan on continuing my work in this direction.
What do you think are Denton's greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Our citizenry is our greatest strength. The amount of education, creativity, ambition, and community-mindedness is remarkable for a city our size. Add to this the collaborative spirit that exists and is growing among our most important institutions and there really isn’t a problem within our city that can’t be fixed with the ingredients already present in our city. Other strengths include: our unique identity, our sense of place, our commitment to the environment, our world-class musical and artistic landscape, and Midway Mart.
Our biggest weakness: we just care too much.
What single thing makes your district awesome?
An impossible question for a district which contains the likes of: downtown, all the music venues, the Taco Mile [sic - he means East McKinney Taco Corridor], the courthouse, both train stations, beautiful Southeast Denton, TWU, just about the entirety of the rail trail, 35 Denton, the Denton Community Market, 3 of the Midlake boys and their bar, Quakertown Park, and the Loop 288 Walmart.
But to narrow it down to a single thing, I’d like to point to a quote from famed Texas architect O’Neil Ford, who once said this about the influence our courthouse had on his creative pursuits: “I used to just stand there, wondering how they ever got it up .... I was in Denton just the other day ... so I went over to look at the courthouse again and still don't know how they ever did that blasted, blessed thing." The greatness of that courthouse, standing in the heart of District 1, is contagious. Greatness begets greatness. Beauty begets beauty. No wonder a thousand great and beautiful things can be found in its shadow here in District 1.
How do you see your possible councilman-ship
positively affecting Denton?
I am proud to have brought several new ideas and initiatives during my first two years in office. Among them:
- The first council member to maintain a regularly-updated website complete with council meeting previews and information on how to get involved.
- The first council member to fully utilize social media to stay connected with the citizens.
- I created a Youth Council to advise me during my first year in office.
- I initiated and now chair the new Council Committee on Citizen Engagement.
- I launched the Creative Economy Initiative, hosted the first Denton Creatives Mixer, and watched as many initiatives grew from that, including CreateDenton.com.
- I’ve been a strong advocate of public transportation and directly involved in the push to expand night and weekend train service.
- I brought Denton it’s first Food Truck Fest, in collaboration with DCTA, Denton CVB, and the City of Denton.
- I was proud to help lead the council efforts on Payday Lender reform in Denton, making Denton the first mid-size city in Texas to regulate these businesses.
Whether you like it or not, you are stuck with me for two more years. It is my honor and pleasure to serve this great city and I plan on adding to these initiatives during my second term.
opinion, what is the best taco in Denton?
It depends on the time of day. For breakfast, it is a toss-up between a chorizo, potato, egg, and cheese taco at Casa Galaviz (with their frequently intense salsa) or a potato, egg, chorizo, bean, and cheese taco at Mi Casita. For lunch, if I want a carne asada taco, I go to Taqueria Guanajuato and insist on a side of the roasted tomato salsa sitting in the vat beside the cash register. If I’m leaning the al Pastor route, I head over to Taqueria Sabrocita on Dallas Drive. La Mexicana is a great stop for dinner, partly due to their ample seating and the availability of beer. There I will typically order an asada plate. There is no other choice for late night tacos but La Estrella. Not only do you get great tacos, you often can pair them with live music from the Super Estrellas and a hug from Gracie. All of these establishments, I might add, reside in District 1.