DISTRICT 3 CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE INTERVIEWS

DISTRICT 3

Yup, it's still politics week at WeDentonDoIt. We've been interviewing every person running for city council this year in numerical order by district. Yesterday we heard from District 2 candidates Dalton Gregory and Alfredo Sanchez. Apparently Alfredo's wife makes the best tacos in town. We're still waiting on our invitation to try them out. Gregory, however, prefers Frilly's fish tacos. 

Today, we hear from District 3 candidates, Jim Engelbrect (incumbent) and his opponents, Griffen Rice and Brendan Carroll. We asked them each the exact same questions, but received pretty different answers. If you live in District 3, or just want to see what's going on over there, read up and maybe be convinced by Brendan to try tofu in your tacos this weekend. Don't know which district you live in? Check out VoteDenton.org to find out! 


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JIM ENGELBRECHT 

What are the three most important issues facing the city today?

 Remaining inclusive to the many diverse voices across the community.  Every issue is most important to someone.  Frequently those many divergent voices have some great ideas that will be missed if we do not listen.

Mobility – providing citizens the opportunity to safely move about the city on foot, by bicycle, or in a motor vehicle.

The issue we do not know about yet.  Example:  Last year we experienced an unprecedented outbreak of West Nile Virus. The City Council immediately raised the situation to a priority issue and made several decisions regarding appropriate response as the public health threat unfolded. I might add that the Council has had more than one after action review of our response to assess our actions and initiate changes to better address the issue in the future.

What do you think are Denton’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?

 A major strength of this city is the cadre of citizens (school-age, college students, young professionals, families, retirees, new entrepreneurs, established small businesses, and corporate partners) who are involved, informed, energetic, and regularly express concern about the community and all its associated institutions, in the present and for the future.

A second strength lies with the many businesses and institutions that provide services at the local, regional, national and international level.  Collectively they provide employment, education, opportunities for recreation, services to the economically distressed, a variety of arts venues to all ages, and a wide range of faith alternatives to the community.

Other notable strengths include:  our first responders/emergency personnel who are very dedicated, well trained, and experienced;  the fact that we are a full-service city (operate our own electric utility, solid waste operation, water utility, etc.);  and, placing a high priority, along with many local institutions, on sustainability.

 Going forward we must constantly caution ourselves to not lose sight of the need to plan for the future while we manage the wide array of ongoing activities.

What single thing makes your district awesome?

The mix – District 3 has a varied and growing array of college students, young singles, families and retirees residing in a wide range of housing (historic, 50s/60s bungalows, 70s/80s tracks, retiree communities, and apartments of every age and marketed to every socio-economic level).  The District also contains many retail opportunities, commercial development in many forms, a growing airport, and a very large university.

How do you see your possible councilman-ship positively affecting Denton?

I hope I have demonstrated my commitment over the past 30 years of engagement across the community:  two terms on the city council;  four-plus terms on the Planning and Zoning Commission;  and, years of service with a variety of local service organizations, including Friends of the Family, Habitat for Humanity, Denton Affordable Housing, Denton Community Food Room, Carter Blood Care, and the Denton Rotary Club.

In your opinion, what is the best taco in Denton?

It depends on my culinary desires at the moment.  I define a taco as anything served in a tortilla (hard or soft) and in Denton there appears to be no limit.  I must say that they are all always better when accompanied by a local brew.


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GRIFFEN RICE 

What are the three most important issues facing the city today?

-Environmental issues: These range from the notorious fracking issue to community gardens to waste management to renewable energy. We need to lead the pack in the green revolution.

-Economic issues: Like the rest of Texas, Denton has remained pretty insulated from the recent economic downturn, but there are still issues that always need to be addressed. Local businesses are always welcomed and we need to be able to entice people to settle here because of what we offer. Homelessness and food insecurity in public schools need work as well.

-Red tape/ Bureaucracy: No matter your political leanings nobody wants or needs unnecessary regulation. Denton has some archaic ordinances height restrictions on buildings that need to be updated or thrown away all together.

What do you think are Denton's greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Denton’s greatest strength is its culture. To live in Denton is a unique experience. We are a small town, but we aren’t interchangeable with other small Texas towns. Our culture comes from our people who have defined Denton in wonderful ways from our schools to our local businesses, to our neighborhoods, and I would like to continue expanding and creating Denton culture.

Our greatest weakness is the relationship of our citizens to their local government. Like most cities our voter turnout for local offices is dreadful, which stems from a combination indifference, ignorance, and frustration. People don’t know to what extent local government affects them. They don’t know when/where/ how to vote. That is a shortcoming of many places, but part of my campaign is to get participation. I don’t want to simply win by a majority. I want to win by a majority with the other two candidates also having more votes than the last election. I want my victory to mean something. I want to represent my whole district, not just the 1% of constituents who normally vote.

What single thing makes your district awesome?

Our contribution to the city as a whole is what makes my district awesome. We helped to define Denton. Downtown may not be in District 3, but we are the patrons and owners of the square. District 3 is mostly neighborhoods, which means we are the life-blood of this town. We also have UNT, which is a huge contributor to our town’s culture, population, and general economic growth.

How do you see your possible councilman-ship positively affecting Denton?

I see Denton being a greener city, both metaphorically and literally. Denton is well on its way to being a leader in environmentally friendly living. I would also like to ensure that the budgeting process is as efficient as it can be, and make sure that funds are allocated in ways that improve Denton.  Denton is going to grow, and we need to make sure that happens in a way that best uses the city’s resources and keeps Denton an attractive place to live. Roads are extremely important to any city’s infrastructure and education is always a good way to invest in human capital.

In your opinion, what is the best taco in Denton?

Anything of the breakfast variety has my vote. I frequent Fuzzy’s when I’m on the square with friends.


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BRENDAN CARROLL

What are the three most important issues facing the city today?

From my perspective, the following three key issues are at the crux of each challenge faced by our City today, how to promote the well being of all members of our community, how to sustain development while maintaining quality city dynamics, and how to engage the community. Spawning new and innovative ideas from these old challenges will require a fresh approach.

What do you think are Denton's greatest strengths and weaknesses?

All that make up our community; people, schools, businesses, parks, libraries, festivals, neighborhoods, institutions, etc … are Denton’s greatest strengths. Our greatest weakness is our failure to unite as a polity more often. Together we make up both of Denton’s greatest weaknesses and Denton’s greatest strengths.

What single thing makes your district awesome?

District 3 is full of awesomeness. Places like; North Lakes Park, the University of North Texas, the Fry Street Area, Historic Neighborhoods and other great places and people, come together to make our District awesome. Without the sum of all of this, District 3 would be diminished, just as Denton would be diminished without District 3. The single thing that makes District 3 awesome is the collective awesome that makes District 3 so awesome!

How do you see your possible councilman-ship positively affecting Denton

As a longtime resident with a strong commitment to Denton and its local institutes, I believe I can add balance and value to City government. I have both enthusiasm and perspective. I will give each issue the critical thought and attention it requires and work hard to be the most responsive member of your City government. Plus, I was really good at SimCity.

In your opinion, what is the best taco in Denton?

As a vegan, there are only a handful of taco options. Mi Casita makes a really tasty crispy bean taco and their guacamole is quite delicious too, but my absolute favorite taco is the Tofu Scramble Breakfast Taco made fresh by Denton Vegan Cooperative and served hot and nearly regularly at the Denton Community Market. Yummy!