It is early voting time in Denton. Do you have any clue which candidate you're going to vote for? Do you know which district you live in? Do you know where to vote? Do you even know what you're having for dinner? Don't worry. It will all be okay. Let's get through it together.
As far as how to vote, there are two websites that already exist for this exact purpose. Better yet, they're both even called the same damned thing. Go check out VoteDenton.com or VoteDenton.org and find out information on where and when you can go vote. This week, you can vote early at the Civic Center and the Denton County Elections Administration Building off of 288.
We’ve asked each candidate to respond to two items as we head to the polls for early voting. You can see our two requests below:
1. A response to the "Keep Denton Gritty" letter of endorsements that was released yesterday including any key points that you may agree/disagree with and why.
2. A brief rundown of the main issues of your campaign (i.e. what is important about this election and or Denton in 2015 to you).
The responses below were copied and pasted exactly as they responded. Below we have thoughts from District 3. The candidates are Kathleen Wazny and Amber Briggle.
1A. Let's begin by talking about the recent smoking ban extension. It's government over-reach. The business owners who will be hurt by this new ordinance extension have invested in our city. They are employers. They are tax payers.
1B. Hickory Street isn't the only place business owners were hurt by extended city construction. Take a look at University. Ask those business owners what the construction process has done to their bottom line.
2. What are my goals, as a candidate for City Council Summary:
This election is about our residents and our small business owners becoming active participants in the decision making process. Welcome them in, value their experience and their input. Make them part of the conversation. It's their tax money, it's their debt, and it's their city!
2A. Consult small businesses and neighborhoods at the beginning of the decision making process, and not at the end. Give them a seat at the table. Begin the process with them.
2B. Open Government and City Council Integrity Limit City Council "Closed Sessions" Adopt a City Council Ethics Ordinance. Denton doesn't have one. Other cities do. We have an Ethics Policy, only. Council should not "self police."
2C. Fix the Planning Department Overhaul the review and permitting process. This includes all residential and non-residential applicants.
2D. Fiscal Responsibility There must be a vote on all big-ticket city projects. Half of the city's long term debt was approved by City Council, over the years, without a citizen vote. Reduce the Council's use of Certificates of Obligation.
2E. Preserve, Protect and Promote Historic Downtown Denton and our Historic Neighborhoods Actively support small businesses and neighborhoods. They've all invested in our city. Give them a seat at the table, to become a part of the decision making process. It's time to VOTE! Go to the polls. Make a difference.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Briggle's response is the form of a call and response, with her thoughts italicized.)
We are writing to you today on behalf of Keep Denton Gritty, an organization of local business owners who believe strongly in protecting our city as a fertile ground for the growth of local business.
Awesome. I'm a local business owner too and want to make sure our economy is strong. Let's do this.
As a business owner your time is a very limited and precious resource. Your employees, your customers, and your vendors all make demands on your time, to say nothing of the needs of your family and loved ones. It can be difficult to imagine why you should try to find additional time in which to devote your attention to local politics.
Tell me about it! I can relate to this statement on so many levels. Running a business, running a family, and running for city council isn't easy. But it's important, so here I am.
Yet, the seven men who sit on our city council, who are typically elected with very few votes, exercise enormous power over your business. The actions they take have a direct, measurable effect on your bottom-line. Just consider a few of the actions taken by the city council in the last year:
* Negotiations with energy providers over the price of your electric bill
Yes. DME has competitive rates because we own our own municipal utility company! Plus, 40% of our electricity comes from wind, which seems like a good idea to me. In fact, I'd like to see that number increased!
* Designating privately owned property as historic landmarks
Absolutely! Denton is the #2 destination city in the great state of Texas. People don't come here to see our strip malls and parking lots. They come to see our historic downtown square and the beautiful homes in the Oak/Hickory historic district. The owners of these homes and buildings go through a lengthy and completely voluntary process to designate these properties as historic landmarks. They are taking their own time and money to invest in Denton's future, by investing in our past. I fully support anything we can do as a city to encourage this and make it easier for landowners to take part in the historic landmark designation process.
* Increased regulation of the operation of local bars
2 years ago there was a citizens' advisory committee which studied the issue of a possible smoking ordinance, and brought their recommendations to City Council. An ordinance was crafted in large part based on their findings and suggestions. It was the understanding of both that committee and the general public that they were going to reconvene after 2 years to study this issue once again, and bring their findings to council once more. This didn't happen, and that's a disappointment. I would have advocated for that committee to meet and discuss any changes to the ordinance, prior to the vote that was taken at City Council.
* Improvements to Hickory Street which disrupted traffic to local businesses for weeks at a time
Yes. That took way too long. But now we have 76 new parking spaces, a beautiful gateway to the city (for the folks riding the A-Train from Dallas, this is their entry point), and an entire area that was once written off and ignored is arguably one of the hottest spots in town for entertainment and dining. Road construction affects all businesses -- look at the ones along University Drive right now! (A TxDOT project, by the way.) With much-needed road repairs happening now and many more on the horizon, the city must be responsive to the needs of the business community and make sure that these repairs happen as quickly and painlessly as possible.
* The adoption of new building and plumbing codes
Absolutely. We want the best and safest buildings. Though there needs to be some degree of flexibility in the Denton Development Code (why, for example, did West Oak Coffee Bar have to pay for a grease trap?! They sell pie, not fries.), the fact is that we've had building codes for a long time now, and without changes to those codes, we'd still have asbestos in our attics and lead paint on our walls. We need to have high standards, but we also need to have some room for interpretation for businesses that may not necessarily "fit" the code.
* Noise ordinance exceptions to allow lucrative arts and music festivals in the downtown area
Yes, and 35 Denton was a great success, once again. It's good for business and good for Denton! We are so fortunate to live in a town with so much creativity and energy, and these sorts of things need to be fostered and encouraged by our city leaders. In fact, this is the VERY reason why you need to vote. These types of events don't just happen on accident. It's a partnership between our creative citizens and our supportive councilmembers. Make sure you vote for the person who supports these ideas and these initiatives -- because without council support, these festivals could easily become a thing of the past.
Whether you agree or disagree with their rationale, whether any individual measure helped or hurt your business – one or more of these actions DID affect your business and others like it.
It is for this reason that we are reaching out to you today to offer our endorsement for those candidates which we believe have demonstrated, by their votes and by their actions, that they will be champions of small, local business on our city council.
We are happy to endorse Robert Doyle Cain for District 1, John Ryan for District 2, Kathleen Wazny for District 3 and Joey Hawkins for District 4.
Hey, now! I'm a champion of small, local business! Many of my friends are small, local business owners. I shop at small, local businesses. I live in a bustling part of town with dozens of small, local businesses. In fact, I actually own a small, local business right in the heart of District 3! That's something my challenger can't claim, so I'm a little confused about why Keep Denton Gritty is endorsing her and not me?
Early voting begins this Monday and we urge you to make the time to protect your business by casting your vote.
I agree! Voter turnout in Denton is at an all-time low. If you want things like music festivals, a thriving downtown, historic landmarks, wind energy, and support for small, local businesses, then you need to vote. Early voting is easy and takes less than 10 minutes. Call me if you need a ride: 940-536-8720
2. A brief rundown on the importance of this election:
Look, y'all. Denton didn't become cool on accident. It was a deliberate conversation that we the people took to the city leaders. Some were unresponsive. Some were totally on board. Once a critical mass was achieved, we started getting things like food trucks, train service, and the community market. Don't let that get taken away. A simple majority of council -- just four people -- could squash these accomplishments. No more noise variances for things like 35 Denton. No more partnerships with the Community Market to provide electricity to food vendors and musicians. No more prioritizing the bike plan or crosswalks. No more frack ban.
Let's say YES to Denton. Yes to small businesses. Yes to our quality of life. Yes to clean air and clean water. Yes to trees, wind power, recycling at apartment buildings, curbside compost pickup. Yes to mixed use, human-scale development. Yes to complete streets, built for PEOPLE, not just for cars. Yes to historic preservation. Yes to little d.
I am asking for your vote because we are growing, and growing fast. I want Denton to be a place I'm proud of, not just another town on the map. We have the potential to be so much more -- but we also have the potential to lose out. I have several ideas that I'd like to explore as your councilwoman -- too many to list here. I invite you to check out my website The Best Denton to hear more about some of these initiatives that will make us the Best Denton.... not the Next Austin.
Without your vote and your voice, Denton's greatness could be quickly smothered by the rest of the metroplex. Don't let that happen, Denton. We are counting on YOU to get to the polls today. Considering how few people actually vote in a city council race, your vote (mathematically speaking) is a HUGE factor. Make it count.
So there you have it, District 3 Dentonites! Hopefully, if you haven't paid much attention to the ongoing forums, interviews, and the like that have been a part of this extremely important election so far, maybe now you have somewhat of an idea of which candidate to vote for. Go run over to the polls, early vote, and get that sweet sticker while you still can! You can early vote tomorrow (Saturday) from 7am - 7pm at the Denton County Voting Administration Building off of Loop 288.