On Saturday, May 6th, cities all over Texas held elections for local city councils, school boards, mayors, and propositions. Those who voted decided some key issues for those who didn’t. As Jon Stewart quipped, “It is perhaps a sign of the strength of our republic that so few people feel the need to participate. That must be the reason.” For those who did vote, pat yourself on the back – you are unfortunately the exception that proves the rule of anemic local vote turnout.
But I get it. Election day was double-booked with the Cinco de Mayo parade and festivities! It was free comic book day! Actually, it was — don't tell me you skipped the polls AND didn't get a free comic book? Read on to learn what key decisions were made and how it will affect the future of Denton!
DENTON ISD SCHOOL TRUSTEES
The Denton ISD school board provides valuable leadership to ensure our children grow up smarter than us. They help to ensure that we grow into a city with opportunity for all rather than a shell of a city which could have been great.
The incumbent, Jim Alexander, prevailed over Alfredo Sanchez, a valiant challenger with much support who organized much of the campaign against the senior tax freeze. The other trustee spot up for election was split three ways, between the incumbent Dorothy Martinez (48.5%), former Denton band director Justin Bell (37%), and former Denton City Council candidate Sam Ortiz (14.4%). As the school board election doesn't require a single candidate to gain more than 50% of the vote, Martinez won and there will be no run-off.
DENTON CITY COUNCIL
This year, the only incumbent running (Keely Briggs of district 2) had no challenger, but she still garnered a large number of votes due to people coming out to vote for or against Proposition 1. You can read at length about each of the candidates running in some of our prior coverage of the election.
Trying to tease out common trends in who won and who lost this year is a challenge. Hudspeth, Meltzer, and Servis were the most outspoken about wanting to bring change to our city. While Hudspeth prevailed in District 1, Meltzer’s fate will be decided in a runoff and Servis lost to Ryan (a former district 2 council member). Duff was the only outspoken supporter of Proposition 1 (senior tax freeze).
Proposition 1 focused on a property tax freeze for those ages 65 and older. The proposition passed 51.37% to 48.63%. It established a senior tax freeze, whereby any senior qualifying for the homestead exemption at age 65 will have their future city property tax bill limited to the dollar value they owe that year, regardless of future tax rate or valuation changes of their property.
Many seniors and some who want to restrain the amount of taxes collected by the city like it because it gives each senior a guaranteed maximum city tax bill. Many others in our city fought against it since in future years, the decreased value of those taxes paid by seniors due to inflation will put upward pressure on the city to raise taxes on other residents. Furthermore, the tax freeze gives more tax relief in both percentage and dollar terms to seniors owning more expensive homes than to those owning less expensive homes. The Texas Constitution mandates that this freeze is irrevocable by the city council or the city residents once enacted.
So what did you get? If you are a homeowner age 65 or over, you now will have your city property taxes frozen to the dollar value you owe this year, just like your school district taxes have been. For other homeowners, this freeze will happen for you when you turn 65. If you are a younger homeowner, you now have increased fear of future tax increases as the value of city tax proceeds diminish from the properties owned by seniors. If you are a renter regardless of your age, you now have increased fear that rents might go up faster than they would have if it were defeated, since your landlord may owe increased city taxes in the future.
SO WHAT 'S NEXT?
One positive aspect of all of this is that voter turnout is trending upwards. That said, after two consecutive years of outcomes separated by fewer than 250 votes, calls of blame and disgust with this year's results are understandable. But division is the nature of democracy, for we are not yet the autonomous collective known as the Borg. It is not the presence or lack of division which defines the health of our political community, but rather our response to that division. Denton is a place that values diverse community as we all have something to learn from groups of people different from ourselves. Will we turn farther inward, shielding ourselves even more from the potential to hear ideas and perspectives different from our own? Or will we embrace the conflict and attempt to find common ground and innovative paths forward with the many creative people we have in our city? These decisions have been made. What shall we do now in light of the outcome of this year’s local election? Get involved. Share your ideas. Make Denton a better place. And next time, vote.
Except not all the decisions have been made! If you are feeling energized, do not wait, especially if you are in district 3. Check your registration, and get registered by the May 10th deadline if you are not already registered. A runoff election will be held on June 10th to decide the district 3 council race between Paul Meltzer and Don Duff.