Civility top issue at Granite Shoals candidates’ forum
All four candidates in the contested races for mayor and Place 1 councilor in Granite Shoals pledged that, if elected, they would strive to work together in a respectful manner and focus on issues rather than petty grievances.
The candidates gave introductions and answered questions at a candidates’ forum hosted by DailyTrib.com and KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune on Thursday, March 30. The forum was held in the Granite Shoals Fire Hall and was broadcast live on KBEY. A recording of the event is available online.
In the mayoral race, which is an open seat, candidates Jim Davant and Kiel Arnone mentioned problems between councilors and the mayor that have erupted over the past year regarding a proposed dark sky initiative and the hiring of a new city manager.
“The City Council has been in retrograde,” Davant said in his introduction. “The time is now to reverse direction. The council should establish priorities and stick to its knitting instead of pointlessly and in violation of the city charter acting in place of the city manager.”
In his opening statement, Arnone said his mission would be to unite elected officials.
“I want citizens’ voices to be heard loud and clear, and I want the distrust that has roamed through our city administration and government officials to go away,” Arnone said. “I want to work for the residents in a positive and productive way.”
Place 1 candidate and incumbent Ron Munos said he has tried to be a calming influence on the council.
“As a former football official, I want to be fair to all sides,” he said. “The future of Granite Shoals is bright. Growth is heading our way. Our job is to manage that growth without losing the small-town vibe we all enjoy.”
The other Place 1 candidate, Roman Archer, who also has a background in officiating sports, pointed to what he called a “differentiated community.”
“From the east side to the west side, lakeside to inside, we have a lot of different people here,” Archer said. “We have a lot of professionals, retirees with a single income, and growing families, and we need to get that community together. We need to build community, and the only way to do that is with strong leadership. I hope to help provide that.”
That theme continued in the answers to the first question: What is the most pressing issue facing the council today?
Getting along, having a common focus, and letting the city manager do her job were all mentioned.
“We need to be focusing on the true challenges that this city has,” Arnone said. “We spend so much time bickering and backstabbing, we don’t focus on the true issues.”
He called for an immediate workshop to have an open discussion and set positive goals for the city.
His opponent, Davant, said when the new council is seated in May, he would work to find a consensus on priorities. He further elaborated on the topic when asked about the mayor’s responsibilities.
“The first role of the mayor is to chair the meeting, but in addition, it is to set the agenda,” he said. “The agenda is set in conjunction with the city manager and to work closely with the city manager. It is not a competition, but a collaboration. It’s also, with the council, to strive to operate by consensus.”
The most pressing issue for Place 1 candidate Munos is the work of City Manager Peggy Smith.
“We have to get her contract done and get everybody on board and all working in the same direction,” he said. “We have to set doable goals so we can actually get things done and to do that. We have to focus and set up timetables to achieve them.”
Place 1 candidate Archer said he wanted to establish a common focus, goals, and directions for the next five to 10 years.
“We need to define who we are, where we’re going, and how to serve the community at large,” he said. “It’s not always about building buildings; it’s about building community.”
When asked about the importance of economic development in the city, the mayoral candidates agreed that without a wastewater treatment plant, the city cannot expect much in the way of commercial development.
Davant warned of the high cost, citing the new wastewater plant planned for Marble Falls, which recently doubled in price to $80 million from $40 million.
Arnone said a wastewater treatment plant should be paid for by the developers.
The Place 1 candidates Archer and Munos agreed that economic development is crucial to the city.
Archer recommended using the acreage behind City Hall to set up a boat and RV park and RV hookups to raise extra money. Munos said the key was commercial development, which would increase sales tax revenue and, in turn, relieve the burden on property taxpayers.
“The sales tax revenue in the city of Marble Falls is bigger than our entire budget,” Munos said. “That puts it in perspective for you.”
In the final question, moderator and DailyTrib.com staff writer Dakota Morrissiey asked about each candidate’s wish for the city.
“Let’s recognize who Granite Shoals is,” said mayoral candidate Davant. “I think the key to Granite Shoals is our diversity. We are more than a fishing village. We are more than a retirement village. We are more than a resort destination. We are a place that’s home to growing families. We have skilled laborers and craftsmen in this city. My wish for this city is for us to recognize our diversity. We are a unique city in Texas because of our diversity.”
Mayoral candidate Arnone also pointed to community.
“If I had one wish for this great city, it would be to maintain community at all times,” he said. “We are a small community on a lake with beautiful parks, beautiful scenery, and so much negativity that goes on. You may not like someone, but they are still your neighbor. I wish people would look past their differences and see we’re neighbors. That’s why democracy is a great thing. We can still disagree and still be friends.”
Place 1 candidate Munos first joked that he wished the city would win the lottery. Then, he got serious.
“We have a lot of needs and we want to meet those needs,” Munos said. “We have people living in storage sheds and people in million-dollar houses. People are living on dirt roads that we need to pave. We have a lot of divisiveness. We need to incorporate more people into the government. Get people to attend events like this one. We have to get more community involvement. We need more outreach to the Hispanic community — get them more involved. Our diversity is our strength.”
Place 1 candidate Archer also brought up diversity and the different personalities that make up the city.
“We need to have that direction set of where we need to be in the next five or 10 years,” he said. “We need to implement a plan for the entire community. We have to be a community. We have to communicate, get focused, decide on a direction, and stay with it.”
Five of the council’s seven seats are up for election, but only two have challengers.
Running unopposed for Place 2 is newly appointed council member Kevin Flack and for Place 5, newly appointed council member Michael Berg. Judy Salvaggio is running unopposed for Place 3 to replace Samantha Ortis, who decided not to run for re-election.
Election Day is Saturday, May 6, when polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at the Granite Shoals Community Center, 1208 N. Phillips Ranch Road.
Early voting is April 24-May 2, also at the community center. Hours are 8 p.m.-5 p.m. except for April 27 and May 1, when the polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.