A huge thank you to The Dallas Morning News for endorsing my re-election campaign for Place 4. I appreciated the time that they spent vetting candidates through an extensive round table interview and questionnaire.
Below I am providing the DMN questions and my answers. For ease of reading I have removed the general information items about me as they are elsewhere on this site. Still, DMN is very thorough, so this will be a long post. Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions.
Why are you running for this office, and why should voters choose you over your opponent(s)?
I’m seeking re-election because I believe strongly in paying it forward and giving back to the community. In my 10 years of service to the City, my focus has been and always will be trying to make the best decisions for the entire community.
I chose to live in Frisco because of the quality of the community and schools. My oldest son graduated from Heritage High School after starting in FISD as a Kindergartner, my middle son is currently a sophomore at Heritage, and our youngest son is an 8th grader at Maus. I want to ensure we have a community that they want to come back to after college. Frisco is an incredible place to live, with a vast array of opportunities, but we’re entering a transitional period in our growth where we can no longer just focus on building new but must also pay attention to our older areas of town and reinvest in them, to maintain the exceptional quality of life that we’ve built.
I am uniquely qualified in this race with having not only served on council for three years, but also having dedicated a decade of service to the City and its residents in a variety of capacities. Additionally, my educational background (BBA in Finance, MS in Accounting), combined with my work experience in the banking and finance industry is directly relevant to the budgetary and finance processes of Frisco.
As one of the fastest growing cities in the country, I believe it’s important that we elect experienced people to ensure the city we love continues to grow, develop, and prosper in the way in which we’ve all come to love. Keeping Frisco on Track is my focus, and I look forward to serving the residents in a second term.
What are the three most important actions you would take, if elected, and how would you advance them and pay for them?
A continued focus on Public Safety, Conservative Fiscal Policies, and improved traffic flows.
All three of these are continuous ongoing projects, and all are part of our top priorities.
Each year, we evaluate the needs of all departments. We look at any open positions and whether those positions are still warranted, and we shift budget resources where necessary. All departments go through a thorough budgeting process to justify any new requests.
We look at all our sources of funding, property taxes, sales taxes, and other miscellaneous sources, and we apply for any relevant grants to help cover projects. Last year, as an example, Frisco was awarded a grant that allowed us to hire the firefighters that we need for Fire Station 9 sooner than we normally would have. That grant covered part of the salaries over the course of multiple years. This allowed us to hire and train the new staff prior to the station being opened, so that it is at the best operating potential rather than having to temporarily shift other resources around while staff is hired and trained.
We were also able to obtain a Federal grant to replace an intersection with a roundabout. The roundabout moves traffic more efficiently, and the grant allowed us to replace the intersection at a cost reasonable to the City without affecting other operations.
We must not only look at our normal sources of revenue but also towards grants, like mentioned above, to enable creative solutions to challenges.
Where does the development or redevelopment emphasis need to be in your community — residential or commercial — and how has your city government performed in this area?
With Frisco’s growth, we are seeing residential, commercial, and retail development, in abundance in all areas of the City. The emphasis of where we should focus can change in a very short amount of time depending on a variety of factors. Focusing too much on one area can be at the detriment to other areas. Balancing our resources is key.
Areas like the North Platinum Corridor and PGA have attracted a lot of news and are important to the city, but we regularly see large residential developments as well general commercial redevelopment. Council and City Staff have performed admirably in balancing these various projects. It takes a talented group of people to go from looking at residential developments, to big projects such as The Star, Frisco Station, and the PGA, and then to commercial redevelopment, such as the mall or Hall Office Park.
We’ve completed the most recent update to Frisco’s Downtown Master Plan and are finalizing plans for the 380 Corridor, and it will be important we continue to use these as road maps for our continued growth. We’re also looking at how we reinvest in assets, like the mall and Hall Office Park, to ensure their continued success. In addition, many departments are looking at aging infrastructure, including roads, parks, among other city buildings, and we must upgrade and maintain those facilities in a cost-effective manner to ensure they provide value to the residents for years to come.
Being on Planning and Zoning for six years and now on City Council for three, I have a strong knowledge of these plans, and I have discussed redevelopment challenges with many residents. I intend to continue to focus on a well-planned growth as well as continued communication with all citizens.
What challenging demographic changes have been taking place in your city? What would your response be, if elected?
We’re seeing a variety of cultures moving to Frisco, it’s been important to me to reach out and meet with those communities so that we can learn how to serve their needs. Our First Responders have made great strides in coordinating meetings and outreaching to a variety of communities so that we can learn about their cultures and they can learn about ours, so in case of an emergency, we can all work together. I will continue to support those efforts.
Working with the varied cultures in our community will always be an ongoing process; it has to be. I attend as many functions as my schedule will allow, which affords me the opportunity to interact with as many of our residents as possible. Being among and a part of the community is important, so that all the residents (regardless of background) understand that we are here to serve them.
Please assess your city’s crime picture and what, if anything, you would try to improve or change.
I consider Frisco a low crime area. That is not to say that we don’t have challenges. One of the areas that tend to stand out is thefts. In many cases these are thefts from vehicles that were left unlocked. We have a very robust “Take Lock Hide” campaign to encourage everyone to take valuable out of vehicles, lock the vehicles, and if you must leave something in a vehicle, hide it.
As of this writing (March 2019), we have seen a year over year decrease in Part 1 Offenses of 12% per 1000 people. This was attributed to continued focus on prevention and adjusting patrols and focusing resources on specific areas.
Crime deterrence will always be an ongoing focus and will require continued adjustments over time. Our Police Department is to be commended on the focus they place on community policing, being proactive in reaching out to the community and using data driven solutions to address areas of need. I will continue to support these methods and ensure our Police department has the tools and resources to provide the best possible service to our residents.
Does your city deliver services in the most cost-effective manner? Please be specific about improvements you would advocate.
Yes, we deliver services in a cost-effective manner. Frisco is regularly recognized by various organizations for our transparency and the manner in which we operate, across all our departments. Compared to similar sized cities in Collin County, we have the lowest City Tax Rate, and we are one of the lowest compared to similar sized Cities in Denton County as well. Over the last three years, we have implemented a Homestead exemption and then increased it to 10%, which lowers the tax burden on our homeowners.
Our conservative approach to financial management has resulted in a AAA Bond rating from both Moody’s and S&P. This is the highest rating possible from these agencies and results in significantly reduced borrowing costs, so when we need to sell bonds for roads (as an example), we are able to get the best rates available, which can save tax payers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds.
As with all of our operations, we must continually evaluate our operations. I would like to see us get to the maximum allowable Homestead exemption of 20%. As part of the budget and audit subcommittee, I will also continue to focus on other efficiencies that may be available to us, including increased use of technology, new products, or simply evaluation of existing processes and procedures, to ensure we have the best practices in place.
Please assess the property taxes levied by your city and whether it has the right balance between its residential and commercial base. Would you take any initiatives in this area?
We have room to increase our commercial tax base. Increased commercial tax base has the benefit of allowing us to increase our Homestead exemption, which provides tax relief to our homeowners. In the last three years, we have seen an increase in the commercial tax base, which has allowed us to get the Homestead exemption to 10%. My goal would be to continue to increase the exemption to the maximum allowed 20%. It’s important the most intensive commercial areas remain along our primary commercial corridors of the Dallas North Tollway and Preston. This “spine” allows for the other areas of the city to remain primarily residential in nature and also assist with traffic flows.
I am supportive of our EDC and the quality businesses they attract to Frisco. The addition of quality jobs maintains stability in the commercial sector and helps maintain the commercial tax base. In the last 12 months, our EDC has refocused on their core operations, creating efficiencies and improved processes with other departments. I’m supportive of this direction, as our EDC has been key and will continue to be a key component of attracting quality employers to Frisco.
How would you improve the quality of life in your city and, if appropriate, pay for any added programs?
We have a high quality of life in Frisco. Twenty years ago, Frisco was primarily a young residential community, and activities tended to focus on kids sports and activities. As we’ve grown and as our population has matured, we’ve added other amenities. We’re seeing now a strong desire and need for arts facilities to improve our local arts community, as well as an increased need for facilities for older kids, young adults, and the active fitness community.
As part of our Top Ten Priorities for 2019, we are evaluating options for a performing arts center to support our local performing arts groups. As a member of our Council Arts Subcommittee, I believe we will make significant strides in identifying and moving forward on a project this year.
We’re seeing more requests for active lifestyle amenities and a need to connect areas of town without the requirement of getting in a car and driving. I’ve served on the Hike and Bike Master Plan Committee for the last 3 years. That process will be wrapping up in the coming months, and this will better define our trail network and connectivity around town for our park amenities. I believe that having these amenities available allows resident to step outside their homes and connect with their neighborhoods. That connection creates deeper roots and helps strengthen our neighborhoods and city.
To highlight some of our existing amenities and show residents what we have to offer now, as well as what is yet to come, I started an event called “Roll with Council” in 2018. This is a bike ride through our Parks and Trail system that we host once a month on the second Saturday of the month from April through September. It’s a causal, social ride in a different area of town each month, which is meant to show residents areas of our parks system that they may not be familiar with, and it also highlights ways to move about the city without always needing a car.
Please rate the transparency of decision-making in your city hall
I rate the transparency at City Hall high. Dallas Morning News agreed as recently as 2015 in their Transparency Report Card that gave the City of Frisco an “A” Rating. (https://www.dallasnews.com/news/watchdog/2015/02/13/watchdog-who-is-good-at-open-government-who-is-bad) This is the most recent information available from Dallas Morning News.
The Frisco City Council has made transparency a high priority, and I believe our City staff are delivering on that. Frisco was a leader in online webcasting of Council Meetings, having started that in 2010. We also broadcast our Planning and Zoning Commission meetings, and we have an online form for submitting Freedom of Information Act requests, which makes requesting information easy for any interested parties.
Our budget consistently receives the Distinguished Budget Award from The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada, and we received Transparency Stars for Finances from the Texas Comptroller. We publish our Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, condensed Popular Annual Financial report, as well as a Debt Summary on the City Website.
What is an uncomfortable truth about your city that voters must confront?
Frisco is viewed as an affluent community, but many don’t realize that we have a portion of our population that is low income or homeless; this includes a fairly significant number of homeless teenagers. We have several organizations in town to help those residents, including Frisco Family Services, The Boys and Girls Club of Collin County, City House, Frisco Fastpacs, and Samaritan Inn (to name a few). I believe it’s of great importance that we, as residents of Frisco, do what we can to support those organizations and their missions.
A growing number of residents are concerned about booming development eroding the suburban experience/lifestyle that brought them to their community in the first place. What is your point of view on this growing tension and how would you navigate the challenge?
Frisco will always be a suburban community. In order to keep our residential tax rates low and not put an undue burden on homeowners, we need the commercial developments, with the tax base that comes along with them and the sales taxes they generate, to offset the residential property taxes. A diversified tax base provides for more stability during slow economic times, and without the commercial tax bases, the property taxes on homeowners would be much higher.
Our commercial developments are designated primarily along the DNT and Preston corridor. This is an appropriate location for commercial and retail developments, as this is where the primary commute corridors have developed over the decades. As one moves away from those corridors, the City is predominately residential, with neighborhood retail interspersed in various locations.
Likewise, the increase in apartment units, including new high-density developments, are raising resident alarm. What is your stand on multifamily housing and what multi-family would you/would you not support?
I do not support any new zoning for Garden Style Apartments. Frisco has an abundance of land zoned for that type of use dating back to the 1980s. This is far more than the City needs. Since I’ve been on council, we’ve reduced the number of those types of multifamily units by over 2,500. In several work sessions in 2015, while Chair of Frisco Planning and Zoning commission, I clearly stated that it would be incumbent on our Planning and Zoning Commission and Council to find ways to reduce the theoretical maximum population of Frisco. Since that time, we’ve reduced the estimated population counts from around 373,000 to around 309,000. I will continue to work on reducing that population figure.
Assess the project for Keurig Dr Pepper to move its Texas headquarters to the Dallas Cowboys’ Star development. Do favor the Frisco city council’s decision to sell the 2.5-acre building site for about $600,000 – less than a fourth of the current property value? Why or why not?
Yes, I supported the sale. The question, as asked though, has a negative connotation and misleads readers to think the City sold the property for a loss, which is not the case.
The property was sold for a value that recouped what the City paid plus our interest carry costs, so the city was made whole for what we’d paid for it.
Additionally, prior to the sale, the property was not taxable, as it was City owned Property. The property is now taxable commercial property and would be taxed at its full value, which will generate millions of dollars of tax revenues over the coming years for the City, County, and Frisco ISD.
Lastly, should Blue Star fail to deliver the proper building in the desired timeline, they are required to pay the difference in the purchase price and market value.
In short, we turned a parking lot that was not generating any benefit to the City into one that will add substantially to the commercial tax base, as well as keep a company in the area, which keeps jobs in our community.
What’s your view on how the city council has handled negotiations with Exide Technologies to clean up areas still contaminated by the closed battery recycling plant.
The negotiations have been challenging and drawn out, but not due to lack of effort on the part of the City. The original Master Settlement Agreement was signed in June 2012, within a year Exide declared bankruptcy and, in my opinion, was not performing to terms of the Master Settlement Agreement.
There were significant delays due to that bankruptcy filing by Exide. Recently, however, Exide showed a desire to work towards a faster resolution, which has enabled us to come to final terms on the cleanup, with a joint plan being submitted to the TCEQ later this year.
Council was stalwart in our desire for a cleanup plan that was robust and beyond the minimums that Exide desired. Ultimately, the agreement was in line with what we had asked for and keeps Frisco from having to pay for the cleanup.
While the length of time it has taken to reach this resolution was not desirable, the ultimate outcome was in the best interest of the City and residents.
How would you bridge the gap between the very real need for municipal funding with the blowback related to rising property taxes?
It’s a very real concern, and one that Frisco has been concerned about for some time. It’s the primary reason why we implemented a 7.5% Homestead exemption in 2017 and then increased it to 10% in 2018. I would like to see this get to the maximum allowable of 20%. In addition to the Homestead exemption, we also provide our seniors with an $84,000 senior exemption. That exemption is indexed to the average home price in Frisco, so it’s possible for the exemption to increase in any given year.
It’s also important that we communicate with the residents what their tax money is being spent on. As I mentioned previously, we go to great lengths to present our Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, our Budget, and a variety of other financial data on the City website so the Citizens have convenient transparent access to the information. I’m regularly asked to speak with groups of citizens about our budget and other topics, and I will continue to do that, so citizens have the ability to ask questions and understand our operations.
As a member of the Budget and Audit Committee, I will continue to focus on providing the level of service our citizens expect at the lowest cost possible.
In order to cut taxes or keep them low, specifically what would you cut? (Given that costs of some services — for instance, road repair — are going up way faster than CPI, just keeping taxes the same means cutting services.)
I support our current budget methodology. Each year, all departments operations are reviewed. Any hiring requisitions open are evaluated to ensure there is still a need for the position. Any new requests must be justified and relate to the City priorities. A hard fact is the City provides services (Police, Fire, Roads, etc) with approximately 80% of our budget being personnel costs and about 50% of the budget being public safety, which leaves little room for dramatic changes without affecting the services our citizens expect. A comprehensive approach to budget management must be taken to ensure the taxes are kept low.
We continue to find ways to utilize technology or outsourcing to reduce costs. A few examples:
New technology for our intersection signals allows traffic engineers to analyze and diagnose problems with signals from computers rather than relying on witnessing the issue onsite. This saves time and money, creates more efficiency, and reduces cost over the long term.
We’ve outsourced some median maintenance to contract companies. This allows our parks staff to focus their training and specialization on maintaining the parks, ballfields, and other areas that require specific knowledge, while reducing costs for the more general maintenance items.
We’ve used technology for our “Closest To” dispatch system. This has cut minutes off the response times for our First Responders, making our operations more efficient and at the same time providing a higher level of service to our citizens.
In prior economic downturns, we’ve taken steps such as hiring freezes and reducing the number of times we mow parks (thus reducing the need for more personnel) in order to make the budget stretch further.
To summarize, we must always be looking at the budget on a comprehensive basis, and to attempt to pick a single line item for cuts in a vacuum, without all the facts in a given situation, would be short sighted.
If you support the Effective Tax Rate, what will you do when property values go down, as they inevitably will from time to time?
I support providing the Citizens of Frisco the high-quality service they expect at the lowest possible cost. As a benchmark, we have used the growth rate plus inflation and not allowed the budget to grow beyond that measure. It is a measure that was implemented several years ago, and one I believe allows us to provide necessary services at a low rate.
In lean times, such as the last recession, the City of Frisco stayed below the effective tax rate with the robust budgetary process we use.
Most all suburbs have aging infrastructure. How will you pay for infrastructure maintenance, especially if oppose density and/or favor ETR.
In addition to the information in my prior answer, I add that we have taken a proactive approach to infrastructure maintenance. As an example, we are in the process of re-sealing the joints in some of our aging roadways. While this seems like a small thing to do, keeping those seals in good condition prevents the damage caused by the freeze and thaw cycles in winter and helps prevent issues with the road base from undue water penetration. Taking a proactive approach to maintenance in this manner will ultimately extend the life of our infrastructure, thus saving tax payer funds.
What is your vision for the future of your community?
I see Frisco as a vibrant, active community, with high quality services and a low tax rate. As we expand our performing arts as well as our parks and trails network, in combination with the additional job resources that we’re seeing, I believe that we are well on our way to truly being a place that one can Live, Work, and Play. My background, experience, and passion towards Frisco will facilitate a continued positive growth within the City.