Buda City Council candidates present their plans if elected

By Sahar Chmais – Hays Free Press

“If you came here tonight expecting to see some of the responses or activities we have seen at the debates for President and Vice President,” said John Hatch, chairman of the board for the Buda Area Chamber of Commerce, “you may be somewhat disappointed.”

The candidate forum webinar hosted by the Buda Area Chamber of Commerce ran a lot smoother than the presidential debate; no interruptions and filled with mutual respect.

For At-Large Position 1, the two candidates are LaVonia Horne-Williams and Matthew Smith. For At-Large Position 2, the candidates are Monica Davidson and Bobby Lane.

What would you do to support law enforcement while considering citizen’s concerns expressed in recent rallies?

Horne-Williams: Chief Bo Kidd came on board in 2010 and built the police department in a culture of responsible community policing. Buda doesn’t have some of the same issues that we’re seeing across the country. Chief Kidd is a proponent for accountability for police officers. We are here to support our police officers and provide them with the tools and essential things they need to do their jobs. Hiring the mental health officer was a very smart move and I am here to support our police officers as they go out there to do their jobs, to ensure they are doing them safely and that they are accountable for any actions that do not fall within the culture that the chief has set at the police department.

Do you believe Buda has a reputation of being business friendly? How will you help ensure the city continues to attract businesses?

Horne-Willaims: As a board of director with the Buda Economic Development Corporation, we are asking how we can streamline processes that allow new businesses to come into Buda without a lot of heartache and without creating a barrier. I would open up a relationship with the stakeholders that can help provide us options and strategies to create a streamlined process. It can be creating an expedited permitting processes for businesses that we are trying to attract. The EDC is partnering with the city to provide incentives to be able to attract and to be able to combine all of that with creating workforce development. We want to bring in businesses not only because of the economics, but also because it has something to offer to the citizens as well. We want our citizens to live here and eat local, but we also would love for them to work local, then we can eliminate some of our transportation issues. I am looking at being a collaborator and relationship builder with council and the EDC and bringing in the chamber as well on how we can get strategies together to streamline those processes to be more business friendly.

What would you do to support law enforcement while considering citizen’s concerns expressed in recent rallies?

Smith: We need to acknowledge that racial injustice exists across the nation and focusing on diversity and inclusion in our community is key. We should also celebrate differences we have by creating an environment where everyone feels equal and included. I have the utmost respect and confidence in Chief Kidd. He took measures as soon as it became a national conversation. It is very important to address the issue head-on, and that is exactly what chief did with his force. We do not see the issue here locally as much as across the nation. You will not find me discussing any defunding of Chief Kidd’s police force. If anything, the city increased his force during the latest budget. The mental health officer is key in addressing some of the softer, non-violent circumstances in our community.

Do you believe Buda has a reputation of being business friendly? How will you help ensure the city continues to attract businesses?

Smith: What we need to do is improve collaboration with the city, EDC and the Main Street program. I think some of the examples of collaboration come in two forms. We have a new committee around the mobile vendors, and giving those folks a voice and how they interact with the existing business committee. And also bringing together folks from different backgrounds, with different political views with different types of businesses into the same room, getting them to work together for the betterment of the community. There are three major things we can look for going forward. We need proper land development to provide us with a more commercially-driven corridor so our businesses can thrive and be accessible. Improvement in our technology space; if we are going to attract those higher paying technology-driven businesses, we really have to look at our technology infrastructure. The last bit is tourism. We need outside dollars spent here by tourists. We need to attract them to our crown jewels. People want to come here; we need to be ambassadors and welcome them in.

What would you do to support law enforcement while considering citizen’s concerns expressed in recent rallies?

Davidson: Buda has been quite a treasure in that we have the ability to stay in our little bubble, just south of Austin and watching the big city and the pains they are going through. We cannot put our heads in the sand that these things will not happen here or that they are not already happening here. To say that we can stay a small town and not identify the social injustices is naïve. I have watched Chief Kidd build a department we are very proud of. I know many of the police officers personally, I am proud of what they’ve been able to do. I have no intention of not supporting our police department. I know many of them personally and their passion for this city and to keep us safe and connected is top priority for them. I applaud Chief Kidd and everything he has done for this community. I watch him at many events that support the community. Our police officers have every ounce of my support in continuing to provide the services and giving them what they need to move forward.

Do you believe Buda has a reputation of being business friendly? How will you help ensure the city continues to attract businesses?

Davidson: Being a small business owner, I am very passionate about this. Sitting on the EDC, I have had the benefit to see not only at a 40,000-foot high perspective, but also down in the minutia of how we work with our businesses. Building that gap in city council, now that we have council members on our EDC board, so there is no loss of time, effort and loss of communication as to what are the businesses need. I have heard many times that we are difficult to work with; I think a lot of it comes to miscommunication. Part of my campaign is about educating citizens and businesses on being able to navigate through those processes. Often times I am out and people will ask me, ‘how do I get this done, this is a dream I have, how can you help me?’ Part of my role is bridging that gap, to bring that feedback back to city council, our EDC and our chamber and how we all work to streamline that process and give folks the ability to go to one place and say how do I get this going. I want to see our current businesses grow; not just bring in new businesses but having retention and expansion of our small businesses that are already devoted and loyal to Buda.

What would you do to support law enforcement while considering citizen’s concerns expressed in recent rallies?

Lane: The city has been aware of the need to support the police department, and not only that, but to support training for the officers. Our officers receive numerous amounts of training each year, especially in how to handle different types of clients. We have also added our second mental health officer, and just recently we attempted to have a Buda Citizens Police Academy, but when COVID-19 hit we put the brakes on that. But out of that police academy the thought came that we need another way to support the police department and that was the initiation of what we now call the Buda Police Foundation. I have been asked to serve as president of that foundation and this will be a unit that will be able to raise funds to help the police department with needs they see arise. We would be working with city leaders and also with Chief Kidd to identify their needs and fundraise for them. We have one of the star leaders in the nation as far as Chief Kidd goes; he sets the tone at the top for how the rest of the department handles issues in the community as well as other areas of the department through detective work, traffic wok and mental health work.

Do you believe Buda has a reputation of being business friendly? How will you help ensure the city continues to attract businesses?

Lane: Years ago, we started the Buda Main Street program in an effort to help businesses improve their facades and some of their infrastructure to make it inviting to people to come downtown. My goal would be to continue that type of program and to work with landlords to help improve. I think it would be nice to have the chamber and city to work together to help improve what we have downtown. We need to look at how we can invite the businesses that will benefit our citizens. We have a lot of restaurants, but we do not have a lot of other service industries that can be there when our citizens need certain types of products. Let us build relationships not only with existing businesses but bring existing and new businesses to the table to talk about how they can work together with city, chamber and EDC to help build this community into a strong economic engine.

Watch the full video to hear more from the candidates.

BUDA AREA WEATHER