Although the 2020 presidential election is captivating the public’s attention, we cannot ignore our local races.
Municipal officers often make decisions that directly affect the community, like lowering taxes, maintaining infrastructure and providing a police force. As such, we need to choose the right candidates to sit on our City Council, and Place 5 is currently up for grabs. Three candidates – John Nichols, Brian Alg and Craig Regan – are vying for the seat, but one is a clear choice.
The incumbent, John Nichols, intends to continue to make College Station a city that serves Texas A&M community members. Nichols intends for each budget decision to be “aligned to the effort to attract and support the students and faculty of Texas A&M.” Having served on the Budget and Finance Committee, Nichols has experience directing funding to appropriate avenues. Although COVID-19 has also forced city staff to amend College Station’s 2020 budget, Nichols expects to maintain relatively low property rates.
The most significant concern about Nichols is his plan to increase student housing. City Council drafted the Restricted Overlay Ordinance to give neighborhoods the power to limit the number of unrelated tenants to two persons in rental properties. Implementing this ordinance would disproportionately affect college students and people from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
Nichols argued in a workshop that City Council should give single-family neighborhoods more power. His theory is that restricting rental occupancies would drive away investors and lower property rates and taxes. Suppose Nichols’ vision is focused on making College Station home for A&M’s students. In that case, he needs to propose alternatives for students living in rental homes.
The second candidate, Brian Alg, is the only one of the three men to have a campaign website. Unfortunately, it doesn’t contain Alg’s policy platform – only a “donate” button. Alg’s Facebook page is marginally more useful. Of the seven posts on his page, one is his picture and four discuss why people shouldn’t reelect John Nichols.
Alg says Nichols wishes to “push for pet projects, continue wasteful spending, and disregard the rights of citizens.” Alg also accuses Nichols and other Council members of being unprincipled in governing and attacks them for the Restricted Occupancy Overlay ordinance.
However, Alg’s best solution is that he “can and will do better.” He dedicates most of his posts to mudslinging, and has few policy proposals to solve the problem. The only substantive recommendation he has on his platform is striking a city ordinance that bars people from drinking outside on Northgate – pun intended. As someone who has never been to Northgate and does not drink, forgive me for being unimpressed.
Alg’s most significant roadblock is that he mostly stands against Nichols rather than for his vision. He states he will “correct past mistakes,” but he gives constituents no reason to trust that he will fulfill his campaign promises without a policy platform.
The third and final candidate is Craig Regan. Although he is also running his campaign from a Facebook page, Regan has created a comprehensive set of policies to improve the city. Unlike Nichols, Regan’s vision centers on permanent residents in College Station rather than A&M students and faculty. His primary focus is on College Station’s debt of $464 million.
To solve the debt crisis, Regan proposes that the city sell refundable bonds to pay off the debt while keeping the money in College Station. He hopes when residents receive a refund from their bond purchases, they will reinvest it within the city’s economy, making it much less dependent on current students.
At first glance, I have no reason to vote for Regan. Most of his plans are meant to conserve permanent residents’ wealth, incentivize nonprofits to restore the natural environment and cut regulations for small businesses. However, after I graduate, the only reason I will likely return to College Station is for game days at Kyle Field, or if my kids choose to be Aggies. COVID-19 has exposed how many businesses are dependent upon college students. Revenue from sales and property taxes is down. It is more important than ever for College Station to become self-sufficient.
Although Nichols has experience as the incumbent, we need new leadership in College Station. The City Council’s primary directive is to serve residents. However, tens of thousands of us leave every summer and most will move elsewhere after graduation. Therefore, we should elect someone who looks out for those who stay and call College Station home.
Between Alg and Regan, only one has a concrete vision and policy platform for College Station’s future. Regan’s plan to sell bonds and address the city’s debt and deficit will benefit residents in the long run. A&M may also call College Station home, but students come and go – relying on us to support the economy is not sustainable. Regan can make the city self-sufficient, and as Aggies we owe it to the people of College Station to vote for their future.