Election day is quickly approaching us. On the ballot, three College Station city council seats are up for grabs. My vote is going to Dell Seiter, Elizabeth Cunha and Jason Cornelius, and yours should too. Together, these candidates will stand up for students, welcome business to the city and tackle issues that matter. I interviewed all three candidates about their platforms, and here’s what I found.
My first interview was with Dell Seiter, a retired Marine and veteran of the mortgage industry, who has lived in College Station since 1987.
When asked why he was running for the city council, Seiter said, “I think we need people who are a little more business-centric and a little less academic. I don’t think our city has been behaving business-friendly, especially during COVID.”
I could not agree with Seiter more. The current council has been far more concerned with an attempt at governing who can live in their homes by pushing for a restricted occupancy overlay, ROO. Housing issues are essential, but a ROO should not be a priority while businesses struggle to recover from the economic repercussions of COVID-19.
That led me to ask what he can offer the students of Texas A&M. His response was: “I can offer an opportunity to meet and talk to somebody that is business-friendly, that is student-friendly. Without students, we lose as a city.”
My next interview was with Elizabeth Cunha, a public servant, and 30-year resident of College Station. For half of those years, she has worked at A&M Consolidated High School, helping students catch up on missed credits. She also serves on the planning and zoning committee. From 1995-1997 she was the chair for the parks and recreation board.
When Cunha was telling me about herself and her positions with the city, she said, “We’re just public servants, that’s it. We don’t have a business that we’re trying to get some publication for, we’re not developers, we're not realtors, we’re just public servants. What we saw was a lack of diversity on the council, and I felt like I could bring something to that. I feel like strong councils should have people from many different viewpoints gathered around an issue.”
Cunha said she can offer students some advocacy, telling me about her many efforts to expand voting locations for students. She then went on to say, “The city also does simple things that impact students like where the Uber pick up points are at Northgate. So I think there [are] lots of places where a city councilperson could weigh in with some student needs in mind when those kinds of deliberations are happening.”
One of Cunha’s most admirable things is that she is not taking campaign donations. She believes the money could help local charities that serve the community.
The last candidate I interviewed was Jason Cornelius, Class of 1999, a former guard for the A&M basketball team. After graduating, he taught P.E. at St. Joseph’s Catholic School and is now a local business leader, with years of experience in the banking industry and having run a restaurant. Cornelius also serves on the local Chamber of Commerce.
When I asked Cornelius what is currently the most significant problem facing College Station, he said, “The biggest financial issue is how we are going to deal with the current situation of the economy, and then go beyond that. But I think the biggest public issue is going to be the restricted overlay that the city is talking about.”
When discussing what Cornelius could do for students, noted he wants the council to have a good relationship with A&M saying, “I think that the current council has the thought process that you don’t need students in our community. I think that is the furthest thing from the truth that we could ever think of. Students are a huge part of this economy.”
It is also worth noting that if Cornelius wins his election, he will be the first Black city council member to be elected in College Station.
I discovered one central theme throughout my interviews with these candidates — they are the best people representing students’ values and beliefs. They have lived in College Station for decades and will add something lacking on the current council: diversity. Only eight percent of the College Station population is 60 and over, while 100 percent of the current council members are over that number. All of the candidates I have endorsed in this article are under age 60 and will serve as an accurate representation of their constituents.
Together, by getting these candidates elected, we can make a difference. I encourage you all to get to the polls on Nov. 3 and make your vote count.
Sam Somogye is a political science senior and opinion writer for The Battalion.