The Texas A&M Student Government Association, or SGA, Student Senate Community Relations committees, in collaboration with the Executive Branch Municipal Affairs committee, hosted the College Station City Council candidates for an open forum.
The panel hosted on Wednesday, Oct. 13, was made up of four of five of the candidates running for places 4 and 6. Running for Place 4 are incumbent Elizabeth Cunha and William Wright. Representatives running for Place 6 include David Levine, incumbent Dennis Maloney and Marie-Anne Mousseau-Holland.
The forum consisted of five key areas including housing, transportation, economics, Charter Amendment C and student voice. Here is a breakdown of candidate’s key points of the forum:
A 32-year College Station resident, Wright said he remembers the issues of finding reliable and safe housing during his time at the university.
“I lived in a rundown apartment because I lived off of government loans like a lot of people do and still pay for them,” Wright said. “Since I graduated there have been a lot of new complexes built. Holleman exists further than it did when I was here but all those attractive new places to live come with a pretty steep price tag for students.”
Also a 32-year College Station resident, Cunha said students should have a variety of housing choices.
“Our community should invite [students[ to live in a variety of venues,” Cunha said. “One of the things we are trying to do is to provide affordable housing and a wider variety. You have your townhomes and apartment complexes but [students] should also be welcome in any neighborhood that [they] feel like you can be a good neighbor in.”
With two city bus routes in town, Maloney said he is working to merge the public bus route and A&M routes into one urban public transportation system.
“I love the public transportation system,” Maloney said. “My wife and I go to Europe, we buy a three-day pass in that European city and you get discounts at restaurants, at museums and you ride their subway and their bus system all over the city, it’s wonderful.”
Working with A&M, Mousseau-Holland said the combination of bus routes could make A&M money to expand their reach in the community.
“I would much rather work with them with their resources [as] they are already going through town to grow that,” Mousseau-Holland said. “Share the resources for the community and by doing that the community might have to pay and that would give Texas A&M University [money] to buy more buses and expand it through BCS.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic causing students to leave, Wright said many College Station businesses felt the repercussions of the lack of student life in town. Returning from this economic recession, Williams said he would like to see more businesses come to town to compete with cities of similar sizes.
“I want to see College Station move to the future and be a more competitive city,” Wright said. “With that, attracting more businesses that hire more part-time wages that students can live off of.”
Area entrepreneur Mousseau-Holland said at her daycare center, she has had to pay starting employees $2 more an hour than before. Additionally, she is a part of a women’s entrepreneur group in which she said many business owners are experiencing a similar situation.
“Everyone is raising wages, which is good,” Mousseau-Holland said. “We’ve been thinking about doing a career fair with all of the small business owners in the community. I think that would be a great way [to show] we care about people more than large corporations and we’re willing to pay their fair wage.”
Charter Amendment C
A supporter of Charter Amendment C, Maloney said if the city wants to bring awareness to local politics, they should vote on it when there is no bombardment from state and national politics.
“How many people find it more difficult to get out of bed and do something on Nov. 2, odd number year, and Nov. 2, even number year,” Maloney said. “You can get up and learn about the issues on any election year. Everyone knows the first Tuesday in November is when people have elections in the United States of America.”
History points to odd election years not getting as large of a turnout, Cunha said. She said she believes this amendment should be voted on in an even year when more people will have a voice in the election so it is a greater representation of democracy.
“We can put signs out — I’ve put hundreds of signs out, Mr. Wright has put hundreds of signs out. I bet you haven't seen them, we just don’t produce the visibility that you get in an even year with larger races,” Cunha said. “Democracy was meant to be governed by the people and that is your opportunity to get that representative."
Mousseau-Holland said there should be a monthly meeting between city council members and university students to make sure their voices are heard.
“I wanna educate people and when things concern them I want to explain it in English because sometimes when you’re reading things on the ballot, [you are confused],” Mousseau-Holland said.
During her time serving on city council, Cunha said she has gone to various events to get students involved in politics.
“[Student voice] is really important to me, and I’ve worked hard to bridge that gap between [city hall and A&M], to bridge that gap across the street,” Cunha said. “Please reach out and invite us to speak to your groups. We would love to be a part of your conversations.”
Early voting for Place 4 and Place 6 begins on Oct. 18, while election day is Nov. 2.
“I think what you will see is there is a lot of agreement on where the city needs to go. and I don’t think you will see a lot of differing because we are all in this together,” Wright said. “We’re all citizens and we all want to see what is best for College Station going forward.”
Editor’s Note: Candidate David Levine was not present for this forum.