Editor’s note: Part one of the series on local election coverage. Early voting in this election kicked off Monday.
Four candidates are running for the Single Member District 5 seat on San Angelo City Council election this year – incumbent Elizabeth Miller Grindstaff and challengers Ronald Allen (R.A.) Cantrell, Matthew Lane Carter and Martin William Guinn.
What at least three of the candidates have in common is that each of them are tired of the City Council not really listening to the people of San Angelo.
Elizabeth Miller Grindstaff (incumbent)
Since May 2014 Grindstaff has been the San Angelo Single Member District 5 representative. This will be her third year running for City Council.
While she has been on the council, she has seen wider decisions being made and harder projects being addressed. According to Grindstaff the City Council are nearing a decision on the next water source that San Angelo need to go after for future security purposes. She also says that the current council have made a big step with regards to street reconstruction and rehabilitation that previous councils have not been able to agree upon.
“I am very proud of what we have accomplished, but what I really want to do that would make me feel more satisfied with my time in the council is economic development and improving the development process for residential and commercial developers within this community” Grindstaff said. She wants San Angelo to become more competitive and to welcome development.
The reason why Grindstaff decided to run again this year is because she feels that she still have work left that needs to be done. “Two years is a good introduction, and having had 24 years in municipal government I had a very good understanding of what I was stepping into. I see the influence and the production I can have. I want to see San Angelo be more progressive and be more efficient in certain areas, and we are not there yet. I want to be apart of the solution and not just a critic.” Grindstaff said.
Some of the areas she would focus on the most if she is to be re-elected is of course to continue the work with the water and streets, but her personal desire is to see more aggressive economic development programs, whether that would be recruitment or retention and growth within our community. She wants to see more business growth rather than simply looking for someone to come in from outside.
Grindstaff believes she has been very accessible to the public with monthly neighborhood chats (with an attendance of anywhere between 25 and 70 depending on the topic being addressed) and with conversations with the community through Facebook. She is proud of the ways she has been able to communicate with the public, and she would not change that, but she realizes that there is still more work to be done.
Ronald Allen (R.A.) Cantrell
This is Cantrell’s first time running for any office position of any kind. The reason he is running this year is because despite several requests and protestations the current council are still not listening to him, or others, who are against some of their recent projects. He believes what the council is doing is “nonsense”. “They use our money on everything, and they do not understand when to stop, or how to say no” he said.
Some of the projects Cantrell has protested against are the garbage control, water control and the dog ordinance where they’ve made it mandatory to spay, neuter, vaccinate and microchip your dogs. He believes it should be a decision made by the owner, not by the government.
What Cantrell would like to focus on if he gets elected is fiscal responsibility, and to be the reasonable and sensible one in the council. He would not be afraid to say “no” to proposals.
His campaign is all about going from person to person and asking for their votes. The people that have said they would vote for him are ordinary citizens of San Angelo, both young and old, who are tired of the way the current city council are doing things.
“This young lady came up to me the other day and thanked me for running for office after seeing my yard-sign,” he said, while showing a picture of his sign on his phone. He has heard from several people that they like that he is different and not afraid to say no.
“I am a hard-headed, bad tempered, uncompromising son of a bitch” Cantrell said. “But, I love San Angelo. The people here are really something special. The younger generation especially; they have been raised right. I truly want the best for this city”
Matthew Lane Carter
For Carter, this is his first time running for local government and the city council. The lack of connection between constituents and council made Carter want to run for the District 5 seat this year.
“When we, the citizens of San Angelo vote in a councilman or councilwoman, that should not be the last time our voices are heard. Our voices should be heard through every vote and every process of the council. I mainly wanted to run because of what I believe is a lack of communication between the council and the constituents” Carter said.
If there is anything that Carter wishes the current council could have done differently, it is to be a little bit more transparent in their votes and representation of what they are voting for on the council. There are two specific areas he wants to focus on if he is elected. One deals with monetary value and the other deals with customer service between constituents.
“I would say my number one concern is to get our infrastructure back to a 100 percent, which includes the waterlines in the streets before anything else, along with the public service such as the police and the fire department. If we as a city want to look forward in development and growth, we have to be able to sustain that growth. We have to have the commodity, the water, streets for transportation and we have to have safety that goes a long with the growth of the city” Carter said.
Carter’s main concern and what he hopes to accomplish is the maintenance of infrastructure and “get the ‘bad taste’ out of people’s mouths of the city.”
His overall plan is to get the City government to be more customer-friendly and to have a City Council and government that the people are still comfortable with. He does not want a council that works in opposition to everyday life and business development.
“We need a government that does not just say they are business friendly. We need a city government that is business friendly and that follows through with their word” Carter said.
Martin William Guinn
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This is also Martin William Guinn’s first time running for the city council. Twenty years ago, however, he ran for a seat on the school board.
“I did not make it.” Guinn said, “But you don’t know what you can do until you try.”
Guinn is running for council because he is not happy with the laws and decisions that the present council have made in the recent past.
“I do not think you can find many people who are happy with the way the new trash-pickup rules and regulations went down. I have talked to several and I could only find one person who is happy about it.” Guinn said. “I believe that when people are protesting, the City Council members are closing their ears to what they have to say. They are not listening to the people they represent. I want to change that.”
Guinn believes there are a number of things the previous council could have done differently. For example, he says, they could have looked a little closer to find out exactly what 500 tons of recyclables would look like. If they asked that question, they would have realized that San Angelo would not be able to make that goal in the timeline given, he said.
“Especially when San Angelo is not really a city that has a habit of recycling,” Guinn said. “I know we have the recycling center, but that is sort of a come and go. This year we are trying to recycle on a habitual basis, but it will take a couple of years for us to get that down. I doubt that anyone in the council really thought that through,” he said.
Another project close to his neighborhood is the beautification project of the Red Arroyo Trail. According to Guinn who lives not far away from the trail, the area floods easily. It has been completely under water several times. He believes it is strange that the beautification project took place in a heavy flood zone and wonders if anyone in the council thought about what will happen with the trails and sidewalks when it rains.
“The street on College Hills itself floods out enormously when it is heavy rain. I am all for beautification and I think it is a good idea, but is that the best way to do it without getting good drainage? I believe we need real engineers to look at it and that the city needs to do a lot more with the drainage system in that area before they start something like that.” Guinn said.
What Guinn hopes to accomplish if he is elected is to see a better drainage system not just in his district, but also in other parts of San Angelo. He believes the drainage system in San Angelo needs to be re-engineered completely.
Other areas that he would like to focus on if he gets elected is the periodic small crimes that happens in San Angelo. “We did not have to worry about random small crimes like burglaries of houses and cars in broad daylight in the past. I have even been victimized and stolen from myself. We need to come up with a way to combat that” Guinn said.
He also wants to look into the fire department. He believes the fire department needs to be upgraded and that services needs to be added on to.
“Especially when we live in West Texas, where wild fires can happen anytime, I would like to make sure the fire department will be able to handle it both equipment wise and manpower wise.”
“Small crimes, the drainage system, the current fire department and that the City Council listens to protesters will be the areas I will focus on the most if I become elected,” Guinn said.