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Three candidates participate in mayoral debate

Claire Kowalick, Wichita Falls Times Record News
Published 8:39 p.m. CT Oct. 1, 2020 | Updated 8:42 p.m. CT Oct. 1, 2020

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The three candidates to turn out to be the subsequent mayor of Wichita Falls participated in a debate Thursday night time on the Wellington conference middle, introduced by KFDX.

Along with incumbent Mayor Stephen Santellana have been Kevin Hunter, a longtime Wichita Falls businessman, and James Huling, a Wichita County detention officer who gained fame after collaborating on the tv present Big Brother.

Candidates took turns every answering the identical query from the moderators. Each candidate had 30 seconds to reply a query after which 60 seconds on the finish for ultimate feedback.

The focus of the debate started with how every candidate would tackle points associated to COVID-19.

Hunter started the session, saying it tough to foretell how lengthy the COVID-19 pandemic might be an issue. He stated financial restoration would rely upon how shortly companies are allowed to reopen, how snug persons are in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and how shortly folks turn out to be snug being in public with out masks once more.

“The solely one who is aware of (when the disaster might be over) is God or Jesus Christ,” Hunter stated.

Santellana stated the town has an aggressive plan in place to recuperate from COVID-19, together with restoring the fund steadiness misplaced associated to the virus.

While there was some COVID-19-related funding from the federal and state governments, the town has been handcuffed with strict laws on how the money is spent.

Santellana stated he and not less than 40 different Texas governors are petitioning the state to loosen fund restrictions to permit them to assist their cities.

Huling addressed the COVID-19 scenario stated he wish to see extra effort to permit companies to open again up to allow them to make money. No one appears to need to make a call on when the fitting time to open again up is, he stated, and feels you will need to have these choices made shortly so companies can get again on observe.

Both Huling and Hunter stated the town of Wichita Falls appeared to do the most effective they may in an unprecedented scenario throughout the disaster.

Huling stated he would have preferred info disseminated earlier about how bars may regulate to the 51 % cap for meals versus alcohol gross sales.

Hunter stated Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom and Santellana appeared to “bounce the gun” early in the disaster when trying to require masks and he additionally didn’t just like the suggestion of a $1,00zero high quality for not having a masks.

Santellana stated there is no such thing as a play ebook for coping with a scenario of that magnitude and as mayor, he was tasked with determining how to implement laws set out by the governor. The info was altering day by day and Santellana praised metropolis employees with working onerous and dealing shortly to assist the folks of the Wichita Falls.

The candidates additionally tackled questions of racism and Confederate monuments, defunding the police (all candidates are strongly towards this), the function of council in serving to small companies, incentives for outdoor companies to take over vacant accommodations, the proposed new full-service resort, how to spice up the economic system with out elevating taxes, water points together with the longer term Lake Ringgold, and why every candidate is in search of to be the subsequent mayor.

While all candidates agreed on many points, they differed in the case of incentives for companies and public/non-public partnerships.

Hunter stated he’s for personal enterprise and doesn’t need taxpayer {dollars} to go in the direction of incentives for companies or towards the proposed new resort.

Huling stated regarding the new resort, that the town couldn’t maintain the accommodations occupied that they have already got so one other just isn’t wanted.

Santellana addressed Huling’s remark including that (previous to COVID) the town had 60 % general resort occupancy – about on par with the remainder of Texas – and had 80 % occupancy in choose service accommodations. 

Santellana added that he doesn’t do something that won’t be a win-win for the town. O’Reilly Management did a number of feasibility research prior to selecting Wichita Falls and Santellana stated the group wouldn’t make investments $40 million in the resort venture with no sturdy certainty that it will achieve success. 

The new resort just isn’t about having extra resort rooms, however fairly having an on-site, full-service resort which has turn out to be normal when attracting conferences and conventions.  

Santellana stated he seeks to proceed the great work that’s already occurring in the town. He famous considered one of Hunter’s marketing campaign phrases is “Make Wichita Falls Great Again,” however Santellana stated Wichita Falls is already nice and is getting higher on a regular basis. The metropolis has a powerful strategic plan and an financial plan and every little thing they do is a collaborative effort between council, metropolis employees, the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Development, Sheppard Air Force Base and Midwestern State University. No one individual goes to impact an enormous change in the town, however fairly nice issues can occur when many events work collectively towards progress.

Huling stated after his time with Big Brother, he got here to Wichita Falls and noticed the indicators saying “Blue Skies and Golden Opportunities” and stated he’s passionate in regards to the metropolis.

One drawback he noticed, nevertheless, after dwelling right here for a time is the shortage of leisure for younger folks and guests.

“We have the falls, the bike trails or you could possibly go to Walmart,” he stated.

Huling would really like metropolis parks like Lucy Park higher utilized for occasions and extra efforts made to attract leisure to the Multi-Purpose Events Center.

The metropolis may deal with small issues at first, he stated, to attract in folks in distinctive ways. He stated considered one of his favourite issues to do in bigger cities is trip round on a scooter and site-see. He thinks downtown would profit from the addition of scooters for folks to see the distinctive structure and creative murals.

Hunter stated he has been politically concerned for not less than two years addressing points with tax charges and bonds. The candidate calls himself a “do-er” and feels it was time for him to give up merely griping about issues and be part of discovering solutions.

The three candidates might be on the poll for the Nov. three election together with three metropolis council positions which every have two candidates.

Monday, Oct. 5, is the final day to register to vote for the November election and early voting for this election begins Oct. 13.


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Claire Kowalick, a senior journalist for the Times Record News, covers native authorities, army and MSU Texas. If you may have a information tip, contact Claire at [email protected]

Twitter: @KowalickNews

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