City incumbent, challengers speak at SGA open forum
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 25, 2012 00:10
The Student Government Association hosted a town-hall debate for the Huntsville city council candidates in the LSC on Tuesday.
Councilman James Fitch, Deputy Chief of University Police Department and running unopposed for At-Large position 1, alongside candidates Joe Rodriguez and Kendall Scudder answered questions posed by constituents.
Rodriguez is running for At-Large position 3 against incumbent Don Johnson, while Scudder is running for At-Large position 4 against Keith Olson.
Both Johnson and Olson declined the invitation to the event due to prior engagements, according to event coordinator Steven Perry.
Scudder made the audience aware of their absence many times during the debate, as well as Rodriguez.
“[My] opposing view is not here because they decided not to show up today,” Scudder said when asked about jobs and economic growth in Huntsville.
The three candidates in attendance were asked separately how they would work with the university on making Huntsville have a better education atmosphere for grade school as well as higher education.
Rodriguez said, “I do want to work with the university with, for example, a research park. We need to establish it in a way that would be advantageous for both the university and the city.”
Scudder said the problem with the organizations currently are the communication between the institutions.
“The problem is more of an issue that entities in the [Huntsville] government don’t work well together…," Scudder said. "I think it’s really important that we have intergovernmental collaboration.”
Fitch felt a bit more optimistic.
“As a university I have a little bit of an advantage because I already have the connections… …It’s just about us all getting around a table, rolling up our sleeves and getting to work,” he said.
Scudder expounded on how retail chains aren’t the best way to make a city’s economy grow.
“An Olive Garden just isn’t going to cut it,” he said. “The type of economic development that we have shouldn’t be a shotgun approach to see which retail chains we can get to come here first.”
Scudder then talked about his plan to bring the research industry into the city and incentivize more clean industries.
Rodriguez agreed with a majority of what Scudder said.
“I’m a big supporter of responsible economic development,” he said. “If we give tax rebates to [more] retail companies then they have a bigger advantage over the retails that are already established here.”
He also proposed working with SHSU with new industries to create an education that would train and educate workers for that job.
Fitch had a slightly different view on retail businesses in Huntsville.
Scudder is an SHSU student majoring in political science with a minor in communication studies. He said he is prolonging his graduation until May 2013 so that he can focus on the campaign, work and still be able to handle school as a full-time student at 12 hours instead of 21.
“I’d love to see more business here and even retail because the more sales tax we can generate, the more it takes off the taxpayers backs,” he said. "We need well paying industry jobs.”
During his answer, Fitch also commented about how many professors at SHSU choose to live outside of Huntsville and even Walker County.
Susan Shupp, an English professor at SHSU, said the reason she lives and stays in The Woodlands is because her child is enrolled in high school there.
“It makes sense to stay put even though the commute is a long one,” she said.
However, there is hope for her living in Huntsville in the future.
Huntsville citizens are able to vote for the city council members now until Nov. 2, and then again on Nov. 6 on general Election Day. Visit huntsvilletx.gov for more information about voting and current city office holders.