Mitch Tyra is running largely on his record for re-election to the Place 3 seat on the Granbury City Council. Gary Couch is challenging him largely because of it.
Both spoke to the Hood County News on Monday about what they feel are the main issues in the race leading up to the Nov. 6 election. While they both agree that the city’s high electric rates need to come down, there isn’t much else they agree on. The two planned to square off at a candidates debate Tuesday night, hosted by the Hood County Tea Party.
Candidates for the Place 5 council seat also were expected to attend the debate, which occurred after press time. Laurel Pirkle is running for re-election to that seat, and is being challenged by Keith Tipton and former City Manager Harold Sandel. The HCN will be providing information about issues in that race in a forthcoming issue.
Tyra said that the matters of most concern to him include lowering the city’s utility rates as quickly as possible; making sure that city policies, laws and regulations are enforced fairly and consistently; and capping the city’s debt and taking on no additional debt without taxpayer knowledge and approval.
Tyra counts among his accomplishments a more open city government as evidenced by the “Open Mic” segment that has been added to City Council meetings. Tyra championed for that, along with Mayor Rickie Pratt. Tyra also cites as an achievement the lowering of council pay.
When Tyra took office in the summer of 2009, he immediately set about trying to lower council pay after the City Council in 2008 voted for significant raises that caused a public outcry. Tyra at first received no support from his colleagues on the council when he urged cutting the compensation, but eventually the pay was reduced as longtime council members began to lose bids for re-election.
Today, council members earn $12,000 per year – not the $18,000 they were making when Tyra got elected.
Couch, a 20-year Granbury resident and a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission for the past three years, cited these issues as his top priorities: reducing the city’s high electric rates; increasing efforts at economic development; the City Council’s need to take a more assertive role in the Brazos River Authority’s new water management plan for Lake Granbury that is due in November; correcting the “eyesore” of the unfinished boat docks near the Conference Center that have been the subject of a lawsuit; and taking control of the delayed Opera House renovation project.
The issue with the boat slips involves a disagreement between the city and Jay Mills construction company over the types of materials to be used. Couch said he would have moved forward with bids for another company to finish the job, maintaining records in the event of a legal battle with the Jay Mills company.
“They’ve been sitting there for three years,” he said of the vertical poles that are jutting out of the water near Hewlett Park off of East Pearl Street. “It’s an eyesore as you’re coming into town.”
Where utility rates are concerned, Couch said he has done “a lot of research in this area” and plans to soon have a “comprehensive alternative.”
Couch is critical of the way the City Council has been handling the Opera House renovation project, which has seen delay after delay as the price tag has risen. He blames it on “Mitch’s leadership.”
“He led this effort that has brought us to this place because the night of the vote for St. Helen’s (a building next door that would have allowed for expansion), instead of the City Council having a debate about that option, Mitch Tyra killed the debate by calling for the question, which forces the vote,” said Couch. “So there was no chance for another councilman to change his vote because there was not a debate. Mitch is totally responsible for where we find ourselves today.”
The St. Helen’s building was a donation made possible through several big-ticket donors, as well as the fundraising efforts of Preserve Granbury, the Opera Guild, the Millenium Club, the Lake Granbury Art Association, the Granbury Brigade and the Historic Granbury Merchants Association.
Tyra has been outspoken in his belief that the city should not take on real estate, and he has also worried about the city appearing to give a leg-up to some businesses, but not others.
On the night of the St. Helen’s vote last February, City Council members Tony Allen and Nin Hulett also voted against accepting the building donation.
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