City council candidate Christensen answers questions
South Pier recently asked seven questions of each of the three people running for Port Aransas city council, and all three responded.
Each candidate’s responses were posted as separate stories on the South Jetty website.
Jon L. Christensen, a homebuilder, runs for second place on the board; Tina S. Mott, a postal service carrier; and Victoria L. Stiewig, owner of a motorhome fleet.
All three candidates received the same questions.
Below you will find the questions asked to Christensen, as well as his answers.
- Question: Many in Port Aransas believe the Old Town is under attack from redevelopment, undermining the character and history that makes Port Aransas an attractive place to locals and visitors. What, if anything, should city council do about it? Please be specific.
Answer: The building department issues a permit for each project, whether it is a renovation or a new construction. If a certain area was defined as “old town” and an architectural committee formed by the residents of that area, then they could be responsible for approving the plans before submitting them to the City. This is how a new subdivision controls the aesthetics of this particular area.
- Question: The city has just started what should be a multi-month effort to update the overall Port Aransas plan. What are the most important changes that need to be made to the plan? Please be specific.
Answer: I do not know this plan at the moment. I’ll need some time to do some research.
- Question: Short-term rentals (STRs) are hotly debated, both pro and con. Complaints relate to noise, waste generated and parking issues that arise when more than the legal limit of guests occupy rental accommodation. An ad hoc committee was appointed by municipal staff to find solutions. What more can be done to solve this problem? Please give details.
Answer: I think that every management company or owner should have a “hot line” to receive complaints 24/7. A complaint must be processed and recorded so that repeat offenders can be dealt with. Perhaps another code enforcement official could be appointed and, if necessary, fines or other disciplinary action could be taken.
- Question: As the city continues to develop, more and more diffuse pollution will spread to the waters of the Port Aransas area, potentially to the detriment of our ecosystem and the recreational fishing industry. Potential solutions that have been discussed include requiring developers to use more permeable surfaces. How do you think the city council should handle this issue? Is the status quo sufficient? Again, be specific.
Answer: As a home builder in Port Aransas, I have always been aware of and adhered to green space requirements. I noticed some projects that I think are not compliant, but it is the responsibility of the building department and it is their call to enforce. This also applies to parking. We have to look at the application, because the codes are well established.
- Question: Port Aransas Police Chief Scott Burroughs has proposed that the city fund 10 new officers over the next five years. On the one hand, the chief said that the community seems to want more law enforcement. On the other hand, adding so many new officers will mean spending several hundred thousand dollars more in taxpayer dollars to fund the positions. Do you agree with the need to have more officers and spend that money?
Answer: I believe most city departments are understaffed and the police department is no exception. The argument will be “more staff, more payroll, more payroll, more taxes”. If we continue to grow as we have for several decades, we will have to face these realities. There is an ongoing process to get external resources like FEMA and other grants for funding, but it takes time.
- Question: The Palladium residence is about to open its doors to the first occupants. It is developed to help solve the housing shortage for the Port Aransas workforce with a mix of fixed-price and market-priced units. While it may help, it is not expected to provide as much housing for the workforce as needed in the city. What more can or should the city do to enable hourly workers and low- to middle-income earners to afford a living in Port Aransas?
Answer: Frankly, I didn’t think this would solve the “affordable housing” situation at first. As always, people will take advantage of it when they can. In thirty years of searching for a solution, I am perplexed. The only answer I have is to pay the workers a living wage. If a teacher or a policeman cannot afford to live here, we should pay more or give him good housing. The same goes for restaurant workers and store clerks. Fifteen dollars an hour should be a starting salary.
- Question: More than four years after Hurricane Harvey hit, police, EMS and fire departments continue to work from portable buildings. A company called Broaddus is under contract to help the city recover from Harvey, and the company has been trying for a few years to get FEMA to pay for what the city needs for the new police, fire and EMS headquarters. Should the city just let Broaddus continue its efforts, or is there something more the city should be doing to help complete this aspect of the city’s hurricane recovery?
Answer: I would look at the current situation to find out where Broaddus is. What action has been taken? Maybe a representative could go to Washington and meet with the head of FEMA. Many of our citizens are still waiting for some help and we all know how slowly this wheel turns. We need to urge our state and federal officials to do their job and this can be done by voting the right choices and holding them accountable. None of us can do it alone, but by working together we can do it all.