GALENA PARK – Last Friday evening, April 25, candidates for the upcoming election of a Mayor and Council members in Galena Park participated in a Candidates Forum at Baggett Center.
The Forum was hosted by this newspaper, the North Channel Star, and the Rotary Club of Galena Park-Jacinto City.
Four candidates for Mayor were present: Esmeralda Moya, Robert Clowers, Joseph Thibodeaux, and Cruz Honojosa.
There are nine candidates for city council’s four positions, and most of the candidates were present. That included Position #1 Water & Sewer: Joe DeLaTorre, Position #2 Police & Fire: Lois Killough, Position #3 Parks & Recreation: Maricela Serna and Veronica Garcia, and Position #4 Street & Bridge: Mark Groba, Juan Flores, and Martha Flores. Due to prior commitments, Danny Simms for Position #1 and Zenaida Granado for Position #2 did not attend.
The format of the evening was an open 5 minute presentation by the candidates, followed by questions from a panel, and the audience.
The panel consisted of Rotary President Ernesto Parades, Journalist Bob Bartel of the North Shore News website, and publisher Gilbert Hoffman of the North Channel Star newspaper.
First, candidates were asked to tell of themselves, and their qualifications. Briefly, these were the responses:
Esmeralda Moya, a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, employed previously by the Port of Houston, now the Harris County Dept. of Education.
Bob Clowers, current city councilman, retired steelworker, advisory committee to the Port. Instrumental in acquiring federal and county funds for improvements to parks, at least $400,000.
Joe Thibodeaux, current city councilman, studied at San Jacinto college, electronics background, 38 years with Bell Telephone. Acquired 2 police cars, 1 ambulance for the city, increased reserves.
Cruz Hinojosa, 23 years with the Houston water department, helped start LULAC hispanic organization, Houston Police supervisory position, awarded $86,000 in scholarships from LULAC.
Candidates were asked about their ideas for Economic Development. Brief answers included:
Moya: bring in new businesses, work more closely with Greater Houston Partnership.
Clowers: tear down old nuisance buildings, get cooperation from Port and businesses to clean up and build new.
Thibodeaux: partner with businesses, plan beautification of Clinton Drive, add clinical health services and transportation for seniors, get chemical plants to control more pollution.
Hinojosa: work on getting a new grocery store, use Rotary to make partners with industry, take advantage of the CIP group, including getting more industry jobs for GP people.
Comments on financial condition of the city:
Moya: taxes and water rates too high, city departments need to cut budgets.
Clowers: $10 mil. in debt with interest, need plan to repay without more taxes.
Thibodeaux: Only $6 mil. owed, can pay off in 20 years easily, water rates fixed because we buy from city.
Hinojosa: collect back taxes, give seniors a fixed rate.
Comments on city departments:
Moya: need more police, and more volunteer firemen.
Clowers: old water and sewer lines need replaced, engineering plan first to get grants, pay police more to keep them from leaving.
Thibodeaux: police numbers okay, crime rate low, water lines now being replaced.
Hinojosa: city hall needs to listen to citizens, streets need repaired, code enforcement lacking.
In questions from the audience, all the candidates in some way said that GP needs cleaned up, and that the public’s perception of the city needs improved.
Council questions and answers will be covered in next week’s edition of the North Channel Star.