Raul Gonzalez, District 2

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1. Protection of Taxpayers' Dollars – please respond by February 29, 2024

How much of a priority should be placed on protecting taxpayers' dollars? If we are granting dollars for “economic development” should the company be vetted? Should an “economic development” grant require an actual application? Why or why not?

Fiscal responsibility is critical for effective governance. Economic development dollars should only be given to companies that have been throughly vetted, an application process could certainly be part of this process. Economic development grants have been and will continue to be important for Arlingtons economy however funds must benefit the city through increased employment and or taxes into the city coffers.

 

2. Density – please respond by March 7, 2024

a. How do you feel about changing commercially zoned properties to multi-family zoned properties? Why?

b. What if the area already contains many, many apartments such as southeast Arlington in the Hwy 360 corridor?

c. How do you feel about RMU (Regional Mixed Use) zoning and its potential 100 units/acre? Why?

a. Changing commercial property zoning to residential multi-family is not ideal, however there are times when it is suitable. Such re-zoning should consider how neighborhoods will be affected, as well as the impact on the commercial to residential property tax base. There are times when commercial use for a property does not materialize after many years, in those instances re-zoning can be beneficial to increase the taxable value of what had been unutilized property. Additional apartment homes should be high quality aesthetically and serve the needs of the community wherever they are located.

b. My preference continues to be for high-quality single-family neighborhoods for purchase, however, Arlington needs a variety of housing for current and future residents.

c. Regional Mixed Use provides a housing choice that a growing number of people find appealing. When it is done well, it brings in higher premiums while tenants and residents stay longer becoming economic generators. Size matters and I believe 100 units per acre is unacceptable as allowing extreme density now could cause serious issues in the future.

 

3. Citizen Participation – please respond by March 14, 2024

In 2023 the city council voted to require preregistration and reduce speaking time for citizen participation (at the end of the meeting). Do you agree with this move? Is two minutes enough time to describe a situation and make desired comments/solutions/etc.?

I voted against preregistration and reduced speaking time at Council meetings. Oftentimes, constituents simply want to have their voice heard in the public forum of a City Council meeting. Sometimes the content of a meeting prompts the desire to comment. Preregistration takes away this option. A time limit can be difficult for some people. Those who are concise and prepared can certainly finish in the allotted time, however I do not believe the previous three-minute limit presented enough of an issue to shorten it. I hope that the matter can be addressed again in a future council session. Please remember that council members cannot comment or respond to persons making public comments at the end of the meeting.

 

4. Corporate Welfare – please respond by March 21, 2024

The City Council has given away millions of dollars and/or potential revenues to companies to encourage development. At what point has there been enough “encouragement” and when should the taxpayers-- and lowering tax rates-- become a higher priority than development? Why?

Tax abatements and/or other incentives are awarded to deepen the overall tax base. In the vast majority of cases, revenue that might seem “lost” to a tax abatement, is recovered through significantly increased tax returns in other forms. Arlington’s sport franchise venue partnerships have produced vast increases in our sales tax revenue. The COVID pandemic’s economic impact was lessened by these partnerships because of this revenue stream. The undeveloped Viridian property tax value was around 8 million in 2006. Viridian’s taxable value is now more than 840 million and increasing with each additional construction project. Properly allocated tax incentives cause dynamic activity, increasing money supporting our city. Arlington has some of the lowest property tax rates in the area. The largest portion of our tax bill pays for Public Education. District policy has the most significant impact on our tax bill. Continuing to base tax property on appraised value alone must be addressed as growth, inflation and other factors are driving property values and thus appraised taxable value up. Taxes are a serious burden to many homeowners. In the last session, the Texas Legislature increased the homestead exemption giving some relief however property tax reform should continue to be a priority in the legislature.

 

5. Communications – please respond by March 28, 2024

If you receive an e-mail from a constituent on an Arlington issue and the constituent logically laid out and well documented the issue, will you respond to the constituent? Why or why not? What actions will you take?

I have made constituent communication a hallmark of my 14 years of elected service. I appreciate anyone who takes the time to document an issue they are concerned about. I have met with individuals and groups to discuss issues of concern. I do not know everything and am open to hearing from community members. If the issue involves a particular department, I make certain staff members are made aware of the situation so that a resolution can be achieved. This of course does not always favor the constituent, but in many cases compromise can be agreed upon.

The nearly 400,000 residents of Arlington have many different points of view. We may not agree on everything, but I will take the time to research and respond to constituents who take time to contact me.I have made constituent communication a hallmark of my 14 years of elected service. I appreciate anyone who takes the time to document an issue they are concerned about. I have met with individuals and groups to discuss issues of concern. I do not know everything and am open to hearing from community members. If the issue involves a particular department, I make certain staff members are made aware of the situation so that a resolution can be achieved. This of course does not always favor the constituent, but in many cases compromise can be agreed upon.

The nearly 400,000 residents of Arlington have many different points of view. We may not agree on everything, but I will take the time to research and respond to constituents who take time to contact me.

 

6. Issues – please respond by April 4, 2024

Other than public safety what is the most important issue the city council is currently facing? Why? What are your suggestions for addressing this issue?

The issues I have worked to bring to the forefront in the last few years are the cleanliness of Arlington as well as concern regarding homeless persons and panhandling. Don’t Mess with ARLIGTON Texas should be a slogan we all live by. Arlington is our home, and we should work together to keep it clean. The city works with volunteer groups like the Fish Creek Cleanup Challenge but each of us must make sure we don’t inadvertently litter and pick it up where we can. Arlington can be the cleanest city in America, let’s get it done. I am proud to report that the city recently launched a dedicated page for Clean Arlington initiatives.

I have received more emails regarding homelessness and panhandling than virtually any other single item. These are serious and complicated problems for cities around the country. Arlington is blessed with generous people and caring organizations. The “Contribute to the Solution” signs seen at intersections list our Homeless Services website with organizations that help get people off the street. A constituent sent me a photo of a sign in Texarkana. Within a few months we had signs up and early reports show that Homeless Services has experienced a very significant increase in traffic. Ultimately, Arlington is generous; as long as persons give directly to individuals, they will continue to panhandle. APD’s “HEART” Team includes officers and staff specifically trained to engage with homeless individuals and those experiencing mental health crisis.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you on the Arlington City Council. You are always welcome to reach out to me. Let’s Work Together for a Better Arlington.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sent May 25, 2022 -

Transparency - Please respond by June 14, 2022.
 
If  the city council approves an item for hundreds of thousands of dollars and the taxpayers and citizens receive no benefit from the decision, should the staff conduct an investigation as to what happened, with recommendations of how the "loss" can be avoided in the future? Should the investigation results and recommendations be made available to the public? Why or why not?

Thank you as always for your work bringing the workings of the city to public attention.  I believe that an investigation is not only warranted but necessary to find out why an outlay of public funds derived no benefit to the taxpayers.  Only by analyzing why an agreement did not work can future agreements be vetted more fully.  The public has the right to know and I support making finding public.  Transparency is essential in government.

 

1. Sales Tax – please respond by March 3, 2022

In November 2020 voters passed a measure to increase the sales tax another ¼ cent to 8.25% for the funding of an Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Claims supporting this measure included helping small shops recover from the pandemic. Have they performed what was promised? What are your thoughts on the EDC's purpose, effectiveness, and the tax? Why?

 Arlington’s Economic Development Corporation funded by the ¼ cent increase in the sales tax rate
approved by Arlington voters in November 2020 has been in place just over one year. A new Executive Director has recently been hired. The EDC will help Arlington compete with surrounding cities by creating jobs and keeping our property tax rate in check.
With leadership in place, I expect funds from the Economic Development Corporation to be used for in-field development of open land within the city limits as well as revitalization of the current commercial base. New and re-development will benefit both small and large businesses.
Increasing Arlington’s commercial property base will benefit residents by maintaining the cities property tax rate while bringing in or allowing for new employment opportunities for residents.

 

 

2. Density – please respond by March 10, 2022

How do you feel about changing commercially zoned properties to multi-family zoned properties? What if the area already contains many, many apartments such as southeast Arlington in the Hwy 360 corridor? How do you feel about RMU (Regional Mixed Use) zoning and its potential 100 units/acre? Why?

Re-zoning from commercial to residential multi-family is not ideal. There are times when such rezoning is appropriate, however impact on surrounding neighborhoods must be considered. There remains a need for the cities property tax base to be re-balanced; ideally 60% commercial to 40% residential. This must always be considered. Families who already call Arlington home as well as new residents need a variety of housing. My preference is for high-quality neighborhoods, be they single family or high- quality townhomes for purchase. RMU makes for interesting living choices, however 100 units per acre is unacceptable particularly as we come out of the COVID pandemic where the need for “social distancing” was a hallmark. Extreme density has historically been an issue in large cities around the country and Arlington should pay close attention to mistakes made. Arlington should strive for high quality, homes in a variety of price points so that our young residents can purchase their first home, empty nesters can downsize, growing families can purchase a larger home and those choosing luxury will have options in Arlington as well. The American Dream City should be a place where families can realize the American Dream of homeownership.

 

 

3. Transportation – please respond by March 17, 2022

VIA's funding for the past year has been covered by federal money because of the pandemic. When things return to “normal” funding, let's assume that the Federal Grant will cover approximately 25%. At that time, how should the service level and pricing structure be arranged between the general fund and riders? Why?

Ridership on VIA is increasing as the service becomes more well known. At this time, we do not know the structure of funding however we expect to have continued funds from the federal government. At the National League of Cities Conference in Washington DC earlier this week, Arlington was cited because of our innovation in public transportation. Any answer I could give on potential funding, service, and pricing structure in at this time would be pure speculation.

 

 

 

4. Corporate Welfare – please respond by March 24, 2022

The City Council has given away millions of dollars and/or potential revenues to companies to encourage development. At what point has there been enough “encouragement” and the taxpayers, and lowering tax rates, should become a higher priority? Why?

 

Arlington and cities around Texas make agreements with companies giving tax abatements or other incentives to bring in new or facilitate business expansion, increase housing options etc. seeking to create jobs and deepen the overall tax base. Revenue that might seem “lost” to a tax abatement, in the preponderance of cases, is recovered through significantly increased tax returns. Arlington’s partnerships with our sports franchises have provided for vast increases in our sales tax revenue, even allowing Arlington to navigate losses during the COVID pandemic more favorably than cities without this revenue stream. The Viridian Development’s 2006 undeveloped property value of around 8 million has increased to a current value in excess of 840 million and climbing. Income tax cuts made under administrations of both parties since the 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913, on the surface appeared to cost the government money; in reality greatly increased funds to the treasury because of dynamic forces created when money is invested in the economy through business expansion and increased spending. Local agreements, in the majority of cases, have the same dynamic impact bringing in more money and allowing Arlington to have some of the lowest property tax rates in the area. Overall property tax policy must come from the Texas Legislature through reform of Public-School tax policy. The vast majority of our taxes go to Austin through school taxes. I encourage each resident to contact our state legislators and insist that property tax reform be the priority.

 

 

5. Communications – please respond by March 31, 2022

If a constituent emails you a question or comment on an issue about which you disagree and asks you for a response, will you respond to the constituent? Why or why not?

 

I make it a point to respond to constituents and on the rare occasion I have not it is simply because of clerical error. During my 11 years on the school board and now on Arlington City Council I have made it a point of responding to each contact. This is how I know about concerns and issues in the community. I genuinely enjoy speaking with people and don’t mind when someone says hello. I have spoken with constituents at the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns, on cruise ships and at Arlington National Cemetery, it really is a small world. In my year and a half on council, I have given out in excess of 3,000 business cards with my personal cell number. Arlington is a city of 400,000 with many different positions and points of view. We may not agree on everything, but I will take the time to respond to constituents.

 

6. Issue – please respond by April 7, 2022

What is the most important issue the city council is currently facing? Why? What are your suggestions for addressing this issue?

 

Arlington should be a safe city with healthy neighborhoods and good roads. Fiscal responsibility is imperative and must keep property taxes in check. 2022 tax appraisals will be out soon; housing prices are soaring, and property taxes will go up simply from appraisal values. Costs are also rising; however, the increased tax revenue must be used wisely not simply for new projects not previously planned for. Taxpayers should be relieved as well. Arlington has done so in the past and should do so again to offset the increase. On the May 7 Ballot you will find 2 State of Texas Propositions for constitutional amendments assisting elderly and disabled persons and increasing the homestead exemption. These are helpful but full Property Tax reform must be a priority for our legislature. I am asking for your VOTE on May 7th. We must Work Together for a Better Arlington.

 

 

 

 

 

1. Term Limits Committee – please respond by August 27, 2020

A Term Limits Advisory Committee was named and fast tracked recommendations to the city council with four meetings, and over 13 hours, between July 14 – July 28. Do you have an opinion of this whole situation? Do you have an opinion of the outcome?

I support term limits for all elected officials and respect the voters. I do not believe the Term Limits Advisory Committee should have been assembled prior to the November election. Its recommendations will have no impact on the immediate future of Arlington. Our City faces significant challenges and my financial management skill will help as Arlington recovers from COVID. I will bring the same hard work and integrity to the Arlington City Council that I have provided to MISD and my experience on that board will allow me to have immediate impact on the council.

 

 2. Sales Tax – please respond by September 3, 2020

This November's ballot includes a measure to increase the sales tax another ¼ cent to 8.25%. Would you have voted to put this on the ballot? Why or why not? How do you plan to vote on this issue? Why?

Had I been on the council, I would have voted to place the ¼ cent increase before the voters as has been done with prior authorization of Arlington’s sales tax option. Previous proposals using our ¼ cent had merits as does using the funds for Economic Development. Because AISD placed a tax increase on the ballot near the end of the filing deadline, I would have preferred this proposal be moved to the Spring. The City’s proposal is not a property tax but a sales tax that will bring our rate in line with other cities and be paid by residents and visitors alike. Arlington needs more commercial development not only to provide employment for residents but for a favorable balance of 60% commercial to 40% residential property values. I will be voting Yes on the Sales and Use Tax because Arlington must expand and diversify our commercial tax base and redevelop empty commercial property tracts throughout the city. Most other cities already use their full rate, and many have Economic Development Corporations to draw in commercial industry. This revenue stream will benefit residents as more favorable corporate development and relocation options will exist in Arlington as well as Plano and Frisco. The increase equates to an extra $1.25 per month over the current rate but should reap exponential benefits for residents particularly as Arlington’s Entertainment venues reopen and visitors add to Arlington’s Economic Development Corporation with their purchases.

 

3.. Density – please respond by September 10, 2020

How do you feel about changing commercially zoned properties to multi-family zoned properties? What if the area already contains many, many apartments such as southeast Arlington in the Hwy 360 corridor? How do you feel about RMU (Regional Mixed Use) zoning and its potential 100 units/acre?

The decision to rezone commercially zoned properties to multi-family must be made with care for the surrounding community & school district impact. Additionally, Arlington’s property tax base needs to be re-balanced to the ideal 60% commercial to 40% residential ratio and this needs to be considered with any commercial rezoning. Texas is a re-location destination & many of our apartments are full, however overbuilding would be a mistake. My preference when residential housing is needed is for high-quality single-family neighborhoods. The recent trend toward RMU makes for interesting new living choices, however 100 units per acre is unacceptable. The pandemic we are currently experiencing that requires “social distancing” should be a wake-up call against extremely dense housing.

 

4. Transportation – please respond by September 17, 2020

Via's December 2019 contract renewal has increased the geographical coverage area to 41% (and is available to 49% of the population). Meanwhile, the contract is paid 53% by Arlington taxpayers, 31% by Federal Grant, and 16% by the people taking the rides. Is this fair to the taxpayers, most of whom are not covered, but are paying 53%? How do you plan to vote on future funding? What is your solution? [the staff report: https://legistarweb-production.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/attachment/pdf/481268/Staff_Report_-___MF__RK__-_FINAL.pdf].

 

Via was chosen after looking at options like DART. Taxpayers fund services that they may never use. Most will never play golf at Tierra Verde, hike a trail at SW Nature Preserve or visit a recreation center. Fortunate residents will never use the service of a police officer or fire fighter after an accident or kitchen fire, but these departments are paid by all. Living in a city rather than an unincorporated area brings shared services like parks, police and fire departments that benefit all residents. VIA Rideshare has enjoyed good results and I support expansion city wide. Via recently added free service to TCC Southeast for students in the service area. Our challenge is to continue looking for innovative, workable solutions for our public transportation needs. Arlington has more flexibility for future innovation because of the relatively low investment made in VIA.

 

5. Communications – please respond by September 24, 2020

If a constituent e-mails you a question or comment on an issue where you disagree and asks you for a response, will you respond to the constituent? Why or why not?

 

I will absolutely respond to constituents when they take the time to contact me. Responding is critical – it is how I know about concerns and issues in the community. Speaking with people is the best way for me to have the pulse of what is going on with residents. If elected, it is my duty as a public servant to listen to all residents, business owners and other stakeholders in Arlington. I genuinely enjoy speaking with people and like constituents to come up and say hello if they see me out and about. I have spoken with MISD constituents at the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns, on 2 cruise ships and at Arlington National Cemetery, it really is a small world. I have given out thousands of my MISD business cards which include my cell number. Throughout my 11 years of school board service, I have made a point of replying to all emails and calls from constituents and will do the same should I be elected to city council.

 

6. Issue – please respond by October 1, 2020

What is the most important issue the city council is facing? Why?

 

The city council will have a very different budget to look at for the next couple of years because of the economic challenges brought on by the COVID shutdown. Making careful decisions that will keep Arlington financially healthy while maintaining important city services will be critical. Because of recent council turnover, fewer members have experience working with economic downturns. I have experience with serious budget challenges school districts experienced during previous economic downturns and because of inequitable state funding. I know how to look at complicated reports and will be impactful immediately.

Additionally, Arlington is a wonderfully diverse city ethnically, economically and in other ways. The council must make decisions for the benefit of each and every resident. All decisions I make will be made with the betterment of our entire community as my guide.