What The Arlington Mayoral Candidates Think About Policing, Housing And Transit

Early voting begins Monday in the runoff election.

By Bret JaspersMay 24, 2021 12:23 pm, , , ,

From KERA:

The upcoming Arlington mayoral runoff pits Jim Ross against Michael Glaspie. Ross is a lawyer, restaurateur and former police officer. Glaspie is a former City Council member and former member of the Arlington ISD Board of Trustees.

The first day of early voting is Monday, May 24. The runoff election ends June 5.

Seven people ran for mayor in early May. No one got a majority of votes, so the top two vote-getters are advancing to the runoff.

Ross and Glaspie talked with KERA about their policy positions.

1. Housing

The city manager runs the day-to-day operations of the city, not the mayor, although elected officials approve budgets. The mayor and city council regularly vote on development projects and zoning, decisions that affect the amount and type of housing available.

Michael Glaspie. Bret Jaspers/KERA

An increasing number of renters in Arlington pay more than 30% of their income in housing, according to the recently-published Unity Council Report. Ross said addressing that would take a “multifaceted approach.”

“It’s not just whether or not we have enough affordable housing for those folks who have lower incomes,” he said. “But it’s also trying to make sure that we increase their income so that we provide ample opportunity for them to be able to make more money.”

Ross was not in favor of rent controls or increasing the density of the city.

Glaspie was more open to the city’s government working to ease the housing burden, but did not have a specific recommendation.

Jim Ross. Bret Jaspers/KERA

“I think what we have to do is just take a close look at potentially how we might be able to provide more affordable housing,” he said, pointing out that apartments can put more pressure on city services. “How can we provide the kind of living facilities [and] services that are necessary for our citizens?”

2. Policing

The Unity Council Report also made recommendations to address inequality in policing, but members of the panel couldn’t agree on having a community oversight board with subpoena power to monitor police.

Glaspie, who served on the panel, didn’t say in his interview whether he supported that kind of board or not. Rather, he wants any potential oversight policy to have buy-in from both the police and the community.

“We need to make sure that whatever we would come up with, whatever form it comes up with, it’s something that the police and the community are arm-in-arm over,” he said.

On the other hand, Ross, a former police officer who’s been endorsed by all of the Arlington police unions, said the police do an adequate job of investigating themselves.

“I believe that we can always do better when it comes to transparency,” he said. “But we do not need a civilian oversight board with any type of investigative authority.”

3. Education

The mayor of Arlington doesn’t run any of the school systems that operate in the city, but both candidates want to use the office to boost education.

Ross said he wants to convene a panel or working group of all the educational systems in town, so they can regularly communicate.

“They will get together often and start developing the relationships necessary to really advance the education of all of our children, not just in any one system,” he said.

Similarly, Glaspie thinks education should be a focus of the mayor.

“I’d like to work even closer with the school district so that we can define opportunities where we can capitalize on partnering and, in effect, save resources for our city,” he said.

Glaspie was a trustee on the Arlington ISD board for 17 years.

4. Transportation

Arlington launched an on-demand, shared van system with the company Via in 2017, and the service expanded citywide earlier this year.

“I think right now we have a good start,” Glaspie said of the transit options in the city. “What we need to continue to do is define specifically what we feel we need to get from place to place, identify technologies and approaches that address those that are cost effective.”

Ross gave kudos to the people who brought Via to Arlington, but also called the service “not the perfect animal” because he’s concerned about the safety of strangers sharing a relatively small van. Also, the service doesn’t carry people door-to-door.

Ross said there may be more ways to utilize Handitran, a door-to-door ride service for seniors and people with disabilities. And he brought up the proposed high speed rail project from Houston to Dallas.

“I would love to have it coming through Arlington,” Ross said.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at [email protected]. You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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