District 4 race

District 4 candidates John Ryan and Emily Meisner appear for a candidate forum Thursday at Denton County Brewing Co.

Longtime Denton businessman and City Council incumbent John Ryan faces a challenge in his reelection bid from Emily Meisner, a stay-at-home parent and community volunteer with her own local political base of support.

The two City Council hopefuls are vying to represent District 4, home to Denton’s densest, fastest-growing and southernmost neighborhoods. District 4 residents struggle with some of the city’s most congested roads but also enjoy proximity to some of the city’s best parks and shopping centers.

Ryan is seeking a second term. He previously served a half-term in District 2, representing Denton’s north side, but was unseated by current council member Keely Briggs four years ago. Meisner serves as an alternate on the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment and stepped down from a nonpartisan voter participation nonprofit she co-founded, Denton Vote Group, to seek her first elected office.

The council seat is one of four district-specific seats up for election on May 4. Briggs did not draw an opponent. Two other candidates are racing in central Denton’s District 1, and three new faces are vying for the District 3 seat representing the west side.

Early voting begins April 22.

We caught up with the District 4 candidates this week and asked them three questions about key issues for the city. Here are their responses:

DRC_ John Ryan

John Ryan

John Ryan

Age: 54

Born in: Oak Park, Illinois

Employment: owner/operator, Limerick Services, Sanger, 1985-88; store manager, 1988-90; project manager, 1991-2002; co-owner, Limerick Property Management LLC, 2002-present

Education: attended North Central Texas College (various courses in accounting, business management and real estate), 1988 to 2004; attended the University of North Texas (engineering, math and physics), 1983-86

Online: ryanfordenton.com

DCTA may change as many as three of its seven fixed bus routes in Denton to zone service with app-hailed rides. Do you support this change? Why or why not?

I would need some more data, although I understand the reason for the change. Those routes [Routes 1, 2 and 3] are the routes that are used the least.

I would need to know whether the limits of the bus route times would change. Does it give us the ability to increase the times that the buses are running? Can we extend the hours?

The City Council is expected to negotiate an agreement with the developers of Cole Ranch and Hunter Ranch that could allow a special taxing district with higher property taxes in those neighborhoods than in the rest of Denton. What terms would you seek in such a deal? What would be a deal breaker for you?

First and foremost, the tax rate that they propose [55 cents per $100 valuation] gives me heartburn. I would want to see what we get on the ground for that rate.

The one item that would be the deal breaker for me is when the governing board is put into place, I want to make sure that there are homeowners on the board. There have been cases when [a municipal utility district] is put in place and the developer can control it. We need to be sure that in Denton, the homeowners are on board before the developer is allowed to sell bonds. In other words, they can only sell if the infrastructure is already in place. They will have to hold elections to put those officials in place, and until then, an interim board would be in charge. But we have to make sure that interim board cannot sell any bonds.

We’ve adopted a lot of initiatives recently, such as the 10-minute walk to a park [a goal that puts a park within a 10-minute walk for every resident], that would also need to be in place. Connectivity and the sense of community also needs to be in the plan.

The city’s red-light camera contract is up for renewal in July. Should the city renew, and why or why not?

Most likely, based on the number of bills in Austin now, it may not get to a vote. But my vote would most likely be to get rid of the contract unless the police department can substantially justify the use of them.

DRC_Emily Meisner

Emily Meisner

Emily Meisner

Age: 41

Born in: St. Louis

Employment: intermediate school art teacher, 2000-02; middle school art teacher, 2003-08; adjunct art professor, 2005-06; high school art teacher, 2008-14; stay-at-home parent and community volunteer, 2014-present

Education: bachelor’s degree, visual art studies, University of North Texas, 2000; Marcus Fellowship, 2002-03 and master’s degree, art education, University of North Texas, 2004

Online: emilyfordenton.com

DCTA may change as many as three of its seven fixed bus routes in Denton to zone service with app-hailed rides. Do you support this change? Why or why not?

It seems like this technology would have a lot of pros and cons. On the outside looking in, it seems like a good change. But for some riders, only utilizing the bus within a certain zone and using a new technology application, it could be problematic as well.

The tech could be a problem for some citizens, especially those who aren’t tech savvy, such as older people or those who cannot afford smartphones. Hopefully, DCTA can make this a smooth process. I think the city will need to educate the citizens on the change, too, so that everyone feels they have equal access to the system and not feel that they don’t have access if they don’t have the technology.

With new programs, you always want to weigh the pros and cons.

The City Council is expected to negotiate an agreement with the developers of Cole Ranch and Hunter Ranch that could allow higher property taxes in those neighborhoods than in the rest of Denton. What terms would you seek in such a deal? What would be a deal breaker for you?

I think the city needs to proactively prepare for this community to come in as a municipal management district. It would be new, so we would have to look at all sides of the issues that makes this an extra tax, whether it’s best for Denton and fits the 2030 plan. This could set a precedent for future development.

If I could be able to set the terms, I would want to see clear, open and transparent communication to all homebuyers to make sure they understand and are aware of the district and how it could potentially affect the resale of their home. If they aren’t going to be transparent about all the intricacies, then that would be a deal breaker for me.

And if they over-leverage themselves or the city, that would be a deal breaker. I’m not for or against the district, but I feel like this is the opposite of smart growth. I feel that local control is best for Denton. There are just so many questions about this extra layer of government that need to be explored. If the community at large is opposed to this, that would need to be a deal breaker for us.

The city’s red-light camera contract is up for renewal in July. Should the city renew, and why or why not?

I am not in favor of renewing the contract. I think that from the most recent study [of yellow light timings] that council member Keely Briggs did, there is room for us to grow and develop a better system without that contract. There are so many difficult situations that come from that contract that the benefits don’t outweigh the negatives.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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