The following are the unedited responses from Brad Torch, candidate for Amarillo City Council Place 3. Torch is facing incumbent Eddy Sauer and challenger Tom Warren II in the May 4th general election.
What is your educational background? Please list any degrees earned, and institutions attended. You may also list any professional certifications.
Bachelor of Arts in Criminology with a minor in Psychology. QMHP-CS Credentialed
What is your occupation?
Mental Health Case Manager
What is your age?
How many years have you lived in Amarillo?
Would you support raising taxes to pay for basic infrastructure improvements? Why or why not?
I do not support immediately raising taxes for infrastructure improvements.The residents of Amarillo have suffered far too many tax increases in recent years. We need to take a hard look at the city's current expenditures and possibly make cuts where necessary and look at new ways to generate revenue in order to fund desperately needed infrastructure projects The residents of Amarillo have suffered far too many tax increases in recent years.
Do you support repairing or rebuilding the Thompson Park pool, and if so, how do you plan to pay for the project? If not, why?
I do support repairing or rebuilding the Thompson Park Pool. Much like the city's infrastructure, we need to avoid passing the burden on to taxpayers and cuts may need to be made in other areas to fund the project.
Do you support the current City Council's decision to change the regular meeting times to 1PM? If so, why? If not, what would be a better time to hold the meetings?
I do not support the current council's decision to change the regular meeting time to 1 PM. The residents of Amarillo deserve a fair opportunity to be heard. Having the meeting during business hours prevents the public from regularly attending meetings and expressing their concerns to the council. I would propose a meeting time in the early evening making the council more available to the public.
Do you believe current petitioning requirements are too strict for citizens looking to place an item on the ballot? If so, what would be a better threshold?
I do believe the current petitioning requirements are too strict for citizens to place an item on the ballot. Given that Amarillo is oddly split between two counties and many live in the county, but outside the city limits, getting signatures from 5% of voters in both counties can present to be difficult. I believe 2,500 signatures from residents within the city limits, should be sufficient to place an item on the ballot.
Do you believe more City Council oversight is needed for municipal departments? Why or why not?
I believe it is the City Manager's responsibility to oversee municipal departments, however a periodic report should be presented to the City Council for each department in order to hold the City Manager accountable for his or her responsibilities and to assure the departments are running efficiently and effectively.
What should the future be for the Civic Center complex?
I believe that a long-term renovation plan of about 5 years would be the best solution, as funds for immediate renovation are clearly not available for the project. Future considerations for a sports arena, as previously planned, could be a possibility after renovations are complete.
Since 2017, major musical acts like Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, Metallica, Thomas Rhett, and Chris Young have played concerts in Lubbock. Meanwhile, multiple artists have passed Amarillo to perform at venues in other cities. How can Amarillo attract major concerts, such as these, as well as conventions, and other major events?
After the MPEV has finished construction, I believe it will be a sufficient venue to attract big name performers. I think it would be beneficial to create a department whose sole responsibilities would be to actively seek out, book, and manage events and keep the MPEV in use on non-game days, which will produce more revenue.
In 2017, the Amarillo City Council voted to increase fees for citizens seeking to obtain public information. Would you have supported this vote? If you were a member of the Council at the time of the vote, how did you vote on this item and why?
I would not have supported the vote to increase fees for citizens seeking to obtain public records. It is the responsibility of the city to provide transparency to the residents of the city, and raising the cost impedes the transparency necessary to maintain trust with the community.
Would you support moving Amarillo's City Council election dates to November of even-numbered years? Please explain.
I support moving the City Council election dates to November of even-numbered years. Historically, the turnout for municipal elections in May has been extremely low. Moving the City Council election to the same dates as the general election would result in an increase of residents voting for City Council, which in turn would provide a better sampling of voters and a more accurate and fair election.
The Amarillo City Council made national headlines in 2018, when a citizen was arrested after clapping in a public meeting. What are your thoughts on this incident, and do you believe the ensuing events were an overreach of the City Council's authority?
It is my belief that the City Council's consistent apathy toward residents' concerns contributed to a reactive contempt toward the Council. Instead of being proactive and listening to their constituents, they chose to use their authority to silence them. They absolutely overreached their authority because of their own loss of control.
How would you ensure all citizens have an equal chance to serve on a municipal board, regardless of their political connections?
It is imperative that our municipal boards have equal representation to assure that all of our residents are represented in the decision making process. I believe that the board selection process should require an equal number of residents who reside in predetermined quadrants or neighborhoods of the city.
Would you support establishing a "no-kill" animal shelter in Amarillo? Why or why not?
I would support a no-kill shelter in Amarillo, however I also believe that our animal control ordinances need to be rewritten so that we can work towards reducing our animal population as well. We are fortunate enough to have passionate volunteers who are willing to shelter animals, but cannot because our current laws do not allow more than four pets in a household. I believe we should use all of the resources available to us to work towards reducing the population of animals sheltered in the city facility, so there won't be a need for constant euthanization.
Do you support the City of Amarillo's curbside cart program? Why or why not?
I do not support the City's curbside cart program. While I have lived in cities where a curbside cart program was successful, Amarillo has the issue of consistently strong winds, which is already creating a problem for residents who have been given carts. Residents voiced concerns regarding the cart program, but the current council didn't listen.
What should the City of Amarillo's role be in preventing homelessness in Amarillo? How do you plan to implement that role?
I believe the City of Amarillo should play a large role in working towards a solution to homelessness in Amarillo. There have been many other cities that have successfully decreased their homeless populations. It is important for the city to work with other organizations to develop a solution rather than just depend on those organizations to solve the problem alone.
The City Council recently voted to purchase a warehouse on Johnson Street for storage of Civic Center items. The purchase attracted controversy due to an alleged conflict of interest in the deal. Do you believe this purchase was a wise investment by the City of Amarillo? Please explain.
The current City Council has a recent history of making questionable property purchases. I will refrain to comment on whether the investment was wise or not because I am unsure of the value of the property and whether the motivation to purchase the property was for the need of more storage or to secure the property for later use. That said, I believe the possibility of a conflict of interests makes the purchase at least questionable.
Would you support reforming the Amarillo municipal court?
In my few visits to the Amarillo municipal court, I have witnessed events that I believe were abominable. I believe the court exploits individuals who are unaware of their rights with the sole purpose of extorting money. I would support reforming the municipal court to assure that all defendants have a reasonable opportunity to defend themselves and there is no longer a disparity between those who have the ability to pay their fines and those who do not.
In what cases would you support the issue of certificates of obligation to incur debt for municipal projects? Please explain.
I would only support certificates of obligation to incur debt for the sole use of improvements to infrastructure. The city currently holds too much debt than it can afford and further debt should only be incurred for projects that will absolutely benefit the residents of Amarillo.
Should any future municipally owned parking garages be constructed in the vicinity of City Hall and the Civic Center? Why or why not?
Until there is an absolute need for further parking, I do not believe there should be any more parking structures built. The current parking garage is not being utilized as was planned as there is no need.
How would you ensure public meetings allow maximum public engagement? Please explain.
I believe the decisions made by the City Council should be based on the voices of the public. I would ensure that public meetings allow maximum public engagement by creating a culture where comments and concerns are welcome, even if there is disagreement by any or all of the Council. When there is disagreement, we can have an open and honest conversation about how we can come to a resolution.
In your view, if a tax bill for a single piece of property increases from the previous year, while the tax rate remains the same, does this constitute a tax increase? Please explain.
If a tax bill increases from the previous year, while the tax rate remains the same, I do not believe that constitutes a tax increase. I do believe we need to question PRAD's valuation process as property values by PRAD have increased disproportionately to market values according to many residents that I have spoken with recently.
In 2017, the City Council discussed cutting budgets for three libraries in Amarillo, while leaving the budget intact for the Downtown Library and the Southwest Library. Would you support cutting the budget for the local library system to allocate those funds for other projects? Please explain.
I believe that the library system is an important part of our community for the benefit of our local education. If budget cuts need to be made for other necessary projects, I would look to other departments before cutting library funding. If in fact it were necessary to cut library funding, I would cut funding equally between all libraries rather than focus the cuts on a few.
In 2018, the Amarillo City Council voted to add more red light cameras to Amarillo streets. At a time when Governor Abbott is pledging to ban the use of the cameras in the state, do you believe this contract was a wise investment? Why or why not?
As I understand it, the way the contract is written, there would not have been any costs to add and move the red light cameras, as was done. If that information is incorrect and there was a cost, it was a very poor investment that should have been placed on hold pending the outcome of the proposed bills at the state legislature. That said, it is likely the cameras will be outlawed by the end of 2019.
Do you believe the City of Amarillo has neglected certain areas of Amarillo? Please explain.
I believe that the City of Amarillo has systematically neglected areas of Amarillo for many years. Neighborhoods such as The North Heights and The Barrio have deteriorating roads, abandoned homes, and a lack of nighttime lighting. The city has not prioritized its spending well, concentrating too much money on projects in the downtown area, and little to none on neighborhoods that need serious revitalization.
How would you propose attracting new business to Amarillo, if elected?
In order to attract new businesses to Amarillo, we must assure that we have the workforce to staff those positions. I believe the answer is negotiating agreements between new tech and manufacturing companies and our higher education institutions to provide guaranteed, immediate jobs for graduates. Too many of our graduates are leaving for bigger cities due to a lack of job opportunities in Amarillo. This will help build our economy and bring new innovative companies to Amarillo.
Would you support the establishment of single-member districts for Amarillo City Council elections? Please explain.
The population for Amarillo after the 2020 census is projected to be over 200,000. Our current at-large City Council has contributed to an unfavorable distribution of progress to different areas of the city. It is imperative that we establish single member districts to ensure equal representation for every area of the city. This will give residents of every socioeconomic group a voice in decisions that affect their neighborhoods.
In 2017, several current members of the Amarillo City Council promised to increase civility and "change the tone" at City Hall. Do you believe City Council meetings are more civil today than prior to this City Council's time in office? Please explain.
I did not live in Amarillo prior to the current City Council, however, I don't believe there is a sense of civility in the current Council meetings. The current Council has created a level of distrust with the community and the only civil discussions occur among the council members themselves.
What letter grade would you give the Amarillo City Council for its job performance over the past two years? Please explain.
I would give the City Council as a whole a C-. They have followed the lead of the mayor in ignoring the voice of their constituents. They vote together on virtually every issue up for a vote. Not a single member stands up to the group to vote against them, even if it is for the betterment of the community. They argue with residents who do not agree with them, rather than listen with open minds. It is certainly time for change.
What letter grade would you give city manager Jared Miller for his job performance over the past two years? Please explain.
I will be a little easier on Manager Jared Miller and give him a C, only because he is not held accountable by the Council as he should be. He does hold responsibility however, because he is an experienced manager and I don't believe he has managed his supervisors well. One example, is the actions by the recently resigned, Director of Animal Management and Welfare, Richard Havens. He operated in bad faith and unabated by Miller, when he euthanized a pregnant pitbull in May of 2018.
Are you supported by Amarillo Matters or any other special interest groups?
I am not supported by ANY special interest groups at this time, and have no intentions of accepting support from any special interest groups in the future.
Why should voters choose you on election day?
Voters should choose me on election day because I am dedicated to the interests of ALL of the residents of Amarillo. I do not own any property, I do not have any interests that will influence the decisions I will be a part of making. I will work hard to ensure that every resident is heard, that every decision that is made is transparent to the taxpayers, and that every financial decision is made with careful consideration. I am determined to lift Amarillo to it's full potential, to grow its economy, to revitalize our deteriorating neighborhoods, and to restore the city's relationship with the people who make it an amazing place to live.