West Fayetteville residents have about a month to choose from six candidates running for City Council in Ward 4.
Ray Boudreaux, Craig Honchell, D’Andre Jones, John La Tour, and Phillip McKnight spent about 90 minutes answering questions prepared by Ward 4 council members Rhonda Adams and Alan Long at a candidate forum held Monday evening at City Hall. Robert Williams was the only Ward 4 candidate who was absent. Williams, a project manager for Milestone Construction, said an unexpected work event kept him from attending the forum.
The candidates are vying to replace Adams, who plans to move to Tampa, Fla. after serving out her term.
Voter registration for the Nov. 4 general election runs through Oct. 6. Early voting begins Oct. 20.
Here’s how the candidates answered some of the questions Monday night:
How should the city handle sprawl, particularly in west Fayetteville?
Jones said aldermen should focus on smart growth and listen to what residents want.
Honchell said sprawl is best controlled by planning and good zoning practices. He said if elected, he’d push to keep student housing complexes close to the university and away from residential neighborhoods.
Boudreaux said sprawl is difficult to control when developers convince aldermen to expand the city limits.
“I don’t believe we need to spread any further west or any further at all,” said Boudreaux. “If I’m elected, I will vote against any petition to expand further than we are currently.”
Instead of addressing sprawl, La Tour said the city needs to loosen its development regulations to make it easier to do business in Fayetteville.
“I’m all for zoning ordinances and planning, but at some point we have to respect a business person’s ability to think for him or herself,” said La Tour.
McKnight said encouraging infill is the best way to control sprawl, but it’s not always an option.
“I’m all for infill, but there’s only so much infill that can happen,” McKnight said.
He said longterm master plans, like the Wedington Corridor Plan, can help control sprawl in growing areas by ensuring the proper infrastructure is in place before development occurs.
Should Fayetteville be a mandatory spay/neuter community?
McKnight and Honchell said spaying and neutering pets is important, but it’s a decision that should be left up to pet owners.
“I have pets and I think I know what’s best for the pets I have,” said Honchell.
Boudreaux and Jones said the city should insist that pet owners take care of their pets, but requiring them to be spayed or neutered is going too far.
“I’m not a pet owner, but when I do choose to become one, I don’t think I would prefer being told what to do,” said Jones.
La Tour said government should only step in if people are abusing their pets.
“Coercion is always easier than persuasion,” said La Tour. “Let’s leave our people free to choose for themselves.”
How would you resolve over-occupancy problems stemming from more than three unrelated people living in single-family homes near the UA campus?
Boudreaux said the responsibility should be put upon the owner or landlord of a house to make sure their tenants aren’t violating the city’s occupancy ordinance.
He suggested giving landlords a brief window of time to correct reported violations before revoking their business license.
“That will get their attention,” said Boudreaux. “And if that doesn’t get their attention, how about a fine of some kind?”
Honchell and Jones said students who over-occupy a home should be held accountable through the university.
“It all comes down to accountability and I think the only way you get that is through the university,” said Honchell, who suggested the school implement a registry system for students who don’t live on campus.
McKnight agreed and said residents need some assurance that violations will be addressed.
“Why as neighbors are we responsible for continually following up to make sure that our city ordinances are followed?” asked McKnight, who said he once had to file 15 or 20 complaints before an over-occupancy violation was resolved in his neighborhood.
La Tour said he would focus on enforcement of the noise and parking ordinances rather than the occupancy laws.
“What’s the problem with 10 people living in a house?” he asked. “Is it that there are 10 people or is it that there is a lot of noise?”
He said people can’t expect to live near the university campus and have a quiet neighborhood.
“If you really want that, you can’t live next door to Razorback Stadium,” said La Tour.
Do you attend Ward 4 meetings? If not, would you have time to attend regular meetings if elected?
La Tour said he didn’t know what ward he lived in until he decided to run, so he’d not heard of the Ward 4 meetings held at City Hall each month.
“Remember I’m the guy that believes the best way to serve the people is to let the free markets function and do what they do best,” said La Tour. “But I will go to Ward 4 meetings if elected.”
Boudreaux said he was a regular at past Ward 4 meetings, but hasn’t attended in a while. He said now that he is retired, he’ll have more time to devote to the community if elected.
“I’ll have plenty of time to serve on committees, plenty of time to do my homework before I make my decisions, and plenty of time to attend Ward 4 meetings or even organize them,” said Boudreaux.
Honchell said attending Ward 4 meetings is what got him interested in serving the community many years ago. He said he hasn’t been able to attend lately because he serves on the Planning Commission and both group’s meetings are held on Monday nights.
Jones said he prefers to watch the meetings online through the city’s website.
“If I’m elected, I am committed to attending all City Council meetings, including Ward meetings,” said Jones.
McKnight said he regularly attends Ward 4 meetings and is an active participant.
“As far as time goes, I would not have made the commitment to run for this position if I did not feel like I was able to invest the time and effort to do the best job I can for Ward 4,” said McKnight.
How have you served the city?
Jones said he has volunteered since 2012 as part of an ongoing campaign to recruit a more diverse range of employees to the city’s police and fire departments.
McKnight said he currently serves on the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and was treasurer of the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks.
Honchell said he currently serves on the city’s Active Transportation Advisory Committee, and was a volunteer Planning Commissioner for three years until the City Council voted to reinstate salaries for commission members. Honchell said he started a Watch Dog Dad program at Asbell Elementary and has volunteered as a youth sports coach through the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Boudreaux said he’s been a longtime public servant, starting with his time as an Air Force colonel in the Vietnam War. As a recent retiree, he said he wants to continue along that path. He read a laundry list of community service positions he holds, including president of the Arkansas Air and Military Museum board; chairman of the NWA Certified Development Co.; chairman of the Sequoyah United Methodist Church council; vice chairman of the NWA Economic Development District board in Washington County; and president-elect of the Rotary Club of Fayetteville.
La Tour said his service is operating a tax attorney business.
“I have served as a CPA in this city for 34 years,” said La Tour. “Volunteer time is valuable to a degree, but a more serious service for all our citizens are businesses and enterprises that meet the needs and desires of our city’s occupants.”
Why do you want to be an alderman in Ward 4?
McKnight said he has experience in budgeting that he’d like to utilize as an alderman who helps set the city’s budget each year. He said his degree in landscape design and urban horticulture would be put to good use when working to pass legislation that protects green space in Fayetteville. He also said he has some people skills that will come in handy.
“I believe that I have the ability to help groups come to a consensus…that is acceptable to both sides of any type of disagreement,” said McKnight.
La Tour said he wants to bring a business perspective and a conservative voice to the City Council. He said he would work to repeal the city’s new Civil Rights Administrator ordinance if it’s upheld by voters in an upcoming special election. La Tour said he believes the ordinance violates the freedom of citizens.
“I don’t care about your color, your sexual orientation, the length of your hair, or what you believe…I’ll even tolerate a democrat,” he joked. “But I want you free.”
Boudreaux said he’s worked around government all his professional life and has been frustrated by some of the decisions made by elected officials.
“I have always wondered, “Why don’t more smart people who have experience in business or industry run for City Council or serve on government boards?” said Boudreaux. “I can’t complain unless I present myself as a candidate.”
Honchell said he wants to use his experience as a five-year veteran of the Fayetteville Planning Commission to serve at a higher level. He said he’s made a lot of ties to the community and wants to represent people outside of just development issues.
“It would be a huge honor to help bring the economy back into Fayetteville,” Honchell said. “That is one thing I would love to see is industry come back to Fayetteville, and provide good jobs for people and to see kids grow up the right way.”
Jones said he wants to help usher in a more diverse City Council.
“Northwest Arkansas is growing and city government must reflect that growth,” said Jones. “I want to serve Fayetteville to sustain a vibrant, inclusive government and to promote community progress and inclusion.”
The candidates were asked if they would: advocate for more trail funds in west Fayetteville; value opinions of constituents over Planning Commissioners in development proposals; and promote natural resources and green infrastructure. Each candidate said yes.
They were also asked if they’d consider dipping into city reserves for employee raises, infrastructure projects or balancing the budget. Each candidate said all three should be top priorities when approving a budget, but none addressed whether they would consider using reserves.