From Craig Johnson, Candidate for Sulphur Springs City Council-Place 1:
Being chosen three times by the citizens of Sulphur Springs to be one of their leaders has been one of the great honors of my life. Serving our great City requires putting the interest of the City ahead of my own and constantly learning about our City, its citizens and how our government can best serve them.
The city council is a group of seven unpaid people who as a group set the policies of the City. In general, the council sets up the framework or environment which we all live by. My opinion is that laws and ordinances should be few and far between. We have been lucky in Sulphur Springs, as our past councils have not been overly aggressive with the ordinances it has passed and has not gotten involved in national politics as many other cities have. Sometimes, there is a desire to pass an ordinance to address every nuisance and slight. This either leads to overly controlled cities, where no one wants to live or a system that is unenforceable and those in power pick and choose which ordinances to enforce.
- Downtown-the revitalized downtown area has taken the biggest eyesore in the City and turned it into our biggest asset. It is acting as a draw for tourism, businesses and industries. The improvements have dramatically increased the economic output of not just the downtown area, but the entire City. All of these improvements were done while maintaining the $0.44 tax rate that has been in effect for over 15 years. Further, all of this was done while restricting the expenses to 6% of the City’s budget.
- Economy – We aggressively recruit manufacturing businesses to expand and relocate their businesses here. The City, through the Economic Development Corporation, has been very successful and over the last 10 years has brought in over 750 new jobs. Our efforts are accelerating with our downtown area making this process much easier. This growth has also made it easier to bring in retail and restaurants. Some recent successes include, Starbucks, KFC, Chick-Fil-A, UBER, Corner Grub, Alcove, Burgerland, Saucey’s and Lander’s Creek Outfitters.
- JOBS – Anywhere you look in our county, there are business trying to hire good people. This has multiple affects. It brings in new residents and it makes every job eventually pay better. It also makes it easier for people to want to improve their situation get better jobs.
- Streets – The City’s goal has been rebuild one major street per year and to steadily increase the paving budget. The City has averaged $1.1 million per year on street improvements each year and is spending $2.9 million on streets this year.
- Public Safety – Our City is ranked one of the safest Cities in North East Texas, but we are not going to stop there. We have steadily purchased new equipment for our police and firefighters. We have steadily added several new patrol vehicles, license plate scanners, body cameras, body armor, bunker gear and a new fire engine.
- Municipal Judge – Upon the retirement of Phyllis Rogers, the City contracted with our Justices of the Peace to act as Municipal Judges. This arrangement allows the City to save money on salaries and benefits and the Justices of the Peace were able to make extra income. The tax payer got a better deal and we now have Judges that are more accountable to the citizen as they are elected officials.
- Luminant Mine – The closure of the mine was a blow to the local economy, but due to the strong and diverse nature of the economy, it had limited long-term effect. The biggest positive is that Luminant has agreed to give the mine property, over 4,900 acres, to the City. We will be working on uses for the property for years. Some proposed uses include an industrial park near the double rail spur, a recreational park, an RV park, etc.
- Fire Department – It was necessary in 2017 for a multitude of professional and personal issues to eliminate the Fire Chief position. That action has resulted in an unprecedented amount of political involvement by the fire department in this City’s election. I don’t think that the citizens of this great City want one department of City employees to take over the Council that determines how much of your tax dollars get paid as salaries and benefits. However, I also think that the citizens want a functional fire department that is capable of responding to public emergencies. Once re-elected, I will work with other members of the City Council and City staff to improve the fire department so that the employees of that department are fulfilled with their work and feel like they are an integral part of our City’s future.
- Development of the Mine – See above.
- Streets – All of the City’s infrastructure needs to be improved due to lack of attention many decades ago. Some of the sewer pipes are so old that we cannot determine their exact age other than being more than 50 year old. We have been playing catch-up for the past decade, paving more than 1/3 of the streets, but more needs to be done above and below ground. One area that needs special attention is Woodbridge. When that neighborhood was built, there was in improper amount of steel used in the streets. I will be working to improve one section at a time until the worst parts are rebuilt. There are other areas, but this problem has existed too long.
- Pacific Park –We have been working with private donors and community residents for more than a year to improve this park and make it more usable for citizens in the area. This project is ongoing with the projected completion of phase 1 in 2019.
- Animal Control – I have been working with citizens that want to donate significant amounts of money to the City if we would develop, in cooperation with the County, a county wide animal shelter. This project is ongoing and in the planning stage.
- Downtown Phase II – I feel that success begets success. The area West of downtown has been proposed for public street and green area improvement. The blighted areas on each side of Mulberry and Rogers would develop over time into high density housing and commercial areas.
- Senior Citizen Center – Emily Glass started the ball moving on this project 2 years ago. The initial plan was to expand and remodel the existing Senior Citizen Center, but we were unable to purchase the adjacent land. I feel the likely location for a new Center would be on West side of Oak Avenue where the City owns an empty lot and an abandoned nursing home which would need to be removed. This project is ongoing with an anticipated completion in 2020.
In conclusion, we have had some great successes over the last 10 years, but we are not finished. A vote for Craig Johnson is a vote for demonstrated success. I will work every day to deserve your vote so that we all can have Better Jobs and a Better Future!