Meet the Candidates: City Council District 4

It’s that time of year again: local election season. Denton City Council elections for districts one through four start soon. Early voting begins on Monday, April 22 and goes through Tuesday, April 30, and election day is Saturday, May 4. Before you go out and cast your vote, be sure to know which district you live in and who is running for city council. For more information on voting, check out the details here.

The Dentonite will be hosting a candidate forum on April 20 at Dan’s Silverleaf at 2:30 p.m. All candidates have confirmed their attendance with the exception of Gerard Hudspeth (incumbent, D1), Keely Briggs (incumbent, D2), and John Ryan (incumbent, D4). You can submit questions for the forum through this google form.

The Dentonite has reached out to District 4 candidates, John Ryan and Emily Meisner. John Ryan currently holds the D4 seat and declined to comment for this article. Emily Meisner’s answers are below. We asked the candidates about their goals, transportation options in the city, council spending, the biggest issues they feel the city faces, and much more.

Emily Meisner

Photo courtesy of Emily Meisner.

Photo courtesy of Emily Meisner.

What boards or organizations are you involved with in the Denton community? Based on your involvement in the community and on these boards or organizations, what skills do you believe you will bring to the city council, or continue to bring?

I have always been an advocate for my community, both as a teacher and a voting rights advocate. I co-founded and ran the nonpartisan Denton Vote Group to increase voter participation, citizen engagement, and civic education outreach. I am a Director on the Denton League of Women Voters Board, and I currently serve on the City of Denton Zoning Board of Adjustment as an alternate. Through these roles, I’ve sought to have an impact on the way we educate our citizens so our policies can be shaped more collaboratively. Advocacy is at the heart of my community action.

What is the biggest issue(s) facing your district that you want voters to know means a lot to your campaign? What changes would you like to institute to address these issues?

I've heard many concerns about road safety issues in District 4. Specifically, these concerns are about Hickory Creek Road and the Teasley Lane road construction. Although the county portion of Hickory Creek Road is not city jurisdiction, I would still work collaboratively with the county and community members to ensure all voices are heard and all concerns have a timely resolution. I have spoken at City Council and County Commissioners Court about both of these road safety concerns.

For the Teasley road area by Guyer, I would like to see temporary safety measures put in place for students to walk safely to school. Once the road construction is complete, I would like to make sure sidewalks on both sides of Teasley are operational. Additionally, I would like to see a crosswalk added, hoping to avoid another tragedy with students crossing the street to school. Let's help the community members with authentic listening and sympathetic action.

Other District 4 issues that I have heard citizen concern for are walk-ability, roads, environmental issues, fracking, gas wells/ reverse setbacks, Buc-ee's signage, the car wash on 2499, and the anti-discrimination ordinance.
I would offer a social media group to discuss these issues. I would also host monthly town halls to solicit community input and address these problems together.

What are three achievable goals that you would champion in the next two years if you won?
Achievable goals:

  1. Road safety improvements: I'll work swiftly and collaboratively to get improvements made to local roads. Let's make sure all roads our children transverse are attended to first.

  2. Proactive community involvement: I’ll host monthly meetings and I’ll attend neighborhood meetings to make sure I know all my constituents’ concerns.  I would like to attend and promote the new City Council Committees such as the Committee on Persons with Disabilities and the Teen Council.

  3. Transparency: I'll advocate for a simplified, public-friendly translation of city council language.  While I understand the necessity of the wording on the agenda items, I’d like to make it easier for the general public to understand the agenda and how local government operates.  I would brainstorm with staff to determine how we can accomplish this.

What are the most important policies Denton needs to implement to ensure that it reaches and maintains sustainability?

To help us reach sustainability, I would like to see utility and water consumption offered at competitive rates.  I support environmental tax incentives to enhance and maintain sustainability. I would streamline the process for citizens who add sustainable infrastructure.  For example, those that install solar panels should be given fair rates for the wattage they generate.

When we review potential new developments, we should preserve existing tree canopies and natural resources while also bringing in policies that encourage new growth to build in an eco-friendly manner. Our commitment to keeping our city beautiful and our natural resources protected is something that should be at the forefront of every decision regarding growth.

How do you feel about the transportation options currently available in our city? Do we have enough options? If not, what will you do to increase those?

DCTA (Denton County Transportation Authority) and the A-Train are great! But there is room for improvement.  Let’s consider students, the elderly, people experiencing homelessness, and persons with disabilities. We can collaborate with citizens on how city transportation can better accommodate these groups.

Two colleges are in the center of our city.  I support bike lanes & sidewalk connectivity in these areas specifically and around Denton as a whole.  I appreciate the Oak/Gateway plan for sidewalk connectivity. When developers come in, let's make sure the neighborhoods are actually walkable and connected to local business and parks.   

Is the city spending money in the right places? What would you change, if anything?

Our first responders are a group who I feel qualify for generous spending. They are the ones who have a great impact on our community, keeping us safe, and should have all the resources they need to do their job well.

I want to make sure our contracts with road improvements are fair and timely. We should prioritize citizen safety concerns before tragedy strikes.

More money should be put toward temporary and/or permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness, especially veterans experiencing homelessness.
The concept of offering incentives is one that I feel should be used with great restraint to maintain the highest standards. We need to ensure that incoming developments meet high ethical and environmental standards. If we can offer a tax abatement to big businesses, then I see no reason we cannot offer the same to small local businesses to grow from the ground up.

Additionally, I would fund early voting and election day polling locations to local universities.  Voting should be made accessible to all. All of these actions would contribute to forward-thinking growth.

How do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process in our town?

I plan to solicit residents’ input via monthly town halls, social media, and neighborhood/citizen meetings. I plan to be proactive in involving residents so they feel their needs and suggestions are valid. No one should feel ignored.  
Specifically, the council should meet with the new Committee on Persons with Disabilities to seek guidance on how to provide equal access and full inclusion on all levels.   

What sets you apart from the other candidates across all districts? What is it about you that you believe the council is lacking that you will bring to the table?

My life as an educator, a parent, and an advocate set me apart from others.  My education and teaching experience have given me valuable insight into our youth and our future.  Because of my background, I fully understand the challenges facing families. I value all the diversity of voices in our community and want to make sure everyone is heard, including the youth, persons with disabilities, and people who experience homelessness.

I would like to see more collaboration between the city, school board, and local PTSAs to address local, school-related concerns that impact many D4 families. I would support the teen council and promote more citizens to participate actively in the decisions that affect their lives.

Time is always a big concern for city council candidates. What would you say to those who are concerned that you wear too many hats and won’t be able to fully dedicate the attention needed to represent your district?  

I have had the ability to provide the time and representation I feel will help benefit our community and city council.  I have already adjusted my time-frame to make city council representation my priority. I'm able to offer the time and dedication this position deserves.

What is something that we haven’t covered that you want voters to know about you, your mission, and why you are running for city council?

I am a former art educator and young people are one of my passions. I would help them get involved in their city and participate in the new Teen Council. I am a community organizer and I will advocate for any persons or groups that are marginalized.  I am a very hard worker. I put myself through college by working jobs while going to school and I didn't take out student loans. I know how to be frugal and resourceful with money. I love our Denton community and feel I have a unique perspective that would benefit city council.

John Ryan

John Ryan declined to comment for this article.

Other Information

More information on Emily Meisner’s candidacy can be found here. More information on John Ryan’s candidacy can be found here.

Election day is May 4 and early voting will take place from April 22-30. More information on polling locations, times, and district look-ups can be found here. Don’t forget to join us April 20 at Dan’s Silverleaf for The Dentonite’s candidate forum at 2:30 pm.

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Header image courtesy of Element5 Digital on Unsplash.

Header design by Kylie Phillips.