College Station voters find themselves in an enviable -- but frustrating -- situation in the Jan. 28 special election for Place 4 on the College Station City Council. Four candidates are vying to replace Councilmember Elianor Vessali, who resigned to run for the Congressional District 17 seat now held by U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, who is not seeking re-election.
The good new is voters will have four outstanding candidates from whom to choose. The bad news is that they will have four outstanding candidates from whom to choose.
David Fujimoto and Marycruz DeLeón Morales are new to the College Station elections scene. Joe Guerra Jr. and Elizabeth Cunha have run before. In fact, Cunha won the most votes in her last attempt but lost to Councilman Dennis Maloney in the runoff. Since then, she has involved herself in city life and, consequently, has made herself an even better candidate.
Whomever is elected on Jan. 28 or in a likely runoff will serve the people of College Station well.
On Thursday, all four candidates met individually with The Eagle Editorial Board to discuss the concerns facing the city and its residents and ways they would work to meet the demands of a rapidly growing city in the future. Each interview took about an hour and left Editorial Board members impressed with each of the candidates.
Elizabeth Cunha ran for the City Council in November 2018, capturing 42% of the vote, but losing in the runoff. Prior to that race, Cunha had served as chair of the Parks and Recreation Board. Since then, she has been named to the Planning and Zoning Commission -- an important, but not mandatory, training ground for council members -- the Impact Fee Advisory Committee, the Bio Corridor Board and the Comprehensive Plan Evaluation Committee.
A teacher at A&M Consolidated High School, she is concerned that few of the people she talks to in walking neighborhoods are aware there is a special election in little more than a week. She also receives questions about the city tax rate, which is higher than needed to fund the city budget, with any extra collected used to hedge against increasing costs and state-imposed limits on tax increases in the future. She said she would have voted in favor of the current city budget, but against the tax rate.
Cunha said the city cannot build its way out of traffic congestion. Instead, the city needs to look at developing and encouraging different forms of mass transportation and normalizing those systems of transportation.
If elected, she said she wants get deeper into the details of the budget and wants to work on eliminating the "us vs. them" divide within the city.
David Fujimoto is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and spent 22 years in the Air Force as a pilot. He earned a masters degree and, after retiring, came to College Station to complete a second masters at the Bush School. He works with the A&M Foundation, raising funds for veterans' issues.
He said the College Station City Council does not reflect the diversity of the city, its young people and its military veterans. He said students aren't bad neighbors and the council should bring student leaders into the discussions about city issues.
Fujimoto says his three top issues are traffic congestion, the needed diversity of businesses and employers, and collaboration with Texas A&M, Bryan, Brazos County and Navasota.
Joe Guerra Jr. has spent the past 30 years involved in traffic planning, currently working for a consulting firm in Katy that works with the Texas Department of Transportation, cities, counties and other entities to develop transportation plans. The firm has no contracts with the city of College Station at this time.
He, too, serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
In the past, Guerra worked for the Texas Department of Transportation and the College Station Planning Department. He said he is for smart, responsible growth, neighborhood integrity and financial responsibility. He wants to help the city develop its new comprehensive plan and to start looking at planning for a redevelopment of Post Oak Mall in the future.
Marycruz DeLeón Morales notes she is the only one of the candidates born and reared in Bryan-College Station. The Sam Houston State graduate spent time working in the financial industry, experience she says will help her handle budget issues. She said there is missing representation for young families on the council.
She is a passionate advocate for families and says the city must do all it can to ensure their safety. She also lists transportation and affordable housing as top issues.
Morales is a fan of community roundtables to bring important issues to the attention of the City Council.
College Station voters will choose among these four strong, capable candidates.
Today, The Eagle makes its recommendation in the Jan, 28 special College Station City Council election. Our recommendations are but one source of information voters should consider when going to the polls. Other sources of information could include news stories, campaign ads and mailings, and discussions with family, friends and coworkers.
Elizabeth Cunha stands out in a field of standouts. By throwing herself into city life since she last ran for the council she has made herself a powerful candidate who would bring an intense interest in the daily functioning of the city to the council.
While the voters can't go wrong, they would be wise to give their vote to Elizabeth Cunha for Place 4 on the College Station City Council. The Eagle recommends a vote for Elizabeth Cunha for City Council.
Early voting continues Tuesday through Friday at the College Station Utilities Meeting & Training Facility at 1603 Graham Road. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
On Election Day, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at College Station City Hall, 1101 Texas Ave.