Thursday, April 10, 2008

Claude Hunter 2008 Interview Township Director Woodlands Texas

Candidate Written Interview

1. What specifically do you personally expect to get out of being on the Township Board?

I seek only satisfaction for a job well done. A better question might be: What should residents expect to gain by Electing Claude to The Township Board? My reply to that is: I intend to continue to serve residents of The Woodlands and to complete the process approved by The Township voters. Our transition to a democratic governance is what I envisioned and have worked towards for more than ten years. My proven leadership record of working with others to achieve resident needs and to lower assessment/taxes while at the same time improving services and amenities provides assurance of positive results to the residents as a result of my being elected to The Township Board.

2. What are the primary resident values that you will use to prioritize your decision making for the villages?

The primary resident values I will use are: To ensure a seamless transition to a fully democratic form of governance free of the threat of annexation - a government of the people, by the people and for the people. I will continue to seek resident input by listening to constituents - in person, via e-mail and via my informational website I have maintained for the past three years at . My positive record of success in working with others to satisfy resident needs for more than ten years should be considered. For more details, please see the page titled “Issues” on my website at:

3. What are the primary commercial values you will use to prioritize your decision making for the business community?

Our business, light industry and commercial sector is very important to our economic and social success. We must maintain and improve high quality employment, shopping and tourist aspects that help us to be an even more complete and desirable community. A place where our property values and quality of life are enhanced and where others will come to shop or participate and thus help to make us a more desirable and economically successful community. Our business community consists of our residents, our employers and much of our potential economic success

4. Do you believe that resident issues or commercial interests are going to be your biggest challenge?

They are interdependent - they must work together.

5. What is your position on the future government of The Woodlands? For example, do you support incorporation?

The Residents of The Woodlands should make that decision at the ballot box. The role of Township Directors should be to support a deliberative community involvement process to study and evaluate merits and costs for governance options. It should include educational components to help residents make an informed decision based on valid information. Residents need to know that existing laws and agreements do not allow us to incorporate, or form some other governance, until we fulfill all aspects of our unique agreements with Houston and Conroe in May 2014. As a director I support beginning a deliberative process after a fully elected Township board is in place. Preparations for forming our own permanent governance may involve significant acquisition of land, buildings, equipment and money to pay for the substantial costs and preparations required to successfully incorporate, or to form some new form of permanent governance.

6. What is your view of the relationship between the associations and the Township during and after transition?

Association and Township Directors must work together to ensure that all the transition agreements are implemented on schedule and as agreed upon. Perhaps the best way to assure a seamless transition is for residents to elect candidates who have proven leadership and familiarity with staff and policies, such as indicated by their current service on boards of WCSC , WFD and perhaps WRC. Simultaneous service on boards that supply the services and on The Township Board that supplies funding during the transition should help ensure that the transition is seamless. It should be evident that there will likely be a majority of Township Directors on the Township Board who are not elected at-large by Township residents until after May 10, 2010, when a fully elected board will begin. Thus the election of five Township Directors with proven recent leadership in our community association governance seems especially important.

7. What is your vision of maintenance services for the community in the transition and afterwards?

The transition agreements should be followed. Thus maintenance services will continue to be supplied and handled by directors, policy, budget and staff of the WCSC until 2010. Then the agreements spell out timing for the demise of funding of WCSC. Maintenance services should continue seamlessly during the transition. After the transition, residents will control this and other aspects of governance by election of candidates with proven leadership capabilities and by replacement of any that do not meet the needs of the majority of Township voters..

8. What is your vision of the associations’ role in the future of The Woodlands?

The role of the Village Associations should not be significantly affected. As a Director, I will rely on input from all villages. The Associations agreed on the statement below, titled “Village Associations” for inclusion in the transition agreement. It answers most of the question. I will continue my support for a $10,000 donation to each village to help defray insurance and other costs. Starting in 2010, or when the Community Associations of The Woodlands no longer have jurisdiction, Township meetings should include a brief report by an elected representative of each village at every regular meeting. And, I believe, Township meetings should be at a time when residents, including village association leaders, can more easily attend and provide input to the board. I shall continue to attend as many village association meetings and functions as possible.

9. What changes would you like to see from our fire department over the next two years?

I have participated in planned changes that will ensure that The Woodlands Fire Department will significantly improve and become more cost effective to residents over the next two years. Plans, contracts and budgeting planned by the WFD Board and staff are now being implemented and must continue. In addition to the new facilities now nearing completion, we have planned for two new fire stations that are already included in five year budget plans. As an active member of the WFD board since 2002, I plan to continue to work to ensure that our county wide dispatch system, new emergency training center and other changes in facilities, staff, equipment and policy help make us more effective in saving lives and property and in providing much better area wide emergency services. The potential reduction of an additional eight percent in homeowners fire insurance with a total savings to residents and businesses of ten percent since several years ago that should result from the above improvements is substantial. We should continue plans to market our emergency training center to allow others to contract for use of the facility. That should offset our capital, maintenance and operation costs for the training center.

10. What are your ideas and vision for the tax structure for residents and businesses here?

The WCSC board and staff ideas and vision for an improved tax structure was approved by the three associations and The Township in 2007, including budgeting for plans sufficient to complete the transition. The planning and approval process extended into early 2008. These plans include replacing non-tax deductible assessments with more cost effective taxes as soon as possible after 2010 - as promised prior to the November vote of Township residents and detailed in subsequent transition documents. My ideas and vision are to work with others to reduce community association assessment rates an additional 16 percent for 2009 as planned in joint and separate meetings. Specifically my role as a sitting TWA Director, until at least March 2010, is to work to reduce TWA assessment rates by an additional 16 percent for a total of 31 percent reduction from the 2007 rate; and as a Township Director to provide funding to replace assessments dollar for dollar.

11. What is your position on the parks, trees and amenities provided throughout The Woodlands? Also please add any relative comments on the development of the Village of Creekside Park?

My positive actions on most boards and committees since 1997-2000 has been and shall continue to be to continuously protect and enhance our parks, trees and amenities throughout The Woodlands Township. The development of land in Creekside Park that is owned by others, is not a function under the control of any of the community associations nor of The Township. As an association and Township director I shall continue to work with the developer and others to ensure that master plans for our community are fulfilled consistent with, and in many cases improved over, Mr. Mitchell’s original vision for The Woodlands.

12. If you have any additional statements you believe residents or storeowners should hear reflecting your personal commitment to their welfare, please try to enumerate in 50 words or less.

For eleven years I committed to working full time to further improve this great residential and commercial community. Working together, we improve our quality of life and economic success. I want to continue to serve throughout the next three important transitional years as a Township Director. Please vote.

Candidate verbal interview

1.Debt: How are we the Township positioned for assuming the debt from TWA and other holders of debts to be transferred?

Most outstanding long term debt is for construction of Fire Station 6 and the new Emergency Training (formerly Fire Training) Academy. Economic Development Zones (EDZs) were created to finance those facilities with debt to be paid by Sales and Use Taxes. The separate EDZs have now been consolidated. We planned for the debt and the good thing is that if we need to finance additional debt, with resident approval, we can obtain bonding so we can get favorable interest rates and thereby lower costs. As a member of the Woodlands Fire Department Board of Directors, we worked with The Township Directors to ensure that debts will be paid off as planned. We are also working to ensure that other potential users of the Emergency Training facility help pay to offset operation and maintenance costs and may even cover part of the capitol costs for construction of the facility. Existing debts are a part of the transition agreements and are not a decision for new board members to face.

In TWA, we have already passed the median in valuation. That is important for the tax base. TWA residents will pay their own way for the debt incurred, since taxes must be uniform. There will be a continued need for pathways and other amenities in the newer villages.

2.Priorities: In that you have been so involved in change over the past 11 years in The Woodlands, where do you think your contributions might be focused in the next (transition) phase as we head for 2014?

I have been privileged to serve the residents full time for many years. With their approval, I shall continue to provide full time service - attending and participating in essentially all meetings that apply to our local governance, as I have for eleven years. I am not planning on slacking off and plan to continue to tend to and meet resident needs. I meet and work with as many residents as I can in an effort to better understand the needs of our community and to work with others to meet those needs. I was one who made promises to the voters. I have worked for more than ten years to be allowed to choose our own government and fully intend to fulfill all promises made. I made a sincere commitment to these historic goals. This will be a full time job for me - not part time. My day starts at 5AM and sometimes ends at 11 PM. What we are going to accomplish during the next two to three years in this new governance is important.

3. Passions: If I asked for you to talk about your greatest passion relative to this position, what would you say that would be?

Passion is by deed, not word. For me, the community has always been a priority. I was on the development appeals committee. I did not necessarily agree with the development company on many issues. I was there to represent the residents. From that work, I influenced the addition of more green space to the master plan. I got a pathway in Alden Bridge by seeking solutions to resident issues; it was not safe for pedestrians due to the lack of pathways. I was one of three, all elected, to get directors from both associations together to iron out issues between developing villages and established villages. At first, we were at odds, perceived to be representing the developers. Together however, we worked on law enforcement among other issues;we did a study and the residents got together on it; now we have a new sheriff. The Entergy power line issue, another passionate project – I got involved in a grass roots effort. Entergy wanted to go right through the villages with overhead transmission lines. We went to Austin on it and we were required to have our own lawyer. We negotiated with Entergy and the state agencies. By the time they saw our viewpoint, Entergy got on board and saved $1mm with a different solution. Now we have underground lines and no new high voltage overhead lines in our villages. I have been to Houston, working with committees there. I was the only elected person present for all four bills. I came up with the concise brochure for the Woodlands Decides Committee and distributed thousands of them. I have missed only about two meetings in the WCA. I believe in being there! I missed one because of cancer. “I figured if that didn’t kill me, my wife would” (laugh) because she had to help me out a lot then. “You know the surgery was on the weekend, and I had serious side effects, but the next Tuesday was a very important association meeting and I was there, as always“

Campaign Website: Go to ELECT CLAUDE campaign web site

Campaign Email: Send email to Claude's campaign mailbox

All rights reserved
Content approved for publication by Claude Hunter

No comments: