Candidates for The Woodlands Township Board Discuss Incorporation
The Woodlands area Chamber of Commerce’s Business Advocacy Council hosted a candidate forum for The Woodlands Township Board of Directors on October 16th.
The forum included Treva Taglieri and Brian Boniface (incumbent) who are running for Township Board position 2, and Francis “Frank” Dargavage and Bruce Rieser (incumbent) who are running for position 4.
The first question that was asked, and the topic on which opposing candidates’ views differed the most, was about incorporation.
Treva Taglieri, when asked about whether The Woodlands should hold a vote on incorporation in the near future, replied that The Woodlands should wait to vote on incorporation until residents gain a proper understanding of its potential effects and how the irreversible process will be carried out. “I do not believe The Woodlands should vote on incorporation in the near future and I come to that conclusion because of my background in systems engineering. I know seven principles of creative problem solving when you develop an optimal solution, and I myself have not seen all of those fulfilled. I think they’re doing a great job in collecting information but I have spoken to many residents that are not clear about how they’re moving forward with it, and until I’m able to explain that to them or even understand it myself, I don’t think that we are ready,” she said.
Township Director Brian Boniface, Taglieri’s opponent and the incumbent for board position 2, answered the same question by expressing an urgency for The Woodlands to incorporate in order to control its own destiny. “I think it’s something that’s going to need to happen sooner rather than later... We do our due diligence by having two planning meetings every month with our consultants to make sure that we provide the most accurate information. One of the things we really wanted to do is have all the contracts in place ready to go with a transition plan to present to the voters, because in the end that’s how it has to happen. It has to be you, the voters, to decide where you want our future to go. A couple things that kicked off the incorporation talk was the mobility plans that our voters rejected overwhelmingly with the woodlands pkwy extension. We have no control over our roadways, therefore we have no control over our destiny. Two, with Hurricane Harvey, we realized that as a Township we have no avenue to get federal funding, so we are at the mercy of others, once again not able to control our destiny… It’s going to be very transparent. If it’s an exorbitant amount of money and it’s really going to raise taxes and we can’t do it, then that’s going to be what the consultants tell us, but from what we’ve seen so far it looks very promising, and I think that time is not on our side with this, so I think it’s something we need to look at as a pressure issue,” he said.
A point of disagreement between candidates on incorporation was whether or not The Woodlands still faces a threat of Annexation in November 2057 when its Regional Participation Agreement with Conroe and Houston expires.
“One thing I have heard twice this week that I did not hear in the incorporation meeting is that there were some changes to legislation that as far as annexation goes, we will never be annexed unless that is approved by the voters. So this threat, that 2057 if not when, it would still have to be approved by the voters,” said Taglieri.
Rieser disagreed with Taglieri, saying that the new legislation did not apply to The Woodlands. “We did a voluntary annexation agreement with the City of Houston that is not subject to that new legislation, that’s only for areas that have not signed a cooperative agreement,” he said.
Frank Dargavage expressed that he is against The Woodlands incorporating, saying he considers such a significant change to be risky because he loves living in The Woodlands and thinks it has been and continues to be successful under its current governance model.“I think it’s pretty obvious which way the current board is going and which way we can go if we choose to keep our enabling legislation and our Regional Protection Agreements. That’s not only the most efficient way, it’s the most prosperous way… My wife and I frequently take a road trip through The Woodlands, and one of our favorite sayings is ‘I love living in The Woodlands.’ Take a look around at what we have; the number of churches that offer a wide diversity of worship opportunities, the amazing schools our children have, the quality of education, Market Street, shopping, the mall, movie theaters, Hughes Landing, hotels, Anadarko, eat out choices, Perry’s, Kirby’s, BBQ, fast foods, and a much longer list of achievements that we’ve brought about with our current enabling legislation and our RPAs [Regional Participation Agreements]. One thing I’d like to point out is that if we do decide to go the way of the city, you’re going to forfeit all that. That enabling legislation goes away, and once the genie is out of the bottle, it doesn’t come back. It’s less risky to keep the system we have right now…We are risking concentrating power in the hands of one or two people, not a good thing. The regulations that will come along with it, I don’t think we want to be there when that happens…You have a clear choice, Incorporate or stay the course, and I think we stay the course."
Township Director Bruce Rieser, Dargavage’s opponent and incumbent for Township Board position 4, said that he thinks the only way for The Woodlands to control its own destiny is to incorporate but that he does not want to rush through this process and will wait until the incorporation study is complete before he decides what the right course of action will be. “What we’re doing right now is we’re actually laying out a framework for the possibility of incorporation, and I think it makes a lot of sense from the standpoint that Frank talks about concentrating power in the hands of two or three people, we’re concentrating power in the hands of people we don’t even elect. At least any township board (or future city council) would be elected by you. We don’t know the answers yet, we’re halfway through the study. I’d like to wait until we get the facts straight before I make the decision on what the right course of action is…The fact of the matter is as we go through this and as this community continues to explode, the only way we can control our own destiny is to incorporate, but that will be up to you, the voters and the residents of The Woodlands,” he said.
The Woodlands Township commissioned a study through Novak and Matrix consulting that began in January 2018 and will be completed in Spring 2019, to assess and examine what the benefits and costs of a potential future incorporation of The Woodlands would include.
The Township hosted an incorporation forum on September 25th, and has been holding incorporation planning and public input sessions every month in an effort to inform, consider feedback, and answer questions from The Woodlands residents.
The Woodlands residents will have the opportunity to vote for candidates for Township board positions 1 through 4 in the November 6th elections, for which early voting began October 22nd.
Township Chairman Gordy Bunch is running unopposed for position 1, and Township Director John A. Brown is running unopposed for position 3.
You can watch the candidate forum below in the video recorded by Hello Woodlands: