By Mitch Borden
Early voting for the Nov. 5 elections in Texas is underway. In Midland, voters are weighing in on several local races, including a bond election, city council races and the Midland mayoral race.
When it comes to who will lead the Tall City for the next two years, Midlanders will have their choice between incumbent Jerry Morales, small business owner Jenny Cudd and former megachurch pastor Patrick Payton.
Patrick Payton’s Vision for Midland
Payton isn’t too specific when it comes to his platform. But he has said he believes the residents want someone who will take on a broader leadership role and who has a vision for Midland’s future.
He does want to have the City of Midland reexamine its values and really look at how it communicates with local residents. Payton, former senior Pastor at Stone Gate Fellowship in Midland who now works as a business coach, believes the city needs a kind of mission statement, so city leaders and residents have a sense of how Midland moves forward with planning and development
“I think people in our city are just tired of not seeing where we’re headed and if they could just see that then it might give them some comfort and leadership,” Payton told Marfa Public Radio.
When it comes to Affordable housing—one of the pressing issues facing Midland—Payton says he wants to find ways to cut down on the time it takes for developers to get through the approval process for construction projects. The first-time mayoral candidate says, this means things like hiring outside contractors to fill vacancies, which could expedite this entire building process.
But he also doesn’t think Midland should rush into anything as the city looks for long-lasting solutions. He says all types of housing—like homes made from shipping containers—should be considered, but city officials should also weigh their long term viability as a housing solution.
Lastly, Payton would like to work on the communication between residents and the city, while also pushing for more transparency on the city’s needs. He’s also touched on having more voter input on tax increases and moving city council Meetings to the evenings rather than mornings, which is when they’re held now.
Why Jenny Cudd Is Running For Mayor
Jenny Cudd doesn’t like to call herself a politician.
The flower shop owner and political newcomer has been the most vocal about how she’s unsatisfied with how the city’s been run.
“I’ve lived here for 12 years and for 12 years we’ve had the same exact conversations about needing affordable housing, better infrastructure, better roads, more first responders, more teachers,” Cudd told Marfa Public Radio. “It’s always the same conversation and I haven’t really seen anyone in the last 12 years really put a dent in that.”
The shortages of police and firefighters are some of the biggest issues she’s discussed during her campaign. She understands these shortages are linked to Midland’s high cost of living —and she thinks more needs to be done to solve it, including raising wages to lure more first responders to the Tall City.
How she would pay for increased wages as Mayor is yet to be seen, but it’s something she believes will not be solved by raising taxes alone.
“My overarching belief is that we should have less government and more freedom,” Cudd said. “So, I do not for one second believe that the solution for everything is to raise taxes.”
Cudd doesn’t think taxes will ever go down in Midland, but she does believe they have to be adjusted for inflation. She would like to see the majority of any proposed tax increases put before Midland residents for a vote.
When it comes to the housing crisis, Cudd’s views are similar to Payton’s. She says she wants to cut through the red tape of the city government. Whether that’s finding creative ways to staff up department shortages or looking where regulations could be cut.
Jerry Morales Looks For Third Term
Unlike his last election for Mayor, Morales is now facing some challengers. And this go around, he’s had to spend a lot of his time on the campaign trail defending his record against the critiques of his competitors.
His main argument this election has been maintaining the forward momentum Midland has had under his leadership. He believes Midland needs someone with governing experience since the city council will see at least three new council members within the next year.
“[W]hat I am saying is if you put in a new mayor with three new council members it could be a very challenging opportunity for this community.”
Morales says he has a proven track record over the last six years as mayor and he’s proud of how Midland leaders have dealt with the rapid expansions oil booms have brought to Midland.
When he talks about what his administration has accomplished, the Midland native points to efforts made to alleviate housing strains. He says certain permitting applications are being moved to an online operation — which he believes will streamline the process.
Mayor Morales also says Priority Midland, an initiative he was involved in forming, shows how he’s worked to plan for the city’s future. On the public safety front, Morales says the city has worked to provide housing for cadets and Midland’s Police Academy, which he believes could also draw more police to Midland.
When it comes to property taxes, Mayor Morales has said if Midland wants to become a “World Class City,” which is his goal, raising taxes to fund projects will always need to be part of the conversation.