Port Arthur City Council candidates for Districts 1, 2 share ideas for improvements

Published 12:20 am Thursday, September 24, 2020

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Editor’s note: For conciseness, this article only highlights some of the talking points by each candidate.

Streets, infrastructures and economic development dominated the topics during an online candidate forum for Port Arthur City Council hopefuls this week.

More than 300 questions and comments flooded in during the two-hour forum, which was an episode of the Facebook Live program Talk Time with Terry and Tay, hosted by Terry Savoy-Hadley and Taylor Getwood.

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Election day for the council seats is Nov. 3.

District 1

A new councilmember will fill the seat currently occupied by Raymond Scott Jr., who is term-limited and is running for an at-large position.

Ingrid West-Holmes, a former Beaumont health director, is competing against former councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis Jr. and retired school administrator Mike Mason.

West-Holmes boasted experience in writing grants and managing a $10 million budget. That happens to be the amount Port Arthur has set aside to reconstruct roads each year for five years.

“I think we need to create a job-ready community,” she said. “… We need to ensure people are prepared for jobs. I think we often talk about the jobs aren’t available. Well, we need to make sure they are, and we need to make sure that people are here. We need to diversify our economy. We spend a lot of time working with and talking about people getting jobs at plants and refineries. We need to make sure they’re prepared for those jobs.”

Lewis would like to allow electricians to pull permits to wire homes, which would lower costs for the homeowners and introduce incentives for more businesses to invest in downtown.

Lewis said he initiated tax abatement in the downtown area and later on into industry

“That’s why all these industries have expanded,” he said.

Tax abatements, historical tax credits and new market tax credits are in place for businesses that want to move into downtown, Lewis added.

Lewis also suggested reconstructing South First Street in Sabine Pass to gain access to wave fishing and kayaking opportunities with funding from the Texas General Land Office.

Mason hopes to draw from his 35 years as an educator to effectively lead District 1 and said he has working knowledge of the city with experience as director of housing. The diversity of Port Arthur is also important to recognize, he said.

“Each group brings richness to the culture and should be included in all aspects of governing,” Mason said. “The city of Port Arthur has a great promise for the future. It’s great, now, but it needs more greatness. It’s important that city council representatives recognize that potential, [and] add to the growth with reasonable adjustments to enhance the systems already in place.”

Mason said he would bring integrity, servant leadership and standard of excellence to the council.

District 2

Armando Ruiz, who is challenging incumbent Cal Jones, touted the necessity of local job access.

Ruiz formerly owned a Spanish-language newspaper in Port Arthur.

“I joined the Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce, guys,” he said. “What we have done with the Chamber of Commerce, these guys have had many, many, many job fairs. … Not only that, I’ve spoken with the guys at the EDC, and they have a really cool program that I’m 100 percent for. They want to create a pool of already qualified workers … so next time a refinery or contractor needs workers, they will be able to cherry-pick the best workers from there.”

Before fixing streets, Ruiz said, the city must focus on the drainage. When focusing on the streets, the city should focus on the ones that have the most impact on its citizens, he added.

Ruiz also stressed the need for more safety, adding he’s tired of hearing about shootings in Port Arthur. Getting the word about Port Arthur’s Crime Stoppers program through businesses and their customers would help, he suggested.

Ruiz also mentioned an art therapy program that has led to the painting of electrical boxes and other structures such as the Seawall to beautify the city.

Jones did not participate in the forum.

Friday: Candidates from districts 3 and 4 sound off. Saturday: Candidates from at-large positions 7 and 8 talk.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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