Donald Ray Frank Sr. talks issues impacting Port Arthur as he faces Raymond Scott Jr. in runoff

Published 12:19 am Friday, December 11, 2020

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The race for at-large Position 8 on the Port Arthur City Council has come down to a presently serving member of the council and a Port Arthur Independent School District trustee looking to make an impact on the city level.

Raymond Scott Jr. is the District 1 councilman but has reached term limits in that position. Ingrid West Holmes and Willie “Bae” Lewis Jr. are squaring off for Scott’s seat.

Scott is looking to continue serving by winning the at-large position presently held by Kaprina Frank, who is also term-limited.

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PAISD trustee the Rev. Donald Ray Frank Sr. is experienced as an elected official but has never served on the city council. He’s competing against Scott for Position 8.

Early voting for both runoffs is ongoing, with Election Day set for Dec. 19.

Port Arthur Newsmedia sent both candidates a questionnaire regarding their campaign stances. Attempts to receive a response from Scott were unsuccessful, but Frank offered his thoughts (answers have been edited for clarity):

What is your most important message to the voters going into the runoff?

Frank: “I would first thank them for continuing in the process. Voting is an ongoing necessity to ensure we have what we need as citizens. Secondly, I would say this election is at a critical juncture in the history of our city. The council that will be seated in 2021 must be able to work collaboratively in moving Port Arthur forward through consensus. Although repairing the infrastructure (streets, drainage, sewer) is critical in every area of our city, we must have a Council that will lead with vision and boldness to put a plan for the whole city in place. The City Manager is the CEO. We must work with him to prosper and grow in attracting business, recreational and job opportunities. All of these will make the quality of life better here in Port Arthur. This has to be our goal.”

Is there anything you need to share with your voters you did not share during the general election?

Frank: “During the general election, I sought to be congenial and did not attack aggressively some of the key issues that have not been addressed by council. Streets have been an issue in Port Arthur for years. They are being fixed now by our capable employees, and council is to be applauded, but maintenance is an ongoing issue, and streets should not have been allowed to get in this deplorable condition. Garbage pick-up is a problem in 2020 because of decisions made during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 that led to the loss of machinery and equipment in the millions of dollars. The election process this year (where we have had to have a vote in two lines) is the result of a nine-year problem that cost taxpayers over $300,000 to hold our own election and even more for a runoff election. This was not one person’s fault, but it highlights why leadership matters in a city.

If you’ve been on council before, how will that experience help you? If you’re seeking a position for the first time, what advantages do you feel you have from that?

Frank: “I have never been on Council before, but I have experiences that have led to the transitioning of an organization from a state of decay to renewal and success. The advantage I bring is that my eyes are fresh. I don’t know how it has been done for years, and I won’t be influenced by the status quo. The newness I bring along with the understanding that one person cannot change a city is important, but I do know the process of galvanizing support, pulling people together and identifying the issues that allow for win-win solutions. Unifying people, whether they are employees, staff, council or citizens is the key to success.”

Regardless of whether you were first or second in the general election, how do you feel about having to go through a runoff? Do you think a plurality election (in which the winner only needs more votes than any other contestant) is needed rather than majority (in which the winner needs at least 50 percent-plus 1 of the vote)? Are you concerned about election costs?

Frank: “Yes! Plurality is needed. As a trustee on the Port Arthur ISD, the elections are won based on plurality. Millions of dollars have been saved because of that one decision, and it would save our city untold resources. I had the most votes in this election, but even if I had not, I would support the elimination of runoffs. I have won four elections and lost one election. The election I lost was a great learning opportunity that has made me a better person and leader. It taught me to work harder and listen more.”

Early voting will continue today (Dec. 11) and Dec. 14 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Dec. 15 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Port Arthur Public Library, 4615 Ninth Ave., and Port Arthur City Hall, 444 Fourth St. Votes will be canvassed Dec. 30.

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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