City Council Place 1 candidate questionnaire: Paul Christenson
Name: Paul Christenson
Current profession: Chief Financial Officer
Political Party: Republican
Elected office sought: Waxahachie City Council Place 1
Previous political experience: None
Family: Married 20 years to my best friend Leigh.
Why are you seeking this office? I am running for Waxahachie City Council, Place 1, because we need to change our approach to growth and spending. There was likely a time in our history when any growth was good for Waxahachie. But today, unchecked growth is destroying the character of our city, and its affordability. The rapid growth we’ve experienced is threatening our culture, our values, and our quality of life. Just as alarming, it’s used to justify raising taxes. Residents are acutely aware that the city council has increased property taxes by ten percent, on average, for the past four years. But our city is only growing at a rate of roughly 3.5% a year. The council has failed to justify these tax increases to the people, much less has it solicited any meaningful feedback from the people it serves. To make Waxahachie affordable, we must actively manage our growth and cut the fat in our budget through vigorous oversight of city services. My strong suits are in operations and prudent cost controls, and I will serve as a frugal manager of our tax dollars. But the short answer to the question is that the ever-increasing tax burden on our citizens prompted me to take immediate action and seek the seat for Place 1 in this election year.
What distinguishes you from other candidates for this office? Over twenty years ago, I earned a master’s degree in business administration from one of the top schools in the country, the University of Chicago. I bring over 25 years of experience advising state and local governments and businesses on how to cut waste and improve their service delivery without spending more money (and in most cases, cutting their expenses). On the council I will put those same skills to work so we can make our great city affordable and deliver equally top-notch services to everyone. I have sat through enough of our city council meetings and waded through enough jargony, hide-the-ball agendas to see that our council struggles. In my opinion, it is challenged in its ability to effectively plan for, and manage our city’s growth.
There are also a few things I do not bring to the table. I serve only one master: the people of Waxahachie. Unlike my opponent, I am not a developer or a builder – not even sometimes, to build “a few houses here and there to pay the bills.” My allegiance runs directly and exclusively to the people.
What do you consider the key issues of this election? In short, growth and growth-driven taxes are the overarching issues we face as a city. As I’ve walked the streets of Waxahachie these last several months, I have met close to two thousand residents and business owners. They have really educated me about the problems that are top of mind. Rising property taxes are the biggest problem by far. And even with continuing increases to the city’s revenue, people have seen no improvement in their services. Waxahachie citizens are waking up to what is wrong in city government. They see it in their inflated property taxes, and they see the wasteful spending.
Not only do people notice wasteful projects, they tell me the astronomical property taxes are really taking a toll on their personal budgets. Because the cost to live here only keeps going up, many families have had no choice but to cut back on other important needs, like health care and educational enrichment. Residential and commercial tenants feel the pinch of higher taxes on their budgets too, in the form of higher rents. The bottom line is this: ever-expanding government driven by unplanned growth, financed by higher taxes on our existing residents, takes money straight from the pockets of our working people and our cherished local businesses. It results in higher rents, more expensive housing, and depressed economic activity. The effects of our current “grow and spend at any cost” are felt by everyone in our community. In all my travels throughout the city, I have yet to meet one person who said they want Waxahachie to become an affluent suburb of Dallas.
We need a paradigm shift in our thinking. It is time to hit the pause button and re-think our goals. The frenetic pace of growth in our city is not inevitable. It may not even be desirable when it burdens our taxpayers and ruins our infrastructure.
Another major concern for many is our streets, so many of which are in dire shape. One of the first things I will do is set up a street fund and develop a formal street maintenance plan, like so many other cities do. My plan will focus in particular on maintenance and repairs that will keep the streets in good condition for years to come, versus choosing whack-a-mole band-aids that will only cost us more in the long run.
What are the greatest challenges facing the city and how do you plan to address those challenges, if elected? Without question, the city council must address growth head-on, and the council must work to gain the community’s confidence and trust that we will grow at a pace that doesn’t diminish the quality of life for our existing residents or impose new financial burdens on them. Suffice it to say, the council needs to reorient its approach to growth. Instead of asking, “how can we best compete with other cities to keep growing?” we should be asking how much growth is desirable.
What do you most want to make sure voters know about you? I am a fiscal conservative; I favor small government and I’m a free-market fan. I have learned how to improve business performance through my education and from years of hands-on experience, working alongside some of the best people in the business. One of my greatest strengths is my ability to help everyone, bring people together, and to work with people from all walks of life. I will do this for Waxahachie. I have the skills and experience our city needs to carefully manage taxing and spending, and plan for affordable, incremental growth that preserves our beloved city for all of its citizens.