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Thursday, May 26, 2022
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*Jon Dehn
City Council | District 5 | Garland City Council

Question 1 : Why did you decide to run for City Council?

Answer : My wife and I moved here almost 6 years ago, and chose Garland as our permanent home. My experience in managing part of the Alaska Volcano Observatory over many years, as well as Faculty President of the University of Alaska Fairbanks has prepared me well for the working with the City Council. I serve on the Garland Crime Stoppers and have been looking to become more involved in the City. My neighbors encouraged me to run, and with my experience I feel I have an obligation to serve the City where I will be for the rest of my life.

Question 2 : What do you plan to do address each of the following primary responsibilities for a city:

A. Reducing crime

Answer : Keep and improve funding for all of our public safety officials. Our Police and Fire Departments are doing great work, but still are a little short staffed. There needs to be a stronger presence on the streets to discourage crime, as well as keep neighborhoods safe from one of the District 5 constituents' top complaints, speeding and ignoring stop signs on residential streets. Waiting to do this until someone gets hurt is too late.
B. Reducing homelessness
Answer : This is a heartbreaking and multifaceted issue, particularly for District 5 with the 635 border with Dallas. The overpasses provide shelter for the homeless, but also put them at risk due to traffic. One side is Dallas, the other Garland. Sharing of jurisdiction in this matter, perhaps with help from the County, would help to sort out the ambiguities of who is responsible for managing the issue. For those that genuinely need help, we should guide them through the existing programs to help them get back on their feet. For those that suffer from mental illness, the care should be provided. For those that are there for other reasons, they should be discouraged from being there, not just for their safety but for everyone else's as well. We should strengthen the work the City does with charitable and faith-based organizations to help, The Good Samaritans have been wonderful in this regard. Finally, the Garland housing stock is getting older faster than new housing is being created. Properties are tending to be over-valued, making it harder and harder for individuals to afford housing. In the end the only way to mitigate this problem is to promote more development, of all types of housing appropriate for the area, be it single family homes, or multi-use, multi-family buildings.
C. Keeping the streets cleaned, well lighted, and well repaired
Answer : This problem appears regularly in my informal poll of the residents. I am not sure why so many projects get delayed, often for years after approval and funding, while their costs go up. Clearly there needs to be streamlining, or procedures and consequences for contractors who cannot provide the services they were tasked to perform. One of my first tasks would be to investigate why there are such hold ups, and not accepting the answer "Thats how we've always done it." Some larger projects, like 635 have to get on the County and State's list, and there is a backlog there, so many of those delays are unavoidable. But for local streets to be maintained, that fall under the responsibility of the City of Garland and its private contractors, we must be able to speed things up.
D. Maintaining and increasing parks and museums.
Answer : The Parks are regularly on the residents' favorite list for things about Garland. Maintaining them is important to attract and keep Garland residents. Making sure there is improved communication and coordination between departments and government entities allows resources to be more efficiently used. For example, coordination between Garland Power and Lights and the Parks in recent years (after 2015) has helped to keep the waterways clean and control flooding. The Landmark Museum is a wonderful piece of history, and the Granville Arts Center is a great venue. I would like to see more efforts like these, and they should come as Garland grows.
E. Making the city very attractive for businesses to stay, grow, and relocate here.
Answer : We have tough competition for businesses in the Metroplex. Incentives for small businesses to come to Garland are needed. There are many forms these could take, and would require a careful analysis of the budget, and looking at how our peer cities have accomplished this. Regardless, one way to draw business is to draw customers. Garland needs to work on getting more family housing, and multiuse developments that make it somewhere that people want to move and stay there.
F. Making the city very attractive for people to stay and move here.
Answer : The residents often cite the parks, the school system, the good policing and safety of Garland as reasons to stay. However, many also say there are not enough amenities and cultural activities for them stay. Some have said that they came to Garland for their kids' education, and are looking to move when their kids graduate. So we clearly need to improve on the things that keep the residents here long term. Improving on our wonderful park system, adding more retail options (perhaps by revitalizing the often run-down strip malls at major intersections) and adding to events that draw people from around the metroplex. The new town square with its performance venue should help immensely.

Question 3 : What else are your priorities?

Answer : For District 5, (1) Vitalize the communities by keeping up public safety and promoting environmentally responsible family friendly housing. Garland needs to increase our housing stock and continue the cleanups from industries of the last Century. (2) Improve opportunities for small businesses, let's get the intersections fixed up and bring customers and family to Garland. Let's also help the businesses that have struggled for the past two years. (3) Revitalize the 635 corridor as construction comes to an end. This is the gateway to Garland and our chance to make it great.