Residents of Big Spring voted convincingly in favor of keeping its existing Type A economic development corporation Tuesday night, as Proposition 1 was defeated with more than 60 percent of voters casting their ballots against the measure.
Proposition 1 — championed by Big Spring Mayor Tommy Duncan — asked voters to abolish the existing Type A Big Spring Economic Development Corporation, which is funded by a half-cent sales tax, in favor of a Type B agency. The measure received 3,257 ballots against (61.34 percent) and 2,053 votes in its favor (38.66 percent).
According to Duncan and Type B supporters, the change would have allowed the EDC to undertake a number of projects currently available only by voter approval. Earlier this year, voters approved approved a 4B project to fund an overhaul of the municipal water and wastewater facilities. The project is expected to cost approximately 40 percent of the local EDC's annual budget for the next 20 years.
However, opposition to the proposed change claimed the switch to a Type B corporation would eventually turn the EDC into a virtual checkbook for municipal projects normally financed through the city's annual budget.
According to Jim DePauw, president of the EDC board of directors, Tuesday night's election sends a clear and concise message as to what local residents want.
“All we have tried to do since this issue was brought before the city council is educate the public on what the existing EDC does,” DePauw said. “Our EDC works hard for the good of Big Spring and has accomplished a lot over the years and we always felt if we could get the truth out to the voters, they would vote in favor of keeping the existing corporation”
During Duncan's push to put the proposition before voters, the mayor said many local residents had expressed a sense of confusion about the local agency and what it has done with its funding over the years. DePauw said he felt the results of the election showed otherwise.
“I think, through all of this leading up to the election, the voters feel like they have a better idea what the EDC does with the sales tax dollars it gets,” he said. “And that's something the EDC board wants to continue as we move forward. We want to promote a sense of transparency for the citizens of Big Spring and Howard County. Of course, there are times when we are in negotiations and we have to keep things confidential. However, the rest of the time we want the local residents to know what we're doing and working on. We want them to be able to see the good things the EDC is doing for our community and that's something we're going to strive for.”
While the final tally Tuesday night produced a convincing victory for Type A supporters, DePauw said he and other local officials were expecting a much tighter race.
“Like I told people leading up to election day, I felt like their vote could be the difference in this contest. I really thought it was going to be that close,” DePauw said. “However, I feel like we really got our message out to the voters. I'm pretty impressed with the win.”
Duncan said Tuesday night he was simply glad the city council — which voted unanimously to place the proposition on the ballot — had given local voters the chance to have their say on the issue.
“My only comment is I'm glad we were able to put this up for a vote and let the community voice its opinion,” Duncan said. “Now we will move Big Spring forward.”
The only other contested race Tuesday night was for the Precinct 1 seat on the Howard County Commissioners Court, pitting longtime Democratic incumbent Emma Puga Brown against Republican challenger and former Big Spring city councilman Oscar Garcia.
Garcia took the win with 700 ballots, accounting for 55.38 percent of the vote, while Brown came up short with 564 ballots, or 44.62 percent of the contest.
“I was in the hands of God. I want to thank Him for the results and I want to thank the taxpayers for the results,” Garcia said. “Campaigning was time consuming, repetitious and a challenge. It's a challenge to meet people and get their interest in what I have to say and what I want to do. However, it's a challenge I'm very glad I accepted and succeeded at, as you can see with the (results).
“My impression is that Mrs. Brown had been in office 18 years, and (tonight's results) show what the voters feel about the last 18 years. Even though I ran as a Republican in a Democratic precinct, I believe many of them (the voters) decided it was a time for change and I hope to be able to bring that change for them.”
Attempts to reach Brown by telephone Tuesday night were unsuccessful.