With the elections rapidly approaching, it is important for the citizens of Anna to know every candidate on the ballot. Nate Pike is running for mayor unopposed, while Place 1 on the Anna City Council has incumbent Justin Burr, Stan Carver, Bill Morgan, Kevin Toten, Anthony Richardson and John Houcek all running for the position.
Houcek has lived in Anna for over 10 years and — having been an Energy Usage Consultant for the past 26 years — offers outstanding experience for the position. “Prior to that, I taught heating and air conditioning technology as an instructor with the Dallas Community College District for seven years. Both of these positions require an extensive knowledge and experience relating to mechanical systems, lighting systems and energy management systems,” Houcek said. “During the course of my work I have produced reports and/or published technical papers for such organizations as the State of Texas, Texas A&M University, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, the V.A., Oncor, Siemens, plus a wide variety of cities, counties and school districts. I feel that these qualifications would make me an excellent choice for City Council.”
He said he is the optimal choice for the position, because he has experienced the results of rapid, uncontrolled growth first hand. “There is nothing wrong with growth in Anna, if there is more quality involved,” Houcek said. “By that, I mean that the narrow subdivision streets, postage stamp lot sizes, lack of green space, fewer amenities, etc. has got to stop. The council should demand a full accounting from the Planning and Zoning Department in order to discover how far out in time the ‘grandfathered’ agreements go with builders and developers that allow this to continue to happen. Ordinances need to be carefully reviewed and changed where necessary. I will push to see that this happens. In the long term, the City of Anna cannot allow the builders and developers to run the city.”
Houcek said his various knowledge of committees and their positions sets him apart from the other candidates. “Over the years I have always been active in community involvement. This includes two years as a Director on the Garland Soccer Association and a member for 3.5 years of the City of Plano Building Standards Commission,” Houcek said. “In July of 2011, I was appointed to both the Anna Community Development Corporation and the Economic Development Corporation. In 2013, I was elected President of the CDC. After serving the people of Anna for 5.5 years as a board member and 3.5 years as the CDC President, I resigned in protest during March 2017 due to what I considered to be a lack of both transparency and accountability by the city staff and the then mayor/council at that time. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one that left the boards for the same reason.”
Attracting more commercial and industrial taxes is the best way to ease the tax burden on the residents, he said. “There are two types of taxes that the citizens of Anna deal with — property tax and the sales tax. The amount of property tax that a homeowner pays is based on a rate per $100 evaluation times the assessed value of the property. This rate per $100 evaluation is established by the City of Anna. It is Collin County that determines the assessed value of the property. Therefore, if Collin County increases the assessed value, and the rate stays the same, the property tax goes up,” Houcek said.
“The best way to minimize this tax burden on the homeowner is to attract more commercial and industrial type companies that have large payrolls,” Houcek continued. “Sadly, the Economic Development for large companies in Anna has been lacking over the past decade. Three high tech companies came to town with great fanfare. They are now gone, having reneged on their Incentive Agreements. As your council member, I would promote the idea of a review of the current Economic Development policies, procedures and personnel to determine what changes are necessary in those areas.”
“The prevailing sales tax rate in Anna is 8.25%. So for every dollar spent on taxable items, 8.25% or 8.25 cents goes to Austin to the State Comptroller’s Office, which then remits 2% back to Anna each month. Up until the fall of 2016 the formula was that of the 2% remitted back, 1% would go to the city budget, while the remaining 1% would be split 50/50 with the CDC and EDC each receiving ½%. This allowed the CDC to pursue the funding of parks related items, while the EDC could pursue the funding of Economic Development. In the fall of 2016 the formula changed due to a ballot proposal that was passed by the citizens of Anna. The new formula gave 13/4% to the city budget, ¾% to the CDC, and 0% to the EDC. This formula was declared to be invalid by the State Attorney General’s Office. A corporation such as the EDC has to have a source of income and 0% of the proceeds indicated that there is none. I won’t go into detail as to the results of this change, but as a council member I would lobby hard to have this put back to the way it was originally. In addition, I would ask for a thorough record of the proceedings of both the CDC and EDC beginning in Fiscal Year 2014,” Houcek said.
Houcek said more than just Anna is concerned with the water quality, and believes a third party analysis would get the ball rolling on improving it. “The City of Anna is not alone in its concern about water quality. In early April Erin Brokovich, of California water quality fame, attended a town hall meeting in Frisco with over 500 people regarding the subject of excess chlorine in the drinking water. She had previously been in contact by e-mail with citizens and officials in Plano. Both scientific and medical studies have shown that excessive chlorine in drinking water is harmful to humans. The North Texas Municipal Water District [NTMWD] is pushing back with a ‘nothing is wrong’ argument. As a council member, I would strongly promote the idea of an independent third party analysis of the chlorine content in Anna water. I would then propose that we then join with the citizens and officials in the other North Texas cities to put pressure on the NTMWD to come and join the discussion. The irony is that Anna has its own wells and doesn’t really need the NTMWD partnership.”
“As a member of the City Council team, I would support the effort of encouraging more transparency and accountability, which have long been lacking, from city staff personnel. If city personnel don’t want to abide by this protocol, then they should be discharged. I would promote much more fact finding by council members on issues before the council, plus more openness.”
Houcek said he is thankful for the citizens who took the time to read and learn about him. “If you have read this far, I thank you. If you haven’t already voted, then I hope that I have presented enough convincing information that you would vote for me. I pledge to listen to your questions and concerns and be your ‘voice’ on the city council.”