AP NEWS

Nederland passes bonds, Beaumont stands pat on City Council

May 5, 2019

On the third try, Nederland voters signaled they were ready for a change by approving a $155.6 million school bond issue. In Beaumont, residents largely stuck with the status quo by returning Mayor Becky Ames and City Councilman Mike Getz to office.

With 63.2 percent and 64.2 percent of the vote, respectively, Nederland residents chose to give the school district the additional funds the administration had requested for improvements to its facilities and football stadium.

“Thank you to our community and all voters that took the time to support our students, faculty and staff,” Nederland ISD Superintendent Robin Perez said in a statement. “We express our gratitude to the community for the overwhelming support. We look forward to an even brighter future for our students.”

It was the first time in a decade of attempts from bond proponents that a measure passed at the ballot box. Voters rejected an effort in 2009 to raise additional funds and were split in 2012 when they approved $28 million for heating and cooling upgrades but rejected a $50 million proposal to rebuild two schools.

In Beaumont, voters re-elected Ames and incumbent council members Getz and Audwin Samuel. A majority of voters cast their ballot for Councilwoman Virginia Jordan, although that race was headed to a runoff.

The race for the two at-large members was close, with W.L. Pate, Jr. re-elected with about 22.5 percent of the votes and Randy Feldschau getting nearly 20.2 percent of the vote.

Albert “AJ” Turner and William “Bill-Bo Bo” Sam trailed with a little more than 19 percent of the votes each.

The most-watched race — a fight for the Ward II seat between Getz and challenger Jefferson Fisher — was separated by nearly 9 percentage points.

Getz on Saturday said he was “over-the-top excited” and this outcome signaled to him that Ward II voters have been happy with his performance thus far.

They “understand what they have in me as a councilman,” he said. “They have a councilman that’s going to be responsive to their concerns and take action on whatever problems they have addressed.”

However, he said it’s too early to tell what changes he may make in this term, because of more than one close race, as well as whether he plans to run for mayor in the next municipal election.

Fisher said he was proud of the race he won and humbled by the support he received.

He said his challenge started a bigger conversation with voters, and he knew going into this that there would be “a winner and a loser.”

“I think (Getz) should take from my campaign is the fact that there is a hunger in Ward II for a representative that has a desire to build bridges and be a positive role model in our community,” he said.

In Ward I, two candidates were headed to a runoff Saturday night, as neither received a majority of the votes.

Jordan, the incumbent, who received 46.8 percent of the votes, said this means she and her team need to “push ahead” and keep doing their best.

Taylor Neild, who won 44.3 percent of the votes, said he wasn’t hoping for a runoff, but the close margin means Beaumont residents are ready for a change in this seat.

He’s also said he’s talked to the third candidate in the race, who plans to support him moving forward.

“He carried about 10 percent of the vote,” Neild said. “I think we still have a very good chance of moving on.”

In Nederland, the $151.1 million measure of Proposition A was aimed at creating a new Nederland High School building, bringing upgrades to Central Middle School and C.O. Wilson Middle School, a expansion and associated upgrades to Helena Park, Highland Park, Hillcrest and Langham elementary schools, as well as safety and security enhancements across the district and a technology initiative.

Proposition B was created to provide $4.5 million for upgrades to Bulldog Stadium, including additional and upgraded restrooms, a new press box and field turf.

As evidenced by the nearly 35 percent disapproval for each bond, there were some strong dissenters fighting against the proposal in the days and months before the proposal.

In a previous interview with Philip Klein, a Nederland business owner and one of the leading voices amongst the opposition, he shared why he believed an increase in taxes would outweigh benefits from improvements to the school district.

“$156 million worth of debt could bring this community to its knees,” Klein said.

He said a tax increase would raise the cost of local goods and services as business owners compensate for the extra expense.

Despite the win for the district and its educators, Perez said the work wasn’t finished with the election.

In the coming days, Nederland ISD will be releasing updates for stakeholder meetings around the design phase for the program at its website, nederlandisd.org.

kaitlin.bain@beaumontenterprise.com

jacob.dick@beaumontenterprise.com