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Mayoral Candidates Vie for Arlington Voters

By Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 Reporter

Dallas, TX –

Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 Reporter: When Arlington residents voted in November to increase their sales tax and provide $300 million for a new Cowboys stadium, the vote wasn't close. It passed 55 to 45 percent. But UT-Arlington political science professor Allan Saxe says that was an impressive showing by grassroots opponents, the Concerned Taxpayers of Arlington.

Allan Saxe, Political Science Professor, University of Texas at Arlington: The taxpayer group that didn't want the Cowboy stadium and opposed Dr. Cluck on that issue fought an unbelievable battle. Even though the issue passed fairly handsomely, still it was a remarkable battle since they were outspent jillions to one.

Cuellar: Saxe exaggerates, but the pro-stadium campaign spent close to $5 million. Stadium opponents' budget was just over $50,000, but that hasn't deterred the Concerned Taxpayers group from engaging in the upcoming election for mayor. They hope their candidate, Jerry Pikulinski, will get a fair shake. Pikulinski is a 34-year Arlington resident and former economist with the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Jerry Pikulinski, Arlington mayoral candidate: I think the opportunity costs of the stadium have not really been taken into account. How are we going to support traditional basic services for people in Arlington - streets, roads, police services? And also, I think we need to be careful not to sell our city staff - firemen and policemen - short, by cutting back their fringe benefits and the like. This council has shown a tendency to use ad hoc measures to get by year to year.

Cuellar: Arlington has a strong history of fiscal conservatism, voting down three consecutive proposals for mass transit, and declining to publicly fund everything from arts and culture to flood control. Next month, as citizens vote for mayor, they'll also consider $13.6 million in bond money for the expansion, development, and improvement of parks and open spaces. Incumbent Bob Cluck hopes to win re-election based on his record as mayor and four years as a council member prior to that.

Dr. Robert "Bob" Cluck, Arlington mayor and candidate for re-election: Our crime rate has fallen three years in a row. Whether that continues or not, I don't know, but we do have excellent police and fire services. We also have tremendous opportunities related to the stadium. Downtown Arlington, we now have master plan, and we hope with private developers to start changing downtown Arlington simultaneous with development of UTA.

Cuellar: Cluck hopes that traffic resulting from the stadium and other developments will persuade citizens to reconsider public transportation in the near future. A second challenger in the mayoral race, Stephen White, also supports mass transit. As an Arlington native, he'd like city government to support a living wage and affordable housing. He first challenged Cluck for office two years ago.

Stephen White, Arlington mayoral candidate: As a student in Arlington schools, that is what you're taught to do, give back to your community after you finish school. And that's the biggest asset of Arlington that's not actually being tapped into, is the kids and youth that grew up in Arlington and attended good schools to come back and get involved in politics.

Cuellar: How well the mayor and council members have performed may influence whether two charter amendments get passed. The amendments would increase the mayor's and council terms from two to three years, and also would raise their pay, beginning in June 2007. Council members who now earn $200 a dollars a month. It would be the first increase in elected officials' pay since 1980. Election day is May 7. Early voting begins April 20.

Email Catherine Cuellar about this story.

More local elections coverage from KERA