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Fireworks Continue In Irving Mayoral Runoff

By Alexis Yancey, KERA News

Irving, TX – In the four-candidate Irving Mayor's race, former city council member Beth Van Duyne came out on top, garnering 41 percemt of the vote to incumbent Herbert Gears' 38 percent. KERA's Alexis Yancey reports the proposed $250 million entertainment center played a major role in forcing the runoff.

Incumbent Mayor Herbert Gears opponents made his management of the city's entertainment center a focal point of their campaigns. Beth Van Duyne, who served on the Irving City Council for six years, blames Gears for the city's problems. Van Duyne says they extend beyond the proposed center.

BETH VAN DUYNE: It's systemic of a long term problem we have in Irving. I think if you look at the economic development projects that have been promised to the city in the last five years, yet nothing has happened with them. It just seems the current administration shows a lot of pretty pictures but really no substance behind them.

Van Duyne supports the center but wants to drop the current developers. Two-term Mayor Gears stands by the entertainment center project.

HERBERT GEARS: We're building a great facility. Just like we did when we built Texas Stadium. We're not using taxpayer funds to build that, all of the construction and design work is being paid for by user fees and user expenses that the operator pays and it's a facility that we'll own 100 %. And we have threats from competitors because of what we're getting ready to accomplish.

To finish the project Gears has to overcome what he couldn't in 2004. Then Beth Van Duyne defeated Gears for his city council seat. She hopes to claim victory again.

BETH VAN DUYNE: We're going to look at fee increases. We're going to look at taxes. We're going to look at how tax money is being spent currently. We're going to look at the projects and programs the city currently has, the number of consultants and where our money goes.

HERBERT GEARS: Irving is a financially sound city. We've had balanced budgets for six years straight and we actually have no unfunded debt in the City of Irving which is how we've been able to keep our AAA bond rating. Those things make people feel good about our community and that's hopefully what we'll be talking about going forward in the runoff.

With the vote so close both candidates are expected to campaign hard during the next five weeks.