By LAURIE COKER
On Monday, the Place 4 council candidates faced off in a forum moderated by Kathy Cunningham and presented by the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce.
Initially, both candidates gave the audience their brief bios. Langston touted her long-running residency, community involvement, and contributions to the city council over the past year. Ragsdale emphasized her education and community participation as a local business owner.
Ragsdale also stressed that while she lacks experience, she more than makes up for it with her education, youth, and willingness to “jump in head first.”
The candidates responded to a variety of questions and topics, and on most issues, they agreed. Topics ranged from cleaning up city ordinances (removing outdated ones and adjusting others) to problems with short-term rentals and golf carts. Langston provided statistics regarding short-term rentals, touching on compliance and the reduction of issues regarding parking and noise.
Langston seeks a balance between residents and businesses and believes the council facilitates “less contentious meetings” between citizens and business owners. Ragsdale believes that current businesses should create groups (for example, umbrella businesses, boutiques, restaurants, etc.), and these groups can create “their own little forum” before they take up concerns with the city council. Both candidates agree that marketing is vital for bringing in new businesses and attracting tourists. The candidates agree that monitoring short-term rentals and enforcing rules and ordinances will create safe and enjoyable visitor stays.
Keeping these rentals in compliance will best promote harmony for residents and visitors alike.
In terms of ensuring economic growth, Ragsdale believes that communication is vital to get increased word out about the events and what businesses do and sponsor on the island. She sees communication among and with businesses as her “number one priority.” Throughout the forum, Ragsdale emphasized, “I am an independent voice, and I am not going to join a team but to be a team with the community.”
Another item emphasized was the addition to the convention center, which Langston called “vitally important to our community” to “generate more hotel tax revenue.” She reported that groundbreaking for the new portion should begin next year.
Ragsdale and Langston agree that the council should focus on the “heads in bed” concept for bringing in revenue for Hotel Occupancy Tax, aka HOT tax, and more, and they acknowledged the need for an improved convention center to lure larger gatherings and events. Ragsdale also emphasized the importance of making the island’s offerings worthy of repeat events when sporting events and conventions return.
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