Voters in West University Place go to the polls today, to decide the next four city council members who will serve with West U Mayor Pro Tem Susan Sample, who is unopposed in her campaign for mayor.
All voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the West U Municipal Building at 3800 University Blvd. Registered voters must bring proof of identification to participate in the election.
The heated race for the four seats on the council has involved eight candidates, who are running on different “slates,” for two-year terms. The four top vote-getters will serve on the next city council.
One slate of candidates includes former West University Place Mayors Burt Ballanfant and Bob Kelly, as well as Brennan Reilly and Mardi Turner. They are running together, in opposition to a long-range Master Plan for Municipal Facilities, which included a potential real estate deal with West University Baptist Church.
The city and the church had been negotiating a “land swap” that would have allowed the church to build a new Youth Center on property owned by the city, in exchange for the church’s property on Amherst. That would have allowed the city to build what it called a “Super Block” on the property bordered by University Blvd., and Amherst, Auden and College Sts.
The second, so-called “independent slate” includes former West U councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Steven Segal, Sonny Brandtner, Bruce Beneke, and Philip Snyder.
The eight candidates have participated in two community forums, and several have gone door-to-door seeking support from residents of the city.
Although the city of West U had planned to issue $3 million in certificates of obligation, to finance a part of its long-range Master Plan, Reilly and 27 other West U residents collected 946 signatures on a petition to force a public vote on the additional city debt.
If the petitions are verified, the city could not issue the $3 million without a bond referendum. The earliest such an election could be held is in November.
Although those petitions have not been verified, the West U City Council on Monday tabled three agenda items related to the real estate negotiations. The council tabled consideration of the $3 million in debt financing, as well as consideration of a new 2015 Master Plan and discussion of a real estate deal with the West U Baptist Church.
A proliferation of yard signs began cropping up even before the official filing date for candidates, as orange-and-white signs against the city’s “Super Block” were planted in many front yards. Those signs were later joined by signs promoting the candidacies of Ballanfant, Kelly, Reilly and Turner.
Segal returned to his earlier practice of not putting up yard signs, while signs for the other candidates are scattered across the small city.
The landscape has become so cluttered that it was almost possible to miss a yard sign of one West U resident, who clearly wants the election season to end. His sign states simply: “God Bless Blue Bell.”