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Published Friday, April 25, 2008 7:18 AM

CS council hopefuls tangle at forum

College Station City Council candidates gathered on the Texas A&M University campus Thursday for a forum in which they spent as much time criticizing each other as talking about issues.

The forum became argumentative as candidates -- often referring to each other as "my opponent" -- scrutinized one another's ideas, backgrounds and campaign supporters.

The event was the first candidate forum in recent years hosted by the Texas A&M Student Senate.

College Station hopefuls include John Crompton and Derek Dictson, who are seeking Place 1; Ron Gay and Dennis Maloney, who are vying for Place 3; and Chris Scotti and Larry Stewart, who are running for Place 5.

Early voting begins Monday, and the election is May 10.

Brady Black, executive director of legislative relations for the Student Senate, moderated the forum and said one of the most important issues to students is potential housing ordinances. A&M students mobilized last month to register to vote and have opposed any regulations that could lower from four to two the number of unrelated adults who can share a home in a residential area.

The City Council unanimously determined last month that it wouldn't pursue such an ordinance but would address neighborhood problems with code enforcement, rental property registration and better communication.

All the candidates at Thursday's forum said they didn't support a housing ordinance to let neighborhoods lower the limit on unrelated adults. Three of the men -- Crompton, Gay and Scotti -- sit on the council and voted against such a measure last month.

Dictson, however, said that Crompton campaigned last year, promising to enact a housing ordinance to allow neighborhoods to petition for a lower limit.

"It wasn't until March 27 when he changed his mind on this, when it was politically convenient and there were thousands of students registering to vote," Dictson said. "I don't doubt that Dr. Crompton has done a lot for his students in his role as a professor, but we're not voting for professor of the year."

Crompton acknowledged that he changed his mind about the ordinance, explaining that a consultant made it clear to elected officials that "it would not address our problems." Crompton then pointed out that a subdivision Dictson developed, The Cove of Nantucket, has deed restrictions that limit to two the number of unrelated adults who can share a home.

"My opponent talks the talk but does not walk the walk," Crompton said. "I have unequivocally stated that I am opposed to that ordinance."

Dictson said later in the forum that deed restrictions serve as contracts and have to be ratified by 100 percent of a neighborhood's residents but that an ordinance would allow 66 percent of a subdivision's residents to petition for a change.

Crompton and Dictson weren't the only candidates who argued during the forum.

Gay touted his attempts to cut property taxes and eliminate funding to outside agencies such as the Arts Council of Brazos Valley.

"I tried to cut out wasteful spending," he said. "My opponent, while he was on council, [voted to approve budgets that authorized] more than $3 million to the Arts Council, an organization that is mired in scandal and indictments."

Gay was referring to a former Arts Council director, P. David Romei, who pleaded not guilty last year to felony theft charges. The payments to the Arts Council that Maloney authorized were made from 1999 through 2005, when he was a city councilman.

Gay also said Thursday that Maloney had proposed a 50 percent tax increase.

Maloney said that he had mentioned such an increase once in jest and that his remark had been taken out of context.

"This man doesn't tell you the truth," Maloney told students during Thursday's forum. "The reason why everyone is out here is, you're concerned about two unrelated [housing ordinances]. If you look at every real estate office in town, you'll see Gay, Scotti and Dictson signs. The [rental property owners] don't want rental registration. They don't want to register properties because that would make the landlord responsible.

"That means if there's a code violation, the landlord pays the fine," Maloney said. "Politics is about money, and you're being used so they can keep siphoning your money. Let's register these properties and make the landlord responsible."

Scotti and Stewart also joined the fray.

"I'm opposed to the two-unrelated housing ordinances and always have been," Scotti said. "My opponent was the [homeowners' association] president of [the Emerald Forest] neighborhood that sued a group of students that moved into that neighborhood, to enforce deed restrictions. I find it hard to believe he would change his mind on that."

Stewart fought back, saying he wasn't part of the lawsuit, and in fact, wasn't re-elected to his post as president of the neighborhood association because he wouldn't support the case against the students.

"I do not appreciate anyone trying to make accusations of people they don't know," he said.

The candidates meet again at 6 p.m. Monday for a public forum hosted by the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce. The forum also will feature Bryan City Council and school board hopefuls.

• April Avison's e-mail address is april.avison@theeagle.com.





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