This is the third article in a series highlighting the candidates for Waco City Council in the run up to the Nov. 3 election.
By Shea Berthelot | Contributor
As an incumbent city council member, Darius Ewing has a few months experience under his belt already. Over his career in real estate investment working on projects, being a landlord and focusing on neighborhood building, he said he has come to learn what it takes for a neighborhood to be successful.
Through his professional dealings with Waco, Ewing also said he has come to understand the inner workings of the city. When asked what makes him unique from the other candidates running against him, Ewing emphasized that before him there had never been a District Four council member of color, in a district with an overwhelming population of minority residents.
“Showing the people of District Four that there is space for you at a local government level and at city hall, you don’t have to wait for the sort of status quo white representative to come in and fight your battles for you,” Ewing said. “You can jump in and do that yourself.”
In a similar fashion to his opponents, Ewing wants to create and incentivize more affordable housing and increase wages alongside his partnership with Prosper Waco.
“Growing up, I had a single mother and two brothers, and my mom was often working multiple jobs to try to provide for us. And seeing that, and growing up in that, and making it out of that was a huge inspiration for me to want better than that for the people of District Four.”
In addition to increasing the amount of affordable housing, Ewing wants to revamp the public transportation system.
“As of right now, it is very stone age,” Ewing said.
According to Ewing, the “hub and spokes” system that the busses currently use is not efficient and the exact change cash payment to ride the bus system is not ideal either. After recently receiving federal funding, an automatic passenger counter and a card payment method for the buses will be going in soon. Once elected he will push for the bus rapid transit system.
Being on the MPO (the organization that institutes public transportation changes) and working with them, he said he would work to implement and flesh out the bus rapid transit system to help people from districts one, two, and especially four get “safely and quickly to their jobs.”
Ewing also it is important to increase the number of covered bus stops to help protect people from the elements when traversing the city.
“Recently, our city manager let me know that they found some extra funding, and they’re going to roll out some more covered bus stops at the start of December,” Ewing said.
Since Ewing has been on the city council, there has been a vote not to incentivize any company to come to Waco that doesn’t have a minimum pay of $15 an hour and an average hourly wage of $17.50 for all of their employees.
He said he will be working to incentivize housing developers from tax credits to grants to build or improve affordable housing. Some of these initiatives are already in place with apartments like South Terrace.
“My upbringing and life experience up to this point is what drives the passion behind these policies, and as far as what I am doing and what I will continue to do to make sure they get instituted,” Ewing said.
Ewing offered some advice to students ahead of Election Day.
“It’s really easy to get caught up in school and life in general in college … but your impact and your voice and your vote impact so much more than the collegial bubble and it is so important to realize that.”
Aubrey Robertson’s experience lies in his law career practicing criminal defense, prosecution, and personal injury law, and he was one of the former chief felony prosecutors in McLennan County.
The communication strategies required of being an attorney, according to Robertson, are the same skills required to be an effective representative on any level.
As a long time friend of his opponent, Josh Borderud, he recognizes the similarities in what they would want to see in District Three and all of Waco. His unique set of policy ideas is improving the infrastructure of the city and addressing criminal justice issues.
Robertson said District Three is very large but has a lot of economic disparity, and he believes the best way to address that is to create jobs.
“I think the city government is in a great position to do infrastructure projects.” Robertson said. The redoing of roads and the creation of sidewalks would be an “easy, quick way to put people to work. The best thing about that kind of job … they are well-paying jobs, but they include benefits.”
Another reason Robertson highlighted the importance of infrastructure is the need to draw in companies that may want to operate out of Waco.
“When companies outside of our state or outside of our city are looking for places to relocate, and if we want to attract companies to come here and continue to grow the Waco economy, then what we have to do is make sure the infrastructure is in place,” Robertson said. “One of the the things they look for is if there affordable housing. Are the roads good? Are the schools good? What’s the healthcare infrastructure? What’s the criminal justice infrastructure?”
He also discussed the criminal justice issues facing our community right now
“I think unequivocally, I want to be absolutely clear that in no way am I in any attempt to defund the police. I think we need to reevaluate what we ask our police department to do,” Robertson said.
He discussed what he thinks is the overuse of police for issues like homelessness, drugs and mental health and the reliance on the police to solve those problems.
“We are not increasing the resource and the tools that police have to address this problem and … this is not what the police were meant to do in the first place,” Robertson said. “We should be increasing funding in some respects to police departments and giving them more tools.”
Robertson highlighted the need to invest in other programs to help the homeless or investing in mental health resources and making them available.
“If we are only putting people in the county jail, then we are treating a symptom of the problem and not the problem itself, and if we truly want to see change, then we have got to focus on the bigger issues and not just trying to solve it by putting people in the county jail,” Robertson said.
Through his career in the criminal justice system, Robertson has seen that “it is not a perfect system. It’s a good system, but it is not a perfect system.” He is confident that there are steps that can be taken to correct the problem that are not radical but small adjustments in the process.
“When I see what I view as inequities in our criminal justice system, when I see that certain people are treated differently because of the color of their skin or neighborhoods are more heavily patrolled because police officers know it is easier to make an arrest in a certain neighborhood … that’s the wrong focus,” Robertson said. “We should be encouraging police officers to be a part of the community, not in opposition to the community.”
Robertson is passionate about increasing safety in the community, but in a unifying way where citizens and police are not adversaries but all members of one city.
“Because everybody wants the same thing — everybody wants safer streets … safer schools,” Robertson said. “We all have the same goal in mind. We just need to take steps to achieve that goal.”
In order to make sure his policy decisions come about, Robertson embraces the concept of compromise and the group action of the city council, using communication and respect to build consensus.
“It is so important to vote … and I read in the [Waco Tribune Herald] for example that there is the LGBTQ organization that is still fighting to be recognized on campus. I’m a gay man. I attended Baylor in the early 2000s. I can remember going to a couple of meetings when we tried to have an organization of gay and lesbian students in the early 2000s, and we would meet here in the basement of the SUB … it’s these types of issues — LGBTQ issues, race issues, but also economic injustice — all these things while not on the ballot in name they are on the ballot in spirit.”
He emphasized that if you believe in a cause, no matter what it is, it is so important to vote.
Unable to be reached for an interview, Randy Gober is running for city council in district one. While on the ballot, Gober will be unable to hold the position due to a felony conviction in his past.