Friendswood Councilman Steve Rockey, who is the only incumbent running for re-election in the city’s May election, faces a familiar opponent.
Michael Wood, a retired Houston police officer, is challenging Rockey again for the Position 1 seat on the city council just like he did in 2015.
Wood is concerned about how the city spends money.
“The tax money should be closely regulated through the council,” Wood said.
Flood issues, past and present, will remain at the forefront of Friendswood’s issues, Rockey said.
Along with flood mitigation, the council will have to deal with revenue shortfalls from the cost of recovery from Hurricane Harvey, said Rockey, who already has served two terms and is mayor pro tem.
“My experience on council will help,” he said.
Besides flooding issues, Friendswood also must deal with how to transition its emergency medical service from a free service to a billed service, Rockey said. He was one of the council members who worked on a committee to analyze the data on the number of free ambulance rides and the high cost of response equipment.
“I’ve been very good about reaching out and staying transparent,” Rockey said.
Rockey, who is a chemical engineer, owns a management consulting company, Steve Rockey Consulting LLC.
Long before he was on council, Rockey was involved in judging swim meets and other swimming programs in the city, he said. He’s volunteered with the school district and other organizations.
Wood moved to Friendswood because of its hometown atmosphere, he said.
“We are a small, landlocked city, and it’s time we got our spending under control,” Wood said. “Friendswood needs the appropriate ratio of businesses to residences.”
He worries about others who don’t share his vision of the hometown image, he said.
“Friendswood is not a destination,” Wood said. “A small minority of people are trying to make it a destination.”
Wood would not say who that small minority is.
“No government money should be used to augment private business,” Wood said. “The city council has the power over how that money is spent.”
Advocates who promote improvements downtown are using city taxes to augment private businesses, Wood said.
“I’m not against downtown looking better or people who want to make improvements,” he said. Those efforts, however, should be done as a private nonprofit effort, he said.
In 2016, voters approved two sales tax measures. One was for downtown improvements at one-eighth of 1 percent and one was for street maintenance at three-eighths of 1 percent.
Wood did not support the downtown sales tax, but he does accept that voters approved it. His concern now is that the city council should be more careful in how it spends that money, he said. While lights, benches and sidewalks are nice, Wood believes those amenities should come from private fundraising instead of public funds, he said.
The downtown sales tax is in place and the city will continue to use that money to improve downtown, Rockey said.
Some people confuse two separate entities or believe the two groups are the same thing, Rockey said.
One group is the Friendswood Downtown Economic Development Corp. After voters approved the tax to improve downtown, the city formed an economic development corporation as state law demands. The members of that city board are volunteers.
The other group is Friends of Downtown Friendswood, a private nonprofit group that isn’t affiliated with the city and doesn’t get tax revenues. The board members also are volunteers.
The council does have oversight of the first group, the economic development corporation. For one thing, the council has to approve the corporation’s spending.
“We are doing the will of the voters,” Rockey said.