Candidates for two Sugar Land City Council seats gathered to discuss their visions for the city and the challenges facing it in front of an online and in-person audience during a forum last Friday.
The event, held at the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center in Sugar Land and streamed on Facebook Live and YouTube, was co-hosted by The Ismaili and the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce.
The forum featured the candidates for District 4 – incumbent Carol McCutcheon and challenger Sakki Joseph – as well as District 1 candidates Donna Batten Molho and Suzanne Whatley. District 2 councilman Naushad Kermally and District 3 councilman Stewart Jacobson are both running unopposed and did not participate.
Early voting runs from April 19-27 for the May 1 election.
One of the key issues facing the city is a revenue shortfall that resulted from closures caused by the spread of COVID-19. Asked how to mitigate that, Joseph said eliminating wasteful spending should be a priority.
“We can balance our budget and balance our economy,” Joseph said. “We should not issue open checks for any contractors.”
McCutcheon said the city has implemented a hiring freeze and not filled any vacancies. The $90 million general obligation bond passed in 2019, she said, has been stretched out by a longer timeframe, and the city council opted to spread out a voter-approved tax increase over the next five years instead of having it take effect as scheduled in 2020 and 2021.
“I’m particularly proud of the $3 million I helped secure for Greatwood and Greatwood Village for drainage improvements,” McCutcheon said.
Molho, the District 1 candidate, said the city began to innovate and think like a retailer in response to the pandemic.
“They came up very quickly with these great programs, offering gift cards and buy-one, get-one cards which generated money for the restaurants which were so desperately in need of money, whether it was to-go or in-person,” Molho said.
Whatley said Sugar Land was well-prepared fiscally for an emergency like a pandemic and can continue to maintain essential city services like water and drainage.
“Going forward, I think they’re looking at things that aren’t important like hiring and travel and putting a hold on them,” Whatley said.
Donna Batten Molho
Occupation/Education: Retail management and marketing, real estate agent; B.A. from Texas Tech University
Key issues: Safety and security, quality of life, mobility
In their own words: “Arts and culture is a very critical piece of tourism and economic development, and anything we can do to promote that and partner with the schools to start children at an early age is creating an interest and continuing it through their adulthood.”
Occupation/Education: Owner at Branding Matters!; B.A. from University of the Incarnate Word
Key issues: Small businesses, police and fire department training
In their own words: “I’m a small business advocate, small business owner, and we’ve seen a lot during COVID-19. We have to recognize small business is the heartbeat of this community, and we need to protect that.”
Carol McCutcheon (incumbent)
Occupation/Education: Retired oil and gas engineer; MBA from University of Houston
Key issues: Public safety, traffic mobility, drainage
In their own words: “For the past 28 years, I have worked hard to serve our community and city. I am running for my third term on city council and I have worked very hard for the past four years on behalf of all residents of our city.”
Occupation/Education: Programmer, MD Anderson Cancer Center; Baylor College of Medicine
Key issues: Safety, public works, transparency
In their own words: “I have a passion for the people, I love to serve the people and address their issues in their day-to-day lives. I want to fulfill their vision, and that’s why I’m running for city council.”