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As early voting begins, Midlanders decide who will lead the city for the next three years

Four seats on the Midland City Council are up for grabs this election season. One race is unopposed, in another an incumbent is facing a young challenger and five candidates are jostling for the council’s two at-large seats.

By Mitch Borden

It’s been two years since the last Midland City Council election, and now more than half of the council seats are up for election.

For the majority of Midlanders, though, the only two elections they can vote in are the races for two at-large council seats. In those races, incumbents Michael Trost and Spencer Robnett are defending their seats from three challengers: Dan Corrales, Dustin Johnson and Robin Poole.

Marfa Public Radios Barb Anguiano and Mitch Borden sat down and chatted about the elections. Here’s an excerpt of that conversation.

How are the 2021 elections shaping up and what are candidates focusing on? 

All the candidates for the at-large seats have written multiple op-eds in the local paper and have appeared in both televised and streamed forums

After the last two years— which saw Midland hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic along with a historic oil bust — there’s a lot for candidates to discuss. The community is bouncing back despite a recent wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations believed to be brought on by the delta variant. Oil prices are up and people are optimistic, so a lot of the conversations happening in these races are focused on how the city council will guide Midland’s growth and development in the coming years.

Topics candidates have addressed range from the lack of public transit in the city to future infrastructure projects as well as quality-of-life issues. 

Parks and the quality of life in Midland.

Local politicians seem to be perennially talking about quality-of-life issues in Midland. That’s because Midland, which is at the heart of the United State’s most prolific oil patch, doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to being an enjoyable place to live. It is common to hear things like the city’s not much to look at but the residents are nice, or the landscape is wanting but the sky is fantastic.

But as the hydraulic fracking boom has brought more people to the West Texas oil fields, calls for more investment in parks and recreational areas have increased. And parks, specifically neighborhood parks, have been a common topic during this election. It seems like residents want places where they can spend time with their family and friends which candidates have been willing to discuss.

Future development in the Tall City.

All candidates seem to be in agreement that Midland’s population will keep growing and the community will continue to expand. But with that optimistic outlook has come questions about how property in the city will be developed and how much say locals will have when it comes to what is built. 

Planning and zoning policy isn’t always at the top of voters’ minds, but ever since the owner of Nueva Vista Golf Course started the process of rezoning the property so it can be sold, more residents have started paying closer attention. The sale of the golf course has become contentious because neighbors of the space worry that turning the green space into a housing development will cause more flooding as well as decrease the property values of nearby homes.

Even though there’s been opposition to the project, the city has allowed it to move forward. Although the rezoning process has not totally been settled, this situation has forced city council candidates to tackle questions concerning the golf course and how property should be developed in Midland in the future.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.