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District 5 council member-elect ready to serve 

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Rich Aubin is looking forward to serving as Garland’s District 5 council member and helping to spread the message that Garland is a great place to live. He and his family have lived here for six years, but his first experience with Garland was in 1993 when, in his first case as an attorney, he represented the city in a court case. He subsequently represented Garland in several other cases.

“We have to work to get the message out that this is a good place to live,” Aubin said. “A lot of people already know it and you can tell that by how many people grew up here and stayed here or came back later in their adult lives. To me that’s one of the great endorsements of this city.”

He will work to improve District 5 and the city as a whole and looks forward to being part of the effort to improve Garland’s image.

Aubin said that each area in District 5 has its own issues which affect the entire district and the district has issues that affect the entire city.

“One of my major concerns is the overall decline in the district,” he said. “People are concerned about declining property values, declining infrastructure, lack of what they feel are good retail options and lack of amenities such as parks.”

As examples, he cited that in the southwest part of the district residents report issues with crime, vagrancy and prostitution. In the Orchard Hills area, there are issues like the Parkmont drainage project that was approved in the 2004 bond election but has not yet been done.

“Last year’s significant rains highlighted this problem for residents,” Aubin said. “Fortunately, help is on the way. The project is set to go out for bid in the third quarter of this year with construction starting soon.”

He believes that the city’s biggest asset is its staff and the quality of services they provide. They are aware of many of the neighborhood issues and continue to work diligently on improvements and methods through which residents can be involved in making positive changes.

Aubin said that staff has found that when a street is redone, people take more pride in the appearance of their property and improve their homes and landscaping.

“That’s the perfect time to get in there and let residents know all the things that the city has to offer as far as help with projects,” he said.

District 5 has numerous assets and the most important is the residents. Many of them have lived in the area for a long time and are engaged in things happening in the district and city.

Another major asset is the amount of industry that is located in District 5.

“I love seeing the trains,” Aubin said. “It’s commerce in motion in our city and that’s a great thing. It’s something good moving through our city. Other cities would kill to have the manufacturing base that Garland has.”

There are also challenges regarding the condition of the infrastructure.

“There are some tough choices to be made,” he said. “But I firmly believe that the citizens of Garland are willing to make those tough choices as long as they are explained in detail. To really grow our tax base, we have to be strategic about how we spend money and we have to choose the right projects.”

One of the area’s biggest challenges is, of course, the IH-635 improvements which will have a significant role in the redevelopment of south Garland as well as Garland’s future overall.

Aubin also said that improving the appearance of the gateways into the city, such as South Garland Avenue, is key to the success of redevelopment.

There has been a long-standing concern among much of the south Garland population that north Garland gets most of the desirable development and south Garland gets more storage units and check cashing businesses or nothing at all.

“We can spend a lot of time as a city or a community arguing with each other about whether north Garland is getting more than south Garland, but that won’t accomplish anything,” Aubin said. “If that feeling is rooted in reality, changes have to be made. If it is simply a perception, something has to be done about that as well.”

Without an opponent, Aubin has been able to utilize the time that he would have been campaigning to meet with city staff, study the city’s operations and visit with constituents and neighborhood groups. He said that he appreciates that he will be able to hit the ground running in May. However, Aubin sometimes wishes that there had been an election that would have allowed the citizens of District 5 to exercise their voice and their vote.

Photo by James K. Johnson.