Mckinney Courier-gazette > News
Jeremiah Hammer to run for McKinney City Council at-large seat
Jeremiah Hammer last week announced he will run to replace at-large McKinney City Councilman David Brooks, who said he would not seek reelection in May.
Hammer, who ran for an at-large position on the City Council in May 2011, says the city is primed for a new perspective – one that’s been fueled by community immersion since his first campaign.
“I think the public is ready to hear something other than how ultra conservative somebody is, because those are just words,” Hammer said this week. “We have great representation of businesses and land interests on City Council; I don’t think we have much representation for the people.”
Hammer is president and CEO of Sustainable Ventures, a consulting business which helps small companies and startup businesses. He previously spent more than a decade working for startup companies in technology, software and IT consulting spaces, including one under Yahoo Broadcast in the early 2000s. He headed the executive council for CIO Magazine until he started Sustainable Ventures soon after moving to McKinney.
Hammer before vied to replace longtime City Council member Pete Huff, and ran against Matt Hilton, Roger Harris and Steve Bell. Harris won in a runoff election June 18, 2011, and has since held the other at-large seat. He will be up for reelection in 2015.
Upon his first campaign, Hammer was fairly new to McKinney, having moved to the city’s historic district the previous year. His intentions for a council seat were based on a desire to “do something for my community, not just complain about it or blog about it,” he said in March 2011.
In the two years since, Hammer feels he’s backed up his claim, while preparing for another run at City Hall. He’s remained active in groups like Leadership McKinney, Holy Family School and McKinney Kiwanis Club, and serves as chairman of the Community Development Block Grant advisory commission.
“My motivation this time is coupled with a much broader and deeper understanding of everything that’s going on in this city,” he said. “From what I’ve been able to learn and observe over the last two years, it just furthered my desire to step up and run for this seat.
“There is an opportunity to do something greater, and I believe with minor changes and a broader perspective of how we approach our problems, we can move this city forward into a much more sustainable future.”
That perspective, he said, much depends on more open communication between city staff and the residents they serve, and on making decisions that benefit everyone in McKinney, not just a select few. Hammer said the former concern stems from his belief that “there’s a whole lot of information that is excluded from public consideration,” including certain business decisions that are seemingly discussed only in executive session.
In October 2012, the Center for Public Integrity reported that McKinney had the state’s highest number of requests sent to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in hopes of withholding government information – 411 rulings to deny public information requests in 2011. City spokesperson Anna Clark told the Center that many requests were associated with police records and general city business.
Hammer said he doesn’t understand why McKinney is “more secretive than any other city in North Texas.”
“It’s easy to say, ‘We communicate well because we put everything on our website,’” he said. “A lot of what is released to the public is just PR – you’re told what they want you to hear so that you form the most desirable opinion and response they want you to have, which minimizes you complaining about things.”
Valid complaints – backed by action, of course – are what the city needs, he said, adding that “the people’s voice is far stronger than they give themselves credit for.” Hammer vowed to, if elected, help ensure that voice is heard and the city’s intentions and major decisions are known before action is taken.
He mentioned the Gateway hotel and conference center project and Wistron GreenTech move to McKinney as decisions that could burden the taxpayers – financially and environmentally –because of city staff’s determination to “just showcase the things that could potentially turn out well for us” rather than “take into consideration all the risks involved in these investments.”
Raytheon, the city’s largest employer that could be the main company using the hotel-conference center, is building a 2.5 million-square-foot complex south of the George Bush Turnpike and may not even use the hotel-conference center in five years, Hammer said.
“That’s a potential risk that, as a city, we need to be asking about – questions as they pertain to assessing the future,” he said. “Because that could set us up for a disaster…where, again, the taxpayers are going to be stuck footing the bill.”
Through developing a 10,000-square-foot community garden that, when fully producing, aims to yield 15,000 pounds of vegetables a year, Hammer said he has better learned benefits of working on something together using one’s own resources – a lesson he said should translate to the City Council and citywide improvement. He said the city could do a better job of investing in the infrastructure and resources already in McKinney, instead of focusing only on bringing businesses – and potential jobs – from elsewhere.
“Nobody gets a tax abatement to buy a house in McKinney, but they’ll take our tax dollars and give it to a business to move a headquarters here. The people are bearing all of the burden to incentivize a business to move here, who’s probably not going to hire people who live here,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk of the corporate citizens – ‘We’ve got to take care of the corporate citizens.’ It’s unfortunate, but if left unchecked, they’re going to be first class and the humans will be second-class.”
Other concerns of Hammer that he aims to address if elected include accounting for city employees’ intellectual value, not just their hit to city budgets, as well as putting in place economic opportunities to attract high school and college graduates from McKinney back to the city.
His perspective is about ingenuity, accountability and, above all, plurality.
“We’re only as strong as our weakest links, so we are obligated to take care of each other,” Hammer said. “We owe it to each other to make this place awesome for everyone who lives here, and that’s what I want to do.”