Alison Maguire, a 33-year-old music education graduate student, is putting her studies on pause to run for District 4 in the May 1 general election for the Denton City Council, against incumbent John Ryan.
Maguire earned a bachelor’s in music education from the University of Illinois, and taught at three middle schools across nearly 10 years. She moved to Denton over seven years ago with her husband, Sean Powell, who is a professor in the music department at the university. Maguire volunteered for a slew of progressive campaigns last year, before deciding to put her education on hold and kick off her candidacy.
“I volunteered for Bernie Sanders, did a lot of canvassing for his campaign,” Maguire said. “In this last election cycle, I did some volunteering with city council campaigns, city commissioner campaigns and the state legislature. As the election cycle wrapped up in November, I began looking ahead as to what would be coming up and I realized my city councilman’s seat was up for reelection, so I thought, ‘I could run against him.’”
Her platform targets three areas: affordable housing, community health in the COVID-19 pandemic and responsibility regarding the environment.
“We have a huge affordable housing issue in Denton,” Maguire said. “A person making the median income in our city cannot afford a median-priced house. There’s a mismatch between wages and the costs of living, in particular the cost of housing. The way that our housing costs are rising is unsustainable.”
Maguire believes there are a number of ways the issue can be addressed, through state and federal programs and zoning ordinances.
“The federal and local governments have subsidy programs and those are wonderful,” Maguire said. “We can also, from city council’s perspective, do a lot to make zoning ordinances and development plans that are more conducive to affordable housing, at a wide range of price plans and variety of forms. A majority of our development are large apartments or large single-family homes that are too expensive for the average Dentonite to afford.”
She said she thinks it is important to market to more lower-to-middle-class Dentonites and people, citing a Denton Record-Chronicle article about the state of Denton’s housing market.
“When you look at what is affordable for people at different income levels, something that would let them spend less than 30 percent of their income on housing,” Maguire said. “A person who’s making the median income couldn’t make the mortgage payment on a $285,000 home. It’s unsustainable”
Maguire said she understands how important affordable housing is to other university students, such as those struggling with student debt.
“Increased demand is not being met with adequate buildings,” Maguire said. “If we can encourage the development of those more affordable units, especially those denser, that will help manage and keep housing prices stable. We want to see housing prices and rent remain stable instead of rising rapidly, which is what they’re doing right now.”
She said she was aware of “predatory” landlords who used their proximity to the university as leverage in their rent pricing.
“I know there are some landlords who take advantage of those who are young and need to stay near the university, jacking up prices for substandard units,” Maguire said. “I want to see that practice ended and I want landlords to be held accountable to keep their property safe and health for everybody.”
For community health, Maguire said the city council could be doing more to fight COVID-19 at a local level.
“COVID-19 is deadly and it has killed many people,” Maguire said. “I know the city government’s hands are a bit tied by the governor, but I think there’s a lot more we can do with mask-wearing and assisting the county health department, though they’ve been doing a good job. For masks, what we have is that businesses can put up a sign saying they require masks, but it’s up to them to enforce that. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect employees at our businesses, or our small business owners, to enforce this is on their own. I think our city should be backing them up on enforcement.”
On the topic of environmental guidelines, Maguire said Denton’s situation regarding fracking is a key issue.
“Denton is one of the most fracked cities in the country,” Maguire said. “Back in 2014, we passed a citizen referendum banning fracking within city limits, but a few months later the state came in with [Texas House Bill 40] and basically took away our right to decide what goes into our air.”
To counter this, Maguire said the city council should consider cleaner options at a local level.
“Some things city council members have considered include increasing gas well setbacks and increasing the distance newly fracked wells have to be from schools, homes and hospitals and parks,” Maguire said. “We also have Denton Municipal Electric, which is a publicly owned utility and really one of the leaders in the state in transitioning to renewable energy, though we could be doing better. So, I would like to see DME transition completely to renewable, I think that’s achievable. Also rebates for citizens who install solar panels which are linked into our grid.”
Her campaign manager, 24-year-old Jordan Villarreal, said Maguire’s experience as a mother and teacher is vital to her campaign.
“As a mother and public educator, Alison would bring a unique skill set to the city council,” Villarreal said. “She understands the trials and tribulations students and parents go through on a constant basis, and she firmly believes that their problems can’t be fixed in the classroom alone. Alison will spend her time as a councilwoman working to improve the day-to-day lives of parents, kids and all citizens in District 4.”
If elected, Maguire would be the youngest member of the council. Apart from Place 3 member Jesse Davis, who was 35 at the time of his 2019 campaign run, the council members range from at least 14 to 42 years older than Maguire.
Among those in support of Maguire’s ideas is biology sophomore Aimee Tambwe, who also liked how Maguire was relatively younger compared to most of those incumbent in the city council.
“It makes me excited that she’s studying at UNT and running for office, as a mom, teacher, college student and now running for council,” Tambwe said. “I think that’s amazing and [she is] a great role model especially for working/studying moms/parents and such. As for younger people in office, it’s really exciting as well because I’m tired of old people making up policies that they claim they know speaks for the people they represent but in return, it’s absolutely the opposite.”
Courtesy Alison Maguire