2020 City Council, Place 3 Candidates


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The San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the San Marcos Daily Record to provide information to voters on where candidates stand on key issues.

The Chamber asked all candidates the same five questions that align with the chamber’s key priorities. Candidates were given two minutes to respond to each question and were not provided the questions ahead of time. Answers from the candidates are in-full and have not been edited.


City Council, Place 3 Candidates

Two candidates are running for San Marcos City Council Place 3; Ed Mihalkanin and Alyssa Garza.

Community Investment

Read the candidates full answers below.

Ed Mihalkanin

Are you for continued development within our city? If so, do you have any limitations?

“San Marcos is in a growth corridor, it seems to me that we need to ensure growth, economic growth for our community, if we are going to at a minimum maintain and if at best enhance the quality of life of the people that live in our town. So, yes, we have to support economic development, but what I want to see is an economic development that is going to help our citizens who already live here, that’s going to be compatible with the environmental constraints connected to impervious cover, connected to flood zones, connected to our river, and always, right? Isn’t it a question of balance? So, I don’t think anybody, and I know that I am being facetious, but I don’t think anybody would want to steel mill in San Marcos. At the same time, can’t we provide the kind of incentives to get the kind of business that we want here to provide the kind of jobs that pay enough money so that people can buy a home and then with their benefits, obviously with health care.”

What specifically would you do to expedite approvals of projects?

“Currently I’m one of seven people on the city council, so one there has to be a consensus on the council if there is going to be a review of the steps in the development process. Which I’m willing to work with and see what we can do to speed the process without accelerating it so much that people cannot weigh in with their judgments when a development is in their neighborhood. My sense is that the city staff could do a better job at right when someone comes in with a development proposal, just say, give them a list, here are the 50 things that you have to do, give them a checklist and these 50 things are really connected to three different departments in the city. You know, one’s the inspector, one’s the planning department and the third is fill in the blank. Too often I have heard that a developer has come in, be told that he or she has to meet a number of standards, they do the plans, they have all of it done and then they hand it in and they say you have to do these seven things. No, that’s not an option anymore, that’s ridiculous. And so, I can’t talk to the city staff, I can talk to the city managers, the city attorney, municipal judge, and the city clerk, as a city council member, so I will be very forceful in talking to Mr. Lumbraras the city manager to say this has got to stop, there has got to be a more streamline process, because you and I know if you think you have to meet seven criteria, but it’s actually 14, that could cause a very powerful effect on how you are drawing up your plans. If you knew the 14 from the very beginning you would do it differently. This is 2020, this is not 1873. So, enough. Streamline the process.”

Alyssa Garza

Are you for continued development within our city? If so, do you have any limitations?

“I am for responsible development. When I ran for office, I did so acknowledging that there were many areas for growth that I had to address in terms of my understanding of current issues. Housing and development is one of those, it’s a beast of a topic. Unfortunately, I’ve only been approached by an almost dichotomous perspective, developers or folks seeking to preserve their neighborhood. I don’t think I have enough information to make a firm decision or answer regarding that in terms of limitations. I have gone down the rabbit hole on the documents, the meeting minutes on multiple committees and I still don’t have a clear answer as to what the best way to proceed is. While some folks might consider that is a weakness, whenever I answer that way. I mean, I can sit here and throw out hot terms like sprawl and building up, and to be honest with you, I would view that as being inauthentic and disingenuous. Clearly, the city has fallen short on developing solutions to housing and you know it’s been a minute, right? So, one person can’t figure it out in a couple of months. But to answer that I do think that we need to be intentional and figure out how to develop responsibly so that we thrive economically, that we provide more opportunities for folks to you know seek housing, I just don’t have an answer for that in terms of limitations.”

What specifically would you do to expedite approvals of projects?

“I think just prioritizing it, right? So, from what I have observed and what I have heard, those conversations tend to drag on. I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that there is a lack of diverse perspectives at the table. It seems like there…at least my perception and the perception of other just regular shmegular folks in town, is that conversations regarding development and how to proceed with that tend to be very divisive, but they are also primarily led by the same individuals, so the same folks coming out and representing pro-development and the same folks coming out and re-representing no development, so I think one way to figure that out is to just ask the community what they want and just prioritize it in general, I think a lot of the conversations had at city council right now, are probably not conversations that we need to be taking too much time on, but one thing that we do need to focus on is development and figuring out how we are going to meet the needs of a very fast-growing city.”

Housing Growth and Diversity

Read the candidates full answers below.

Ed Mihalkanin

How do you propose we create affordable housing in San Marcos without creating sprawl or building high-rise apartments?

“I don’t have a solution. The way you asked the question, I think a quick way of answering it is that we can’t. If you look at the land that’s within the city limits in San Marcos today that is out of the floodplain, now we also have the aquifer recharge zone that’s the western part of our town which because of the development code we have said in effect, we would rather not have you want to build there, so let’s build on the East part of town which is the prairie, which doesn’t have all the rock in it, alright? Because that is going to reduce cost. If you are going to have to blast through rock, you are increasing the cost of any construction that you are going to do. Also, do we really want to add more impervious construction to the recharge zone, probably not, right? So that was my point in saying, I would like us, working through the city manager’s office, to contact reliable companies who build a range of single-family housing. I don’t know if you have noticed, but the so-called starter home seems to have ceased to exist, a two-bedroom one and a half bath. Which, my sister and brother in law bought one of those when they first started a family, those aren’t there, why not? Why can’t we work with a company to say, if you have 100 houses, 30 are starter homes, right? A third, a third, a third, something. I don’t have the solution and even if I did, it’s not my call. I’m one member of seven on the city council. We need to have a community conversation, the council needs to talk to the city staff and say, how do we work through this, because right now, it’s really not happening, but again, remember we talked about this earlier, so a developer does build 100 homes and somebody from New York City, or Chicago or Las Angeles comes in and buys 50 of them, where are we at, right? I’m really open to looking at the most authority that the municipal government has to look for solutions.”

Alyssa Garza

How do you propose we create affordable housing in San Marcos without creating sprawl or building high-rise apartments?

“Again, I know that this is going to upset many of my supports, but I just don’t think that I have enough information to answer that. I think that what’s necessary to answer that question is for somebody to really just shift the conversation when it comes to housing to include more perspectives and also to put forth the information regarding the conversations that have already occurred to the community. So me, even I consider myself a regular shmegular person, but I do acknowledge that I have the privilege of holding multiple advanced degrees and being able to look through policy, and I enjoy it, I enjoy digging through that 400-page document for land development and the task force on housing recommendations, I enjoyed it, but even with all of that, that’s still difficult for me to wrap my head around the needs, versus the interest between certain groups and mediating those because both of those interests are important, so I don’t have a clear answer for you, but I will say that if I were elected, I would make finding solutions to responsible housing, and affordable housing a priority. Like I have said, I have just gone done the rabbit hole on literature and trying to map out what all has been done, what conversations have already been had, what seems to be the barriers, to some ideas that at face value seem, like good ideas, why has there been barriers or roadblocks and looking into those.”

Transporation and Infrastructure

Engineers and planners agree that public transit, bikeability, and walkability are achieved in areas that contain a mixture of housing, retail, business, and entertainment. However, new housing in San Marcos is being built on the outskirts of town.

Read the candidates full answers below.

Ed Mihalkanin

Do you believe there is a link between how we designate land use and how we achieve multi-modal transportation? If so, give the land uses you would support within in-fill areas in the city.

“That seems to have an implicit bias of the new urbanism embedded in the question, begging your pardon. The new urbanism isn’t really new, it goes back to Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of American Cities published in the early 1960’s. And Jane Jacobs was extraordinarily intelligent person, but she was in New York City and she spent the last 20 years in Toronto, we’re in Texas where look at what the temperature was even in early September. I don’t care how many trees we plant, people aren’t going to walk from the downtown to going east, going under the interstate and then going into those businesses over there, it’s a health hazard. So, I think we really have to adapt the idea of sustainability or walkability or lack of sprawl to the reality of San Marcos, Texas. It’s not San Marcos, North Dakota, it’s San Marcos, Texas, we have horrible heat for multiple months out of the year. Number two, we are not the largest city in the metropolitan area. The new urbanism seems to presuppose that all cities are the largest city in a metropolitan area. We have a lot of young people, and the characteristic of a lot of young people is that they are single. We have to be aware of the interpersonal demographics of our population. Young people are going to want to meet and interact with other young people. They’re not married yet, their idea of a good time is not having dinner at home and then catching the latest sitcom. They want to go out, they are going to want automobiles. That’s reinforced because of the large distances of Texas, people are accustomed to driving three hours and they don’t consider that a long drive, right? That is so different from different parts of the United States. So, for me, we have to pick and choose, we have to prioritize, we can’t pretend that we can do everything within the confines of our town.”

Alyssa Garza

Do you believe there is a link between how we designate land use and how we achieve multi-modal transportation? If so, give the land uses you would support within in-fill areas in the city.

“That’s actually one of the more interesting parts of going down the rabbit hole regarding housing and the connection of development and the environment. I think that there is a link, I think that it’s interesting that we are building further out. Access to transportation in general, in my opinion from what I have observed, is an issue. I have heard multiple elected officials, make joke, or are baffled at the notion that people don’t have vehicles. I didn’t have a vehicle until I was 22 years old, I took the Texas State bus everywhere. So yeah, I think there is a link.  

“In terms of land use, again, it’s one of those topics that seems to be very divisive in the community. I have had conversations with a few folks who have indicated that any changes to the land-use codes would be detrimental, however, I do see that there are certain flaws to the existing, I guess standards and regulations. In terms of supporting that type of growth, I think that I would have to really dig into the existing literature and folks perceptions on that to secure buy-in to be able to develop closer and upwards. I think that there has to be a happy medium, right? Like I said earlier there is almost this dichotomous perspective. We can’t develop because it’s detrimental, but we also can’t, you know not develop because that is detrimental in terms of single-family ordinances, I do think that it has pros and cons, as someone who comes from a non-traditional family, I’ve kind of tried to figure out a way in which we could amend those types of policies to be more inclusive and to find like a happy medium to secure community buy-in for growth that is going to help preserve our environment and provide that easier access to services, particularly for those that don’t have access to transportation. There seems like there is a missing piece right? There has to be some kind of happy medium to support growth and still preserve our neighborhoods. I haven’t found it yet, so if you figure it out let me know.”

Jobs and Opportunities

Read the candidates full answers below.

Ed Mihalkanin

What steps would you propose and what initiatives would you support to keep meaningful jobs with wages above the living wage coming to our city and region? Also, what changes, if any, would you recommend to the current structure between the City and the Greater San Marcos Partnership?

“I’m honored to be a council representative on the Greater San Marcos Partnership. I think it’s done an excellent job for the city and for frankly, it says Greater San Marcos, it’s the region, Kyle, Buda, other cities and I’m very happy that it’s there. What I would like us to do, which I know the Greater San Marcos Partnership has been doing is to decide, what is the business, or businesses that we think could add the most to our community and reach out to those companies and say we’re here, we think we’re a good fit for you instead of just waiting for a company to say ‘hey we stumbled over you and we think you would be a good fit for us.’ No, we think you’d be a good fit for us, we think you would be a good fit for us, right? And then work together to bring them in. At the same time, this has been an issue for a good deal of time and I hope you don’t mind me bringing it up again, the Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area facility, that’s a great organization, and I don’t want us forgetting the citizens that we already have that for whatever reason may not have the skillsets necessary to improve their lives economically. If we can, think about it, if we raise people’s salaries from $25,000 a year, to $30,000 a year, we add $5,000 to their annual income and we do that for thousands of people…guess where most of that $5,000 is going to be spent. Right here in San Marcos. If you increase someone’s salary from $200,000 to $300,000, maybe they are going to go to Tahiti and they were never going to go there before. But, if you increase the lower level income of people and you add $5,000, you add $6,000, you add $7,000. They’re going to be spending the vast majority of that increase income locally which is going to have a recycling effect so that for what, for every dollar spent, it’s spent seven times, six and a half times, and so that will have such a positive effect on our local community.”

 

Alyssa Garza

What steps would you propose and what initiatives would you support to keep meaningful jobs with wages above the living wage coming to our city and region? Also, what changes, if any, would you recommend to the current structure between the City and the Greater San Marcos Partnership?

“I think that securing opportunities for employment for our community is an absolute necessity for our community. I think that we have a workforce in San Marcos that is able and willing to jump in for an opportunity that will allow them to provide for their family. I do think that we lack those opportunities. If elected, I would just be very open to different businesses and companies coming in and wanting to set up here. Obviously trying to get community feedback on their perception and moving forward responsibly, but if there is one thing that really stands out to me is the lack of employment opportunities in San Marcos. I work two jobs, I have a full-time job with a non-profit and I also work part-time at a local retail store and many of my co-workers have two or three jobs and they would much rather prefer a job where they can get their 40 hours a week and benefits. In order to provide that, we have to be creative in seeking those employers and really showing them what our city has to offer. Yeah, I’m willing to entertain any idea as to increase opportunities for folks to have better employment chances.”

Open Communication

Read the candidates full answers below.

Ed Mihalkanin

How do you believe the City and the Chamber should partner to ensure the business community has a meaningful voice in policies that affect them all?

“I would want to hear from the Chamber. I mean, the chamber is allowed, it’s a 501 (c)(6) so it’s certainly allowed to express its public policy positions right? On a range of issues facing our community. It’s a representative right, it’s an organization that’s supposed to represent the local business community so I would want the chamber to feel comfortable at all times to reach out and say this is the chamber’s considered judgment on this public policy issue. Because of constraints of the open meetings act, you know it’s not like in the old days where we could actually sit down and I could have a pen and paper and people could talk to me. Now it seems like everything has to go through the email and have all seven council members receive the exact same communication. But still, it’s fair. I read what people send into me as a council member and I would certainly read whatever the chamber brought in. Yeah, I mean, I hope that the chamber feels that it can communicate its public policy preferences or any suggestions. I know chambers of commerce have networks throughout the country and if they know something works in Colorado and it fits with the state law, I am totally open to what other municipalities are doing, recognizing that the state of Texas is not like other states so maybe there are limits on what the municipality can do. But, give us your suggestions,”

Alyssa Garza

How do you believe the City and the Chamber should partner to ensure the business community has a meaningful voice in policies that affect them all?

“So, I encourage any and all organizations and groups to openly communicate with the city. I think it’s really important to secure that perspective. I think it’s great that the Chamber of Commerce is very visible and plays an active role in the community. Y’all have a really great location, so you’re are front and center and so I would just encourage that communication. I think any good elected official should be intentional in seeking all perspectives including the chamber. I also think that now more than ever, we need to have that communication with the folks who are running our local businesses. Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of our community members depend on these local businesse staying open to provide for themselves, so many of the local businesses view the chamber as a resource and so we just need to continue that communication, seek their feedback and share information and resources. I really appreciate the Chamber’s little facebook lives, I found them very informative, and you know the information was disseminated in digestible little pieces, and I know a lot of small business owners found that important. So, I do think that the chamber possesses a lot of value in being a bridge between the city and those local businesses that we need to support.”

A Message to Voters

Read the candidates full answers below.

Ed Mihalkanin

What is your message to voters?

“Well thanks very much for listening to this conversation that I’ve had. I know that we are going through a rough time, San Marcos is, Texas is, the entire country is. Just know that it may seem like a cliché, but I sincerely believe it, that by working together we are going to be able to get through these tough times. Please reach out, don’t hesitate, any concern, any idea, any complaint, please send it to the San Marcos city council. If you have any suggestions, I am completely open to any suggestions you have because none of us on the city council can do this job unless we are talking with our fellow citizens and listening to what our fellow citizens are saying. So, we need you to help us do the best job that we can for our community.”

Alyssa Garza

What is your message to voters?

“My name is Alyssa Garza and I am running for city council place three. I may have totally butchered these questions regarding housing and development. But like I said, I don’t want to come off as disengenuon or inauthentic, I think that there is a reason why we are in a housing crisis and that’s because  we continue to elect people who can throw out these fancy key terms and who give off the illusion that they know the answers to the housing crisis, but I don’t think we will reach a point where we can come up with solutions that will benefit everybody until we are intentional at bringing more perspectives to the table and just engaging authentically and preserving the great aspects of our community while also moving forward responsibly.”