2020 City Council, Place 5 Candidates


Click the buttons below to navigate between the different positions up for election.

Mayor City Council, Place 3 City Council, Place 4 City Council, Place 5

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 5 Candidates

Three candidates are running for San Marcos City Council Place 5; Mark Gleason, Omar Baca, and Zach Sambrano.

Community Investment

Read the candidates full answers below.

Mark Gleason

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

As far as development goes, I have supported on Planning and Zoning some of the new developments. Mystic Canyon is a great example of that. I think that is over an environmentally sensitive recharge zone that I think we can use the tools in the code to expand housing and growth and do it in a sensitive way, and do it in a safe way to the environment. We have a lot of growth and development that is happing on the East side of I 35 along Old Bastrop and Redwood Road. There are lots of projects of mixed-use, some commercial, single-family houses that is really going to expand the development. I trust the code itself when it comes to the environmental restrictions put in place to balance the need for growth while protecting the environment. As far as the business community goes, the best thing we can do is make it as affordable as possible and keep the infrastructure up, one of the biggest problems we have is if we can’t get around and you can’t get customers to your business, and have parking situation figured out and keeping your taxes low, it’s hard to operate a business, especially with the COVID situation putting so much pressure on them.”

What specifically would you do to expedite approvals of projects?

“As far as expediting the process…the more understanding a developer or someone coming in to do a project has of the code itself is going to help them get through the process. The planning department and the city engineering department really needs to do as much as we can to give information to someone looking to do a new development, or a new project of…the more information they have upfront, the better it is. The thing we can do to is try and keep those fees and taxes low on those projects themselves so that we can guide them through the planning and the rezoning and the permitting process that it takes and try to get those through as timely as possible. Because time is of the essence when you are building a project because it adds expense and an additional cost to those projects if they take more time,”

Omar Baca

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

“As a city, we need to be well protected and have a deep understanding of what we want to come and follow our master plan. From what I have observed we’ve kind of made some alterations and we’re really good at making workarounds around the plan. Don’t follow the plan yet, go around it. So that’s what we’ve seen a lot of doing is averting around the plan. So we agreed to that masterplan and agreed on what we want coming in, but we aren’t abiding by that and so there’s a misfire and that has to be corrected, and we have to figure that part of the process out. There is so much disagreement in the plan that we have to alter it. So, development is coming. It is absolutely, it’s a freight train coming our direction. As council people and as zoning people, and all of those things, what we can do is gently guide, and guide in a direction. And we can talk and recruit and go after the kind of stuff we want and desire and repel and slow down, you can’t stop them, they’re coming, but you can slow down the process for those that are going to practice usury on our community. The number one thing to think about in that aspect is where is the end dollar going to go. Are those investors, are those people who are developing, are they our local guys? And is that money staying within our community? Or is it being vacuumed out to Toronto or Tokyo, that money is being siphoned out of our community and we need to keep it home as much as possible. So, we need to be friendly with our locals and understand that the motive for outside investors is just a dollar, a bottom line.  And our local guys, they understand or will be kinder and understand that our benefit and our mutuality benefits them in kind.”

What specifically would you do to expedite approvals of projects?

Through the process, I think I have seen different cities and some cities have become purposefully hard to build in and some cities have become very easy to build in, and it’s part of their mantra and theme. We are in a strange position, where we should have our local building and growing for our local businesses, we should incubate them and put them in a position to understand, hey, here are the steps. And I personally as a general manager at a local business was privy to seeing how difficult some of those things can be in the City of San Marcos. It put strains on them and with the ability to expand, it would have been great for the locals, for the business owner, and for the tax base to have run those things through well and efficiently, and I saw the inefficiencies in that process. We can’t be unfriendly, but we have to protect from the outside like I said earlier before, we have to repel the outside from vacuuming dollars out of our community and we have to incubate and be kind to our local growth because I believe that’s the preferred development and the preferred type of growth because if you have skin in the game and this is your community, you’re not in it to destroy it and I believe that to be true.”

Zach Sambrano

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

“As I continue to start to talk to people about this, I’m figuring out that there’s this, either you are pro-development and everyone thinks you’re for these huge skyrises going in, or these huge businesses and things of that nature, or you are completely anti-development. I am personally someone who wants to meet in the middle on these things and I realize that San Marcos continues to grow, we are one of the fastest-growing cities in not only the state but the nation, and so if that is the truth then we are going to have to grow at some point, we are going to have to have development. I believe again, kind of with the last questions, we have to be strategic as to where this development is going to happen, so we need to make sure that we aren’t placing it in neighborhoods or around neighborhoods that’s going to cause flooding, but around areas of town where they’re going to make sure that they aren’t displacing anyone or causing these property evaluations to go up, but that they are also going to be able to thrive.”

What specifically would you do to expedite approvals of projects?

I think a big part of it is going to be advocating for all of that and pushing council to be something that they are for, that we want to attract those businesses to the city.”

Housing Growth and Diversity

Read the candidates full answers below.

Mark Gleason

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

“Well, growth is going to bring some sprawl, there’s just really no way around it. Land is the most expensive part of building a home or a structure and we are limited on land. So either A, we go up and utilize the land we have, or utilize the open space that we have. There are tools in the codebook for really mixed-used projects to balance the need for some density, some multi-family, and a lot of single-family. Another thing we do is the preservation of the single-family homes themselves. Some of the neighborhoods are some of the most affordable homes in town and the infrastructure to keep those homes in place and the taxes low to keep the people in the homes, it makes it more affordable if you are being taxed out or being pushed out because of flooding or something else along those lines, so the city can definitely keep affordability a little lower by doing good infrastructure projects to keep existing housing structures in place and keeping the taxes low so people can afford to stay in those homes.”

Omar Baca

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

“So those two statements kind of contradict each other, you have sprawl and you have the argument of density and the F6 argument. And so physically, we are hard to build in in the hill country and people are looking to appetize on the density of downtown. The idea of density and the philosophy of density, if you look at it, it’s environmentally a good argument. Tax base wise it’s a better argument in a sense, but it could also be a trojan horse. Because if you get rent by the bed, it becomes a position of, the word is usury. So, tenant rights is very specific.  From looking at how affordability is for renters, we’re talking about the renter space, not the owner space yet, but the renter space, when you talk about rent by the bed it has the potential…Rent is going to keep climbing, it’s just going to keep going. However, rent by the bed has the ability to accelerate it and double it in a very short amount of time, so it’s very dangerous and it also is a practice of hard usury, so tenant rights is something we should be knowledgeable about and consider protecting our people because 70 percent of our population are renting, and so that, we should probably work to weening that down, I know that we have a giant college population, but a lot of those renters are not college. And so, we have to look to protect those folks, because when their rent accelerates, their rent accelerates and what happens is gentrification, all of those neighborhoods Barrio Pescado and all those neighborhoods are prime to be a second coming of east Austin. A gentrification that is going to push all those poor people, multi-generational homes out of their space and then their quality of life diminishes because they are getting pushed out of the city into spaces where they have no services, where they have no care of the collective city of San Marcos.”

Zach Sambrano

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

“This really is what my main platform is all about when it comes to fighting for affordable housing and housing for all. We have a really exclusionary zoning code now that pretty much just allows for single detached family homes and large multi-family buildings, which are large apartment complexes. So, we are missing what we call the missing middle so things like duplexes, triplexes, cottage courts, townhomes. A big part of San Marcos, and we have to be real and frank with ourselves, is that we have a 70 percent renter base. Of course, as much as we want to foster homeowners, we will always, because we have the university here, we want to make sure that we can go ahead and foster and sustain the renter population of our town that is going to be here for two, four, five years and then they are going to move elsewhere, so we have to make sure we have the availability, you know, right now we only have the single-family detached homes, very, very few of this missing middle, because of the exclusionary zoning, and then we have large apartments which, even apartments the rent continues to go up and up. And a lot of people who are making, 51 percent of San Marcos residents make less than $35,000 a year and so a lot of these people can’t actually afford the apartment or the homes or they are going to rural parts of the county, or they are going to other cities like New Braunfels where they have expanded housing methods. And so I think we really need to tackle head-on the exclusionary zoning codes and realize that these kind of small developments going in and around our neighborhoods and in-fill areas and properties aren’t bad, and there are people that need these types of homes because the income that they have is not great, it’s low to moderate and we don’t have housing units for them right now, and if we don’t continue to expand on that, then we’ll lose them.”

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.

Mark Gleason

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.

“Yes, it definitely has an impact when we have development on how it impacts multi-modal if we don’t plan for bike trails, the roads themselves, public transportation drop-offs, that definitely has a big impact on how the overall scheme of transportation as a whole, as a community for people for getting around. And it’s very important as we are in the planning stages of those, to encourage people and give accessibility to bike paths and trails and trail ends and of course public transportation pick-ups and drop-offs, if they aren’t efficient people won’t use them and if they’re not safe, people won’t use them. So, it definitely has a big impact on that. As far as projects go that any development that we do in town, one of the things that we talk about on planning and zoning of course is we get all the transportation information and the road networks and the connectivity and the traffic studies when it comes to a lot of these projects, it plays a big part on my votes that I make is if this is going to be safe, is this going to be a way to connect to new trail systems, that we are looking at. Is there going to be a way for buses to get, where are the stops going to be. So, it plays a major role as a community when we are planning something transportation is a big part of it, and we are trying to expand some of our multi-modal transportation systems. I’m very happy that we are looking at integrating the bus services. That’s one of the complaints that I have gotten for a long time, that both bus systems are just somewhat inadequate in their ability to coordinate and for people to get around, so I am extremely happy about that and we can utilize that as a tool as a community to expand multi-modal.”

Omar Baca

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.

“There’s some really great examples of that, and that question also kind of contradicts itself in a way so, a long time ago Kirk Watson was in Austin and I was actually a part of that campaign and I cut my teeth on some of that on the smart growth initiative. Smart growth was something that was aimed at slowing bad development down and it was an anti-sprawl kind of thing and it was smart, it was an actual smart growth, however some adaptions in that time I thought to myself we should actually have town centers, multiple town centers that are available. At that time in Austin, they were trying to smash everything into a dying downtown Austin. Our downtown is not necessarily dying in that sense because there is a proximity that we can’t really smash something else in here without crushing something and putting something else that’s vertical. So, town centers, like what’s off Wonderworld, you have those apartment complexes and you have the buses that go out there. The way that that was set up, walking through that or driving through that center, it’s just like this is a town center. There’s hospital access here, they have some retail close to them, it’s not necessarily in a sense walkable, but creating those around…and people will call it sprawl, but it’s not necessarily sprawl. It’s a collective town center. And it also protects and it wards off some gentrification. So, outside investing and things of that nature, they’re coming and the home builders, they are coming, but we want to guide them and say, ‘hey let’s build town centers and have, we have the ability now to put bus and all those other forms and facets ability to come in and out and access well.’ I don’t think we are, I think we abuse the word sprawl and we scare the people with the word sprawl. But we all know and understand that growth is inevitable and if we look at the Google map time-lapse of what we look like now versus what we look like in 10 years, in 20 years, all that space is going to be taken over. We have to protect the pieces that we know need protecting now for the long-term and understand that this is great for industrial, this is great for F6, this is great for student housing, this is great for our other renters.”

Zach Sambrano

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.

*Zach chose to answer this question in two parts.

“I do believe there is a link, I feel like also there is a disconnect as we continue to see neighborhoods like Trace that are master-planned, that’s completely far out from the city where we have a lot of low to middle-income earners where we don’t have transportation going out that way. We’re starting to see kind of developments here in San Marcos, kind of in downtown that now you have housing, in some of the high rises, we have housing here, we have shopping here, we have all of these things kind of downtown. But I feel like there is a disconnect from any neighborhoods that are expanding outside the city limits, that we need to actually kind of create more transportation and access for those people. Because a lot of those people are going to be the workforce of our city so we need to make sure that we actually have transportation that goes out to those communities.”

“Pretty much in in-fill areas I’m all for. Kind of affordable housings the missing middles as far as duplexes, triplexes, quadruplexes, cottage courts type things. Housing types like that to go into those areas because I feel like the demand, the property that we have here in San Marcos is not growing, but the demand is, and the supply is not there, so I believe that we are going to have to develop some of these in-fill areas.”

Jobs and Opportunities

Read the candidates full answers below.

Mark Gleason

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?

“One of the things that I think is a good policy for the city itself is for any economic development agreements that we do mandate a $15 minimum an hour wage. I think that’s a great way that if we are doing tax incentives and are encouraging businesses to come here that that’s something that is a wage that we should encourage and should not be giving incentives to projects unless they are over that $15 an hour minimum situation. You know, the SMART Terminal, I hope will become a very good project, and those high paying jobs really do add to the tax base and give people the opportunity and bring wages up and bring people out of poverty. GSMP is an important part of the business community and a partner with the City to bring in those types of projects like the SMART Terminal. They can go out and do outreach and be the middle man to help negotiations for the incentive agreements and to really try to bring in new industry or jobs and so the GSMP plays a major role when it comes to economic development in the community. And the city and the GSMP need to work together to try and bring in projects that will bring higher-paying jobs and expand the tax base to alleviate some things and really help the city grow.”

Omar Baca

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 have some very deep thoughts about this, I think that, let me address the first part. I don’t like tax abatements. I’m not a giant fan of tax abatements for incoming outside investors. Like for instance, Wal-Mart is the perfect example, yes, they bring a retail tax dollar in, but at the same time they aren’t bringing high-quality jobs, so if it’s not a quality job bringer, we shouldn’t be having that conversation. They can be aggressively sought out by Kyle or from other spaces that are okay with that because we are literally five miles away to access those things. Here within the confines of our city, we should be, growth is, it’s coming. They want to be here, we’re attractive and the quality of life here is wanted and desired, so we should be pretty selective of how we allow people into our world. So, tax abatements, I’ve seen really bad deals happen, it’s like Wal-Marts. Why are you giving Wal-Mart a tax abatement? I would rather hand that to a local business person, an abatement at their level than a giant abatement at that level. So as far as changes, when I ran for county commissioner, and one of the things that I wanted to kind of get together was recruiting as a county unit. The Greater San Marcos Partnership, and I know they are global in their approach, but I think unifying all the city governments and the county under the same banner and the same idea to collectively recruit.”

Zach Sambrano

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 just believe that everyone here needs to have a place at the table, not only the Chamber but with the Greater San Marcos Partnership along with kind of pulling in Texas State, pulling in you know the small business community, pulling in San Marcos High School. I feel like we can really just kind of all come together and work together to have a thriving business whether it be local or large businesses that employ a lot of our residents and that are going to pay a living wage and are going to offer benefits.”

Open Communication

Read the candidates full answers below.

Mark Gleason

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?

“Communication and information is everything. We have to have an open line of communication between the business owners, the taxpayers of the community, city government, and the policymakers. The open lines of communication are very important because if we don’t have information from what their needs are, what their problems are, what are the constraints on their business, we don’t know how to make those policies. There needs to be very good communication at all times between all the policymakers themselves. The more communication the better it is. As far as transportation goes, if we can’t get customers to businesses, if the roads are not done, if the infrastructure is not done in a timely manner so people can get around and bring people in, and if people can’t get around on public transportation, that brings vitality to the community and really increases the availability for business to attract people. And of course, parking is always a major issue in the community. As we expand and grow, parking becomes a major issue and if people can’t come into the community and park and go to a business, they can’t grow their business, and we lose out on the sales tax revenue because of it.”

Omar Baca

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 think relationship building is really important and I think we are more polarized more than ever. Even at our local level, you see some really nasty mudslinging going on and it’s unfortunate. We have to get back to a place where we have decorum, professionalism and understanding with each other. As a council person myself, being in council, I have plans to be a part and do ridealongs with each and every department, especially the fire department because that one is special to me. But also, go sling dishes for local barbecue joints. Which are fantastic by the way. Hays County’s barbecue is better than Caldwell’s, I’m just saying. I’m going on the record to say that’s the truth. But I think that that relationship building with all of council to our local businesses is important and I feel like I am a relationship builder and I feel like that is a skillset that I would bring to council and I would hope to manifest throughout council and being open to business and understanding that they are the heartbeat of who we are, they are our artisans, our musicians, our artists, our university and our small local businesses. That’s our culture, that’s who defines us.”

Zach Sambrano

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?

“Maybe pulling in like a representative to assist either at a commission or at the city council meetings to make sure the business community here in San Marcos is always going to have a voice. Because we have to be real with ourselves, we aren’t going to have many things in San Marcos, we can’t talk about affordable housing without people actually having jobs and having income, so we need to make sure the business community and all these businesses that create jobs have a voice at the table.”

A Message to Voters

Read the candidates full answers below.

Mark Gleason

What is your message to voters?

“My name is Mark Gleason, I really have enjoyed and loved living in this community, I have enjoyed serving this community. I have been very proud to do what I do for the city. I enjoy volunteering and I would love your support and I would appreciate your vote, and thank you for your time.”

Omar Baca

What is your message to voters?

“My name is Omar Baca, I’m running for San Marcos City Council, Place 5. I ask you to reach out to me at Choose Baca on Facebook. I think you have three good candidates, which is great, it’s a blessing to have such a variety and a group that is talented. I feel that I have the experience and the understanding, the special understanding in emergency services to bring you premier emergency services in the future. I also have the understanding and the demeanor to bring people together for win-win solutions. That is my history, that’s who I am by definition. I absolutely positively advocate for our natural resources and protecting that and our small businesses and our neighborhoods and the protection of that as well. I am deeply in love with our community, and I think that we chose to raise our family here. So, we have skin in the game, as a taxpayer and with children growing in our environment, this town is important to us and that’s why I signed up to run and it’s a little crazy to run, it’s hard to run. So, please be kind to myself and the fellows running for place 5. Please vet us all and make good decisions, this election day is very important. Your brand of what you think the City of San Marcos should look and be like rides on this vote. Thank you so much.”

Zach Sambrano

What is your message to voters?

“I’ll be real, I don’t know everything, I’m a local person who really has a passion to make sure that our community develops in a good, smart way, I truly believe that we can work together to come to the middle. It doesn’t have to be so pro or anti this or that, we’re one community and I believe we can be stronger together. I feel like we want to make sure that everyone has housing, we want to make sure that everyone has jobs, we want to make sure that everyone can live here, can work here, that can enjoy everything that San Marcos has to offer, we have to protect our beautiful river. And, vote Zach Sambrano for San Marcos City Council Place 5.”