City of San Marcos Candidate Questionnaire 2018
The extraordinary growth we are seeing in our city affects everyone. We are doing our best to keep up with the infrastructure to support that growth. We have provided a new land development code and programs to support business with city funds.
In addition, there have been complaints about building in San Marcos for many, many years. People are told they must do A, B, and C in order to accomplish a goal which might be creating a new business or residential development or a small project. They complete A, B, and C and then are told they must also do D, E, and F. I believe our City Manager is addressing these issues, but as mayor I will ensure my support to complete this task. I hope the new land development code (Code SMTX), which I supported, will address some of these issues.
Business owners, managers, and employees are involved in many ways. They serve on multiple City boards and commissions and also serve on committees appointed by the San Marcos CISD Board of Trustees. We all serve on community committees such as those that support parent-teacher organizations, churches, and youth activities. Due to my employment at the University, my interactions with businesses were limited and I wanted to know more about the city in which I lived. That is why I joined the Chamber of Commerce 30 years ago (long before I ran for office) serving on multiple committees and chairing two. Almost anyone can put forth the effort as I did to become involved. This is in addition to anyone’s ability to address the city council at Citizen Comment during a meeting or to call any council member at the number shown for each of us on the city website.
We must ensure we continue a business-friendly climate for businesses to contribute to our quality of life.
Through the Greater San Marcos Partnership, the City offers incentives to new major businesses. However recently we haven’t offered much for those already here. In the 1990’s we had incentives for existing small businesses who want to grow. When elected, I will ensure that we consider a similar program for fiscal 2020.
We have $30,000 in the Downtown Co-Marketing Fund which is a matching program. We can consider an increase.
Those on major corridors may apply for Business and Industry Growth grants. The City will pay up to one half of certain improvements. We could look at expanding this program with more funding and to be available to more areas of our city.
I have supported all these programs. A business-friendly climate will encourage businesses to expand or locate here.
The relationship between staff and officials at Texas State University and the City of San Marcos is generally a good one. City and university staff meet regularly to determine how to meet the growing needs of each, such as infrastructure projects. Many students are our residents and as such receive the benefit of city services such as utilities; fire and police protection; and our greenspace and parks. We are happy to have the student workforce to fill many of the positions that make San Marcos a vibrant place. Faculty and staff also provide services as speakers and participants in activities of our city.
As mayor I will start a dialogue between our City and university officials about the city’s long term goals and the university’s long-term goals. We can review all goals and university enrollment expectations to see what future policies will benefit both entities.
Small businesses are the backbone of any community. They provide the unique shops and eateries that we all enjoy.
We will continue to do a good job in providing basic city services including police and fire protection; electric, water, and wastewater utilities; and infrastructure improvements for our streets and utilities. Our river, library, and parks are enjoyed by employees. The university and residents provide arts activities from theater productions to Art Squared each month. Our quality of life is great so attracting employees to work and live here should be easy.
Our Main Street staff have done a wonderful job of creating activities to draw residents and tourists to our downtown area. When considering incentives for new businesses, we must consider those who are already here.
See also the programs offered in # 4 above and answer to # 2 above.
Our Capital Improvements Program is our guide to infrastructure improvements in San Marcos. In addition, we work with TxDOT for many projects as several of our streets are state highways. The recently opened Aquarena Springs overpass is one example and the new Ranch Road 12 (Wonder World extension) is another.
The city and university recently initiated a Coordinated Transit Plan Study.
The city council has directly staff to apply to be the Direct Recipient for federal and state funding for bus transportation. This means that we will direct our future regarding our bus system which is currently provided by the Capital Area Rural Transportation System. In addition, we are in earnest discussions with the university to create a seamless transit system. This will provide more routes and more frequent service for everyone.
The process begins in January with our Vision Workshop when we look at long term projects to benefit our city – some require funding and some do not. This is followed by a budget policy workshop in February where we carefully select goals for the upcoming budget year. It is incredibly important that we ensure we are working to meet the needs of everyone, residents and businesses. The staff then begins the work of building the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. They present the budget during the summer for adoption in September.
During budget discussion, I ask a lot of questions. I look at all details, especially increases to ensure that is what we need to meet our goals. If a 50 cent per month increase will help us meet those goals, and faster, it is likely to be approved. Changes I suggested are already in the FY19 budget.
The Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council hear land use cases and make decisions to ensure the orderly growth of our city. We carefully review all aspects of cases which will create change in our community. We must consider the impacts on existing homeowners and business owners who have already made in investment in our community.
Many proposed changes will improve and enhance our community. Some will not. Tough decisions must be made, but they are never simply anti-business.
As a former Planning and Zoning Commissioner, I did the work noted above and made decisions to approve a large majority of the proposed Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) and zoning changes during my terms. For alcohol CUPs I worked to ensure that the business would be able to operate under the conditions they offered and what was needed to ensure no negative impact on the neighbors.
Our City has recognized this need and created the Workforce Housing Task Force, comprised of a broad cross section of our community including those in the building professions. We are fortunate that our City Manager, Bert Lumbreras brings a depth of experience on this topic. I will watch the work of the task force and review carefully any and all recommendations they provide.
I would like to commend the homebuilders who have seen the market need for workforce housing and are responding to this need with lower priced homes that are smaller with options that allow for future additions as funds may allow. This is a great example of the builders responding to the growing needs of our community and stepping up to provide the product. This doesn’t mean our need for workforce housing has been met. There is still a need for housing at a lower price level.
A workforce development and education center would make available trained employees for local businesses. We would be more attractive to incoming and expanding businesses.
We would need to provide a location on a bus route and offer child care during class times. The Texas Workforce Commission provides funds for job training. Austin Community College and others offer classes for jobs that require training, but not necessarily many years of training.
There are many people working 2-3 jobs to support their families. If we can move someone from un-employment or under-employment or multiple jobs, to ONE job with benefits, it is a life changing event for that family. Health insurance is beneficial. Working 40 hours per week (instead of 60-80) provides for more family time and time for religious and other activities. This would offer a better quality of life for many in our community, business owners and employees alike.
I am now and always have been a strong supporter of San Marcos businesses, including and especially small businesses. I voted for city programs noted above that provide matching funds for business improvement.
My 30 years as an active Chamber member provides knowledge that I would not have learned being solely a 33 year employee of Texas State University. In addition, my husband had a handyman business and 13 rental units. Through that experience I learned a lot about running a small business.
Our businesses provide not only jobs, but goods and services needed by everyone. In addition, many business have sponsored groups and activities too numerous to list here. I thank them all!
I will continue to listen to business leaders and employees to determine how businesses and the City can continue to work together to keep San Marcos the amazing City it is.