Melissa Derrick

Place 6

 

Melissa Derrick

 

  1. Please describe any qualifications and past job experience that has prepared you to serve effectively as a Mayor or Councilmember of San Marcos?

I managed large budgets, federal grants and public relations efforts for twenty years at TXSTATE, where I also managed large-scale special events. As a Council Member, I assisted with amending and passing CODE SMTX and have begun work on small areas plans to guide growth responsibly. I have assisted in setting policy to prioritize flood mitigation infrastructure projects, economic development incentives, capital improvements, land acquisition, student housing, and student rental rights. I’ve been a good steward with our money. I’ve successfully lobbied for disaster funds at the capital, as well as voting to adopt the Mayor’s Compact to Combat Hate and Climate Action Plan. As a small business owner, I’m passionate about the success of our small business community and have worked closely with the Downtown Business Association on parking issues and incentives to achieve and further success. I supported S.P.L.A.S.H. co-working to increase entrepreneurship and thus further local economy.

 

  1. What do you believe are the two most pressing concerns currently affecting business in San Marcos and what will you do to correct/overcome them?

I don’t believe we have only two pressing concerns in this area, as we have both large, corporate business entities as well as small, local businesses in our community, which deserve equal attention. To attract large businesses to our community we must continue to strive towards providing a range of housing, good quality of life, and above average primary education by working with our community partners. Support of the efforts of the Greater San Marcos Partnership is also vital. To support and encourage growth for small businesses, we must provide resources, education and incentives. With the current steps towards adopting the State’s 2015 Health Code, we must continue to provide workshops aimed at successful transition as well as more resources such as a commercial kitchen that could be used by food trucks and start-ups to increase local economy.

 

  1. How will you involve the business community in citywide discussions and bridge the gap between private citizens and the local business community on issues that impact the business/economic environment and other vital issues that affect San Marcos?

Both private citizens and the local business community, have enjoyed equal representation on the CODE SMTX think tank, Charter Review, City boards and commissions and assembled stake-holder input groups. Council representation on and funding of the Greater San Marcos Partnership, has been mutually beneficial towards establishing shared goals regarding economic development. I’ve been told the business community doesn’t have as much time to write letters or use citizen comment to oppose or support issues, however I think it’s important to keep in mind that not every elected official (certainly not I) simply listens to the loudest voice. Good policy is made after cost benefit analysis, staff recommendations, and then public opinion. Compromise is vital, and in Democracy no one will get all that they want with “hot button issue”, but something they can live which benefits our economy and preserves what makes us a unique city in the corridor.

 

  1. What can the City do to encourage existing business growth and new business attraction?

This is basically the same question as #2, so please refer to my answer there and I will add to it here. Continued funding of the Greater San Marcos Partnership (GSMP), and completion of small areas plans to provide predictability for developers and employers who would like to relocate or expand in San Marcos are key. Continued work with GSMP to “hammer out” incentive packages that draw large employers to San Marcos and continued City-led initiatives, like S.P.L.A.S.H. to support and encourage new start-ups. I believe our new Community Enhancement fee, along with the Business Incentive & Growth Program, and redevelopment of blighted areas will make San Marcos much more attractive to businesses considering re-location or expansion in San Marcos.

 

  1. If elected what will you do to further/strengthen the relationship between the City of San Marcos and Texas State University?

I will continue to support City Management’s renewed efforts to work with the University, meeting with them monthly to discuss partnerships on shared goals. I will also maintain focus on the University Master Plan to seek other areas of partnership in the future, and where needs overlap and therefore costs might be shared. At this time only a select few engage with TXSTATE in regular meetings, but I hope to offer my services in that area over the next three-years. There are many more responsibilities that could be shared between our two entities and I would like to become more involved in supporting and promoting the Star Park to the benefit of both City and University.

 

  1. What can city government do to help protect and serve our small business community?

As a local, small business owner, I know listening is key to assisting with their unique challenges. Listening led to a recent/overdue change in supervision of our Health Code Enforcement team, and a Council approved re-organization plan which funded new key positions that will improve customer service. Additionally, we now contract with the County to do site inspections of new or renovated food and beverage businesses to make the process faster, and hassle-free.  I will continue work with the Downtown Business Association on employee parking, and our Parking Management Program to ensure that spaces are available for customers. The B.I.G. program was recently expanded to serve those outside the boundary of downtown. All decisions I make are based on the best interest of our already existing businesses over out of town interests, and I supported S.P.L.A.S.H. co-working and Innovation Districts to forward the opportunities to advance small businesses.

 

  1. What improvements do you believe are needed for adequate transportation infrastructure in San Marcos? Please list them in your priority order with a brief description.
  2. The city has just replaced CARTS as direct recipient of mobility grants, which will allow for increased funding based on the city’s ability to qualify as community of high needs due to our low median income.
  3. Increased ridership directly results in increased funding needed to increase hours and routes. Partnership with the University to combine transportation, allowing for seamless service of students and residents, would come with student service fee funding that would be added to our transit budget, as well as providing service to all, thus increasing ridership, and is worthy of full exploration.
  4. Keeping an eye to alternatives that may present after the failure of Loan Star rail is critical for long-term needs

 

  1. As mayor/councilmember you will be responsible for approving the annual budget, please describe your approach to the budget process and list one thing you would change from the FY 2018 approved budget.

In 2018 we saw a shortfall in sales tax revenue of over $1M, because staff overestimated the amount of sales tax Revenue that would be generated by the Best Buy call center the previous year.  I have and will insist our Finance Department not include forecasts for new businesses in our budget, until after first year of operations. Some insisted Best Buy funding be used on recurring expenses;  we were later informed by our economic advisor that they must only be used for one-time expenses until they can be counted on to stay in San Marcos – I took that advice. Issues of health safety and welfare must be first  (police and fire), next priority goes towards additional staffing needs as we grow, then capital improvements, then savings for facility maintenance, then CDBG for Social Services or city projects, then strategic initiatives, and finally “wants” that improve quality of life.

 

  1. Decisions at the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council seem to continually have a particularly negative impact to small business owners. What will you do to help solve this problem.

Out of the countless alcohol CUP’s that came before Planning and Zoning during my three years of service, there were two denials due to proximity of neighborhoods and quality of life for our citizens, that were touted as “anti- business votes”. As a small business owner, I support all we can do to assist that community and in turn our local economy. I’ve support our B.I.G. program until it’s expansion mandated my abstention, Parking Management, Main-Street Small business efforts, short-term rentals, S.P.L.A.S.H. Co-working, nuisance abatement over mandatory rental registration. I’ve stood up for small businesses when code issues tied their hands which in part hastened positive personnel changes at the Health Department, insisted on city workshops for Health Code Changes, and am on the Work force housing Committee that aims to increase home ownership by placing more affordable housing units in our market to the benefit of citizens and realtors.

 

  1. A major issue facing San Marcos is housing availability; lack of workforce housing, and housing affordability and diversity, if elected what actions would you take to help solve this problem?

I’m on the Workforce Housing Committee and we’ve set ambitious new policy for city led initiatives to provide affordable housing for the backbone of our community. Our newly appointed Workforce Housing Task Force, comprised of stakeholders such as affordable housing developers and builders, residents, and mortgage lenders are tasked with helping the City address San Marcos’ housing crisis. This isn’t just a city issue and can’t be solved by the city alone. This is a community issue; thus, we need partners to increase homeownership opportunities for the roughly 70% of our residents who are renters. We’ve dedicated funding for Fiscal Year 2019 for the acquisition of tax foreclosed properties via partnership with the County and School District. We hope to build homes on the City owned land, thus decreasing the cost of the homes to the structure only. The City’s First-Time homebuyer Program, will also assist with increase home ownership.

 

  1. If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

There are too many wants and needs in San Marcos to choose one cause without a feasibility study and input from our Finance Department. $1 million dollars can complete some projects or further others. I would want to place this funding in an area that would make the most direct impact. It might make the best sense to place the money towards acquisition of tax foreclosed properties for workforce housing or into construction costs towards that same effort. It might have a greater impact funding an east-side resource center that would provide job training, computer skills, resume building and tutoring.  Another option I’d like to research would be land acquisition for regional detention for flood water for all the T-5 zoned properties that aren’t required to detain storm water onsite.

 

  1. Please use this opportunity to provide any additional information you would like members of the San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce to know.

We must get comfortable with increased density. Post -war era development was a failed experiment that isn’t sustainable. The cost of sprawl and extending and maintaining infrastructure has bankrupted cities in our Nation, and a new generation longs for the “old days” of neighborhood stores and a walkable community. The cost of owning and maintaining multiple vehicles per household was a short-lived phenomenon.  However, changes must allow for preservation of environment and all that makes San Marcos unique. Not every neighborhood will or should accept extreme increases in density. This must be done carefully and mindfully, which is the reason that small area plans must be complete before we push the doors wide open for density. There are areas where it makes sense and neighborhoods who truly do want it. We can’t stop short of promises made, we must get this right to earn the trust of our citizens.