Please describe any qualifications and past job experience that has prepared you to serve effectively as a Mayor or Councilmember of San Marcos?
As a fifth generation San Marcos native, the proud product of our San Marcos public schools, Texas State University, and longtime community volunteer, I am the most qualified candidate. I have been involved in the Chamber of Commerce, Education Foundation, and United Way since 2010. I serve on the board of directors for United Way and the Housing Authority Commission and previously served for Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos. I am the youngest elected official in Hays County, as a twice-elected San Marcos CISD trustee. I have overseen the district’s $76 million budget and helped establish programming, creating numerous partnerships with local businesses to better prepare our graduates. As a board, we paid down bond indebtedness early, which allowed us to propose a no-tax rate increase $107.3 bond proposition overwhelming approved by voters last year to address academic needs of students and tackle short and long-term student growth.
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?
San Marcos’ anti-business reputation and onerous development processes that negatively affect businesses are pressing concerns that must be resolved for our community to prosper. Perception is reality. After numerous conversations with local business leaders, it is my understanding that the current climate in San Marcos is not business friendly. This is not good news for our city and the economic welfare of our citizens. Whether it’s a small business owner talking about the majority of our city council and staff making it difficult to expand, or a developer encountering burdensome, unnecessary roadblocks in our planning/development or code compliance/enforcement services, this is a perception that must change. Although my number one priority is to address housing affordability, another primary focus of mine will be ensuring that our local government is cognizant and responsive to the needs of all of our citizens and the business community.
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?
As an active member of numerous civic organizations, including the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce, I will continue to be present and available to anyone and everyone in our community. While on the school board, I have been approached by citizens at the grocery store, high school football games, and at graduation to discuss issues important to them. When elected to our city council, I will continue that type of citizen engagement but I would also actively seek out advice and subject matter expertise in regards to issues that impact economic development, job growth, or small business expansion from organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. I would like to see more education of our constituents and special interest groups on how local businesses are the backbone of our economy and how attracting new, high-paying jobs is essential to everyone’s prosperity.
What can the City do to encourage existing business growth and new business attraction?
Beyond providing the necessary infrastructure to accommodate business growth, sometimes the best thing municipal government can do is get out of the way. I believe the role of our planning and development process should be to provide an understandable and consistent process that those looking to invest in our community can rely upon during the entire development process. Streamlining, not removing, regulations and taking steps to become a business-friendly city are also important.
5.If elected what will you do to further/strengthen the relationship between the City of San Marcos and Texas State University?
The first thing we can do to strengthen the relationship between the COSM and Texas State University is to elect city council members that value the university’s presence in our community. Although the existing relationship is strong, there is room for improvement in communication and partnerships. As a Bobcat, I have seen first hand the economic impact of the student population in our downtown and in sales tax revenues, as well as the impact our university’s faculty and staff has when they purchase homes and invest in San Marcos. We must do more to strengthen town and gown relations and I believe that I can serve as a meaningful bridge in that process because of my years as a student and staff member. As both a fifth generation San Marcos native and second generation Bobcat, I have a unique perspective among our current City Council members on this issue.
The Business Improvement and Growth Program, or BIG Program, was a step in the right direction and more businesses should be encouraged to participate. Additionally, our city government must do more to ensure that the regulations we enact make common sense for all stakeholders and some of our leaders should stop “looking” for ways to negatively impact the business community. This reality– or perception– that our city is “closed for business-small or large” can stop new investment and hurts existing local businesses who provide jobs for our citizens. These are the citizens that are our neighbors and whose children attend our schools. These children represent the future workforce and leadership of our community. We must not do anything to stifle business opportunity in San Marcos.
San Marcos’ population is expected to double in the next twenty years. We must look long term when discussing our transportation needs. In particular, Hopkins Street can no longer be the only major thoroughfare connecting downtown San Marcos with the west side of our community. The completion of Loop 110 is critical to solving our mobility issues, as is placing more housing and retail near the university so students do not utilize cars so often. Additionally, we must continue to pursue a comprehensive but cost-effective citywide mass transportation system that includes but is not limited to buses, bikes, pedestrian walkways and rideshare systems.
As mayor/council member 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.
Just as business owners and taxpayers should live within their means, our municipal government must do the same. Drafting and approving a budget is all about balancing wants and needs. A priority of any future city council must be essential city services like police and fire, infrastructure, stormwater management, and economic development. I would at this time not have supported the purchase of unimproved green space costing city taxpayers $2 million, especially in the manner it was done, without voter approval. It was low on the priority list of properties that would either improve water quality or prevent flooding in our city. Public safety, basic city services, housing affordability, economic development, and flood prevention/mitigation should be our priorities. Bailing out nonprofits or special interest groups should not be a primary responsibility of our city council and our taxpayers.
A requirement of our City’s Charter is to ensure that appointments to our planning and zoning commission are reflective of the diversity in our community. If diverse perspectives are present on our planning and zoning commission and citizens, small business owners and representatives of the development community are allowed to serve together, and we can truly have a meaningful dialogue that best represents our entire community, not just a select few. Appointees to boards and commissions should not be political paybacks, but based on applicant qualifications.
Creating a climate and associated development policies that promotes a variety of housing types located near necessary services and jobs, particularly single-family residential development, is the most prudent way to impact our community’s housing affordability crisis. Additionally, it is crucial that we also provide an environment to attract meaningful career job opportunities for all of our citizens. Jobs with good wages and benefits including healthcare will be necessary for our working families to afford a place they can call home within our city without the need for taxpayer assistance.
I would like to see an expanded first-time homebuyer Incentive Program available to full-time San Marcos CISD, Hays County, City of San Marcos, and Texas State University employees who have not owned a home in the city limits in the past 12 months. This program would be for the purchasing of single family homes, including but not limited to townhomes, condos, duplexes and patio homes inside the San Marcos city limits and must be the employee’s primary residence. The incentive would be $5,000 in the form of a zero interest, 5-year, deferred forgivable loan paid directly to the title company handling the home closing. Additionally, the loan could be used for down payments and closing costs associated with the home purchase.
This election provides a stark choice of candidates. I have lived in San Marcos all my life, experienced the local school system and the opportunities of higher education in San Marcos with my family by my side in support. I am a unique choice to represent the citizens of San Marcos on city council. I understand from experience the need to create meaningful career opportunities for our all of our citizens. I understand, first-hand, the challenges of housing for families, including my relatives living on fixed and moderate incomes. For years, our community has begged for economic growth and today, we are seeing signs that it has begun to arrive. It isn’t time to continue to advocate for and pass policies that only work to discourage and hamper business in our city. It’s time to continue to address the challenges of growth we face and to provide opportunity for all of our citizens to have a good job and a place to call home.