Rick Henderson

Place 5

Rick Henderson

 

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

Member of the Main Street Advisory Board.  I think 02-08.  Chair for 2.5 years during my six-year term.  Member of the Parks Board for one year. 11-12.  Resigned to rehab from reconstructive knee surgery.  Member of ZBOA the last four years.  Attentive to public affairs and policies for several years.

 

  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?

() Barriers to well-planned economic development and entrepreneurship that slows business and job growth.  The barriers are found in P&Z and Council decisions. (2)  Transportation and mobility issues combined with downtown parking problems.

 

  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?

Growth of local business comes from an idea driven mindset.  The city has performed remarkably well protecting our fragile environment.  Beyond that, if an entrepreneur develops a business plan for a new business or expansion that works its way through Planning and through the P&Z, then becomes denied or manipulated in council, a level of uncertainty grows in the business community.  Relying too often on the impact of immediate emotional responses from a minority of citizens creates a barrier to economic growth and job creation.   I believe it is my responsibility to have an ear on the heartbeat of the business community’s ideas and concerns in defining the alternatives to public policy.

 

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

The business community will need to find a receptive city government from Planning, permitting, inspections, the city manager’s office, Planning and Zoning, and the city council.  It is one thing to give lip service to economic development and job growth, but without a streamlined, and receptive city government, the voice of business will be thwarted.  The growth of undergraduate and graduate programs at the university, and the potential economic relationships these programs can foster has to be met with a consistent strategic vision by government.  Public-private partnerships will prove essential as well an understanding that innovation originates at the community and regional level.  It is essential for the voice of business to step up and believe in the receptiveness of our city government to new business models and ideas.

 

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

The university is my home.  I have witnessed the many changes in the type of students who come to San Marcos and this university.  For years I have defended them form the minority of citizens who believe students are too often an intrusion to be tolerated.  The community needs to see that large number of students involved in volunteerism and internships all over San Marcos.  Students from the university should be encouraged to become a part of the Downtown Thursday Walkabouts and our many civic events.  Both the city and the university should promote the quality of our current and future university population.  Communication between the city, local and regional businesses, and citizens about programs and research can foster innovation.  University events should be highly promoted to the general public as part of the wonderful quality of life in San Marcos.

 

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

I have very little problem with well-thought economic incentives to attract business.  However, local businesses should have a seat at the table if their economic interests are threatened.  Furthermore, we have waited way too long to devise downtown parking solutions for employees.  I believe I have a plan that was formulated from visitng with employees who have paid hundreds of dollars in parking fines.  Discounted parking vouchers from downtown and central business district businesses customers using the parking garage that connects the university and the downtown on University Blvd.  Furthermore, inconsistent inspections that impact the bottom line of local businesses should be mitigated with better communication between inspectors and local business owners.  Improving city streets, sidewalks and developing a transportation plan should have local businesses in mind.  Improving access for customers is important.

 

  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.

I believe in some of the components of the Strong Towns approach.  Narrower streets to accommodate bike lanes and wider sidewalks along with slower speeds is not only a safety issue, but a way to provide improved sight access to local businesses and their parking areas.  A more walkable and bike-friendly city is attractive to millennials who are more receptive to density and walkability than my generation. I believe in an expanded bus system, day and night, that serves neighborhoods in San Marcos, encouraging ridership and helping with traffic congestion.  More stop signs and speed bumps in residential areas plagued by speeding cars and people taking shortcuts.  Finally, there is a significant amount of traffic that does not have San Marcos as a destination point.  It is imperative that the Texas Legislature and TxDOT meet their responsibility to develop and maintain an adequate statewide transportation system.

 

  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.

I have only examined the budget as a whole with an eye on capital improvement expenses and overall revenues.  Investment in infrastructure, police and fire protection in coordination with increased revenues and population growth is most essential.  Capital outlays on a year-to-year basis need to be highly prioritized so we will not find ourselves asking the voters for more bonds and growing long term debt.  Finally, I am in strong favor of city beautification programs and projects, supporting the arts and the Mermaid Society.  But these programs fall more in the category of “wants” than “needs”.  They need to be mitigated on a year-to-year basis.  Finally, there is a great deal of volunteerism in keeping the river clean and litter free.  If we need to increase expenditures in the budget to protect the river, then this falls more into the “needs” category.  I believe the growth of property tax and sales tax revenues in the next fiscal year should be used wisely, especially in the areas of police & fire protection and infrastructure.

 

  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.

If all the departments of government, P&Z and the council act and not react to local business development models, we are encouraging local business growth.  If a business has a well-thought, sustainable business model that meets the necessities of its location and the development code, then there should be no barriers.

 

  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?

(1)  I approve of the movement of the $200,000 from economic development for the purchase of abandoned and property tax delinquent properties.  I maintain that local interested builders and stakeholders brainstorm for the purpose of building or remodeling lower-priced homes or dwellings that fit into the development code & integrity of that neighborhood.  The city will discount the value of the lot to $0 for the initial buyer in the sales price.  There will be a qualifying process that follows the marketplace of mortgage loan types from any lender, preferably local.  The city will also discount the initial permitting process for the selected builder to keep the sales price of the home down.  The council will not be involved in the builder selection process.  The new homeowner of whatever type will have to understand the value of the home and associated appraisal value will be at appraisal district/market value in its second and succeeding years.  My preference would be to follow this plan for only two years, and have it fall under “sunset”.  The laws of supply and demand and the marketplace itself should command the need for more workforce housing to be met by the private sector. (2)  With a designated appraisal threshold, I would be in favor of council approving an additional homestead exemption (locally) for owner-occupied single family homes in designated low-income neighborhoods with homeowners who are on fixed retirement incomes or disability.  Federal income tax returns may very well be a requirement to avoid potential abuse.

  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?

(1)  A fund established for new local business development or business expansion in any area of the city.  This fund will be managed by appointed chamber members for the purpose of distributing funds for permitting, inspections and ADA required modifications, beautification, and any other worthy cost-saving necessities of starting a new business or expanding a small business determined by the appointed chamber members.  (2)  I would set aside $75K in three annual payments to the Mermaid Society.  The Society has become part of the fabric of this community.  Three years of an established 25K per year grant would help build a solid non-profit foundation while developing longstanding funding arrangements for this wonderful local resource.

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

I have been asked a similar question in questionnaires and face-to-face visits with business and development-minded businessmen and women.  “Do you agree with the city attorney’s strict interpretation of “rolling quorum”.  “To what extent can San Marcos City Councilmembers speak with city residents without violating the Texas Open Meetings Act?”  I believe that if anyone wishes to communicate with me about any program, project or development idea, it is important to understand that every citizen has an equal voice.  This is fundamental political equality in a democratic republic.  There just might be a more expansive interpretation from the Attorney General’s office.

In addition, in visiting with former council-member Chris Jones, under the Narvaiz term as mayor, the rule was that the mayor can add any item to the council agenda.  Other than the mayor, in order for an item to be placed on the agenda, three council members must agree to introduce that item.  [Clipped for length]