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October 31st, 2007
Various city election-related documents archived here

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This is from the Jude Prather for City Council campaign…

By JUDE PRATHER

I lived on Sagewood Trail for three months and it was three of the worst months of my life. Our air conditioner never worked, my toilet leaked wastewater into the wall every time you flushed and the landlord didn’t care how bad things were. We used to call it Sagehood.

Some of the 100 duplex units in Sagewood are well-maintained by their owners and kept that way by responsible tenants. In others, unkempt conditions contribute to a disorderly culture that encourages reasonable partying to stray into disrespectful or dangerous behavior. Neighbors who live in family homes surrounding Sagewood are mad as hell about the constant noise, careless and drunken drivers and other disrespectful and inconsiderate behavior. More than 20 of them spoke at a recent city council meeting demanding action.

Actually the citizens are madder than hell — one of them so much so that he compared the situation at Sagewood to “insurgent activity in Iraq.” Others are throwing around phrases like “clash of cultures” as they demand that city officials “take the gloves off.”

Even if some of our neighbors are driven to exaggeration, no one who’s been out there recently can doubt that Sagewood’s problems run deeper than trash bins left in the street and vehicles parked in the yard. I visited most every home at Sagewood last week and many of the people I talked to agree that things have gotten a little out of hand. One man showed me a charred mattress and desk that some knuckleheads decided to use as a bonfire in the street a night earlier. More than one resident told me that much of the trouble comes not from Texas State students or even Sagewood residents at all but from non-residents looking for a party as apparently was the case with the fire. Sagewood’s neighbors have legitimate gripes about traffic racing through streets where their children play and guns being shot off in the woods yards from where their children sleep. (Although, as Police Chief Howard Williams points out, the police department has logged only eight “shots fired” complaints since January 2005.)

If we don’t fix what problems do exist ourselves, we’re going to have them “fixed” by a range of far-reaching proposed measures that may have nothing to do with Sagewood at all but with expanding local government’s authority and bureaucracy in ways that require cover of a perceived crisis.

San Marcos City Manager Dan O’Leary has said law enforcement officials are making plans to create a multi-agency alcohol taskforce. Among other things, the taskforce would infiltrate college parties with undercover cops and use surveillance to crack down on under-aged drinking. Several council members have already called for a system of licenses and inspections for property owners who want to rent their property out. The idea is get landlords to take a more active — and intrusive — role in their tenant’s affairs to head off problematic behavior before it becomes a police matter. Council members last week hailed the new city attorney from Bryan as someone who, essentially, won’t tolerate this nonsense and help the city find ways to ratchet up pressure on young people to conform.

I don’t want to take any option off the table at this point but I don’t think we should rush to throw new ordinances on the books without thinking the issues through completely.

Take the landlord licensing and inspections issue. In early 2005, the city council at the time — Mayor Susan Narvaiz and council members Gaylord Bose, John Thomaides and Daniel Guerrero are still in office — spent more than a half-million dollars to create and equip the city’s marshal’s office which oversees enforcement of codes and ordinances like the one designed to keep more than two unrelated college students from living in single-family neighborhoods. In a little more than two and a half years, the marshal’s office budget has grown from $259,078 to $396,863 for the upcoming fiscal year. Everyone admits that the marshal’s office or the San Marcos police department, which has made 122 arrests and 279 citations in the Sagewood and Craddock Avenue areas since January 2005, have not been successful in curbing the behavior that has everyone so riled.

Compared to a whole new system of land licenses and rental property inspections, the marshal’s office is a cheap venture. Before we commit what will surely be hundreds of thousands of dollars more each year, let’s make sure we aren’t just throwing taxpayer money around for campaign season hype. We have real needs that can’t be ignored — tens of millions of infrastructure and quality of life projects are scheduled but unfunded on our capital improvement program. For every $109,000 we put in the budget for special interests, that’s $1 million in capital improvement debt that could be financed and paid off over a typical 20-year term.

Most of all, let’s stop substituting heated bluster for real conversation, the kind neighbors have. We don’t need more knee-jerk laws any more than we need jerks who don’t care how their behavior affects others.

Jude Prather is a homeowner, business owner, U.S. Army veteran and a public administration senior at Texas State University. He a candidate for San Marcos City Council, Place 2. He can be reached at jude@judeprather.com or at (512) 878-1955. Jude Prather Campaign, 400 Browne Terrace, San Marcos TX 78666, Joe DeLaCerda, treasurer.

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