The first day of early voting fell in conjunction with The San Marcos Area League of Women Voters Candidates Debate. Candidates of eight races in State, County, and City offices discussed issues affecting the community. They had the opportunity to speak to a packed room in the San Marcos Activity Center.The candidates were allowed one minute to introduce themselves and their issues. One minute was also allotted for answering questions and rebutting statements. If a candidate could not attend the debate, the League allowed them to send in a written statement. For each candidate Moderator Kaylene Ray posed two questions from the league and then opened the floor to citizens in attendance.
Contenders for the Mayor’s race answered questions about the economy, water and waste water issues, city debt and aiding the less-fortunate. Incumbent Mayor Susan Narvaiz focused on job growth and said one thing to do was to follow through with the relocation of Springtown Mall.
David Newman said the main way to establish a sound economy in San Marcos was to make it a tourist destination by renovating the downtown area. He said the money for the mall relocation project could be better spent on local community projects.
Daniel McCarthy agreed with Newman, referring to the retail mall project as a “cancer” and had an environmental agenda where he proposed making San Marcos the “greenest city in Texas” through the institution of solar panels and by concentrating on energy savings.
On the issue of water needs and waste water treatment, Narvaiz said any project involving surface water will cost money. Newman proposed creating a reservoir near town to cut water transportation costs, while McCarthy suggested running the water treatment plants on solar power in order to cut energy costs.
On the question of bars being open until 2 a.m. all candidates agreed that safety was a big concern. Narvaiz said consistent bar hours make it safe, but said she would like to hear from the citizens on such non-binding issues. Newman and McCarthy both suggested later hours would help keep bar patrons from driving to Austin to take advantage of 2 a.m. bar closing hours.
The first issue on the plate for Council Member Place 4 candidates was affordable housing. Lisa Marie Coppoletta said there needed to be open lines of communication within the community when it involved housing costs. Incumbent Place 4 City Councilmember Chris Jones asked what the definition of affordable housing was.
“$80,000 won’t buy you a house in San Marcos,” he said. “It’ll buy you a condo.”
On the issue of revitalizing the downtown area, Jones proposed the introduction of a county-wide EMS system, tax increment financing and keeping the local money downtown.
Coppoletta proposed keeping the pre-existing businesses alive by making San Marcos a desirable location for the film industry.
Candidates in the race for State Representative Matt Young and Patrick Rose discussed the need for rain water collection. In terms of unfunded mandates, both agreed that unfunded mandates were harmful for the district. Young said he didn’t believe in unfunded mandates and Rose proposed to reduce the appraisal cap. Candidate Tom Gleinser was not present for the debate.
Bill Huddleston found himself alone once again at the debate table as incumbent Sherriff Allen Bridges was at another event. Bridges issued a statement saying that his duties of Sherriff came first and he was attending a meeting to decide on the naming of a new school. Huddleston answered a question about rehabilitation for criminal offenders and said jails and prisons have become “universities for crime”. He said prisons should not be intended for all non-violent offenders.
Nick Ramus and incumbent Debbie Gonzalez-Ingalsbe, both up for County Commissioner Precinct 1, agreed that the most important issue was that of social services and programs needed more funding. On the topic of desirable and undesirable growth in the area, Ramus chalked desirable growth up to property and business development, while Gonzalez-Ingalsbe said creating recreational parks and protecting the environment made an area more desirable.
County Commissioner Precinct 3 candidates, incumbent Will Conley and Steve Klepfer, discussed the importance of environmental conservation. Klepfer proposed a plan for county-wide rainwater collection and said San Marcos springs needed to be left alone. Conley said there needed to be more rules and regulations for developers and he had already proposed a plan to protect several acres of land in Hays County.
Candidates for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Place 1, Rodney Van Oudekerke and incumbent Jo Anne Prado, spent much of their debate comparing experience as a public servant to the community. Oudekerke said he would always be accessible to the public and anyone could call him at home if the need was present. Prado said her offices were open until 7 p.m. every Wednesday night for anyone who needed to meet with her.
Tax Assessor-Collector candidates, incumbent Luanne Caraway and Robert Avera, were asked where they stand on the issue of delinquent taxes. Avera said long-standing delinquent taxes needed to be dealt with as a soon as possible. Caraway said there should be a way to pre-pay taxes to keep them from becoming delinquent and more research had to be done on the issue.
“Title searches need to be done on properties with delinquent taxes,” said Caraway.
Arthur Taylor, of San Marcos, said he thought the overall debate was successful and informative.
“I think this debate for the general election is much better, more organized than the primary debate,” he said. “When I came into this room I had a lot of questions about the sincerity of where the candidates stood on the issues and the more I listened to the candidates speak the more came through as to where they really stood, what they really felt.”
Taylor said he did not think the candidates fully answered any of the questions he posed to them and blames that on the time constraints not allowing him to ask follow-up questions.
Members of the league handed out voter’s guides and election literature. Early voting continues until Oct. 31, and Election Day is November 4, 2008.
To view the entire debate click the video link provided on the Newstreamz home page.
by Rasmi Hunt
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