San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

September 9th, 2009
Council candidates bid for SMABOR nod

San Marcos Councilmember John Thomaides, left, and council candidate Ryan Thomason, ran against each other in 2006. This time around, they are in two different council races. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

By ANDY SEVILLA
News Reporter

The San Marcos Area Board of Realtors (SMABOR) debate, a fixture in city council politics, took on a somewhat more crowded look Tuesday.

With a total of seven candidates up for two city council races, the field was packed at Pappa Pastas on Hunter Road, even with two absences. Place 5 candidate Lisa Maria Coppoletta was unable to attend due to a work conflict at Texas State, while SMABOR was unable to make contact with Place 5 candidate John Carl Nesselhauf, a Texas State student.

Thus, the more crowded debate was the one with the fewer candidates, which is the Place 6 race in which incumbent John Thomaides is attempting to defend his seat from challenges by political upstarts Monica Garcia and Anita Fuller.

“I have worked on seven annual city budgets, and we have never had a council initiated property tax increase,” said Thomaides, a small business owner. “I’m running for re-election to work on the issues, jobs, increased prosperity and quality of place. I will work hard on implementing our new comprehensive economic development plan, where I serve on the committee producing it.”

Though Fuller and Garcia have no experience in public office, they argue that their life experiences have prepared them to serve on council.

Fuller, a retired civil servant, said holding elected office is a “natural step” towards her dedication to volunteerism and service to local organizations. Garcia, a beauty consultant and former U.S. Marine, and said her time in the armed forces has prepared her with discipline, dedication, and a watchful eye “to represent the community at-large.”

The Place 6 conversation began with thoughts about “undue influence” from campaign contributions, in light of a recent Newstreamz story telling of $100,000 in expenditures by Mayor Susan Narvaiz for her 2008 campaign.

All candidates agreed that contributions are essential for running a successful campaign. However, only Fuller offered a specific dollar limit to contributions, saying acceptance of more than $500 from a contributor should alert residents of “special interests.”

Said Fuller, “When you accept those kinds of funds, then you’re obligated to a certain group of people.”

Thomaides said each candidate can decide what amounts are “appropriate” and “inappropriate,” adding that “affluence” should not purchase “influence.” Thomaides intimated accepting contributions from SMABOR members, and then saying “no” to their requests at later council meetings.

“I don’t think it necessarily causes undue influence on candidates,” Thomaides said about large contributions.

Garcia said that while “contributions are important,” it’s just as true that “even at the most basic city level, we stay true to ourselves.”

Said Garcia to SMABOR, “I’ll be attentive. I’ll listen to your concerns and your needs, but not at the costs of the citizens at-large.”

The current city council has adopted a wish list of several goals, one of which calls for “smart growth,” an approach based on mixed uses and a preference for high density residential development and green space over the “suburban sprawl” proclivity for single family homes and gigantic shopping centers spread over large lots. The Place 6 candidates all offered hopes of growing and attracting jobs. Fuller said San Marcos needs more mixed-use centers, where residents can live, work, and shop.

“I’m not really an advocate of the word ‘smart growth,'” Fuller said. ” . . . I’m looking for more focused development.”

Thomaides said San Marcos should attract higher-wage jobs, and was the only candidate to mention the revitalization of downtown as essential. Thomaides said the city needs to pursue infrastructure improvement, walk-ability and in-fill development.

“The term itself (smart growth) has the word growth in it,” Thomaides said. “I think it’s important to remember that.”

Garcia said San Marcos at once needs higher wage jobs and jobs that cater to the less educated population. She said residents with, perhaps, only a high school education should not be left out of the equation.

“We’re only as strong as our weakest link,” Garcia said, adding that the city should attract jobs keeping the community “as a whole” in mind.

Garcia also expressed disapproval with the city’s land development codes and impact fees. She said the city could attract development if it would “loosen the grip a little bit on land development codes,” and “lower impact-fees.”

Thomaides said the city is in the process of reviewing impact fees, as ordered by law every five years.

Of the four candidates for Place 5, only two were present. Shaune Maycock, a small business owner and former U.S. Marine, traded views with Ryan Thomason, a small business owner and Planning and Zoning (P&Z) commissioner. Maycock, Thomason, Coppoletta and Nesselhauf are vying for the seat left open by Councilmember Pam Couch’s decision to not seek re-election.

Thomason, a SMABOR member, previously ran, and lost, to Thomaides in 2006. Maycock lost city council bids in 2000 and 2002. Coppoletta lost an electoral bid against incumbent Councilmember Chris Jones in 2008.

Maycock said he’s traveled the world and seen “what does and what does not work.” Thomason said his term on the P&Z has enabled him to better understand the intricacies of city government.

Both candidates advocated higher wage jobs and came out against recent development proposals for the largely vacated Springtown Center. The incentives would have involved city loans for, in essence, no interest to develop bars and restaurants in the city’s gateway. The developers withdrew their proposals that called for the incentives after they failed to gain traction.

“We’re pretty well stocked-up on low paying jobs,” Thomason said. ” … We need high wage jobs. We’ve had a struggle attracting high wage jobs and very little struggle attracting low paying jobs.”

Thomason said incentives should create a “win-win situation for the city and business.”

Maycock said economic development incentives should be used for companies like Grifols, a Spanish biomedical company that recently accepted incentives from the city and Hays County to locate a facility in San Marcos. Maycock said Grifols will have “spin-offs,” thus providing more high wage jobs to stimulate better opportunities for residents and growth.

Maycock and Thomason both are experienced with budgets through their businesses. Maycock said he spent 12 hours going over the city budget “line by line” with councilmembers during scheduled meetings. In a slip up, Maycock said the city budget amounted to $125 million, while Thomason said he read on the front page of the newspaper that the budget was “just over $146 million.” The current city council adopted a budget for Fiscal Year 2010 totaling $146,226,256.

Maycock and Thomason both described their biggest disagreements with the current city council.

“I’m not campaigning to endorse or criticize what our city council has done,” Thomason said, though he expressed displeasure that the city provided $6 million in incentives for the Stone Creek Crossing development without having Target, which moved from Springtown to Stone Creek, remove a “non-compete clause” from its Springtown Center property.

Maycock said he opposed Springtown Center incentives from the beginning, adding that disapproves of “urban sprawl” and believes the city hasn’t been sufficiently attentive to preventing it. Maycock also said the city should not have discontinued funding for the minority tourism board in its new budget.

SMABOR is expected to formally announce its endorsements in the days to come. After conversations among candidates and SMABOR members, it has been determined that Thomason’s SMABOR membership will not disqualify him from the endorsement selection process.

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0 thoughts on “Council candidates bid for SMABOR nod

  1. “Thomaides … was the only candidate to mention the revitalization of downtown as essential.”

    Subtle efforts to advance “revitalization,” a euphemism for taxpayer funded incentives and investment, should be read with caution as “revitalization” furthers the financial interests of this website’s ownership. Such efforts could come in the form of mentioning “revitalization” in every story about city government or consistently advocating for John T. in articles that should be neutral.

  2. Were there any explanations offered for the absences of the other candidates? Were they given sufficient notice of the debate?

  3. Oops, I see the explanations at the beginning of the article. That’ll teach me to read and talk on the phone at the same time…

  4. We NEED to revitalize OUR downtown !!!

    I have personally heard comments from out-of-town visitors about how disappointed they are in its appearance, and how “ratty” our downtown and city as a whole looks, since they were here last.

    To hear that is an embarrassment to those of us who operate businesses downtown,…

    …and who live in, and take pride in San Marcos, and hope for a better future for this one-of-a-kind treasure.

    This demonstrated lack of concern for downtown San Marcos detracts from the overall appeal of our city, our economy and visitation, and overall quality of life.

    One strip mall is much the same as the next,… but our downtown is a major part of what makes our city unique.

    It is amazing that our current city government leader continues to put the priority of our city center on the back burner, as an afterthought.

    Take a look at Georgetown and Fredericksburg. The pride in their city and community shows,… by the way that they showcase and maintain their downtown areas. People will readily travel to these destinations to spend a day, or a weekend along with their money.

    If OUR city is NOT attractive, then potential visitors will look elsewhere to spend their MONEY and their TIME, not to mention their LIFE. A charming place to visit,… is also an inviting place to live.

    It is more than unfortunate that funding for improvements in downtown San Marcos must compete with out-of-town developer handouts. As we all are painfully aware, the downtown parking situation is horrific, and discourages visitation and commerce.

    This is despite the fact that the public has voiced their desire for downtown improvements and parking until they are “blue in the face”,…

    …yet downtown gets the crumbs that are left over from the “deals” that take place with developers behind closed doors in our city council meetings.

    The current leadership just seems to not “get it”.

    We need city council leadership and influence that does not embrace a “trailer park” mentality, when it comes to aesthetics.

    Attention to detail is the key here, and we overlook just about every aspect of that, with respect to the very HEART of our community.

    If this is the kind of city that you envision, and want to live in, then do nothing and it will certainly continue…

    …and I am sure that soon, we will throw incentives at yet another strip mall development to “add” to the unique charm and attractive beauty of our fair city, as it continues its expansion,…

    …while our very heart suffers from perpetual chronic neglect, wither and decay.

  5. Dave, interesting comments, but I would add that one strip mall does not have to be the same as the next. I have been to *many* cities and towns, large and small, where strip malls and big box stores are required to match the architecture of the area. It is amazing to me, that we give these companies millions of dollars and we don’t even require them to build something in keeping with the image we want for San Marcos.

  6. The problem most downtown advocates have with the City is not that the City is giving millions away, it is that the City is not giving the millions to them. Nobody is standing in the way of a downtown property owner’s investment and improvement in their own property. Having “concern” for downtown should not mean giving taxpayer money to private individuals and downtown owners to increase their property values and individual wealth.

  7. Downtown property owners can not do anything about parking, or sidewalks. I think we can all agree the square looks much better than it did 15 years ago. The improved sidewalks, landscapping, have all made a huge difference. O.K. why hasn’t the same sidewalks amd landscapping been extended away from the square, such as up and down L.B.J.? An individual propery owners can not do this, because it is not his property. The sidewalks are city property, the city has to improve them.

  8. Dave, you admit to being a downtown business owner in your post….so forgive me if I take your pleading with more than a grain of salt.

    I agree with John above – the outcry from the square seems to be that the money might be going to someone else instead of them. Instead of simply saying that they want the money from the city to fatten their own pockets (which is closer to the truth), the downtown businesses tend to hide behing flowery remarks about how San Marcos “needs” a strong downtown and how the City is turning its back on a treasure or somesuch nonsense.

    Memo to downtown business owners: you chose to open a business downtown and you need to be ready to deal with the challenges that your decision entails just as other business owners do – on your own without constantly seeking City funds to “invest” in your business. So you don’t have enough parking….didn’t you know that when you set up shop? We don’t have enough parking here in our lot either – should I ask the city for money?

  9. The downtown should be treated as a city owned asset just like the airport. Plans need to be adopted and budgeted for. The length of time Jeremiah’s sat empty before Wally’s came along is at least partially a function of the condition of the street and sidewalks on that stretch of LBJ. (That and a little toxic waste.)

  10. The last time I checked, our downtown area consisted primarily of law offices, bars, and “vintage” clothing stores.

    Why should the City subsidize these businesses but not something like the Springtown deal?

    Law offices aside, it’s providing the same type of jobs to San Marcos either way….except that the Springtown project would have brought hundreds of these jobs as opposed to dozens.

    Sorry, but I just don’t see the benefit to San Marcos of giving money to one bar over another based simply on whether it’s located on the square or owned by a local.

  11. Dear Just curious and John McGlothlin;

    I am not a property owner downtown, but merely a lowly renter, trying to run a business for the last 15 years there, against all odds. I guess that I do “admit” to having an interest in our community.

    I have never asked the city for a dime, but I have paid out quite a few of them to the City of San Marcos in the last decade and a half.

    Yes,…I knew the conditions of our downtown 15 years ago, when I chose to “invest” my time and energy into the San Marcos economy, but I did have a misguided belief that my city government would re-invest a proportionate amount of my tax dollars back into the downtown infrastructure, as most cities have determined to be a wise and proper course of action, these days.

    If it is your opinion that we should let our downtown fall into decrepitude, and create an collective eyesore that repels further interest and investment, then you are entitled to that opinion. I just do not happen to share it, and I don’t think that it is in the best interest of our city to continue on that course of inaction.

    When I ran for mayor last fall, I promised that I would begin work on a parking garage on day one. Unfortunately, I did not win, and as a result,…we still have a severe and growing parking problem, but be assured,…there is still plenty of lip service being streamed back and forth by City Hall in that direction.

    As I said,…if you are happy with the way things are going,…then do nothing,…and I assure you,…you will continue to be satisfied.

    As for the rest of us,…well,…

  12. The problem with “treating the downtown like a city owned asset” is that the city does not own it — a collection of local individuals own the various buildings. Just because downtown has a general emotional appeal does not mean the individuals who own the downtown buildings deserve taxpayer handouts and corporate welfare. Appeals to emotional attachments just sound better than outright begging. Those of us who oppose one property owner taking from a fellow taxpayer do not want the square to fall into “decrepitude” — on the contrary, I hope private investors will invest to revitalize the downtown and profit greatly from their risk and sacrifice. Risk, private investment, sacrifice — call me old fashioned; these days handouts are all the rage.
    Mr. Newman, I appreciate that you rent downtown and wish you well in your business. I know dowtowners are tired of seeing the city give taxpayer money to everyone else — but why can’t we all stand against such handouts instead of asking for our piece?

  13. I am not bitter, believe me,…but I am somewhat saddened by the fact that many of the assurances that were made during the campaign by my opponent, have been largely ignored.

    I did notice some immediate positive action, early-on after the election, toward those issues and promises made during all of the rhetoric and debate. And that, to me,…was truly gratifying in the wake of the final election results.

    That the input of the many who brought up their legitimate concerns in that election process, along with ideas and methods to improve everyone’s quality of life here in San Marcos, would not go unheard, was my desire,… and that the sweat and energy expended in the process of running for office, would not be in vain.

    I still contend that to run unopposed, lends a false sense of unanimous approval to any sole incumbent candidate, and to see this development unfolding once again in our election last November, was a major motivator for my entering the race.

    Without an opponent in our mayoral race last Fall, the issues that were necessarily forced to the surface in the campaign, would not have been addressed in any appreciable manner, as was the case two years prior.

    For the chance and the window of opportunity in my personal life, to enter into and to take part in that process,….and to make a small but positive difference in the destiny of our city,…I am truly grateful.

  14. What’s wrong with the city enhancing safety by making infrastructure improvements in or near the Square? Or anywhere in San Marcos, really. See this article http://www.newstreamz.com/2009/07/21/springtown-developer-pulls-request/ for an EXAMPLE of Thomaides’ stance on “tax payer funded” economic incentives.

    Maintaining sidewalks and roads, ensuring crosswalk safety and encouraging pedestrian traffic SHOULD be a focus on the local government. Businesses pay taxes as well, so infrastructure improvements that are adjacent to their business or property, thus enhancing their property’s value, shouldn’t count against them. This all works out well when businesses PAY their taxes…and aren’t “incentivized” (i.e. absolved) of their civic duty by overgenerous economic incentives.

    Lastly, can somebody get me a definition of “jobs that cater to the less educated population”?

  15. Why downtown should get the city council’s attention, for many reason some of which are: if you are a visitor to the square, you’re allowed no more than 2 hours of parking or you’ll be ticketed (cost $60).what if you want to have lunch, shop at a downtown book store and then decided to go to see a movie at the downtown movie theater, can you do all of that in 2 hours?
    See how bad any ally around our square and compare these roads with any city road, this should tell how much attention downtown is getting from our elected leaders. It’s also a safety issue since we have more people LIVE and Shop downtown now more than ever.

  16. The downtown is a city owned asset in that the city is responsible for the roads and sidewalks without which the businesses would cease to exist. The city is in partnership with the downtown property owners whether we like it or not. This partnership is more direct than it is with places like Springtown since the city controls all access and parking. All partners must invest in and maintain the asset according to their return on investment.

  17. Then let those businesses who have chosen to operate in the downtown area make the investments to improve the area.

    Where I live, we are just outside the city limits and don’t have access to City services for things like sidewalks, streetlights, or “common area maintenance”. So we have a HOA that collects dues from members and funds those improvements. It works the same way at our condo. Those who expect to benefit provide the funding.

    Why should downtown businesses expect the government to take care of these issues for them when all around San Marcos, others are doing it for themselves?

  18. I am a renter downtown, not an owner. However my landlord, who back the 70s was one of the first persons to renovate a building on the square, could not replace the sidewalk in front of his building even if he wanted to, because he does not own it, the city does. All strets, sidewlks, and most the parking in downtown are on city right of way, which means the taxpayers own them, not the business owners. I am not aware of any business downtown that has ever asked the city for handout to pay for it’s operating expenses, which is what the developers in Springtown were asking. All we are asking is that the city keep up what it owns.

  19. The City has spent quite a bit of money over the past few years on improving the sidewalks and walkways in the downtown area. All those handrails and planters are realtively new, and I just noticed “solar compacting trash cans” the other day. Also, unless I misread something, it appears that the City has allocated another $1.96 million for the next fiscal year for downtown improvements.

    Based on those numbers, I would say they’re “keeping up what they own”. Most of the problems I see with the downtown are aren’t with streets or sidewalks, but with the generally poor condition of the buildings themselves. Is that the city’s responsiblity too? Yeah parking stinks, but that’s not just downtown – it’s everywhere.

    Besides, none of this changes my point that downtown businesses knew that these things would be challenges when they chose to set up shop there. Our office is off the beaten path….should I be trying to get the City to build a new road out front so that more people can see my business? That’s the logic I’m hearing from downtown.

  20. I think the issue with the downtown is that there is a masterplan which is being neglected. Downtown business owners decided to invest in the downtown because the city made promises, which they have not kept. The downtown of a city is what keeps the community and visitors vibrant and wanting to return. When the downtown is trashy, the city is trashy. The city’s image is based in great part from its downtown, ergo implement and upkeep the downtown masterplan. Problem solved, next?

  21. No one is suggesting to let downtown rot…I simply wanted to point out that the City *is* making efforts to make upgrades to that area, despite assertions to the contrary by several downtown business owners.

    Also, as several have pointed out, there is a strange smell of self-interest when the same people who oppose subsidies to major business developments in San Marcos (like the Springtown development) seem to be fine with receiving subsidies for their businesses – whether it’s in the form of direct expenditures or on “general improvements to the area”.

  22. City Council Preview: September 15, 2009

    Proclamations and Honors

    Mayor Susan Narvaiz and the City Council will honor three San Marcos public schools….

    Executive Session and Workshop: 6:00 p.m.

    The City Council will meet in executive session to deliberate on the lease or purchase of real property and economic development incentives.

    Regular Session: 7:00 p.m.

  23. This discussion on “public” sidewalks brings up an interesting question. Several weeks ago, I received a certified letter from the City telling me that city inspectors had found the sidewalk in front of my building to be deficient. I was given 30 days to fix the side walk and get city approval for the completed project. There was no indication in the letter as to what was wrong with my sidewalk or what the standard was for repair. I think this is typical of the City of San Marcos. A visit or even a phone call from the city inspector who did not like my sidewalk would have been very helpful to understanding what I needed to do. Instead, my temper was raised by the cold way the city chose to deal with this problem.

    I sold that piece of property several months ago so this is strictly hypothetical for me but does raise questions. I threw the letter in the trash. The current sidewalk appears to be on a city easement for utilities. Had I still owned the property, I would have questioned the City as to why I was being held responsible for the sidewalk on the 300 block of San Antonio Street when I have been paying taxes to the City for 35 years and have watched the City construct and repair sidewalks all over town. Who decides which of us is more equal than others when it comes to sidewalk maintance? If I had to pay for repairs of the sidewalk on San Antonio Street, I want my tax money back for my share of all the millions of dollars that have gone for other peoples sidewalks all over town and in the down town area. An additional hypothetical question, ifthe new owner of the property owns that piece of sidewalk and is responsible for it, could he dig it up and plant bushes in it’s place?

  24. It is highly desirable that we eliminate the term, “SMART GROWTH,” from our planning vocabulary–sounds good, is easily endorseable by virtually any planning philosophy, and therein lies the problem: “Smart” means anything anybody wants it to, and, like a pair of “Crocs,” will fit almost anybody’s interest or goals: more infill development in undeveloped areas of the city; more growth in high-dollar subdivisions; more density around the city’s core; more density at the fringes; more zone-segregated development; more mixed use; more high-rise growth; more downtown “loft” living; more walkable spaces,etc. DESIGNED BY WHOMEVER IS “SMARTEST.”

    A far better term is “SUSTAINABLE” GROWTH, which looks to the future and suggests desirable compatible uses, price spreads, and commercial/industrial centers which either support nearby residential, clear up blight and decay, or are appropriately segregated from residential centers. The lay of the land; existing transportation corridors; placement of natural resources and infrastructure to maximize efficiency; lifestyle choices; income levels; public amenities; water/sewer/electric infrastructure; etc. are each and all important in a City’s growth pattern. They should be clearly planned ahead in harmony.

    Sustainability is more quantifiable along the normal, orderly timeline of development, maximum use for the investment, and ultimately, lower-cost maintenance and
    replacement. Sustainable development pays for itself in the economies achieved at every stage along the way, being
    planned out so as to require less costly and disruptive adjustment as it moves through its life-phases. It takes as its goals land-use compatibility, cost, lifestyle, and
    relative ease of fitting in future public facilities, such as roads, sidewalks and bike lanes, utility access, parks, schools, churches , and effective business clusters related to neighborbhoods. Strip centers lining major roads, for example, often prove to be traffic stoppers (See Hwy.80.)

    Parks at the edge of town on poor ground, especially if purchased from developers, can be cost-sinks, under-utilized, costly to equip, maintain and program, and inviting undesirable activities hostile to certain neighborhoods. Parks near schools offer both the district and the community cost-and-use sharing, and create community centers four youth, parents, and other organizations. Sustainable planning is COMMUNITY planning. (It deals with issues like commuting patterns up front, avoiding much anger, danger, waste, and expense.)

    “URBAN SPRAWL,”consisting usually of large-lot, high-end developments down county roads and either distant from or not connected to city streets and infrastructure (utilities, fire facilities, water and sewer), pile up not only costs for roads and public safety services, but huge costs as the city approaches, more new people move in, and taxpayers must pay for water, sewer, and other utilties. Being distant from city centers, they create traffic problems as they go to and from those centers, where roads and other amenities are not originally built to handle the needed growth in capacity (See Hunter Road.)

    Thus master planning for the largest likely future footprint enables a city–through zoning, capital improvements, location of its own facilities, and other mean–to direct compatible and satisfactory growth that can be built on in time. Without such care, a City becomes victimized by the whims of people who have only their own ideas and their own profits in mind–those who usually leave as soon as the project begins to build out, leaving City and project often in conflict.

    Look around and you will see cities with major traffic and other problems caused by inconsistent planning. They become communities to which the people neither truly belong nor want to pay taxes, but from which people expect
    “fair” access to services paid for by others. Development becomes more haphazard, cheaper and less attractive over time, and blight sets in. At this point, cities become both socially and financially bankrupt.

    Those interested in such matters should look into a fine example of regional planning carried out in our area by a long, citizen-driven project, to be found at EnvisionCentralTexas.com. Nine counties have contributed.

    P.S.: In my own time in the planning/council business of 20 years, the Central Business District has seen four (4) separate Master Plans, at least: one from TAMU, one from UTA, one from a paid planning consultant company, and one
    done mainly by our own citizens, including the Main Street and Downtown folks, with the assistance of our own TXSTATE planners and and outside plan manager. Here we go AGAIN. Will we pay an outside “genius” to read our watch and tell us what time it is? And get nothing DONE?

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