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
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.Email | Print