Left to right, San Marcos City Councilmember John Thomaides, and challenger Anita Fuller and Monica Garcia discuss the Place 6 election Monday night at the League of Women Voters debate at the San Marcos Activity Center. Photos by Andy Sevilla.
(Editor’s note: The League of Women Voters guide for the San Marcos City Council election on Nov. 3 can be found here.)
By ANDY SEVILLA
The heat turned up slightly, though perceptibly, in the Place 6 race for the San Marcos City Council Monday night, when the candidates addressed citizens during the League of Women Voters debate at the San Marcos Activity Center.
When incumbent Councilmember John Thomaides began his remarks touting last week’s groundbreaking for Grifols, the biomedical company that will bring about 200 jobs averaging more than $38,000 salaries to town, Garcia retorted that six years is a long time to wait for that kind of company to arrive in San Marcos.
Thomaides, running for his third term, has served on the council since his first election in 2003, making him the second most senior member on the council. Mayor Susan Narvaiz has the longest tenure, winning election to the council in 2002, then to the mayor’s seat in 2004.
A light tussle ensued between Thomaides and Garcia near the end of the Place 6 session, when Garcia insisted that the city should hire outside auditors to check expense claims by councilmembers.
“We should not only look into how much we should give them (council compensation), but also look into their travel expenses,” Garcia said. Pressing the matter, Garcia said “everyone should be accountable to someone.”
Thomaides said councilmembers answer to San Marcos citizens, and that “anyone could get copies of our receipts.” He said councilmembers are under citizen scrutiny and any information on travel expenses can be easily obtained by anyone who wants it.
Earlier this month, councilmembers discussed council compensation, travel expenses and reimbursable expenditures. Councilmembers are reimbursed $12,000 per year for expenses, compared with $16,000 for the mayor.
Thomaides said he will vote against compensation for city councilmembers when the matter comes before the council Tuesday night. Thomaides said he is opposed “right now,” because of the current state of the economy. The proposal calls for councilmembers to receive $500 per month, compared with $750 per month for the mayor.
Garcia and challenger Anita Fuller came out in favor of council compensation, with reservations. Fuller said she wouldn’t go beyond the amounts that will come up for a vote before council. Voters passed a measure allowing for council compensation in November 2008.
Parking in downtown San Marcos brought all candidates together in identifying a need, though all three had different outlooks towards addressing the issue.
“There are plenty of citizens that feel we need parking,” Fuller said. “And there are plenty of citizens that think there is plenty of parking.”
Fuller said mixed-uses downtown would better accommodate those looking for parking, as travel would be minimized. She also suggested “surface type parking” on the outer edges of the city as a temporary solution, adding that parking meters downtown could help fund a permanent solution of a parking garage.
Garcia offered parking garages as the answer to the “parking issue downtown,” using Austin as an example. Garcia said garages would limit excess travel and make downtown “a hub in the city.” Garcia touted the downtown master plan as a constructive approach.
“I’m proud to say I worked very hard on (the downtown master plan as a councilmember),” Thomaides said, adding that it was a city-wide effort. “We have to make our downtown more walkable. We can’t have a downtown only accessible by automobile.”
Thomaides said parking garages cannot be the sole solution to the parking issue, insisting on pedestrian and bike infrastructure improvements. He said parking garages are expensive, running up to $7 million dollars. Therefore, he said, a partnership with Texas State University would serve San Marcos well in such a project.
Thomaides is a small business owner. Garcia is a beauty consultant and Fuller is a retired civil servant.
The Place 5 council candidates vigorously discussed economic development. That race pits academic advisor Lisa Marie Coppoletta, small business owner Shaune Maycock and homebuilder Ryan Thomason, who also serves on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z).
Thomason applauded the efforts of the Economic Development San Marcos board (EDSM), specifically EDSM director Amy Madison.
“We have a good economic development council,” Thomason said. “We need to keep people who know how to recruit in there.”
Thomason said he wants to attract “clean businesses,” such as technological and medical industries. Thomason cautioned that councilmembers can sometimes be at fault for running business away rather than keeping them in San Marcos. He said he’s not opposed to economic incentives as a method for bringing in businesses like Grifols.
“If we can spend three dollars and make four dollars, that’s a deal I’ll make any day,” Thomason said.
Maycock said he opposes economic incentives for businesses “that can pay it themselves.” He said his efforts in economic development would produce an economic development fund, from which “appropriate businesses” that want to locate in San Marcos could garner council support for financial incentives. Maycock said he is against providing incentives to businesses from the general fund, and instead wants a more focused fund, such as an economic development fund, that the city could tap to attract business.
“I’m not for incentivizing companies that want to move further south,” Maycock said, adding that business like the Stone Creek Center at Interstate-35 and McCarty Lane encourage sprawl.
Coppoletta said the city cannot forget about the south side of town. Coppoletta voiced “support (of) local businesses” and cautioned against businesses that pollute. She said Texas State students who want to stay in the community should have the option of high paying jobs, and not just retail jobs.
All three candidates advocated for sustainable wage jobs, though Coppoletta specifically mentioned a need for businesses targeted for military veterans, including green collar industry.
Speaking about the roll each candidate would play on city council if elected, Maycock said he would listen to San Marcos residents and alleviate problems and concerns.
“The roll of city council is more of customer service role,” Maycock said.
Said Coppoletta, “With me, you know the work is going to get done,” adding that at “the end of the day” she would be the voice of the community on council.
Thomason jokingly said he “can’t afford to have conflict” with any part of San Marcos. He cited his many years in the city, totaling almost his entire life, as a motivator to “look at all facets of town,” because he said knows somebody everywhere.
When pressed about military veterans issues, the three candidates came out in favor of dropping utility deposits for veterans in San Marcos, as well as granting $5,000 forgivable loans for veterans buying homes in San Marcos. The program would be modeled after a program in effect for Texas State faculty.
“This is something very near and dear to my heart,” Coppoletta said, adding that she advises veterans coming into Texas State and using the G.I. Bill, as well as those going overseas. Coppoletta has advocated the creation of a veterans center in Hays County, while Maycock wants the creation of a veteran affairs clinic in San Marcos.
Place 5 San Marcos City Council candidates, left to right, Lisa Marie Coppoletta, Shaune Maycock and Ryan Thomason.Email | Print
Lisa Coppoleta has redefined herself since her last campaign. She came to my house while campaigning where we had a good talk. she didn’t have my vote last year but she has it now.
In other words, she is telling you what you want to hear, right?
Are our candidates aware that there is a State program for homesteading vets? And GI Bill provisions for them at the national level? Is there some amount that would be the limit for “interest-free, non-repayable loans”? Or a way to qualify recipients if there were more than could be funded?
How much official travel and business can one stretch from $16,000 or $10,000? Council members VERY active–one might even say, hyperactive–at local, regional, state and national levels have squeaked by year after year on less than $10,000 in documented, reimbursable funds. And a salary on top, for a VOLUNTEER “public service” position? We don’t yet have, or particularly need, professional politicians.
Also worth noting is that it is illegal to have more than one publicly remunerative position–i.e., to work both for the City and the University and be paid by both. Whoops! That could create a fairness issue.
Our community is certainly to be commended for its recent generosity with tax and fee money.
The people representing Coppoletta on the Texas State Campus Wednesday were unable to tell me the name of her opponents in the race… this is either a sad example of the incompetence of Coppoletta’s campaign workers or a snide action taken by her campaigners. Either way it was a disappointing realization and a negative association for Coppeletta.
The average cost of one garage parking space at Texas State University is $23,000 while the cost of one bike rack (that holds two bikes) is around $100. 464 bikes can be parked for the price of parking one car.
I’m very excited that John Thomaides is pushing for more of the new bike racks downtown. There are thousands of young, healthy college students who are not being encouraged (forced) enough to walk or ride a bike around town.
I agree with you Matt. San Marcos could easily become a bike/pedestrian town. We have downtown grocery & clothing stores,banks & a post office, recreational areas and a great library. For some inexcusable reason, we have narrow streets with no shoulders, streets w/out sidewalks and frustrated drivers doing stupid, careless things threatening everyone in their path. Yes, we have “sprawl” which means drivers coming into town, but I know enough in-town energetic and “green” residents and students who have good intentions about walking or biking a couple of miles around town, but it becomes an unpleasant & dangerous experience due to poor roads & traffic. If you bicycle downtown, you are dealing w/cars blindly backing out of parking spots. It is just plain unacceptable that a bicyclist can’t safely bicycle on the road from town into the big HEB parking lot. I challenge anyone on the city council or planning to try it! Every time they do ANY road work, a wide shoulder & sidewalk should be added. Drivers can complain about the cost as they are sitting in their cars stuck in traffic…I’d rather my tax $ go to accommodating pedestrians & cyclists (even w/racks!) as a solution than trying to keep up with more & more & more cars.