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

October 23rd, 2009
San Marcos political circus moves uphill

Dan McCarthy, a 2008 mayoral candidate in San Marcos and a Texas State student, shows his support from his unicycle soapbox. Photos by Andy Sevilla.

Associate Editor

When San Marcos moved its city council elections to November in 2005, local politicos figured Texas State students would become a local political factor as never before.

This year’s San Marcos City Council candidates obviously think so. Candidates for both contested city council seats showed up on campus Wednesday and Thursday as early voting for the Nov. 3 election took place.

All three candidates for Place 5 — academic advisor Lisa Marie Coppoletta, small business owner Shaune Maycock and homebuilder Ryan Thomason — set up shop in the mall area leading to the polling place at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Student Center.

Place 6 incumbent John Thomaides and a challenger, beauty consultant Monica Garcia, also operated from the mall. Another Place 6 challenger, retired civil servant Anita Fuller, was not present on campus on either day, nor did she place any political signage near the early voting vicinity.

Candidates greeted students on campus, listened to their concerns, and answered questions while providing them with food, candy, fruit, and political advertisements in the hopes of gaining their votes.

“The ones (students) I’ve had a chance to talk to had some concerns,” Maycock said. “Their main issues seem to be with law enforcement, and not so much with bike lanes and green spaces.”

Maycock said students have expressed discontent with the newly updated noise ordinance. He said students want an explicit method for defining infractions of the law, so police would have less discretion in making those calls.

San Marcos legislators have in recent years attempted to improve town and gown relations with the inception of what the city has called “an award winning” program known as Achieve Community Together (ACT). The city also has petitioning opinions from the university’s Associated Student Government (ASG) on public policies and initiated community service events such as Bobcat Build and Pack it up and Pass it on.

All candidates expressed appreciation for the receptive crowd at Texas State, leaving no registered voter unsolicited. The tiniest margins have decided recent city elections. In 2006, incumbent Councilmember Gaylord Bose held off Texas State student Jude Prather by only three votes. San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz avoided a run-off election against challenger Dave Newman last November by only nine votes.

“Students that are registered to vote in San Marcos are very receptive and involved in the political process,” Thomaides said. “There’s just not that many.”

Said Garcia, “I think that when students decide to do something, there can be a movement,” adding that not one vote can be “counted out.”

Coppoletta said her history with the university makes her “the most qualified candidate in addressing issues at Texas State.” Touting her experience with the school as an academic adviser, a faculty member, and a recipient of two degrees, Coppoletta said she is “the voice for the students,” adding that she has received “overwhelming support” from Bobcats.

“It hasn’t been too bad out here,” Garcia said. “From those (students) that I’ve talked to, I’ve gotten a positive response.”

Texas State students had a strong showing at the candidate public forum hosted by the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) on Oct. 1 at the San Marcos Activity Center. Though several students said they were present at the forum because they were promised extra-credit on their academics, some made their way to the podium, expressed concerns, and asked direct questions to the candidates.

Early voting began on Oct. 19 and will run through Oct. 30. Early voting in San Marcos is available at the Hays County Elections Office, 401-C Broadway, and at the San Marcos Library, 625 East Hopkins Street. Voters who do not take advantage of early voting must vote at their designated Election Day polling places between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Almost every San Marcos City Council candidate set up shop on Texas State’s mall this week.

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0 thoughts on “San Marcos political circus moves uphill

  1. Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!

    Do we not still have a State statute that FORBIDS open electioneering on state property, on the theory that State property belongs to ALL the people of the state, including those who have no interest in given elections? Is there no law now against using public resources such as buildings and, God forbid, supplies/materials for personal purposes? People are sitting in jail for such. And I don’t believe the law or the Secretary of state will accept “accost captives at school and make a promise” as a valid way to campaign. That ain’t what schools are for.

    It is legal to be registered in only one box in the resident’s precinct, and to cast one honest vote. Forging any government official document including a voter registration is a felony, and serious business. As is ballot-stuffing, which must get tempting.

    Of COURSE, students–those who officially and truly (governmentally) list San Marcos as their legal residence–should be able and encouraged to participate in local affairs and local government. One has to wonder, however, about campus collectivism, in which organizations move their members to bloc vote for any measure from beauty and popularity contests to tuition and bus fare raises to more important and more shared issues like elections. My thirty years as a campus student, local resident, and career professional at The Rising Star tells me that often the injunction to vote such-and-such a way is often accompanied by no factual information whatever, except that “our group is going this way.” Often, contests are held among groups for participation rates in community business or projects.

    Students and candidates who wish to engage can do so in any number of forums, as stated in the article above. In my opinion, and I believe still the State’s, that should happen on neutral ground, and MOST ESPECIALLY when some candidates have direct access to various large groups on a daily basis. They can use it subtly to avoid charges of also using State resources and time itself, again in violation of the law, as well as any sense of fairness or true democracy.

    Some can even find incentives to encourage campaign help among friends or organized groups. The poor “civilian” candidate lacks this kind of access, and often finds himself/herself paying for bulk mail or wandering darkening streets door to door, interrupting families during dinner in attempts to gain exposure. Not fair. May not be a valid measure.

    If government here has boiled down to an extra-credit activity or a popularity contest, look for some strange and costly policy proposals. (Seen some already?)

    I certainly don’t want to sound smug or self serving in my responses to local issues. It’s just that I’ve grown old here and seen the whole movie. As an example, take the student comments Mr. Maycock heard about enforcement of the “noise ordinance.” I got started in local affairs because of the encroachment of rental agents and young people’s fun into permanent neighborhoods. Later, it fell to my lot as Chair of the Planning Commission to direct the compilation of ordinances to maintain the public health, safety, and general welfare of the community, one of which was this very noise ordinance.

    Aside, I may say that during my tenure on the Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association, Texas Municipal League, and National League of Cities’ Community and Economic Development Committee and College Community Consortium, I saw that the so-called “town and gown” issues here are identical to those in virtually any college (or military) community in the US. A diverse group of representatives from Harvard and Princeton down the scale discussed issues and potential solutions several times every year: alcohol and drug abuse, sexual infractions, bad driving, dealing with social/fraternal organizations and functions, litter, etc.–always including multiple rentals in inappropriate locations and public disturbances, an absolutely fail-safe irritant to older citizens and young families.

    We whined about problems in US cities of every size, and then shared efforts to cope, telling success stories where positive strides had been made. No single issue was EVER “solved” in a permanent way, in part because of the youth and transience of our youth and transients who took no stock in their permanent communities, and thus never passed solutions down to the next wave. No fault. Just fact. Seems always to fail. Always a new debate.

    Our noise ordinance and sign ordinance share the single distinction, with R-1 residential zoning and the “Downtown Bar Ordinance” a close second, of being argued/discussed widely, over and over, and for several years’ time. When the “Noise Ordinance” finally passed, it had over 150 hours’ public debate in the Planning Commission alone–many a 3 a.m. meeting. It provided for precise, scientific controls and fair penalties. These included a responding officer’s using a noise meter to investigate complaints. A certain limit at 100′ (85 Db, or a level just above that of a busy office) would merit a citation, with penalties increasing if a) the noise turned up as the cop left; b) the location or host was a repeat offender; c)the response was uncivil behavior or “blowback”; d) substance abuse, hazing, violence, etc. were observed–simultaneoius infractions, including MIP, PI, DUI and supplying minors. Fair and air tight, for a team of trained officers. Calm for the “resting” kids and neighbors.

    At that point, many students (“suspects”) claimed the noise level was too restrictive. The police may have just caught a temporary “spike.” The resident may not have caused or enabled the disturbance. The rowdy villains had already fled, leaving the innocent to pay. The noisemakers were not invited, thereby making the party-goers innocent. And of course, the argument to end arguments: the noise meters may not have been freshly calibrated at the time of the first response. So much for precision and science. Beware UNIVERSITY discipline!

    The very weirdest factor in these discussions was, way back in the last century (well, the very LAST part, anyway), the fact that SWT students caught the blame for virtually all disturbances to the public order, when it was true, and likely remains, that many of the offenders were college-age, but/and/or neither college students nor college material. (The average age in Hays County today is around 28–a young population–in some degree because of student resident numbers. Some 40% have no high school diploma.) The common wisdom seems to be that “kids will be kids,” and they will find a way to protect their right to stir things up or act foolish. Or fight.

    Ironically, the average age of students even back then included a large and fast-growing number of “Students Older Than Average,” or “Non-Traditional Students,” many of whom were married, part-time, military vets, full time workers, commuters (over 40% of both the faculty and student body) or others who did not fit the unflattering profile of “those damned frat boys,” who got, and may have deserved, all the heat. The folks in the Kiddy Pool, that is.

    For three decades, both the University and the larger Community have grown rapidly. Both have improved in form and substance. Heroic efforts have gone out to emphasize their shared interests and to make the best of both. Yet the average 18-20 year old, away from Mama for likely the first time, at the most hormonal time of life, and involved in intense social jockeying for identity, must still be dealt with as a disruptive alien influence, as well as the “cash cow” for which he or she has ever been MISTAKEN (most buy from home, and not many pay property taxes, local car regist., etc., esp. the relatively small number of campus-dwellers. Clearer rules don’t help much.

    Until some of the issues raised here are spoken of aloud, dealt with wisely, and begin to fit better the notion of an orderly society, chaos and strife are likely. Locals and campus types have roles to play as partners and peace makers and mentors. Perhaps the Student Service Initiative provides a doorway and a basis of trust and understanding. But remove the campaigns from State ground, and deny “leadership” credit just for promoting “new” or re-tooled self-serving ideas.

  2. I apologize. I am a teacher and student by nature and profession, and I have true passion about this community “getting it right”–functioning as a true democracy in the balanced and fair interest of all the citizens. Esp. those who have come here to learn, grow and to launch successful, participative lives as problem-solvers, not problems.

  3. You raise a very interesting question about campaigning on State property. I like your thoughts very much. I hope it gives everyone much to think about it.

  4. I’m flattered, but once again I must apologize if I sound like some ego-crazed know-it-all talking down to bright people. I do have some rather strong opinions, though no axes to grind whatever. My views are opinions, like everybody’s, and often loquacious–maybe even tedious–to the ears of persons who are busier living their lives.

    I do flatter myself, however, that my logic is generally sound; that I have experience enough in the “guvmint” game to understand the fine points and the usual human behavior; and to use facts to support whatever I may blurt out. In short, I would pass my own class in logic, rhetoric and sound composition. God saved me (and the public) from my being on talk radio, echoing myself in a total vacuum and spouting horse manure and moonbeams and fear, though I COULD use the money.

    It is also true that my musings, like glaciers, have taken time to form, and thereby have the force of my conviction that civil life and civil governance require more to achieve justice, fairness, efficiency and economy than merely good intentions or “interests.” Damn the single-issue candidate as a slacker in the attempt to make our community better (not necessarily BIGGER) every day and each year than the one before.

    The issues that come up to invite dialogue are many, varied, and often truly important in the ongoing life of the community as a group of citizens consciously working to seek the middle way to peace, harmony, security and mutual productivity. Just to say this in the shadows of WDC and Austin makes me wonder sometimes about my own clarity, practicality and sanity. At least I am not an ambitious, fractious, ruthless, greedy Senator constantly whoring either himself or the system for raw power, prestige, cash and control of those less adept in the “game.”

    Reaching good policies through reasoned discussion and building on our collective mistakes and mis-steps is my dream, my ideal. Forgive me when I fall short, please.

    I’m just happy that Newstreamz provides a new opportunity to engage somewhat meaningfully, and to seek common ground. And to nurture interest, learning, concern and participation on the part of the People, who do, after all, OWN this zoo and its performing menagerie.

  5. Dan McCarthy- I was just wondering if you are this TSU student that was reported in the Daily Texas as “Texas State University student Daniel McCarthy traveled from San Marcos to protest Obama’s expansion of AmeriCorps — an organization he likened to a Hitler youth group.” (I’m just seeking clarification as you are publicly supporting a candidate…)

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