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

February 18th, 2010
Precinct 2 commissioner candidates discuss GOP primary race

021710precinct2Republican candidates for Hays County Precinct 2 commissioner Mike Gonzalez, left, and Mark Jones, right.

By LANCE DUNCAN
News Reporter

The two Republican candidates for Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner are experienced in local affairs.

Hays CISD Trustee Mark Jones has lived in Buda and Kyle, serving as a trustee for the Hays CISD since winning election in May 2005. During the same election, Mike Gonzalez won election as mayor of Kyle.

The two now are competing against each other for the Republican nomination to succeed Jeff Barton (D-Kyle), who is running for county judge against incumbent Liz Sumter (D-Wimberley).

Early voting in the race for the Republican nomination continues through Feb. 26, with the general election on March 2. The winner will face Democrat Ray Bryant, recently of the Kyle City Council. Bryant is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Gonzalez and Jones recently responded to identical sets of questions put to them by the San Marcos Local News.

San Marcos Local News: The county has a number of expensive projects on the wish list, including a solution to the jail, roads, and a government center. At the same time, some commissioners have given 50 cents as the highest they would like the tax rate to go. The tax rate now is 46.92 cents. How is the county going to pay for all those projects? If not, which projects should be prioritized or eliminated?

Mark Jones: We need to eliminate waste and restore fiscal discipline to county government. Hays CISD is one of the fastest growing school districts in the state, and as Vice President I worked to open four new schools without raising the tax rate. I will bring this same perspective of foresight and sound financial management to the commissioner’s court. By focusing our resources on what matters and cutting waste, we can weather this recession and come out of it with a leaner and more efficient and effective county government.

Mike Gonzalez: It is important to realize that the affordability of a community is just as important to the quality of life for citizens as the roads and capital improvement projects county government undertakes. Fiscal discipline must be maintained by prioritizing and sizing the projects to meet the real needs of citizens.

SMLN: What is your position about ACC locating in Hays CISD?

Mike Gonzalez: A local ACC campus serves not only those currently enrolled but also makes it that much more accessible to citizens that have not been able to attend for various reasons. Additionally, a local ACC campus serves to boost economic development and job creation. While ACC offers outstanding service with competitive rates, the approximately nine cent tax related to an ACC annexation is significant. If annexation is approved by voters, I believe all local governments within the Hays CISD should take into consideration this additional tax as they work to set their own annual budgets and tax rates to help limit the burden on taxpayers.

Mark Jones: I think it is up to the voters to decide. I think it is a major investment that needs to be looked at closely. Given our current economic climate, I believe this partner-in-education can offer valuable and cost effective higher education and job training opportunities to students, unemployed and underemployed persons in our community. This promises long-term economic and quality of life benefits for the Buda and Kyle area.

SMLN: The role of county government is to deal with local roads, law enforcement and public health in unincorporated areas. Should the powers of county government be expanded? If so, how?

Mark Jones: No. County government needs to do a better job of partnering with the municipal governments. It does not need expanded powers.

Mike Gonzalez:
No, the powers of county government should not be expanded; rather it should ensure it is thoroughly and efficiently fulfilling its obligations to citizens. Unlike city government, the role of county government is strictly defined by the state legislature and is essentially an extension of state government.

SMLN: How hard should county government work to influence residential development so as to cut down on sprawl?

Mike Gonzalez: Compared to city government, county government does not have broad authority over subdivision regulation. However, it should ensure that new residential developments do not pose a health or safety risk to the overall community while respecting individual property rights.

Mark Jones: Through well thought out and sensible regulations and long-term planning efforts, we can ensure that future growth enhances our community and safeguards our quality of life. I will work hard to protect the character and beauty of Northern Hays County from urban sprawl while encouraging clean industry and quality employment that will benefit all our citizens.

SMLN: Is there a difference between Republicans and Democrats at the county level?

Mark Jones: Yes. While we need to work together, I am a firm believer in conservative fiscal policies. I think I can work with the commissioners and elected officials of both parties for the good of our community, but I will always stand up for the taxpayers.

Mike Gonzalez: Yes, I believe both have a varied perspective on the proper role of government that is relevant even at the local level. Regardless of this perspective, at the county commissioner level a certain amount of direct experience in relevant issues such as building roads, building economies and providing for public safety is more critical in meeting the needs of citizens.

SMLN: Do you have a particular philosophy about development incentives? For example, are there certain kinds of developments that should never be incentivized by the county, and are there certain kinds of developments that should always be incentivized by the county?

Mike Gonzalez: Whenever development incentives are considered, a clear cost/benefit analysis needs to be completed to determine if it truly benefits the entire community and is deserving of such incentives. Development incentives must also be performance-based to ensure that the benefit to the community is realized before the actual incentive is implemented. If the
development fails to produce, no incentive is given. Every development project is unique with multiple variables that it would be impractical to make a generalized statement of which should always or should never be considered for development incentives. However, I firmly believe that property tax abates should be off the table completely as a form of development incentive. When it comes to economic development, it is important to realize that incentives alone will not attract quality projects to your community. There are plenty of local governments that offer up overly generous incentives but still find themselves with poor development or no development at all. It is critical for local government to build a strong environment that allows business to flourish creating new opportunities for citizens. This strong environment includes among other items: adequate infrastructure, well planned roads, healthy neighborhoods, and quality health care. Before any business invests in your community, they must firmly believe in the long term success of your community.

Mark Jones: If used well, incentives can bring higher paying jobs to Hays County. I don’t believe retail development needs to be incentivized. I believe rooftops and traffic counts bring in retail development. All indications are that the City of Kyle is in for some substantial tax increases in the near future. Any incentives given to the retail businesses could have softened the tax burden levied on the citizens of Kyle. I do support incentives for economic development, so long as the result in a net gain for all our citizens. These must be used in disciplined and targeted fashion.

SMLN: Precinct 2 is mapped around two main towns — Kyle and Buda. How do the differences between these towns influence the work of the Precinct 2 commissioner?

Mark Jones: While Buda and Kyle are different, they share many of the same problems. I will work hard to improve our roads and infrastructure and bring higher paying jobs to the area. Throughout this process, it is important for the commissioner to work with the city officials from both Buda and Kyle, as well as area citizens and civic groups. I think this is one area that I have a proven area of working for the good of both cities. I have served both cities as their at-large representative on the Hays school board, I served both areas as the Precinct 2 Representative of the Plum Creek Water Conservation District, and have served both areas in many youth athletic activities for the past 23 years. I have been a resident of both Buda and Kyle and have a clear understanding of what makes each of these cities a great place to live. This commissioner will also serve Uhland and Neiderwald and parts of Driftwood. I believe I have an understanding of the needs of these towns also.

Mike Gonzalez: Hays County is a very diverse county and Precinct 2 mirrors that diversity between newly occurring development and the desire to preserve a more rural feel. Ultimately, all citizens want a quality community and may define it in different ways. The Precinct 2 commissioner should respect the individual visions of every city within the precinct and should serve to promote that vision while facilitating an overall strategic plan for the precinct and county.

SMLN: Is there a certain kind of employer that would be best suited to set up in Precinct 2?

Mike Gonzalez: Precinct 2 has a highly skilled and diverse workforce that can easily meet the employment needs of companies in several industries. It would be preferred to attract employers that have a good reputation of employee satisfaction and pay a living wage, but there is an overall need for more local employment at all salary levels.

Mark Jones: We do need higher paying jobs in Northern Hays County. I will work to attract clean industry and quality new employment to our area. This will provide greater economic opportunity for our young families and residents to advance their careers close to home, and increase our economic stability as a community.

SMLN: There have been a couple matters between the county and Buda that have not gone smoothly — U.S. Foodservice and the re-assignment of Bo Kidd. How can a commissioner best handle affairs such as this?

Mark Jones: When matters of city zoning and ordinances arise, it is best to defer to the judgment of the local municipality and citizens. As county commissioner, I will work hard to cultivate strong working relationships with local citizens, civic groups and municipal leaders alike.

Mike Gonzalez: It is first important to remember that all elected officials work to serve the needs of citizens. With this as an underlying principle, the county commissioner should work to promote open communication between all local levels of government to keep the focus on the true needs of citizens and not on petty differences.

SMLN: What is your compelling vision of the future for the area in Precinct 2? Is it destined for suburbia, or can it really grow into a unique environment given the kind of cookie-cutter development that has taken place there?

Mike Gonzalez: As commissioner I will continue to work to ensure we have a precinct that offers citizens a safe and inviting community filled with new opportunities. We must make mobility a priority, attract quality development, improve public safety and preserve the unique character of our precinct. We are blessed to have such diversity within our precinct. From young families, to retirees, to those looking to start a new business; Precinct 2 must continue to offer great opportunities to all these citizens.

Mark Jones: We must not allow Buda and Kyle to become bedroom communities of Austin. As county commissioner, I will work hard to develop a strong tax base and employment base so that our community is not solely dependent on Austin. This will enable our residents to commute less, advance their careers closer to home, and provide greater economic stability for the future.

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