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

August 20th, 2010
Hooper to face Prather in fight for San Marcos seat

by BRAD ROLLINS

Healthcare industry administrator Toby Hooper, a nine year city resident, said this morning he has filed to run for San Marcos City Council Place 2.

In an announcement statement, Hooper touched on perennially potent issues like transportation, the environment and government transparency. He also pointed to his employment negotiating contracts as a Seton Healthcare Network administrator.

Toby Hooper

“I want the people of San Marcos to get as much as possible from economic development. I want to foster projects that bring value and truly improve our quality of life. San Marcos should not be seen as a blank check but rather a community that is not only inviting to business but also a community with expectations. It is possible to balance the two,” Hooper said.

Hooper will run against former candidate Jude Prather, who lost by three votes his challenge to Gaylord Bose in 2007. Bose has said he is not seeking a third term.

The Nov. 2 second election could see a turnover in four of seven seats on the San Marcos including the mayor’s chair for which council member John Thomaides and former council member Daniel Guerrero are running.

In Place 1, Kim Porterfield will defend her seat against Texas State political science student Griffin Spell. In Place 6, the seat Thomaides will vacate for his mayoral run, retired San Marcos Police Officer Rodney van Oudekerke and businessman Shane Scott have filed to run.

Candidate filing closes at 5 p.m. Aug. 24. Oct. 4 is the last day to register to vote in the election, which will also see a range of state and county offices on the ballot as well as the annexation referendum for the Austin Community College District.

Full text of Hooper’s statement:

Toby C Hooper has announced and filed his candidacy for San Marcos City Council Place 2 and has begun soliciting input from residents as to what they want to see in city government.

“The goals stated in the city charter are my goals as well and I will work diligently to realize their vision but I need the citizenry to speak with me about their hopes and dreams for the future of San Marcos.”

Toby believes that in order to cast meaningful votes and make accurate decisions for the city he must have the opinions and thoughtful insight of the voters.

“No resident of the city should be or feel left out of the process. We must have an inclusive and open government if the dais is truly to be a representative council.”

Toby works as a contract administrator for Seton Healthcare negotiating business agreements which is a skill he wishes to bring to the benefit of the city.

“When negotiating a contract both parties understand that they need each other. I want the people of San Marcos to get as much as possible from economic development. I want to foster projects that bring value and truly improve our quality of life. San Marcos should not be seen as a blank check, but rather a community that is not only inviting to business but also a community with expectations, it is possible to balance the two.”

Toby commutes to Austin each day and is acutely aware of transportation needs. He supports not only the development of a commuter rail system but a comprehensive transit plan that gives residents choices for travel.

“When you improve a person’s mobility you improve their sense of personal control and development. In our present system, if a person does not have a dependable car they have a limited life. If a mother cannot take her child to see a physician in Austin or San Antonio that means delayed health.”

Toby sees a transit plan as also an economic opportunity for developers and business owners. In his travels to foreign countries he has seen how public-private partnerships are created in which the rail infrastructure is created along with retail and living space; all in proximity to the transit system.

“I’ve seen how a rail company built a train station with a large shopping mall in which people went from being passengers into shoppers, it was like delivering 30,000 wallets and purses into the shops everyday, no cars and parking concerns, something like this can be done in San Marcos.”

Toby and his family have lived in San Marcos for 9 years, he has two daughters who graduated from San Marcos High School and one son currently enrolled in a SMCISD school.

“Families and healthy neighborhoods are extremely important to me. The family, whatever its structure may be, is the true nucleus of the community. Government cannot solve every social ill but there are many tangible things the council can do to foster a health community.”

Toby served on the city’s Human Services Advisory Board for three years and is knowledgeable in the challenges families and residents have.

“I wish to strengthen our non-profits to adequately meet the needs of our low income and indigent population. We should make a definitive assessment of the community’s needs in order to efficiently target our resources to the most critical areas.”

Toby currently serves as a member of the city’s Ethics Review Commission and believes the citizen body should have a proactive role in city government.

“I would like city leaders and staff to be able to approach the commission about concerns before they become a problem instead of only dealing with the result in a complaint. For example, before a project or initiative is to begin, staff could meet with the commission and the city attorney to make a review for any conflicts of interest or potential ethics violations, this shift could avoid angry citizen meetings and potential litigation.”

Toby also believes there are many things that could be done to increase the transparency of city government and give residents more access into what is being decided.

“When a citizenry believes that they know what is happening in government they begin to trust government, and when they believe they are being heard and realize they have a measure of control they understand that they are the government.”

Toby is concerned about the growth of the city, that it is careful and enhances the quality of life and not detract.

“During my life I have observed first hand the larger Texas cities sprawl out of control and become challenging places to live and raise families and become less attractive – I want San Marcos to be different. Careful development blends the business model with conservation of neighborhoods and natural space to make an optimal place to live and work.”

Additionally, he is concerned that the “first-responders” upon which we depend for safety and health are adequately served and developed.

“I was proud to see San Marcos opened a new fire station and in such a strategic place; but does the city have enough fire fighters, law enforcement officers and EMS to meet the city’s growth? This is a point that I want to evaluate regularly.”
Toby has one daughter studying at Texas State University and is proud the university has grown and developed. He also understands the stress and anxiety permanent residents feel from the pressure of such a large student body but knows from experience that much of the problem can be proactively avoided by simple engagement and education.

“The university is a great asset and should be a regular partner in city planning and economic development. The relationship with the university as an institution must be cultivated and maintained in order to progress together. If we are adversaries then we become a house divided. I haven’t met a student I didn’t like in my neighborhood, but that was because I got to know them and explained that the residents of the neighborhood have certain expectations, I have never had an argument, all were understanding. It is this sort of positive engagement that the university and the city must foster.”

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this summer once again forced people to take a realistic look at the natural environment and how we depend upon healthy ecosystems and clean water for our sustenance.

“The San Marcos Springs and the river are a treasure, gifts from God that must be protected. And the Edwards Aquifer is an amazing water machine that is our responsibility to maintain. We must be extremely careful with these gifts and enhance their health. City growth must be carefully planned and accommodating to these living beings. If these things were damaged, or missing, our quality of life would diminish and I don’t believe people would find San Marcos so special and attractive.”

Toby has many more ideas and concerns to voice about the city and will be circulating through San Marcos. However, instead of giving speeches he wants to hear what the people have to say and to create a dialogue.

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