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

September 29th, 2010
San Marcos mayoral candidates tangle over differences

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San Marcos mayoral candidates Daniel Guerrero, left, and John Thomaides, right, chit chat at the San Marcos Area Board of Realtors candidate forum this month. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

By ANDY SEVILLA
Associate Editor

Two interest group forums for city council candidates earlier this month produced the exact same slates of endorsements for the election to take place on Nov. 2.

The San Marcos Area Board of Realtors (SMABOR) and the San Marcos Police Officers Association (SMPOA) each endorsed former Councilmember Daniel Guerrero for mayor over Councilmember John Thomaides. Both groups also endorsed Kim Porterfield, Jude Prather and Rodney Van Oudekerke for council seats ahead of their opponents — David Newman, Toby Hooper and Shane Scott, respectively.

Another major candidate forum will take place Thursday, when the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) holds its event at the San Marcos Activity Center from 7-8:30 p.m. CONA does not make endorsements.

Thomaides said he wasn’t seeking endorsements, but looking to strengthen ties.

“I’m not coming here looking for an endorsement,” Thomaides told SMABOR. “I’m coming here looking for communication. I believe I have a chance to win, I believe I’ll be your next mayor. I need to work with the board of realtors. I know the board of realtors needs to work with the mayor.”

All city council candidates presented themselves and fielded questions by both interest groups, except that Thomaides was absent from the SMPOA candidate forum. Thomaides said he had a scheduling conflict and asked the SMPOA to pass along his contact information to members who wished to speak with him directly.

The SMABOR forum touched on real estate issues ranging from the Land Development Code (LDC), the SmartCode, development, zoning, and the November election.

Guerrero and Thomaides both voted in December 2004 for the LDC that’s in place. SMABOR expressed frustration with stifled growth under the LDC. Both candidates said they would welcome discussions and input to address the LDC challenges. Both also expressed support for the Smart Code to be implemented under the auspices of the downtown master plan.

Thomaides said the Smart Code implementation, which has been stalled for months, started off on a bad foot. Thomaides said there was enough blame to go around, adding that residents, business owners and city officials need to come together and work out a solution. Thomaides also expressed the need for addressing storm water run-off and the parking situation downtown. Guerrero echoed Thomaides’ positions.

A difference between Guerrero and Thomaides during the SMABOR forum was on the tabling of key decisions. Among them are city council appointments to boards and commissions, as well as the hiring of a new city manager shortly before a Nov. 2 election that could seat four new councilmembers.

Both candidates agreed that the selection of a city manager should be given more time than the Oct. 1 deadline set by the city council. Thomaides also said the council appointments to city boards and commissions can wait until after the November election because the appointments don’t take office until after the New Year he said.

San Marcos is in the midst of searching for a city clerk. The city also recently lost its planning director and has not had a human resources director for some time.

Thomaides voted against hiring Kay Stroman to serve as the consultant heading the executive search for the next city manager with a 60-day timeline.

“As far as filling the boards and commissions prior to the election, I think that should probably wait,” Thomaides said. “I see no reason for all boards and commissions to be named, I don’t think that will stagnate the city in any shape for or fashion.”

Said Guerrero, arguing against delaying council decisions, “Right now you have a staff, you have a municipal organization that is searching for a vision, searching for an identity, and by continuing to table so many issues, that’s allowing us to become stagnant. We need to continue to move forward, we need to continue following a true vision that’s going to be beneficial for the entire community. What’s developed throughout the organization is a sense of confusion, which has began to disseminate throughout the entire community.”

Thomaides said at the SMABOR forum that it’s not confusion that’s plaguing San Marcos, but “mistrust” and a “lack of transparency.”

Going on the attack, Guerrero said transparency also should apply to councilmembers, then said he favors banning cell phones on the dais in an effort to function under “best practices.”

Thomaides said that, being a small business owner, he has to look at his incoming calls and emails on his phone when city council meetings can run up to seven hours. Thomaides said he doesn’t use his cell phone to text message other councilmembers or city staff during meetings.

“I think the council takes more than enough breaks (during council meetings) to not only check your means of communication, but also to take care of any other need that you might have during a very long meeting,” Guerrero said. “I think that if you’re going to be advocating transparency, that practice needs to be ethically balanced. You need to make sure that you’re not having a cell phone on the dais, I think that’s potentially a violation of (the) Open Meetings (Act).”

Guerrero and Thomaides also bumped heads regarding the extra $4 million dollar in incentives for the developers of StoneCreek Crossing in December 2008, bringing the total tax abatement in the deal to $6 million. Guerrero, who served on the council from 2004 to 2008 voted for the last $4 million. Thomaides, who has served on council since 2003, voted in opposition.

Guerrero said it was important to protect the city’s investment in the San Marcos Conference Center and Embassy Suites, which sits right across the Interstate-35 from the StoneCreek Crossing, by making sure the strip mall didn’t end up unoccupied.

Thomaides said the city shouldn’t bail out developers after they miscalculate their expenses.

“I am a small business owner,” Thomaides said. “I work in helping to negotiate deals in my own business. And I believe the city should drive a harder bargain. Just because someone asks doesn’t mean you should give them money.”

Thomaides said StoneCreek Crossing was substantially built when the owners asked the city for the last $4 million, with tenants lined up to move in. He said his position was for the developers to finish building the project on their own.

“I do not believe by any stretch that they would have left (StoneCreek Crossing) empty,” Thomaides said, adding that the development had already recruited Target, JC Penny, and Bealls to move into their property.

Guerrero said Thomaides is making too many assumptions given that 2007 and 2008 were challenging years that could have caused blight at StoneCreek Crossing if the city hadn’t provided the extra $4 million.

“That’s making a lot of assumptions, that particular things are going to happen because something is already there,” Guerrero said. “If you’re going to make a commitment to someone saying that we’re going to be able to be a partner with you so that you can bring a service to us, and we can provide customers to you, you need to maintain that consistency in the relationship throughout the duration of the process.”

Guerrero accused Thomaides of being disingenuous when he told the University Star that he was in favor of moving the city elections to November and that he was in favor of having a university student liaison on the dais.

According to city council minutes, Thomaides was in favor of having the student liaison on the dais and even went on to suggest the possibility of having other groups represented. Thomaides did vote against moving city elections from May to November at all three readings late in 2004.

Guerrero has also accused Thomaides of changing course on the city’s meet and confer contracts with police and firefighters when it became politically expedient to do so.

Thomaides said he has always been in favor of the meet and confer process which under Texas law allows municipalities and  police and/or fire associations to discuss wages, salaries, hours of work, and other terms and conditions of employment. Thomaides said he was in favor of dealing with the unions and not directly with the police chief, but opposed the “political” and “unaffordable” contract the city entered.

“Meet and confer is very simply a process that allows that communication to take place,” Thomaides said. “But contract negotiations are something completely different.”

Thomaides went on to say that Guerrero’s misrepresentation of his record either is politically motivated or shows that Guerrero doesn’t understand the difference between being in support of having the conversation and being in support of the final numbers.

Guerrero maintains that finances were always part of the discussion, and that Thomaides was in favor of them before changing course.

The initial meet and confer process began in 2007 under former city manager Dan O’Leary, when Guerrero and Thomaides both were on the council. The process, however, was restarted after O’Leary resigned and Rick Menchaca became the city manager.

With new process came new numbers and the final contract was negotiated in 2009. By then, Guerrero was off city council and Thomaides voted against the contract, which raises police pay by an average of $19,400 in three years, increases firefighter pay by an average of $20,000 in three years, and includes incentives for soft pay.

“During meet and confer the officers asked for what they needed, not what they wanted,” Porterfield said during the SMPOA candidate forum. Porterfield voted in favor of the contracts.

“I supported that contract to retain officers and not have San Marcos be training ground,” Porterfield said.

Newman said that he thought police officers pay was “okay” but that he would like to have seen more officers on the streets.

Hooper told SMPOA that his expertise in contract negotiations would have brought a different light on the meet and confer process. He said that both the city and civil service employees need each other and that he would have listened to all sides and offered a balance that would address all concerns, keeping in the forefront that police need to be “well resourced and well trained.”

Prather said it’s imperative that San Marcos stays safe in the future and that he would listen to the civil service employees’ needs.

“Y’all are the experts on this subject matter, not I,” Prather said. “You know what you need, so you don’t have to twist my arm to get what you need.”

Scott said that, as a civil service commissioner, he has been available to hear police officers’ concerns and that, if elected, he would continue lending ear. Scott has a criminal justice degree.

Early in this year’s budget process, councilmembers discussed the possibility of opening up the meet and confer contract and renegotiating it or delaying payment for a year. But Interim City Manager Laurie Moyer recommended that the council continue the current process under contract.

Moyer said the city could afford the meet and confer contracts and that she was not in support of renegotiating them, because police and fire pay finally was up to market standards and the contract needed to be honored.

“When you negotiate a contract, it’s done before signing it, not after you sign it,” Van Ouderkerke said to SMPOA, giving police his word that, if elected, he would not renegotiate the contracts that have been signed.

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32 thoughts on “San Marcos mayoral candidates tangle over differences

  1. Our citizen journalism online tv station San Marcos News Live will be streaming the CONA Debates for those who cannot attend the event. We have a chat function in the player for interaction with viewers. The clips will also be available on demand after the conclusion of this event.

    We have segments in HD from the CONA debates on Sunday uploaded, with more clips later this week. Break a Leg to all those participating in the debates!

    Best Regards, LMC

    p.s. Thank you to “We the People-San Marcos” and “Movie Junkies” on SMTX.TV for airing our video news reports over the past few weeks on their shows. It is refreshing for various news outlets to be working collaboratively to get the word out on news and cultural events right here in the best city in Texas!

  2. Looks like both Daniel and John have been stretching the truth about John’s record. But I will say that if you’re going to attack someone on their record, you had better be right, otherwise it makes you look like a dirty politician. and one without moral. Also, daniel’s argument for the extra incentive for the creek crossing is compLetely ludicrous and sad.
    Daniel seems like a good person to go to a BBQ with or volunteer some where, but we need more for a mayor.

  3. “You know what you need, so you don’t have to twist my arm to get what you need.”
    So Mr. Prather, if you’re elected, you’re going to give my tax money and every citizen’s money to any group who would ask for it? this is not the kind of leadership this city needs, we need someone who’s going to stand up for ALL special interest groups. If the way you’ve been voting on the P&Z is any indication, you sure will be giving away everything the special interest groups ask for. what a shame!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Daniel Guerrero is an approachable and an engaging person who is not above doing the heavy lifting. In other words he is, “a good person to go to a BBQ with or volunteer some where…”, and unlike “Jenny” I think that is exactly the type of person we need as mayor. Over the years I have met far too many politicians who did not have any of those skill sets.
    What does it mean for us to have someone who posses such attributes? Well, it means that I can get a fair hearing for my issues. It means that instead of being handled by a few, a person such as Daniel Guerrero is open to doing what he thinks is right.
    As far as the Creek Crossing issue is concerned, if the City enters into a partnership then the Council has a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens for its success. While I don’t think that most public/private partnerships are something that any government should engage in, I do think that once entered into then every effort should be made to make it succeed.
    As a BISM with familial ties that stretches across three different centuries in San Marcos, I can honestly say that Daniel Guerrero is a man who is not, “a dirty politician. and one without moral(sic)”. While I will cast my vote for Daniel Guerrero it is not done so, as is apparently the case on the part of “Jenny”, against his opponent.
    I like people who stand up and volunteer to work for the betterment of us all. Which is why I like and respect the efforts of ALL the candidates. I don’t like the cowards, crackpots and nay sayers who hide and then ply their despicable ways from the dark.
    Case in point, I have both agreed with and disagreed with Chris North’s positions. But even while I disagreed with her, I respected her right to voice those opposing views because she (and others who have commented on this online newspaper) did so openly and publicly and not like the cowardly crackpots who do so from the shadows.

  5. I totally agree with you Steven ! And very well said I must add.
    Jenny when you have the guts to post under your real name we will take you seriously otherwise just sit behind your keyboard and just regurgetate ! If you have something to say, Say It ! Under your real name!
    I like Steven dont agree with Chris North and or Steve Harvey but at lest they are big enough to post under their real names. Jenny …. You are lame…. And if you want to approach me about my post… My name is Elena Duran , Come find me , lets talk you coward….

  6. And “Jenny” lets talk about Johns and Daniels morals…. Lets see where that gets you…. Do you really wanna go there?

  7. Elena, Yes, let’s go there. I would like to hear what you have to say in order to make an educated decision.

  8. Eric- You’ll have to use a last name. It doesn’t matter if it’s real or made up. I guess 2 names = not coward.

  9. Don’t pay any attention to Elena’s rant. It’s long been a tactic on the web for those who use their whole, real names to focus on the fact that others use pseudonyms. It’s easy and it takes the attention off of the actual topic at hand. Fortunately, there are those who prefer to focus on what matters. Guerrero – like most candidates – has stuff that he needs to answer for before the election, and no amount of disingenuousness by his supporters will change that.

  10. dis·in·gen·u·ous lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere: Her excuse was rather disingenuous. (from Dictionary.com)

    Lets see. I am looking over my post and can’t seem to find what you call “disingenuousness”. Let me look closer. No, I honestly believe that you are a coward if you can’t put your name to what you write.
    Also my whole attention wasn’t on the fact that cowards hide.
    I wrote that Daniel Guerrero was a good guy and qualified to be Mayor of San Marcos. I also wrote that I think t that ALL of the candidates are good people for stepping up to the plate. I doubt you can find one false statement in there as well. I guess what I am saying is that you, “Dano”, are being disingenuous. Is that frank, candid, or sincere enough for you?

  11. “…and no amount of disingenuousness by his supporters will change that.”, yup real simple, you wrote it.

  12. I fear I will pull my hair out if we drift toward electing people to the Council on the following bases: “He’s a good ol’ boy–I know him; he’s been here longest; he’s easy to get along with; he listens to people (even those in opposition?); he’s done a lot of good (relevant?) stuff in the community; he knows lots of people and has a great personality.” For the most part, these are absolute minimums, even without skills, training, experience, track record, character, etc. This is not a race for high school Homecoming Court. And the fact that Muffy and Jim, or my brother-in-law, like him a lot simply is not germane. I like a lot of people who never heard of an Open Meeting Law, a plat, a GO Bond, a Revenue Bond, or a CDBG allotment.

    SOME of our lovelies would even invoked a Tax Increment Finance Zone, the purpose of which is to end or mitigate blight, for open ranch land in a Pre-Development State. (Oops! That’s ALL the ones we have now.! See Paso Rubles)

  13. I know…let’s vote for our elected officials based on whether they post on the internet under their full given names! That seems to be the most important thing to some people around here……to heck with the issues!

  14. I personally find it endlessly amusing how some people feel that using their own names gives them some sort of moral and/or intellectual high ground.

  15. Hey, it beats having to debate the actual topic at hand!

    To me, using your real name is a security risk. They can’t steal your identity if they don’t know who you are. Besides, who’s to say that these folks are using their real names anyway? The web is full of pretenders. Would my arguments have more merit if I posted as “Frederick Polowozky”?

  16. “This is not a race for high school Homecoming Court. And the fact that Muffy and Jim, or my brother-in-law, like him a lot simply is not germane. I like a lot of people who never heard of an Open Meeting Law, a plat, a GO Bond, a Revenue Bond, or a CDBG allotment.” .
    I wish I had said that. Thanks, Mayor.

  17. LOL @ Eric….sorry, man.

    I actually think the name I gave was from that old 80s movie “Revenge of the Nerds”. IIRC, that was “Ogre”‘s real name…..

  18. From our City website, we read: “Form-based codes fold zoning, subdivision rules, urban design and architectural standards into one document for redevelopment.” Seeing both our Mayoral candidates “support” SmartCodes, I sure hope whichever candidate is elected will slow things down on this subject so we can “get it right” before we implement.

    Our new City Manager (Jim Nuse) has experience implementing SmartCodes in Round Rock. Let’s take a trip up there and see how it’s working out. Let’s give our new City Manager time to meet with his staff and review how we’ve gotten to this point and discuss how we can improve SmartCodes to protect the unique historical characteristics of our downtown area.

    And, let’s make sure as a community that we really need and want SmartCodes, versus fine-tuning the existing rules.

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