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

October 8th, 2010
Guerrero, Thomaides, square off in LWV debate

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San Marcos mayoral candidates John Thomaides, left, and Daniel Guerrero, right, at Monday night’s League of Women Voters debate. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

By ANDY SEVILLA
Associate Editor

San Marcos mayoral candidates Daniel Guerrero and John Thomaides squared off Monday night in a debate before about 200 people, sounding off on issues ranging from financial incentives, controversial developments, transparency, and police and fire contracts that continue to be a focal point in the election season.

The debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

The candidates spoke one night before the San Marcos City Council approved the first reading of a development agreement for the proposed Paso Robles development on the south end of San Marcos. The developer, Carma Texas, expects to put 3,450 homes on 1,340 acres. The development agreement includes provisions for a Tax Increment Financing Zone (TIRZ) by which Carma would be reimbursed $20 million from future property tax collections for infrastructure costs.

At the Monday debate and the Tuesday council meeting, Thomaides, a sitting councilmember, opposed the TIRZ. Guerrero, a former councilmember, said he favors financially incentivizing the Paso Robles development.

Said Guerrero at the debate, “I do feel that it’s important that we utilize every tool available to ensure that we’re bringing both housing, that we’re bringing career opportunities, and that we’re bringing both good developments to our community so that we can bring both tax dollars, new jobs and new revenue to San Marcos.”

Thomaides said he understands the importance of financial incentives, but he would only provide them for entities providing high-wage jobs.

“I constantly hear, we have to remain competitive, we have to give your money away or we won’t be competitive, and, I’m sorry, folks, but I just disagree with that position,” Thomaides said. “I really feel that San Marcos already is competitive. We shouldn’t be as down on ourselves to say that we have to give everybody money who asks for it, if they want to come to our town. We’re better than that.”

Guerrero also said he supports financial incentives for companies providing careers. But he said the incentive for Paso Robles is appropriate, even though Carma has chagrined residents at its Blanco Vista development by asking the city for major revisions to the neighborhood’s conceptual plan.

“Really, I think anytime we do any business, whether it’s with a developer that’s looking to bring in housing, or new jobs, or even with someone who is going to service our contract for custodial, you’re taking a leap of faith,” Guerrero said. “You’re doing your best to ensure that that person is going to be doing their best to provide us with the greatest service, and I think that’s what we’re doing here as well (with Carma developing Paso Robles). We want to see our community grow, and I think when Carma first came in they indicated they were going to give us an opportunity to book-end our community.”

Thomaides said Carma’s requests for changes at Blanco Vista should serve as a cautionary tale on the matter of whether to provide a tax incentive for the Paso Robles project.

“Can you imagine buying out in Blanco Vista and being all of a sudden being surrounded by apartments?” Thomaides asked. “That should be a concern for all of us, and we should make sure that that possibility doesn’t even have a chance of happening if Paso Robles is approved.”

Guerrero has continuously attacked Thomaides for having his cell phone while on the dais. Thomaides has said that his cell phone takes in calls from both his family and business, and, because council meetings can at times take up to seven hours, he has his phone on him at all times.

“When we open the (council) meeting, when the meeting is called to order, the intent is that you are to be in order as well,” Guerrero said. “I feel as though it isn’t appropriate to have cell phones at the dais. The submitting of text messaging or phone calls during meetings is inappropriate, it’s borderline of being in violation (of the Open Meetings Act).”

Thomaides said the cell phone issue is a meritless political diversion.

“This is really a political tactic that is used by our opponents,” Thomaides said. “It’s being asked, by the way, of everybody on the city council, and, to my knowledge, no one is just turning over their entire private records or their business records,” Thomaides said. “I run a business in San Marcos. I have thousands of clients up and down (Interstate) 35. The law says, the State of Texas, the United States’ laws and our own laws, say that those (business) numbers are private. Private numbers (of) friends and relatives, as well.”

Economic concerns during the downtown also entered the discussion. The city has a $147 million budget. A year ago, the city council approved civil service contracts raising police pay by an average of $19,000 in three years, while firefighter pay will increase by about $20,000.

“We had additional expenses, additional amounts of dollars that we had to fund with new employment contracts with the city,” Thomaides said. “And that was a very difficult situation we found ourselves in. I believe the next two years are going to be very similar to the years I worked on the budget after the terrorist attacks of September 11. There’s not going to be huge growth, but there will be growth. And I believe, right now, it’s important to have a mayor that understands that we have to keep a very close eye on wasteful spending, political spending.”

Guerrero took issue with Thomaides’ assertion that the negotiated union contracts were political in nature.

“Mr. Thomaides also refers to political approaches that have cost us, and I think that’s inappropriate,” Guerrero said. “What he’s referring to are the contracts with the police and fire. I served on the EMS board of directors for four years and one of the challenges that we had was people. We were not able to retain our people. We were having a difficult time recruiting people for EMS, and it was similar within fire and police. And I think that by us going into these particular contracts, it is going to allow us to improve our fire and safety, it’s going to be able to retain our people. I think that in the end it’s going to assist us in being able to manage our budgets.”

Said Thomaides, “I think the reason why I used ‘political’ (when describing the police and fire contracts) is because it was. The employment groups that we’re talking about spent thousands and thousands of dollars on political advertisements for the candidates that they chose, that they knew would support these contracts. And they’re still doing it. And I have a great concern that (Guerrero) as your mayor, that the city budget will be used in those political ways. That’s just a difference I guess I have with my opponent.”

The Nov. 2 election will see a slate of council races, including the mayor’s chair. Other city council races pit incumbent Councilmember Kim Porterfield against former mayoral candidate Dave Newman, Planning and Zoning Commissioner Jude Prather against hospital administrator Toby Hooper, and retired police officer Rodney Van Oudekerke against local businessman Shane Scott.

Early voting begins on Oct. 18.

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6 thoughts on “Guerrero, Thomaides, square off in LWV debate

  1. It seems that too many people these days just don’t really understand the actual rules of debate. You can debate the veracity of facts, and you can debate the logical conclusions that your opponent draws from those facts. If your opponent has false facts or can’t prove his or her facts, then those are up for debate. If your opponent draws fallacious logical conclusions, then you can debate those. You can’t debate your opponent’s intentions, personal habits, political beliefs, family, origin, or even past actions. All of that tends to be immaterial when you’re debating about a particular situation.

  2. I understand having a cell phone for family emergencies, I certainly do. But a merciless political diversion? I do not see it. Your job at the dais, the seat you ran for (no matter who you are,) is to do the work of the City and to pay attention to your colleagues and the CITIZENS. If you are too busy with other personal and private business matters, maybe you should not be looking after *my* matters.

  3. I grow astounded in looking over the past forty years (four counts) of the U.S. Census, in each of which Hays County, San Marcos, and most of the sizable settlements in the region have continued to grow in leaps and bounds–at among the highest rates in the states and the Nation. 50% in ten years is near the average. This is growth that requires “stimulating” by watering it with capital debt? Also, the incoming have brought their homes, but many keep their livelihood and much of their spending in the places–mostly metro–where they work.

    As noted in the oft-cited “Money” magazine, most of our job growth comes from our old traditional sources, education and government. Where is the expansion of the tax base–the types of activity that support either new jobs or sustainable level ones? At the hotels? Restaurants? Chain stores? Where are the NEW and diversified jobs Mr. Guerrero is fond of saying he has created in the range of 6800?

    Several of the “tagline issues” or slogans we hear are, in the end, fabrications. Now we are reduced to paying developers to develop, then giving them favors, variances, and positive publicity, with later adjustments as desired.
    We make exceptions to any of the requirements (including building unsatisfactory uses/structures in sensitive areas). And we pay them tax money from ALL, in the form of long-term debt, when very few of us ALL can find any advantage, especially in speculative development of such a size it may take a decade to settle out. The bad calls just keep stacking up, and will, until we reassess what we want, when and what we should pay or concede to get it, and whether it will materialize as seen in the FIRST round of negotiation.

    If we don’t get VERY lucky and come out of the recession fairly soon, our “leaders” will have led us off a cliff.

  4. Moreover, may I say that when an ordinary citizen gets up his/her courage to go into the Lioness’s Den and register an opinion, it is not always easy, for many reasons. A person standing and reading fast in a quavery voice and sweating down his/her collar should expect full attention from the Council. What I have seen is persons ignored, subtly joked about; i have seen the Masters preoccupied with their media toys, or talking to each other behind a hand or paper–in short ignoring the petitions and entreaties. Were I in that position, and perhaps a bit younger, I should be tempted not only to call out such rudeness, but to give the offender a good slap in the chops.

    It is not enough to assume–and state–as the Mother Superior did early on, that “the people voted for us, so we will do as we wish.” Listening, clarifying, teaching, learning and accommodating to a reasonable extent even those with whom one can never agree is the essence of public service–not ignoring or condescending or telling people they aren’t smart enough to see the clear light of my personal opinion. Worst of all, to just say,”let’s move on now.”

    Ignoring or marginalizing citizens is a sure route to trust-breaking, then conflict, then hostility or apathy. These tactics, often used, serve only to make projects worse and ideas from both sides of the dais. wilder. The surest way to insure that the government becomes a loathed enemy, and to make the folks on the fringe just give up to apathy.

    It will be interesting to see if we rise above 20% of eligible voters in the Nov 2 Emancipation Day Vote.

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