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
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.Email | Print