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

October 15th, 2010
Candidate Van Oudekerke discusses city council issues

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San Marcos City Council candidates Shane Scott, left, and Rodney Van Oudekerke, right.

By ANDY SEVILLA
Associate Editor

With San Marcos City Councilmember John Thomaides running for mayor, the remaining two years of his council term are up for grabs in the Nov. 2 election.

The candidates are San Marcos businessman Shane Scott and retired San Marcos police officer Rodney Van Oudekerke.

San Marcos Local News submitted a list of questions to these two candidates. Below are Van Oudekerke’s answers. Scott did not submit answers.

San Marcos Local News: What is your opinion of the city council’s selection of a new city manager five weeks before the November election?

Rodney Van Oudekerke: This is a question that has been asked many times. The council certainly has the right to do so. However, given the current popular public opinion of mistrust of the council, I believe this only made matters worse. This is the same council that told the citizens a couple of years ago the former city manager was good for San Marcos and we believed them. Then, a few months ago, the same council told us the former city manager was bad for San Marcos and we want to believe them. The same council now tells us (recently hired City Manager Jim) Nuse is good for San Marcos. I want to believe them. The fact Mr. Nuse will not be starting immediately voids the argument that a city manager had to be hired immediately.

SMLN: What is your assessment of city policy toward the Paso Robles development, specifically on the potential use of tax incentives for a residential development?

Van Oudekerke: Overall, I have no problem with Paso Robles. We need development, we need homes and we need careers for San Marcos. Keeping true to my word, I intend to keep an open mind on all issues. However, I am still not sure the use of tax incentives to a private developer is good for San Marcos. I look at cities like New Braunfels and Lockhart who are experiencing growth and wonder if they are giving private developers tax incentives. If they are, then I think it is something we have to look at to be competitive with these cities. If not, how are they attracting the developments and why are we not doing the same thing?

SMLN: In your opinion, are the Paso Robles, Buie Tract, Purgatory Creek Apartments, and the Windemere developments consistent with the Horizon’s Master Plan? To what extent are they reconcilable? How or how not?

Van Oudekerke: No, they are not. The Horizon Master Plan states discouragement of development in the environmentally sensitive areas in San Marcos, such as along the San Marcos River, Blanco River, creeks, and the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. However, development is encouraged to occur in the “preferred growth corridors.” The two “preferred growth corridors” include southeast San Marcos bounded by Hunter Road on the north and State Highway 123 on the east, and northeast San Marcos bounded by IH-35 on the west and State Highway 80 on the south. I am not sure if they are reconcilable at this point.

SMLN: The Horizons Master Plan was adopted in 1996. How have the city’s circumstances changed in the last 14 years to motivate changes in the Master Plan?

Van Oudekerke: Of course, the population has changed, which may be a factor. The economy is quite different than it was in 1996. People who used to be able to afford to buy a home may now have to rent, which could explain the move to build more apartments. I think a change in the philosophies of elected officials since 1996 may be one of motivations. There seems to be more of a push to do whatever it takes to get the developers to come here. I do not think it is necessarily a bad thing to entice developers to come to San Marcos, but I think if we are going to offer any incentives, those incentives should be reserved for those developers who will develop in the preferred areas as identified in the Master Plan.

SMLN: Do dwindling fund balances and the avowed necessity to raise utility rates imply that the city should be conservative about spending?

Van Oudekerke: What recommendations would you make? The city should always be conservative about spending in good times and bad. One of the greatest responsibilities a council has to the public is responsible spending of the taxpayers’ money. Part of the money used to pay for the new branding of San Marcos came from the utility fund. Just because we have money in those funds does not mean we have to spend it on “nice to haves,” such as a new brand. It is hard for me to understand why, on one hand, we spend money on a new brand using utility fund money and have to raise utility rates because the balances are getting low.

SMLN: There has been a lot of talk about transparency in government. How should the city address transparency in government?

Van Oudekerke: To me, this is a symptom of a citizenry who no longer trust their city government. It is troublesome to me that here we are almost the year 2011 and we are having discussions about transparency in government. I think the first thing the city should do is recognize transparency in government is a real issue in San Marcos. There are a couple of very easy and inexpensive solutions to this problem. One solution which will not cost the city a dime is to rearrange the items on the agenda so the public questions and answer come at the front end. That will allow more people to participate in local government and not have to wait until the late hours of the night behind everything else. Another easy, no-cost thing is to make sure the agenda is written in plain English so that more people will be able to understand. I know there are legal requirements on the wording on most items, but the city could go that little extra and follow up the legal requirements with plain language. Example, on real estate items besides the legal description, make sure the average person can find the said property on a map simply by reading the agenda.

SMLN: Explain the concept of council/manager form of government. Is the city holding true to it?

Van Oudekerke: In a council/manager form of government, the city manager is appointed by the  council to be the chief administrative officer for the city. The council sets the policy and priorities and these are carried out by the manager. The manager also coordinates all city departments ensuring responsible organizational and fiscal management. I would have to say that, as far as I know, the City of San Marcos has been holding true to this form of government. Once elected, this is an area I intend to keep an eye on to make sure we continue this form of government and the tail does not wag the dog.

SMLN: Has the downturn in the economy had any permanent effect on the city’s position moving forward?

Van Oudekerke: San Marcos has seen tough times before, so I do not think the downturn in the economy has a permanent effect, but certainly slows it down. This is the time for San Marcos to take a close look at to what is important to the city and what the city can afford.

SMLN: Recently, council has been discussing advancing the time for the charter review commission recommendations on possible amendments. What city charter amendments, if any, would you like to see put before the voters and why?

Van Oudekerke: One in particular I would like to see is having a third reading on ordinances, the way it used to be. This, once again, would allow more people to get involved with the process, thus rebuilding that trust that seems to be lacking in San Marcos today.

SMLN: Why should San Marcos citizens vote to elect you into office, as opposed to your opponent?

Van Oudekerke: I have a proven record of public service to the people of San Marcos. For over 30 years, I have given back to this community through various boards and commissions. As a trained mediator, have the ability to actually listen to both sides of every issue and make a decision that is best for San Marcos. My opponent says he wants to keep San Marcos going on the course it has been going for the past few years. I want us to do better; I know we can do better. Unlike my opponent, who has never had to work for anybody, at age 16 I went to work in a feed store and have worked ever since then. For half my life, I have worked for the citizens of San Marcos, serving them honorably and never forgetting I work for them. I want to continue to work for the people of San Marcos. This time, instead of a police sergeant, I want to go to work as a councilmember, never forgetting both are public servants, responsible to the boss, who, in this case, are the citizens of San Marcos.

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0 thoughts on “Candidate Van Oudekerke discusses city council issues

  1. Rodney’s responses sound modest, cautious and realistic. Unlike other candidates who have not been directly in the discussions and debates–or the political maneuvering–he seems less likely to cling to a single issue as “his,” yet, though that likely will come later, as he gains knowledge and experience. He announces himself as conservative, in the sense of reasonable allocations for basic services and ambitious projects that will, inevitably, be needed in the future. His tone is not strident or confrontational. He also seems unlikely to support a vocal Councilmember’s seizing the initiative and thus the momentum of local government in his own hands, as has recently been the case, not blindly to follow and support a colleague’s doing so.

    Being a Certified Mediator may sound like a “mystery qualification,” but as a CPM myself, I can assure all that he will bring a valuable tool to the forum for establishing substantive debate where it is called for, and for cooling passions aroused by competition, factionalism, or the establishment and use of “claques” brought in to assert his views for the benefit of press and public. I believes he sees such fallacies as spending large sums on PR and Advertising and self-aggrandisement. He will tend to the conservative side of making City expenditures as either necessary for the safety, health and well-being of the community; or investments, either to achieve direct or indirect fiscal returns for the citizens, or improvements in our overall quality of life (See Stone Bridge Crossing, Paso Robles, the new “brand’–none of which promises to bring a proportional amount of good or revenue to the community.

    As an experienced and trained Officer of the Court, I would not expect him to be less than direct with the public and his colleagues–neither hiding nor obfuscating whatever his motives may be. The most impressive thing I have heard him say is that in his long service, he has “spent an extra-large amount of time among the pockets of San Marcos and its people that don’t appear in the Chamber’s promos or its real concerns–streets where they don’t spend time.”

    This indicates to me that, even as a fiscal conservative, Rodney realizes that the focal point of many needs is food, shelter, work and genuine education for low-income, low educational-status citizens: in other words, a feeling for solid programs and social services to break down barriers to upward mobility. Likewise, he acknowledges the value of our heritage and identity (which is stretched mighty thin in some areas) and our unique niche relating to natural resources. Having known and worked with him much of his adult life, I expect no surprises.

    I would expect Rodney to be an able networker and team member with other entities and governmental units to achieve the best for all, rather than a pugnacious “San Marcos first-er.” Regional issues cannot be ignored, as they are shared at the core, and tend to affect everybody in much the same ways. Regional solutions tend to stick.

  2. Good responses by Rodney.

    Not a good sign that Shane Scott didn’t bother to respond. These are not “gotcha” questions and in fact have been asked of all candidates running for local office. And it’s worth noting that he hasn’t bothered posting an explanation as to why he did not provide answers, or to simply provide the answers in the comments section.

    Man, if I had donated to Mr. Scott’s campaign, I’d feel pretty ill-used. Phoning it in is one thing, but he hasn’t even bothered to do that.

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