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EDITOR’s NOTE: The San Marcos Mercury asked city council candidates to answer a few questions about their positions on issues. We are publishing them as they come in. The second is this series is from Seton administrator Toby Hooper. He is running against John Thomaides, Terry Nichols and Nicholas Cubides for the Place 3 seat. Early voting started on Monday; Election Day is Nov. 8.


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Toby Hooper

Toby Hooper, 49

Occupation: Network Contract Administrator, Seton
How long have you lived in San Marcos? 11 years
Where in town do you live? Highland neighborhood (Holland/ N. LBJ area)

Will you vote to further restrict smoking in public places or put the measure on the ballot for a citywide vote?

If the public demand is present for such a ban then we in the leadership are obligated to place the decision to an organized vote by the citizenry first. The referendum must be worded in a way to illicit an accurate decision and not to be confusing or misleading. Prior to such a vote must be a citywide discussion including the business owners who believe they will be negatively impacted by the ban. There is a wealth of public health data and public sentiment in the nation to support such a ban; but businesses must be party to the decision. And, if the majority wishes to ban smoking, an ordinance must be written to match the intention; if this is done well, I will vote in favor. But I also want to support local businesses which presently allow smoking to transition their business model to smoke free and remain profitable.

There has been a lot of talk this election season about how the city and school district are going to sink or swim together. What specifically can a city council member do to improve the school district and the school district’s image?

BE INVOLVED!

Build a relationship with the Board of Trustees that has never been seen before. Identify not only the challenges of the district but how the district can lend resources to the overall goals of the community; SMCISD should be seen as a holistic center of learning. Establish mutual targets and goals and be consistent with follow through on action items. Have the courage to discuss the difficult subjects and to include other community stakeholders to resolve. Solutions begin with one person broaching a difficult subject and having that first discussion. Both entities must believe their interests are the same, and they have genuine concern, are prepared to deliver on promises, and communicate frequently, clearly, honestly and openly. The children, the families and the economic future of San Marcos are depending on this relationship succeeding.

The Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency is locking down a future water supply for San Marcos and surrounding areas but it isn’t going to be cheap. The first phase alone is expected to cost $109 million between now and 2020. Do you support continued funding of HCPUA?

I want San Marcos to have control over its water supply. However this goal is challenging as we do not have a single water source from which to draw and have limited use from the Edwards Aquifer. Therefore, the city buys water from an outside “vendor.” And the majority comes from the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, from which water is piped from Lake Dunlap and treated in San Marcos. It is this contractual relationship with GBRA which has propelled the creation of the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency. Water is probably the most important issue in Texas as it is seen more as a “commodity” than a guaranteed human right. The critical point being: who controls the source and how much does it cost? The risk of using GBRA as a sole source is that as the demand for water increases, so does its power. It could become the same as being oil dependent upon a foreign country that may decide to change the arrangement or substantially increase the cost. Therefore, in order to diversify and mitigate this possible risk, San Marcos went into the alternative arrangement with HCPUA. Presently there is plenty of water coming from GBRA to meet the city’s needs. We should not give up on the GBRA relationship and should strive to make it as constructive as possible. However, it is the future need that looms large. It is up to the citizens of San Marcos to decide if they want to spend today’s dollars on the forecasted needs of the future. Again the risk, GBRA may not agree to the amount the city needs and at what cost the city is able to pay. If the city does not find another source to balance the arrangement we may be presented with a crisis. And, such ideas as turning flood control dams into reservoirs may be back on the table and conservation measures being enacted that change our way of life as we now know it. Also to consider, if the city does not buy HCPUA permits now; will those permits be available in the future? This complex issue must be clearly explained to the citizens in order for a collective and informed decision to be made.

Do you support forgiving property tax over a set period as a way to encourage companies to relocate or expand in San Marcos? If so, what kind of companies do you support giving economic development incentives to?

The ones with the greatest return! Before we spend one dollar, or postpone needed tax revenue we must first determine our economic development goals. If we don’t have a plan, then we are flying blind and will continue the haphazard system we have now. We want companies that make a positive and healthy impact on realizing these goals; and these companies span across different markets. For example, if stabilizing the middle class is a goal, I would invite proposals from local companies to prove that their expansion needs for capital will turn into real results connected to this goal – deliver, and you get the gold, fail and you get a bill.

Police and firefighters won a controversial three-year contract in 2009 and will be back for another round of negotiations next year. What are you willing as a council member to offer them in terms of changes to present deal?

To answer the question would involve an evaluation process which I would lead as I do in my everyday work life. A proposal would be formulated by city staff and council and then compared to the proposal by the police and fire departments; and then, negotiated to an executed agreement.

Below are the verbatim points I said when meeting with both the SMPOA and the SMPFFA:

  • As I interpret the Charter, public safety is the duty of the Council, the citizens must be protected. The Police Department and Fire Department are agents of this duty.
  • Quality public safety has a business case which attracts and retains people to a community.
  • The departments should have all the tools, training, staff and leadership necessary to fulfill the expectations of the Council and community.
  • I have reviewed both contracts and find no extreme terms and conditions.
  • As a professional contract administrator I prefer the Meet Confer process over Collective Bargaining: Meet and Confer gives us freedom of choice, Collective Bargaining takes it away.
  • Assurances from me regarding the contracting process: I am comfortable with the Meet and Confer process and will engage contract negotiations when the renewal period arrives; I will always listen and evaluate your proposals to change and upgrade; The contracting process will be fair and efficient; NO CONSULTANTS or proxies, you negotiate directly with city staff; After each meeting we create a press release to the public disclosing as much information as possible and both sides sign off on the release before distribution; Emotion will be left out of the meeting room. The process will be straight forward and facilitate constructive dialog to consider: both proposals, expectations and value.
  • These assurances are not especially made for you, it is the common behavior and decorum of negotiations between two entities in the real world; the end result is hopefully an agreement of mutual benefit.
  • Most important, the relationship leading up to the renewal period must be solid. If the relationship is strong, there will be no surprises during the contracting period and both sides should be at ease.

If you weren’t running for city council this year, which of your three opponents would you vote for?

I will tell you what I have wanted from council candidates for the past decade:

  • Someone who is independent and ready to serve as a leader and administrator for all citizens; not just the group(s) they represent.
  • Someone with the educational background to support decision making, i.e., university degrees.
  • Someone whose life experience is as broad as the decisions to be made by council.
  • Someone who has/had children in the school district and understands the challenges and importance of strong education.
  • Someone who has been involved on city boards and volunteer organizations.
  • Someone who will work every day for the community and to engage all citizens.
  • Someone who owns a home with family in a neighborhood which is inside the city and understands the dynamics of rental property, rezoning and quality of life.
  • Someone who is a parent with a functional family and a healthy marriage.
  • Someone who exemplifies strong character and morality.

My standards have been high for political candidates and I want all to be met as I want the best for San Marcos. And so, who should I vote for?

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5 thoughts on “Q&A: Toby Hooper on his San Marcos council bid

  1. It is great to see City Council talking about our schools.

    I’d be interested to see what the city might be able to do in the way of outreach programs to attack the pregnancy issues, to get parents more involved, to promote continuing education, etc. I’d also be interested to see what the city could do, in collaboration with the university, local businesses, the Boys and Girls club, etc. The possibilities are almost endless.

    Certainly, with a PhD program in school improvement right there on the hill, there are resources we could tap into, to find out where we can get the best bang for the buck.

  2. I’m glad to see he’d like to be the moral police of the community and look into judging the health of his fellow council members’ marital and parenting skills. Just what we need. Come on!

  3. I kind of like Toby in spite of myself but he is showing some HUGE red flags as kind of an egomaniacal/judgemental type.

    I also don’t like the way he sends coded messages to Religious Right voters by constantly saying “I think we should focus on the family.” Focus on the Family is a massive Christian life resource organization that speaks for a very distinct and electorally active segment of voters.

    San Marcos is kind of a live-and-let-live sort of place. Toby is out of step in this regard.

  4. I think all the candidates are using the last question in an end-around way to say they are the best candidate. And honestly, would we want to elect someone who didn’t think they were the best one for the job?

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