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. Today, Place 6 council member Shane Scott and his opponent, Greg Frank, take our questions. Early voting starts Oct. 22. Election Day is Nov. 6.
Occupation/employer: Sales Associate for Garden-Ville of San Marcos
How long have you lived in San Marcos? 6 years
Where in San Marcos do you live? Sessoms Creek neighborhood
San Marcos Mercury: The city’s Capital Improvements Program has identified tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure investments that city officials say need to be made in coming years. Many of these projects are underway but every year many more are deferred for lack of money. Do you have anything concrete to offer in terms of special skills or ideas that will help the city identify more funding so streets and public works projects can be completed sooner?
Greg Frank: Obviously, it is important to get as much out of every dollar locally that we can to continue to not only maintain but prepare our community for the anticipated growth we all expect. Historically, we have utilized state and federal funding to leverage our local investment. In the current political environment these sources have begun to dry up so it is even more critical that we are attentive to each project. I am committed to investing in what we already have on the ground and keeping that in good working order. I am also committed to making those investments that will position us to be competitive in the battle to bring great jobs to our community.
Mercury: You are sharing the ballot with a nonbinding referendum on whether the city should step in to buy property along the San Marcos River known locally as Cape’s Camp. At the same time, a developer is proposing an apartment complex that would include giving 20 acres of riverfront property to the city for a park. Do you think the city should buy Cape’s Camp and adjoining property upfront or take the developer’s donation offer?
Frank: The San Marcos River is the foundation of this region’s historical existence. Land around this unique environmental jewel should be in the public domain. My interest in this property is to provide accessible, usable, engaging, visible, walkable, secure and inviting public space that re-connects our city…..east and west. Sitting along the interstate, the property’s acquisition provides an opportunity for our city to make a bold statement that we are proud of who we are and where we live. The dividend in economic development opportunities for our community would well exceed the cost of acquiring this property. A student oriented multi-family property located along side this unique community asset would forever obstruct public access and visibility as well as dilute the economic development possibilities we would have if it was in the hands of public ownership.
Mercury: This year, the San Marcos City Council voted to outlaw the display or consumption of alcohol in any city-owned park, including those along the San Marcos River. The alcohol ban goes into effect Jan. 1. New park rules approved by the city council also increase littering fines and ban tobacco, Styrofoam and spearfishing. Did the council get the new rules package right?
Frank: The new parks ordinance coming into effect in January 2013 does not ban tobacco in our parks.
As for the substance of your question, I am in favor of the new ordinance. This is an issue that has been discussed in our city for the past four years and has recently enlisted the support of the Lion’s Club as well as numerous official San Marcos boards and commissions including the City Neighborhood Commission, the River Task Force and the City Parks Board, as well as a clear majority of citizens participating in the various open houses held this past summer.
Looking outside of our community we know that New Braunfel’s parks have been alcohol free for a number of years and recently their voters upheld a container ban which is not included in our rules. Anecdotally, after Galveston instituted similar rules banning alcohol on their beaches, they saw an increase in the number of families visiting their community and an increase in spending as a result. I believe that having a more inviting community and an increase in economic development is a win-win solution.
Mercury: Will you vote to further restrict smoking in public places or put the measure on the ballot for a citywide vote?
Frank: I am in favor of having the concerned citizens within our community have their voices heard on this issue. We are leaving an opportunity on the table with this issue. While there are some that may find us a tobacco haven, I believe it is not only unhealthy for the smoker but those around them. From an economic development perspective, we lose out in attracting a regional, statewide and national draw to our businesses and establishments by not signing on to this proven healthy choice.
Mercury: Under current law, the city can issue only about a dozen conditional use permits to operate a bar in the Central Business District. All the allotted permits were claimed years ago. The current system does allow entrepreneurs to serve alcohol at restaurants but the legal definition of “restaurant” has been in a constant state of flux under city law for the last decade. Do you support changes to the city’s CUP system for bars?
Frank: The current system for approval of establishments that serve alcohol throughout the city is sound. Neighbors should be notified and allowed to express their support, concerns or objections to introduction of alcoholic beverages within close proximity to them. Regarding the Central Business District I believe we should create an environment that attracts not only the students when they are at Texas State but a broadened demographic that brings additional dollars to our restaurants, shops and businesses and puts heads in beds in our hotels.
I am in favor of bringing more great restaurants into our downtown but it does require understanding the intent of each new entrant into the limited space we have currently have available in our downtown. My suggestion would be to allow some flexibility to allow these prospective entrants into our community with a clear understanding that they add to and not detract or create just another 6th Street in our downtown.
Mercury: 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?
Frank: In these difficult economic times it is crucial to support the right kind of job creation in our community, jobs with good wages and benefits. I am open to and support the full array of options on the table to compete with other communities along the corridor, within our state and across the nation to bring great jobs to our city.