Click below to listen to the audio from the debate.
(Seeing as it’s a little over an hour long, it would probably be easier to download the audio to your computer.)
San Marcos Area Board of Realtors, SMABOR, hosts a debate for the Candidates seeking City Government. The candidates for Mayor voiced their vision for the city, which led them to different paths, but promises an eventful future for San Marcos. Mayor Susan Narvaiz and David Newman, candidates for Mayor, began the debate with their opening statements; a third candidate, Daniel McCarthy, declined to participate in the debate according to the moderator, a government affairs committee member for SMABOR.”I am here today to ask for your support so that we may continue on the path of prosperity that we have journeyed on together for the past four years,” said Narvaiz. “My focus has been on raising the standard of living for our citizens by increasing opportunities for better jobs and higher wages. I ran to make government more open to its people, more efficient, and ever mindful that it’s the public’s money and the public’s interest that I’m accountable to.”
Newman opened by describing aspects of his life, from his education, his military career in the United States Air force, to his professional career that lead him to travel countless areas of the world. He said he has been a homeowner in San Marcos for the past 23 years.
“I took a retirement package last year, and I’ve been able to concentrate for the past year on some of the personal aspects of my life,” said Newman. “I feel fortunate for this opportunity to become involved.”
Professional job creation in San Marcos is low and tax abatements are given to existing companies to prevent them from leaving. In addressing this issue, Newman said it is essential to develop and foster an environment where professional positions and careers can flourish. He said would implement “a highly directed series of company recruitment contacts, to specific professional, clean , high-tech, mid-size corporations around the country, and perhaps from anywhere in the world.” He said he would establish a partnership with Texas State University, “to engage the talents of those individuals in attendance, and who represent in their numbers, the demographic makeup of the professional workforce in our country and of the near future.” Newman said his efforts will also be put towards downtown and neighborhood infrastructure. He said he will venture into parking garage projects for the downtown area, with a vision of at least having two built.
Narvaiz said challenges are present, but there is also a good side to the story. She said approximately 6,900 jobs were created in the San Marcos community between 2004 and 2007, which reflects a 22 percent growth rate. “We also saw our average hourly earnings rise to $13.60 per hour in 2007 and per capita income rose by more than $10,000 per year for the Hays County area.” Narvaiz said a lack of existing commercial buildings pose a challenge that is being addressed with the addition of 148,000 square feet of space on Clovis Barker Lane. She said lack of housing stock is a problem as well when a potential primary employer may need to relocate employees, she said the situation has brought forth builders from Canada and Illinois with “new investment and different concepts in creating neighbors that start to address this concern.” Narvaiz also pointed out education as being a top priority of every family’s list, and she said the city is seeing “great improvement” in addressing the reality and the perception of San Marcos’ schools. Narvaiz said incentive competition is “fierce” and the city has put forth measures, to keep and attract businesses, “using a combination of fee waivers, sales tax rebates, tax abatements tied to financial performance and Chapter 380 agreements for those prospects that fall in our targeted job creation area and provide higher wages than exist in our marketplace today.”
Approximately half of the total revenue for the City comes from sales tax, with the Outlet Malls being the largest component in that category.
“For San Marcos, the Outlet Malls, are among other things, a cash cow that our present city government was fortunate enough to inherit,” said Newman. “We must expand our economic base here in San Marcos, and the sooner the better.” Newman recalled a hailstorm that caused damaged to the malls and stated that tornadoes have caused severe destruction in years past. “If some disaster rendered the outlet mall unusable, then our economy and city budget would certainly suffer.” He said for this reason alone, and in good business sense, there is a need for diversification of the local economy. Newman wants to engage in high tech enterprises, he said the University has several programs that cater to this field; he said Austin re-invented itself by embracing high tech enterprises, “and so can we.” He said there would need to be a concentration on smaller companies, “due to the fact that the failure of a large company would impact the San Marcos economy to a more significant degree.”
On the other hand, Narvaiz said she is “thankful” that the sales tax is half of San Marcos’ revenues. She said she will continue “to ensure that anyone that has an investment opportunity or idea that might become our next major revenue generator has the chance to present their vision or concept to an open minded leadership.” She said the Outlet Malls bring millions of people and their money into San Marcos, and she accepts that it is a volatile source of revenue, but the City has “set up a sound financial policy that requires a strong fund balance to help stabilize [the] economy in case of a market change.” She said this financial policy protects the investment and decreases the uneven dependence on those monies. Narvaiz said the City continually supports the Outlet Mall partners and the hotel occupancy tax dollars are reinvested annually into a media plan to reach into new and sustaining markets. She also added that for the first time, there is a strategic plan directing the Economic Development team’s recruitment efforts in areas such as, healthcare, aviation, bio-medical, research and development, clean technology, and manufacturing.
Smart growth is an issue San Marcos is dealing with as it progresses into the future. Newman said he sees smart growth as “a formula to create a high value community, in which the needs of all of the people who live in this planning region are met.” He said by doing so, it will attract people to the area, stimulating the economy, “which will cause the community to grow and to prosper.” He said the central areas of the City need to be renovated to avoid urban growth problems larger cities run into during their development. “In our expansion outward from the city center, we must implement these principles of smart growth, but at the same time, use good judgment and practicality as our guide.”
Narvaiz said smart growth is a term people in Central Texas use to impede or stop growth. “I would define the term smart growth as a method of slowing a process to the point that it may eventually not happen,” Narvaiz said. “A city that does not grow will die.” She said San Marcos needs to retain or attract a new generation of citizens that bring innovative ideas and new perspectives to on-going challenges. She said the city should capitalize on its strengths, the Texas State University, Gateway to Hill Country, San Marcos River and the strong manufacturing base, and minimize the weaknesses. “We must be responsible for creating a strong, sustainable economy that ensures a prosperous future for families of every size who will understand the importance of our historical perspective, our place and our unique treasures.”
In the closing statements Newman called for a reallocation of the city’s taxes and revenues towards a win- win situation. He also called for an end to “corporate welfare” citing as an example the request from the Outlet Malls for advertising dollars from the city.
“This involves an intelligent decision and a commitment to the principles of smart growth,” said Newman. “We’re in a critical point in our development now, and we must redirect our course toward and inviting a livable and sustainable community. With your vote I can do this on November 4th.”
Narvaiz closed by highlighting the progress the city has made with her in office, including the 22 percent growth rate, the development of over 6,800 jobs, and the increase of the local per capita income. She said this is a sign of progress, but more can be done.
“After God, country and family, my commitment has been to you in this community and to positive progress,” said Narvaiz. “Now is the time to continue that progress. Now is the time to reach a higher purpose. Now is the time, I am your Mayor. I ask for your prayers, your vote, and your support.”
By ANDY SEVILLA
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