Candidates for City Council Place 4 debate issues affecting San Marcos. Incumbent Chris Jones, a Career Advisor at Texas State University, and challenger Lisa Marie Coppoletta, an Academic Advisor at Texas State University, were hosted by the San Marcos Area Board of Realtors, SMABOR, to provide their vision for San Marcos should they be elected.”The past three years have been great years,” said Jones. He said San Marcos has been put on a level of progress that will help secure its future, although there are still challenges to face. He mentioned needed improvements in transportation, economic development, and with beautifying the City. He also stated a need for unity within the county, specifically speaking on a county-wide EMS system. “I look forward to facing those challenges.”
Coppoletta introduced her platform that would include economic development enhancing the downtown revitalization in coordination with the convention center. She spoke on taking advantage of State tax abatements for the film industry, by showcasing San Marcos in feature films. She said this would bring millions of dollars into the community as well as property improvements, and she would target recruitment of high quality jobs. “There is an outstanding amount of data that indicates that millions of dollars can be generated from my plan.”
San Marcos has seen little professional job creation, and tax abatements have been given to companies to keep them from leaving.
Speaking on this issue, Jones said “San Marcos is a progressive city. Today we sit at the cusp of great growth between Austin and San Antonio.” He said San Marcos has challenges it will face, and in the last three years San Marcos has grown to become a competitor, but he urged more focus is needed in the next three years. “We must figure out what type of company would best fit in our community based on our workforce and resources and go after them!”
Coppoletta said the economic infrastructure should be revitalized by supporting community based small investment. “When local businesses thrive and their employees reap the benefits of a successful local economy both San Marcos and surrounding communities on the corridor prosper.” She said this trend will attract investment opportunity to San Marcos. “My approach incorporates taking advantage of Texas abatements for motion picture industry. Our historic district, river, downtown, surrounding locations will attract industry for locations which translates into millions of dollars worth of free advertising for our town.”
Approximately half of the city’s total revenue is currently represented by sales tax, Chief among the producers are the Outlet Malls and San Marcos depends on them to thrive.
Jones said sales tax is dependent on uncontrollable circumstances like, a person’s willingness to spend, the economy, gas prices, the unemployment rate and consumer confidence. “A strong property tax base is a stable source of income for our community. It is vital that we work to expand this reliable source of revenue for San Marcos.” Jones said those looking to invest in San Marcos need to be recruited, and supported, an environment conducive to growth must be created.
Coppoletta said the sales tax revenue is a growing concern, and with “continuous spiraling cost of fuel” consumers may reconsider coming to spend in San Marcos, thus “directly affecting our municipality.” She said cultural tourism is needed, and can be achieved by hosting film and music festivals; “the overall perception of our city is improved with both large events in the convention center and small venues located in downtown San Marcos.” She also stressed a need for the creation of Training and Education programs focusing on developing skills and small business development programs. She cited the Louisiana Film Crew Training Program as an example; it offers courses needed in that field free of charge by industry professionals.
In Central Texas, smart growth, has become a well-known term to describe the preferred development approach. The candidates were asked how “smart growth” relates to San Marcos.
“I believe we should leave our city better than we found it,” said Jones. “We should maintain our individuality in spite of the significant growth we inevitably face.” He said a city will grow if it is livable, but balance is needed between the “demand for growth against the sustainability of this growth for the future.”
Coppoletta said smart growth is balancing the effects, both long and short-term, of the policy making and governance. She called for investments “in pre-existing projects which have empirically worked,” such as pedestrian walk paths and bike lanes, spaces for organizations and small businesses, and “revitalize efforts continue of downtown district.” She also advocated for a “green footprint approach,” of conserving water, protecting the river, and providing “economic incentives to business who are innovative going green.” She also called for a stronger involvement in the San Marcos Sustainability Program by City Council members. And one of her approaches to smart growth is “citizens as a capital resource worthy of monetary investment.”
Council members have great responsibility and the candidates characterized the three main ones in their perspective.
“I would say that the three main jobs or three main responsibilities of a council member, one would be policy development,” said Jones. “Two, I think would be leadership in tough issues, and three, ensuring that the basic city services are provided for the city of San Marcos.”
Coppoletta said her three included economic implementation of policy, ethical implementation of public policy, and protection of natural resources.
City Council Place 3 Candidate Fred Terry was present at the debate but did not participate because he is running unopposed in the election.
By ANDY SEVILLA