Vote 2020: City council place 5 special election sees three contenders

Vote 2020: City council place 5 special election sees three contenders

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Editor’s note: the Daily Record sent questionnaires to each of the three candidates running for San Marcos City Council Place 5: Omar Baca, Mark Gleason and Zach Sambrano. This is a special election for a one-year seat. 

Omar Baca

Q. What experiences most qualify you to represent the residents of San Marcos as Councilmember? 

Baca: I am a proven neighborhood advocate and a dedicated volunteer. I bring a new perspective about emergency services that is not currently available on council.  I am active in the community supporting efforts that are helpful and/or community building. 

Q. What issue most inspired you to run for office and how would you address it as a Councilmember?

Baca: I feel there is a current misalignment between the city departments, the city and the council. I believe I am a unifier and bring people to the table for win-win outcomes for the people of San Marcos. I will engage the departments and the city, build trust and relationships through integrity and mutual understanding. My mission is to bring everyone to the table with the mutual goal of the best possible outcomes for the people of San Marcos.

Q. COVID-19 will affect San Marcos residents for months to come, if not their health and daily activities, in their economic outlook. What do you propose going forward to prevent the spread while preserving economic vitality for the City of San Marcos’s budget and its residents?

Baca: I believe the impact will be calibrated not in months, but years. This means we must be frugal and discerning with the tax payers’ dollars. We must also build teams to seek out grants and funding for all of our well being. 

Q. How will you advocate for economic opportunity and preserve affordability in San Marcos? How would you amend the new City Development Code if given the opportunity?

Baca: The definition of single family home must be rewritten to be inclusive for non traditional families. The enforcement of neighborhood complaints must be given teeth. We have the rules in place, but our current process for enforcement is ineffective. 

Outside investment with vertical development will practice users on the city as well as tenants and accelerate rent prices for 70% of our community, while also vacuuming that money out of San Marcos. We must be hyper aware of development that comes to town solely to prey on our financial potentials.

Q. How will you address a changing climate in a city with risks of flooding and protect a beloved river projected to turn semi-arid?

Baca: We must trust science first. We must make decisions with respect to our environmental health and future. Beginning a culture of conservation now benefits our tomorrow.

Zach Sambrano 

Q. What experiences most qualify you to represent the residents of San Marcos as Councilmember? 

Sambrano: As a fourth generation San Marcos native that has lived here all of my life, I have a unique, fresh, and well-rounded perspective of San Marcos. I was educated in SMCISD schools, and worked 55+ hours a week between three to five jobs to pay for my Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Texas State, fulfilling a personal goal of graduating debt free. I believe my experiences of receiving an education from local institutions, developing a strong work ethic, engaging in community and civic activities, and serving in various leadership groups while working hard my entire adult life gives me a unique perspective to be a representative for San Marcos residents.

Q. What issue most inspired you to run for office and how would you address it as a Councilmember?

Sambrano: It was not a single issue, rather a compilation of significant issues that inspired me to run for San Marcos City Council. The scarcity of affordable housing for low-to-middle income earners is of great concern. In 2017, the median household income was less than $35,000 yet the median sales price for a home was $258,900. Criminal justice reform also motivated me to run as the Sheriff’s office stated that 85% of the Hays County jail population has yet to be found guilty of a crime and are simply awaiting court because they can’t afford bail. COVID-19 is another important issue that has affected residents and local small businesses. The city should offer tax relief and emergency support to ensure survival during this economic crisis. 

Q. COVID-19 will affect San Marcos residents for months to come, if not their health and daily activities, in their economic outlook. What do you propose going forward to prevent the spread while preserving economic vitality for the City of San Marcos’s budget and its residents? 

Sambrano: COVID-19 has impacted many local businesses and residents, including their economic, physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The city must continue to promote social distancing, requiring face masks, and restricting large gatherings while offering resources and modifications to allow for curbside parking and patio dining to ensure survival of local businesses. I believe in this time of uncertainty the property tax rate and fees should be decreased to relieve our residents. This may cause certain services to be cut to balance the budget, but it can be done by looking at non-essential services or lobbying efforts. We truly are a San Marcos that is stronger together. 

Q. How will you advocate for economic opportunity and preserve affordability in San Marcos? How would you amend the new City Development Code if given the opportunity?

Sambrano: I will advocate for economic opportunity by proactively looking to attract businesses that employ large numbers and pay a living wage by offering incentives and other inducements to attract them. This is a reasonable negotiation if a business brings living wage paying jobs and capital infrastructure which creates a tax base. A partnership can be created with the school district to offer students a workforce program to help train and lead them into living wage paying jobs straight out of school. When it comes to preserving affordability, we have to be honest with ourselves: San Marcos at its current state is not affordable for a large part of our population. 51% of our residents make less than $35,000 a year yet the median price for a house here in San Marcos is $258,900. We must create affordability in San Marcos through reforming municipal zoning code by allowing for other forms of housing to be available to our residents while preserving our neighborhoods. When it comes to amending the new city development code, we must first acknowledge that council adopted it but hasn’t implemented it.

Q. How will you address a changing climate in a city with risks of flooding and protect a beloved river projected to turn semi-arid?

Sambrano: It is no secret that a changing climate is threatening many cities, nations, and our world as a whole. This last decade the city experienced a record number of devasting floods that caused displacement of residents. These floods were caused by a changing climate and irresponsible development. Flood mitigation is essential, as well as ensuring the development code requires proper drainage for developments near neighborhoods or densely populated areas. We must make sure we protect our beloved river that is projected to turn semi-arid through proper regulation and zoning so that generations to come can enjoy this beautiful asset.

Mark Gleason

Q. What experiences most qualify you to represent the residents of San Marcos as Councilmember? 

Gleason: Experience-Homeowner for 20 years, Neighborhood Commissioner, Capital Improvement Task Force, four years as a Planning and Zoning Commissioner and current Chair.

Q. What issue most inspired you to run for office and how would you address it as a Councilmember?

Gleason: In 2015, my home, neighborhood of Blanco Gardens, and many others throughout the community endured two catastrophic floods that devastated our lives and our homes. I am proud of how our community pulled together to recover and that I have contributed to this process. Even today, I am conscious of the impact of the decisions that city government has and can make that affect our community for better or worse. I believe that as a flood survivor, I will bring a unique perspective on the balance between the need for affordable housing, growth, and preservation of our existing neighborhoods. 

Q. COVID-19 will affect San Marcos residents for months to come, if not their health and daily activities, in their economic outlook. What do you propose going forward to prevent the spread while preserving economic vitality for the City of San Marcos’s budget and its residents?

Gleason: With the pandemic, we face economic downturn, job loss, strain on local businesses, and budgetary shortfalls. We must support small businesses who employ many and contribute much to our community. Our city government should strive to keep taxes and fees low. Let’s invest more resources to partner with local universities and state/local organizations who can help provide workforce training. Our budget will need close examination maximizing priorities and streamlining municipal departments. Continual communication between local, regional, and university stakeholders will create a flexible partnership responsive to CDC guidelines, state orders, and newly released data resulting in a safer community.

A responsive, flexible, highly communicative partnership between local, regional, and university stakeholders will create a safer community. 

Q. How will you advocate for economic opportunity and preserve affordability in San Marcos? How would you amend the new City Development Code if given the opportunity?

Gleason: I would look to attract high paying jobs to San Marcos. High paying jobs yield more opportunities for single family homeownership which the city is working hard to promote. Good high paying jobs and an expansion of the property tax base will also relieve some of the tax burden on homeowners, renters, and small businesses. It will provide a means for our citizens and families to flourish. We can use the tools in Code SMTX to give us options to build diverse housing that will follow strict environmental guidelines. 

Q. How will you address a changing climate in a city with risks of flooding and protect a beloved river projected to turn semi-arid?

Since our community is located in Flash Flood Alley, we need to minimize impervious cover usage which dramatically increases the impacts of runoff and flooding. We have neighborhoods sorely in need of drainage infrastructure and flood mitigation upgrades with planned capital improvement projects in the works. Timely completion should be prioritized and will help alleviate flooding concerns. San Marcos has thousands of river lovers who value its preservation and volunteer to maintain its health. Protection of the aquifer through its recharge system and features is paramount. Our city is synonymous with its beautiful river and the diverse stories it tells.



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