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Questionnaire by GSACC to Elena Guajardo District 7

 

 

The Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce 2009 City Council and Mayoral Candidates

 

Questionnaire

 

 

Elena Guajardo

District 7

 

1. Economic Development, Job Creation, and Retention: How would you

encourage job creation and retention? Please describe the model/tools

and/or incentives you would support to boost economic development in

San Antonio. What are your thoughts on addition organized labor entering

the San Antonio region?

The quality of life that a City has to offer significantly influences whether

businesses will locate there. As a City, we can encourage job creation by

enhancing what San Antonio offers to workers and their families. Issues

like safety and security must remain a top priority. Continuing to invest in

clean streets and parks, good schools, improved transportation models,

and low cost utilities is also critical. By improving our quality of life we

help create a productive workforce, which in turn can help companies

become more profitable. Moreover, a focus on quality of life enhances the

work being done by the Office of Economic Development. It has

established tools and incentives to boost development. However, we

must not forget that over 80% of businesses in San Antonio are small

business. We need to do more as a city to reach out and retain those

companies. I was raised in a small family business and I spent my career

working for Southwestern Bell, a unionized company. Both entities

shared similar values; respecting workers, safe working conditions, and

producing a good product. When these values are upheld, there’s less

need for organizing and a greater desire to do quality work.

2. Emergency Services: Do you believe that the City of San Antonio provides

adequate Police and Fire protection and other emergency services for its

citizens? Please explain. If additional personnel are required, what funds

will be used to pay for service enhancements?

For a city the size of San Antonio we are understaffed 500 police officers.

The Chief of Police presented the city manager, Ms. Sculley, with a 5-year

plan to improve our staffing numbers. The plan recommends an increase

of 100 officers per year. Additionally, the police are facing a serious

retirement bubble. The 100 additional officers per year barely cover

retirements and the fire department also needs more staffing and

equipment. Over 55% of the city budget is allocated to police and fire.

In our pending budget deficit the City Manager has called for a 1%

decrease in police and fire. We do not need less safety allocation at a

time when we will be asking more of our police and fire fighters. Nim Kid,

the city’s emergency response coordinator, has been very successful in

obtaining Homeland Security grants for security enhancements. I would

support these efforts and would stress the need for additional personnel.

3. Education: What role should local government have on education and

workforce issues? How can the City be involved in student mentoring and

dropout prevention programs? If addition monetary resources are being

recommended, from where will they come?

More than ever we need graduates that are job ready. Unfortunately, we

are witnessing more graduates finishing school below graduate aptitude.

We should focus our efforts in creating partnerships between the

Chambers, education institutions and workforce development agencies to

combat this problem. The City’s role has been to budget funds for

afterschool programs, learning centers, and summer programs. During

my term on council, I used my discretionary monies to fund every second

grader in District 7 to visit the Children’s Museum and the Magik Theatre.

Because outings are excluded in today’s school curriculum, I left it

important to step in and fill that void. Also I funded two classes and

teachers to a one week summer robotics training to enhance math and

science curriculum. Ultimately, the answers to curbing dropouts and

truancy should be spearheaded by school districts and supported by city

government.

4. Water: What do you think about the status of water with regard to the

current drought? What is your plan to improve the quantity and quality of

water for our City and region? How will your proposal(s) be funded?

We are very fortunate in San Antonio that the Edwards Aquifer provides

us with an extremely pure water source. Anything we do to limit its

absorption or create impurities is a disservice to the health of our

community. Scientific research tells us that impervious cover over 15%

can endanger the Aquifer. Sadly, we do not know what the total

impervious cover of the Aquifer is today nor is there a comprehensive

plan. This is a conversation what we should be holding at city, county

and regional level. There is current program that uses sales tax money to

buy undeveloped land over the Edwards Aquifer and its tributaries and I

would like to see this program continued.

5. Transportation: What transportation projects would you recommend and

support in order to alleviate our traffic congestion issues? How would your

proposed projects be funded? Please share your thoughts on the

recommendations of the San Antonio Bexar County Transportation Task

Force.

Recently there was a restructuring of the transportation authority aimed

at creating less duplication and overlap among the entities that tackle the

issues of transportation. In addition to large scale, long-term planning

and solutions such as light rail, we need to consider small scale, shortterm

solutions. For instance, we presently don’t offer an express bus from

Bandera at 1604 all the way into downtown. During my term on council,

Via only offered service out to Mainland and Bandera. I was able to help

facilitate the creation of a community friendly bus route all the way to

1604. Now, we need an express route that gets these riders directly into

downtown. The expansion can be funded by passengers who would

participate in more rider friendly routes.

6. Energy: Do you believe our municipally owned electric utility has done a

good job diversifying our energy mix, including coal, natural gas, nuclear

power, wind and solar? Please share your thoughts on the importance of

each of these sources.

CPS has done an outstanding job in their diversification and

implementation of conservation methods. They have been proactive in

teaching their consumers to conserve energy. The next sitting council will

decide the future energy pathway. In conversations with residents in my

district, they have expressed opposition of expansion through nuclear

power. There are many unresolved questions regarding waste disposal,

safety and security, and the cost. CPS has already budgeted $276 million

dollars in preliminary design and engineering costs . That money could

have been used to winterize 69,000 homes, where materials and labor

could have been purchased locally and thus injecting our local economy

with that sum. I would be open to a conversation about putting to public

vote the issue of expanding our nuclear power sources.

7. City Budget and Finance: What are your top five budget priorities for FY

2009-2010? What is your position on increasing revenue streams for the

City to address basic city services, such as streets, drainage and other

infrastructure improvements?

My top priority is safety, which includes police protection, fire protections

and emergency medical services. Infrastructure is also critical.

Maintaining our streets, sidewalks and drainage system are important in

our daily routines but also in upholding property values. Another of my

priorities is workforce, business and economic development, so that jobs

will continue to come and stay in San Antonio. Our neighborhoods are

also among my top priorities with an emphasis on graffiti abatement and

animal control. And finally, I would prioritize city employee compensation,

to continue the Civilian Pay Plan, that way we can ensure that our city

workforce is productive and proactive in dealing with the difficult

challenges that lie ahead. The state of the economy is forcing our city to

get back to basics – to return to the nuts and bolts services outlined in our

City Charter. But we can still be innovative in increasing our revenue

streams. During my term on council, I pointed out to the City Manager

that we did not have one dedicated grant writer for the City. Thanks to

my recommendation, funding was allocated for that position and that

person has brought in over a million dollars in grant funding. Our city

employees can also be helpful and creative in showing management how

to cut costs and wasteful spending.