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Questionnaire by GSACC to Trish DeBerry-Mejia for Mayor


Questionnaire by GSACC to Sheila McNeil for Mayor

Questionnaire by GSACC to Julian Castro for Mayor 

 

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

 

 

Questionnaire

 

 

Trish DeBerry-Mejia

Mayor

 

 

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

creation and retention? Please describe the model/tools or incentives you would

support to boost economic development in San Antonio. What are your thoughts

on additional organized labor entering the San Antonio region?

Job creation and economic development must be top-of-mind for the next mayor.

The city must consolidate economic development efforts from the multiple

agencies/groups throughout the community to one leading agency.

Job Creation and Retention requires a few things: a) our major employers all

have unique personnel requirements. I would convene a committee of hiring

personnel from the major employers – i.e. Rackspace, USAA, Valero, AT&T – and

ask them what talents, skills they are seeking in employees and whether those

needs are being met. Opportunities would be identified to close the gap. b) small

businesses make up more than 80% of the economy. As such we need to have

programs and incentives which support them and encourage development. In

addition to supporting existing businesses, I would support the creation of small

business incubators geared toward developing the companies necessary to meet

future economic demands, particularly the IT community. c) making San Antonio a

21st Century City will require multiple efforts to attract young professionals and keep

them here to fill the demand for “knowledge based” jobs. Some of these items are

currently underway and include a performing arts center, additional outdoor

recreational opportunities, inner city and downtown residential development. I am

committed to expanding these initiatives. Other items, such as improved public,

vehicular and pedestrian mobility, advanced university degree programs are

magnets for productive, active people. We need to develop and retain these

professionals.

San Antonio must take a regional approach to economic development. We need to

partner with other economies in the region so that we maximize the unique talents a

community brings to the equation and achieve greater job creation and workforce

development from Austin, into San Antonio and on to Laredo, Corpus Christi and

The Valley.

We also need to keep our eye on the opportunities possible by BRAC’s decision to

train all armed forces medical personnel in San Antonio. This is an incredible

opportunity to bolster our already strong bio-sciences industry and provide local,

small business opportunities for the east San Antonio neighborhoods adjacent to Ft.

Sam Houston. That economic revitalization will also spur area infrastructure and

infill improvements.

Additionally, Port San Antonio has wonderful facilities it is managing in an attempt to

increase foreign trade activity and utilize the cargo hangars. The Port needs a

greater role in any future city-wide economic development discussions/goal setting

exercises and strategy implementation.

I do not support organized labor establishing a foothold within private or public

sector employers. I have always maintained an open door policy at my business

and believe that the best line of communication is between employee and employer.

I do not support state legislation guaranteeing meet and confer, nor do I support

the federal card check legislation.

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?

Although the city added 100 new police officers and 60 new firefighters this past

fiscal year I think there is still room for improving our police and fire protection. As

high growth areas come online either through development or annexation, we need

to be sensitive to the demands these areas place on police and fire services.

I have been on two police ride-alongs in the last three months: the Westside

Substation off Culebra Road and the Eastside Substation off East Houston Street.

And though the two are on opposite sides of the city, they did have several things in

common. Our police officers are spending too much time with code compliance and

with administrative details. We need to get code compliance properly funded and

staffed so that peace officers aren’t picking up the slack. Secondly, we need to

make sure that the equipment issued to officers is maintained and in good working

order. Third, we need to take every technological advantage to reduce the

administrative duties associated with protecting the public.

With regard to fire protection, we need to do achieve the 8 minute response goal by

whatever means necessary, whether it’s additional personnel, vehicles, or placing

firehouses in closer proximity to populated areas.

Other city programs may need to be reduced or eliminated in order to free-up

additional revenue for improved police and fire protection.

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 additional monetary resources are being recommended, from where

will they come?

The city has an intrinsic role to play by bringing together the private sector and the

public education system. The city must understand future workforce demands, and

deliver the workforce that is critical to our economic development. And there is no

greater partner on education and workforce issues than a business owner. As the

only business owner in this race, I know the importance of an employable

workforce. As mayor, I will work with the Region 20 Education Service Center

Superintendents Group to identify problem areas, develop solutions in meeting

education goals (Destination: Graduation), and implement policies and action plans

which will include private sector employers.

There are several education components which merit mentioning:

Early Childhood Education: Children who receive pre-K education perform

better academically than those children who had none. At Guerra DeBerry

Coody we provide an onsite, professionally staffed daycare. Children learn their

colors, alphabet, and are introduced to Spanish. As mayor, I will work with

public school systems to offer public pre-K options.

One Child/One Mentor: Student mentoring and dropout prevention programs

are critical. I would develop a program that identifies students who are

susceptible to dropping out and assign a mentor to that individual to make sure

someone is calling and making sure the students is attending school. With such

a large number of military retirees in the community, establishing a volunteer

mentoring program should be within reach. Additionally, I would encourage

greater marketing and development of public magnet schools. Many dropouts

cite boredom with classes as the chief reason for not finishing high school. We

need to get these students engaged in something they like so that they will finish

high school. Magnet schools serve that purpose.

ACCD: Strengthening partnerships among area high schools and the college

district can serve as a seamless entry to a college education. Many students see

community college as an affordable way to complete basic coursework and then

transfer to a large university. For others, learning a vocation or trade fills a

workforce need.

Achieving Tier I Status and Division I Football at UTSA: UTSA is poised

to become the UT System’s next Tier I University. It is among the fastest

growing higher education institutions and has the largest Hispanic student

population, a demographic which will be a majority of the statewide population

by 2020. Pursuing academic and athletic excellence on parallel tracks is doable.

Both add to the university environment and attract a student population seeking

a more well-rounded experience. Tier I Universities with robust research

divisions contribute a great deal to local economic development through

commercialization of university projects.

Additional resources may be necessary. Public/private partnerships to secure

funding will be pursued where appropriate.

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?

San Antonio has to reduce its dependence on the Edwards. Identifying alternative

sources of water that are not affected by drought conditions is critical to the

economic well-being of our city. As such, surface reservoirs and other surface water

transfers are unreliable during a drought. I am an advocate for the development of

a desalination water plant to purify the brackish water found in and around Bexar

County.

Funding for desalination could come from several sources, to include user fees;

partnering with another community and splitting the cost and resource; applying for

Texas Water Development Board pilot project funding.

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.

San Antonio is too large a city to have only one public transportation system. We

must keep all transportation enhancement tools on the table. These include car

pool and toll lanes, light rail and bus rapid transit, among others. Transportation

solutions should be considered on a case-by-case basis. And, given the contentious

nature of toll roads, I favor putting the question of whether toll roads should remain

in the tool box to a public vote.

US 281 and Loop 1604 congestion needs to be addressed. I support the

Superstreet Concept as a temporary solution should it improve traffic flow through

enhanced directional improvements. I also support building the 281/1604 southern

connectors as soon as possible.

Public transportation projects are never self-sufficient and require local/state/federal

subsidies. Most increased funding options fall under state and federal leadership.

The Legislature and Congress must give local communities greater transportation

funding options. Philosophically, I believe that any benefits utilized by a citizen must

be paid for by that individual through transparent user fees.

I support the recommendation of the Bexar County Transportation Task Force to

merge the Alamo RMA, VIA and the Advanced Transportation District. Bringing all

the local transportation planning and financing agencies together provides an

opportunity to comprehensively address transportation solutions and to utilize all the

tools each agency has.

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

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 come a long way. In the early 1970s it generated all of its energy from

coal. In 2005, it had diversified its sources to include, coal, nuclear and natural gas.

Since then it has added wind. Solar generation is currently limited to a few rooftop

solar panels but a significant solar power generation announcement is around the

corner. As we move forward it is increasingly important from an environmental and

human health standpoint that we make sure our energy is carbon neutral,

renewable and sustainable.

If we measure an energy sources feasibility by gauging its carbon footprint, whether

it’s renewable, and sustainable (which captures its production cost), a preferred mix

emerges:

• Coal: an abundant North American supply, yet it creates a huge carbon

footprint.

• Natural gas: its carbon footprint is less than coal’s, but price volatility

makes it an expensive choice and therefore unreliable.

• Nuclear: carbon neutral, and uranium is in abundant supply. Nuclear

energy tends to be contentious based on the danger associated with

nuclear reactors leaking and spent fuel rod disposal.

• Wind: Clean, affordable supply, but susceptible to wind patterns.

• Solar: Clean affordable supply, but not available 24 hours, nor on cloudy

days.

San Antonio should consider the feasibility of weaning itself off coal for

environmental and human health reasons. Natural gas price volatility makes it a

less likely option. It appears that a combination of nuclear, wind and solar offer the

greatest future opportunities. My support for their full development is contingent

upon understanding associated costs and the affect on utility rates.

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?

The current economy requires prioritizing the delivery of basic city services: police

and fire protection, streets and drainage, garbage collection, energy and water

supply.

Beyond basic services, the mayor must protect existing jobs and expand the

economy. Budget items which deal with workforce development and job creation

will be a priority and will require measurable, reportable action items.

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and merit assistance. Small

business development programs will be funded and will have stringent accountability

measures. I will also ask that large municipal capital projects are broken down in

pieces that allow small businesses to compete for work. And, we need to make sure

future bond projects have small business procurement goals. Small businesses need

access to capital and I will work with area banks to make sure affordable private

sector lending opportunities are also an option.

As the city grows, we need to make sure that the planning process is as strong as it

can be. As such, I will be an advocate for re-establishing the Planning Department

as a stand-alone unit.

The delivery of major construction of city streets and arterials needs to be

prioritized. We all know of city streets that have been under construction for too

long. I will make sure that we commit all resources necessary to expedite primary

street construction.

Infrastructure improvements – streets and drainage – are critical. Identifying

additional revenue streams – without increasing fees – will be difficult. As a fiscal

conservative I am a great advocate for tax transparency. Payment for street

construction and maintenance should come from fees/taxes associated with the use

of that facility and not an unrelated tax, such as a transfer tax assessed on a home’s

actual sale price. Generally speaking, infrastructure improvements should be paid

for through bond campaigns.