Questionnaire by GSACC to Trish DeBerry-Mejia for Mayor
The Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce 2009 City Council and Mayoral Candidates
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
• Coal: an abundant North American supply, yet it creates a huge carbon
• 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
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
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
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.