Beginning March 4, the Current emailed the following questionnaire to all candidates who filed by March 9 for the May 2009 municipal elections. As responses begin to roll in, we will post them in their unedited entirety here on QueBlog. Excerpts will appear in the April 1 print edition of the Current. if you're a candidate, and did not receive a questionnaire from us, please call Elaine Wolff at 388-0625, or email her at email@example.com, and provide the best email address for contacting you.
Ed. note: Mr. Forbrich rephrased some of the questions. You can find the original questions here, along with District 7 candidate Elena Guajardo's answers.
1. Do you support the addition of two new nuclear power plants to the South Texas Project to meet our future energy needs? If not, please describe the alternative you favor. If so, please explain your position or philosophy on the long term storage of nuclear fuel waste.
I support expanding the Nuclear Project. I support all sources of energy that provide a reliable and reasonable electric source for our metropolitan area that would not impact the air quality. Nuclear waste is a serious issue that needs to be considered; however we are already using Nuclear Power in the area. The proposal is only to expand. I believe that the nuclear waste should be stored in the safest possible way, using the commercial standard for that industry.
2. Do you support Mayor Hardberger's Mission Verde initiative in its entirety? If so, what do you see as the most critical steps council must take to implement it successfully? If not, do you support any of its provisions, and why (not)?
Mission Verde is a great program. I think that there are some issues with installing solar panels in the Historic Districts of San Antonio that really need to be considered. Historic Neighborhoods wouldn't be the same with large solar panels on the roofs and yards, but that isn't to say that doesn't work for other neighborhoods in the city. I agree strongly that transportation changes need to happen, but don't support a mileage fee to subsidize mass transportation. Energy should be saved whenever possible both for the environment and for cost reasons.
3. What is the right mix of public transit options for San Antonio's future and what do you think is the best method to fund/maintain each element?
I think either stimulus money or bond money needs to be used, in cooperation with the County and other municipal governments to build a metropolitan metrorail that can move people from major points of interest (Downtown, Stone Oak, La Cantera, Judson area, Port San Antonio and Medical Center). Every major, modern metropolitan area in the world has mass transit options. A great test to how this system will be used is to institute a bus rapid transit program and a marketing campaign to remind everyone that public transportation is for everyone.
4. If San Antonio faces a major budget shortfall, where would you be willing to make budget cuts?
All non-core city services. I believe strongly that the city must continue to provide for the health and safety of its residence and would want to make sure that those departments were unaffected by budget cuts. San Antonio spends a lot on administrative costs, which could be cut, as well as the Mayor & Council's discretionary funding. The next few years of recession are going to be difficult for the city and its people. We can cut back on the bureaucracy and keep essential services.
5. What are your top spending priorities for the Hotel Occupancy Tax? Would you support a recommendation to use some of those funds to expand the convention center?
Arts. HOT can not be used for infrastructure improvements such as streets and sidewalks. I would like to continue to invest that money in culture and arts to encourage the tourism and cultural activities that make our city unique to continue. The more successful this industry is, the more money that is available for those programs.
6. Please briefly describe your conception of San Antonio's economy, its strengths and weaknesses, and what you would do to build the former and address the latter?
San Antonio is fortunate that it is not dependent on just one industry. The Tourism, Medical, Military and Education industries are strong in San Antonio. By continuing to work with leaders of these areas to provide zoning opportunities and build on what we have, we can continue to see good jobs for these areas. San Antonio also has a large number of Small Businesses that are vital to our day to day lives. By keeping their concerns in mind when making ordinance, changing fees or proposing different taxes, we can be sure that they continue to have fair opportunity.
What San Antonio lacks is enough large businesses. With the departing of AT&T, a number of high paying jobs left the area. In order to get and keep large employers the mess at the Airport needs to be cleaned up and property tax incentives need to be aggressively offered to companies that would be willing to make a large presence here. There are several buildings in the downtown area that could be used to house these companies, providing the downtown business with customers, the building with a tenant, and the people of the city with jobs. It's a good deal for everyone.
7. Keeping in mind the playground scandal, the Healy Murphy Park Sale and the El Mercado Flap, how would you increase accountability and transparency at City Hall? Specifically, would you change the role or method of choosing a City Auditor, and his/her scope of authority?
I think City Council Meetings should take place on a weekend. There are a few people who take time from there schedules to question their elected officials in council, but for the most part, the average working person can't leave their office and come to City Hall on Thursday at 10am to provide their input. I propose having the meetings on a Saturday, making government more accessible to the people. Further, I am strongly against back door deals and secret meetings. When elected, I would only wish to discuss lawsuits and personnel problems that might lead to lawsuits in executive sessions and leave all other discussions to the open meeting.
I believe that the City Council should continue to select the city auditor. The auditor needs to honestly review the books of the City and provide information based on that requirement. If the auditor was elected, like the councilmembers, the office becomes political, making someone have to decide if their decision is popular for the city, or just simple what they actually found during the scope of their audit. I think it would be inappropriate to put an auditor in that type of situation.
8. Do you support extending the digital billboard pilot program? If so, what restrictions, if any would you recommend on their placement and use.
I do not support putting in any additional billboards, digital or otherwise.
9. Do you support SAWS current plans to secure San Antonio's Water Supply? If so, please explain why? If not, please explain what they should be doing differentlyâ?¦
Yes. I believe that new sources are essential to our economic future. Water is a precious resource and we are a growing city. While more water is needed, conservation is needed. SAWS does provide a reasonable amount of conservation material to its customers, but could do better about informing the people of the city, through their newsletter, about the aquifer and how San Antonio's future is going to depend on have and getting water for the people. We are far ahead of other large Texas cities, but we can do more.
10. Please briefly describe how you financially support yourself. How will you balance your work demands with your council responsibilities? Do you foresee any conflicts of interest between your profession (or former profession, if your retired) and a position on council? If so, how will you handle these?
I am an IT Manager at a medium sized Oil & Gas Operator based in San Antonio and I also own a small computer consulting firm. My schedule is flexible and I feel that I will be able to take my troubleshooting skills to City Hall to find solutions to the problems facing the people of District 1. In regards to conflicts, as I do work at an Oil & Gas company, it would be inappropriate for me to vote directly on issues relating to natural gas, as the company I work for sells natural gas, though not to San Antonio. Having a strong sense of ethics in government is vital to being a leader, no matter what the arena. I will disclose any potential conflicts (no matter how remote the possibility is) and discuss with the City Ethics Office to ensure we maintain the highest level of discretion.
11. What is your opinion regarding the Parade Ordinance that is the subject of the Free Speech Coalition lawsuit? Specifically, what fees, if any, should the city charge for parade permits? Should they distinguish between types of applicants and events, and if so, how and by whom should these decisions be made?
I think you should have the right to assemble. I believe that organizations wishing to have a parade or public demonstration should purchase a permit for such an event, but one that doesn't exceed around $40. The cost of the permit should go towards the costs of informing the police, fire & EMS, health department of the activities so that they can better prepare. It is unfair to charge certain groups to express themselves and allow other groups to do this without charge.
12. Please briefly describe your philosophy toward the maintenance and funding of publicly owned and/or operated spaces, such as golf courses, libraries, parks and El Mercado. Should these entities break even, make a profit, or be viewed as investments with tangible returns? Please propose a solution for the issues surrounding either Healy-Murphy Park, El Mercado or La Villita.
I think that the cost of the Golf Course Green Fee should be equal to what it costs the city to provide you with the space to play the round. The quality of life added by these facilities is vital to our economic health. When companies are surveyed about features that would attract them locate their businesses to a certain place, golf courses are always at the top of the list.
In regards to parks, libraries, and the zoo: these are public spaces that the city provides to the people for their education, enjoyment and culture. I believe these are investments we making in the people and should. I do believe decisions regarding these institutions should always be made in the public and with as much public input as can be collected.
El Mercado, La Villita, the Missions, and the Alamo are our history, heritage and legacy. They should never be sold off to the highest bidder. There are many options including lease-operate agreements that could be implemented to make facilities more profitable.
13. If we failed to raise a question or issue that you feel represents your values and priorities as a candidate, please discuss it here.
The residents of District 1 have been struggling with the same major challenges for the past 20 years. We need to get back to basics and address many of the base concerns. Crime prevention, graffiti prevention/abatement, code compliance, green spaces, and pothole prevention/repair are top priorities. As councilman for District 1 I will be present and active in the community. We will place quality of life at the top of the list of things to do.