Retired police officer, attorney square off in District 3
| Roland Gutierrez, District 3 challenger
Now, one would be hard pressed to find even multi-family housing along Military, with row upon row of shopping strip centers lining the main drag on South Side. A family Mexican restaurant now occupies the formerly famous Bob Jones Restaurant and truck stop on South Roosevelt Avenue. A Wal-Mart has come and gone on the old Trail Drive-In property between South Flores and Roosevelt. The Spotted Horse Drive-In is long gone, but the horse still stands atop a steakhouse at the corner of I-35 and Military. Commercial corridors along Pleasanton, Flores, Presa, and Goliad roads have seen economic prosperity and blight as various commercial enterprises have opened and closed. The only thoroughfare that seems to have prospered steadily is Military Drive.
All that is about to drastically change.
Mayor Ed Garza announced that the South Side would include the Southside Initiative, partially to accommodate the new Toyota assembly plant off Applewhite Road. Although the plant lies within the boundary of District 4, the building can be easily seen from Roosevelt Avenue, east of the recently opened Mitchell Lake Audubon Center.
Among those who can see it are the nearly 100 property owners within the Alameda subdivision at the intersection of Loop 410 and Roosevelt Avenue. They were recently told they must move out to make way for a proposed Texas A&M University campus, which will be accompanied by mixed residential, multi-family, and commercial land use surrounding the campus, powered by a Houston development company, Terramark Communities.
Deep down in City South, two former opponents again square off to occupy the City Council District 3 seat: incumbent Ron Segovia, and challenger Roland Gutierrez.
Current: What have you accomplished, or what do you want to accomplish in District 3 over the next two years?
| Ron Segovia, District 3 incumbent
Roland Gutierrez: The biggest issue is really more a global point. I want to try to do something about city/county consolidation. We have talked about it in the past. When I ran for county commissioner (against Sergio "Chico" Rodriguez and Robert Tejeda), I didn't want to be in that office for very long. We could save millions in consolidation of services, and eliminate duplication and double taxation. I have a 10-to-12-year plan to save millions in consolidation. I want to create a night court which would allow us to stop paying overtime to police officers who write tickets at night. Last year we paid $600,000 to police officers for overtime. A night court could raise more than $1 million in revenue. One of the good things is I want to make sure we continue the growth in District 3, but I want to do it positively. I have a very serious problem with giving the community away to developers. We're going to give away the largest Tax Increment Financing in history; the mayor and Segovia have a proposal for a 35-year TIF to Terramark. I'm completely against that.
Current: What changes would you make to City South?
RS: On City South, I want to be as flexible as possible but at the same time I'm not knocking other sectors - other sectors that are congested already - this is a chance to make a unique community development, with ranchland, green space, farmland; then you might see a subdivision. That is one experience that hasn't happened in a long time, with all elected officials working together to get things done for the people. All of us, from the county judge, commissioners, council members, from constable to justice of the peace, everybody is working together.
RG: I want to continue growth as well as the next guy, but I have a very significant problem with downsizing people's property, and then the City steps in to exercise eminent domain over people who have spent their hard-earned money, to take these people's land so the City can get a deal (Texas A&M and the Terramark development). Much of those properties were commercial, not residential, and the City wants to hoodwink them, get a steal on their property that normally would be much more valuable. You've got to be able to operate with people in good faith, but they haven't dealt with the people in District 3 in good faith.
Current: What is your position on Prop 3, the property tax freeze for seniors?
RS: Prop 3 does not address relief where it is needed. Seventy-five percent of the homeowners in my district already pay zero taxes, that is the bottom line. The wealthy are not asking for relief. There are programs in District 3 where seniors depend on nutrition programs. These seniors get only one meal per day, provided by the City. I'm talking about five to 10 years down the road, where if we're losing too much money because of a tax freeze, we will not have the money to provide these services. The City taxes are only 22 percent of our tax bill; a lot of people don't realize that. Are we giving tax relief to people who don't need it? Sure we are. Are they going to take it? Yes, they will.
RG: On Prop 3, my opponent says it will not benefit 70 percent of the homeowners in District 3, and that simply isn't true. He is saying we will lose Meals on Wheels and other valuable services. If government is more efficient, we can recover the loss. That message is sent out only because they don't want any portion of the budget interrupted. The fact is we have to get more efficient about government. The incumbents think there is a blank check to use our taxpaying dollars for their pet projects. We collected 11,000 signatures of people in favor of the tax freeze. This is not some City Council issue. It was the right thing to do for the people of all economic levels. My opponent never offered any alternative plan. How come you guys did not have the fortitude to bring up an alternative plan? That's not leadership. •
Text and interviews by Michael Cary