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 alternatives you favor. If so, please explain your position or philosophy on the long-term storage of nuclear-fuel waste.
I support the addition of two new nuclear power plants, but I am not in favor of the CPS ratepayer assuming the construction cost risk. Perhaps a long term purchase contract instead of an ownership position is a more appropriate risk profile for the CPS ratepayer and the City of San Antonio.
I prefer above ground storage of nuclear-fuel waste utilizing double encapsulation on existing military installations. If it is good enough for our gold at Fort Knox then it should be good enough for our nuclear-fuel waste. I believe that we will make significant technological improvements reprocessing nuclear-fuel waste and these resources will, in fact, turn out to be as good as gold.
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)?
I support the initiatives of Mission Verde. Initiative #2 which is the creation of a multi-tech venture capital fund in San Antonio will be very difficult to accomplish in 2009. Initiative #7 which is to create an integrated, efficient multimodal transportation system for San Antonio is the most important and perhaps the most challenging initiative given the extreme emotions surrounding the transportation issue.
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?
At this time, I have no idea of what is the right mix of public-transit options for San Antonio. I do know that we have too many organizations and parts of organizations involved in transportation planning. We must consolidate these units before we can develop and obtain general acceptance by the public for a transportation master plan. If we can obtain acceptance for a plan, then the future transportation plan will start channeling development. Today, development is driving transportation which is driving us all crazy with congestion.
The current controversy over toll roads is a result of a failure of public finance for roads in Texas. The failure of public finance of roads in Texas is due to the lack of trust between the citizens of Texas, the financial community and TxDot. Since the State’s portion of the fuel excise tax fund has been redirected to other State obligations, the State of Texas is collecting insufficient funds to support the construction and maintenance of the roads which Texans need. TxDot has given up and resorted to tolling roads.
The entire transportation structure in Texas must be reworked. All financing must be removed from TxDot. TxDot can still provide design, construction management and maintenance functions. The decisions concerning which roads to build and how to finance them need to move to the local level. Funds from the current or an expanded fuel excise tax fund should be allocated to a consolidated local transportation agency based on definitive criteria such as population, miles traveled, and vehicles registered as equity capital. The local transportation authority is responsible for obtaining voter support for projects utilizing bond elections. First, we must know how we will pay for our roads, and then we can let the citizens decide which roads are to be built.
4. If San Antonio faces a budget shortfall, where would you be willing to make budget cuts?
It is naive to enter the budget process with predetermined programs to cut or reduce. We should let all groups make their case. I spent 33 years developing constrained budgets. One must prioritize. While not easy, during the budget process lower priority programs and activities will be identified and eliminated or reduced. Emergency services (i.e. fire, police and EMS) must be expanded during this recession because crime will rise and response times are not currently acceptable.
5. What are your top spending priorities for the HOT tax? Would you support a recommendation to use some of those funds to expand the Convention Center?
First, support the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau which is critical for the promotion of the City and in turn generating the tax. Second, upgrade the Alamo Dome to attract additional events. Finally, expand the Convention Center based on the two-step approach proposed by the Convention and Visitor Bureau so we can modify the existing Convention Center to make it more efficient and productive.
6. Please briefly describe your conception of San Antonio’s economy, its strengths and weaknesses, and what you would do to build on the former and address the latter?
San Antonio has wonderful character based on its history, geography and culture, but struggles to present a consistent economic identity. The strengths are actually clusters of individual activities such as (1) military missions, (2) medical services, research and education, (3) insurance and financial services, (4) higher education, (5) energy, (6) engineering and construction and (7) manufacturing. We truly have a diversified industrial base. We need to capitalize on our diversity.
The large number of individuals living in San Antonio is a principal source of our economic strength. We need to continue to push education. We have the base of employment and education which will allow our citizens to benefit from our diverse economy. So don’t worry about being the city for a specific purpose or industry. Let’s get our folks educated and into our divers economy.
The limiting elements are an efficient and sustainable transportation system and a diversified water supply. I have already discussed the need to develop and obtain approval of a transportation master plan. The problem with water is just as important as transportation. We are currently in one of the most severe droughts that San Antonio has experienced in the last 100 years and it is not getting enough attention. Water is the limiting factor for sustainable growth in San Antonio, the South Texas region and Texas.
First, San Antonio must take a regional approach to this pressing problem. Through SAWS, the city must work with regional organizations and State of Texas agencies to develop long term and sustainable water plans which work for the entire region and not just for the benefit individual groups or the larger communities.
Second, we must diversify our supply of water. For too long, San Antonio has depended almost exclusively on the Edwards Aquifer. Treatment of water from other local water zones is a partial solution. The project to treat water from the Lower Wilcox appears viable if done with an incremental approach.
Third, water reuse and conservation offers a common sense and sustainable immediate increase in available potable water. It is important for all of us to start thinking in terms of our “water footprint” as developed by Dr. Hoekstra from the University of Twente.
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?
Transparency can be increased by broadcasting the “B” session. In addition the agenda for the “A” session should be established and published earlier. Last minute additions to the agenda anger the citizens involved and lead them to believe that backroom politics are being practiced.
The City Auditor should remain an appointed position; however, I would make significant changes in the department. The City Auditor should be an administrative position with a small staff. The City Council should continue establishing the annual audit plan. The City Auditor should administer the plan, but the actual audits would be performed by independent CPA firms who bid competitively on individual audits. An individual audit is the audit of one office or program and not the entire annual audit.
Since Enron’s collapse and the resulting Sarbanes Oxley legislation, public audit firms have developed extensive expertise in internal or operational auditing. In the past, these firms had concentrated on the more profitable areas of financial auditing and consulting. The City needs to tap into this internal or operational auditing expertise. If the individual performing the audit is a City employee who wants to progress in the City bureaucracy, the employee is simply subjected to too much pressure to “go along and get along.” An employee of an independent audit firm does not have that pressure and will be rewarded for finding discrepancies in an organization or program. The public gets professional and independent audits which are competitively awarded.
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 support extending the time for the pilot program, but not expanding the number of digital billboards. We need more information on the program and how it will affect our City.
Billboards can degrade the appearance of our City. Ideally we would not have billboards, but that is unrealistic given prior decisions and ordinances. The City should have a stronger position on selecting the conventional billboards eliminated when a digital billboard is erected. Digital billboards can be serious sources of light pollution and should be restricted in locations which impact neighborhoods and the Camp Bullis area.
9. Do you support SAWS' current plans to secure San Antonio's water supply? If so, please explain why. If not, please explain what you believe they should be doing differently.
The latest long-term water plan is too dependent on the successful renegotiation of the existing leases on water rights in the Edwards Aquifer. Alternatives must be developed on a regional basis to mitigate or cap the cost of leasing local water rights. Without viable alternatives, the local owners of the water rights will press their advantage and increase the lease costs of the water rights. We simply cannot allow the City to be held hostage on water by local owners of water rights.
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 you're retired) and a position on council? If so, how will you handle these?
I am retired after 33 years working at the executive level of three public corporations. My children are grown and on to their own careers. I have the time, experience and energy to make it a full time job. I can not conceive of a conflict of interest with any of my prior employers or my personal investments, but if it did occur I would immediately remove myself from any negotiations or discussions and abstain from voting on the potential conflict.
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 those decisions be made?
First, the exception under Paragraph 19-632-(2) does allow for a public assemblage that does not involve the movement of persons in an orderly, formal manner from a point of origin to a point of termination. Therefore, individuals or groups in San Antonio can gather and express their opinions under their free speech rights.
Article XVII is attempting to mitigate the financial impact to the City for traffic control and clean up only which is appropriated and very necessary given the current condition of the economy.
The City covers the first $3,000 of costs associated with the traffic control devices and personnel for First Amendment procession permits and the exemptions for all traffic control personnel costs for specific parades which have broad appeal, historic tradition and cultural significance under Paragraph 19-636-(d). It will be important to receive judgment on the legal challenges to the exceptions and special designations are resolved. All permit holders in a definitive and well defined class should be treated equally by the City. The trick will be to define the classes. When we get the ruling from the current court case, Article XVII might require revisions.
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.
Golf courses, libraries, parks, and El Mercado are quite different activities. Recreational activities like golf courses and sports fields should cover their incremental operating costs. Libraries and parks are general amenities for the City and should be viewed as investments in our citizens.
Having read conflicting reports on the cash flows from El Mercado, I am unclear about the actual contribution of El Mercado. I would need more information to develop a business case for El Mercado or La Villita. These are true historical treasures for the City and we should be able to capitalize on such wonderful assets. I would also include HemisFair Park. On a recent visit to HemisFair Park I was appalled by the deterioration of the historic homes in the Park. We can do much better with our historical assets.
13. If we've failed to raise a question or issue that you feel represents your values and priorities as a candidate, please discuss it here.