Workforce housing and economic development were among the major topics covered at the Sept. 4 candidate forum held at the San Marcos Recreation Hall.
The forum, which included candidates who are running for Places 1 and 2 on the San Marcos City Council, was organized by the Four Rivers Association of Realtors and the San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce.
This was the second year that the chamber partnered with Four Rivers for the event. More than 60 people attended the forum, which was moderated by Keely Sonlitner, who serves as co-chair of the association’s governmental affairs subcommittee.
“This is my third year participating in the event; it has always been very well-attended. We think it’s very important for the realtors,” Sonlitner said.
Sonlitner asked questions regarding a variety of subjects, including housing, job growth, local business development and property rights. Candidates also had a chance to speak broadly on their leadership and priorities.
Place 1 candidates Maxfield Baker and Mark Gleason—who both currently serve on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission—were asked how they plan to address workforce housing.
A lack of housing that is affordable for the city’s workforce has been one of the five priorities of the San Marcos City Council. In September 2018, the council created a Workforce Housing Task Force to develop solutions to address the shortage.
“First off, without good-paying jobs and the opportunity for citizens to thrive, it’ll be very difficult to impact the affordable housing question,” Gleason said.
Additionally, Gleason said the city’s new development code, created in April 2018, allowed for flexibility that would help city leaders address a lack of workforce housing. He also said he will focus on keeping property taxes low.
Baker said he would be committed to bringing better-paying jobs to San Marcos. He added that he thinks the city should leverage its resources to bring in developers who are willing to build affordable housing.
“A lot of times, we hear that our issue is that we simply do not have enough housing to fix this issue. And frankly, when we look at the density in other cities, we see that density does not necessarily bring the price down,” Baker said.
Baker said he would also like to help residents better understand how they can fight rising property appraisals, which means higher property taxes.
One of the questions addressed to City Council Place 2 candidates was regarding the relationship between Texas State University students and the city’s existing residents.
Devin Barrett, who currently attends the university, said he would try to identify issues that the two resident populations can work on together.
“I’m a student, so I think having a student on the City Council would already greatly improve relationships,” Barrett said. “To ensure that TSU and the city of San Marcos has a great working relationship, I want to itemize and find out what issues we can agree on.”
Lisa Maria Coppoletta, or LMC, a professor at Austin Community College, pitched an idea for a symposium that would bring city and university leaders together.
“I would like to have some sort of symposium where we invite Texas State and we have a robust attendance of those who are committed to historic preservation, those who are committed to our river, our business community, our green builders and developers to have a voice—a dialogue out in the open public forum, not closed-door meetings where we’re wondering, ‘What ever happened with that dialogue?’”
Saul Gonzales, the Place 2 incumbent, said he would address the problem by speaking directly to university leadership, including its president.
“What I would like to see is better dialogue with the university,” Gonzales said.
Amy Martin, who works in the local real estate industry, said she enjoyed the forum and the opportunity to hear from all of the candidates.
“It was great to see everyone’s perspective on what they thought were the biggest issues facing San Marcos,” she said.
Clinton Hoerner attended the forum with his wife, Denise. The couple said they came to the event simply as residents interested in the candidates.
“I think that’s going to be a big issue—the university and the city working together,” Denise said.
Members of the Four Rivers who attended the event will be given a chance to express which candidates they support in an informal vote. With these members in mind, the organization’s governmental affairs subcommittee will deliberate and decide who the Four Rivers will endorse.
Sonlitner said the organization could also decide to give financial help to candidates. In the past, it has donated between $1,000-$1,500 to candidates, though larger amounts have been given out in the past.
Candidates, in addition to sharing their thoughts at the forum, also answered questions that the Four Rivers governmental affairs subcommittee will review before announcing its decision.
Sonlitner told Community Impact Newspaper that the local realtor association has announced the organization’s selections for endorsements about a month after the forum in previous elections.
Editors Note: This post has been updated with correct information regarding the Four Rivers Associations of Realtors’ endorsement process. We regret the error.