San Marcos mayor, City Council address state of the city

Several hundred residents gathered Jan. 26 at the City of San Marcos Conference Center to hear the mayor and City Council members discuss the State of the City.

In his introduction, Mayor Daniel Guerrero referenced the goals the City Council had set for itself in January 2011.

"We are here to tell you this evening that we are making great strides toward fulfilling those initiatives and fulfilling the vision that we hope to continue to cultivate with each and every one of you," Guerrero said.

The initiatives adopted by the council were customer service, sound finances, big-picture infrastructure, maintaining and protecting the San Marcos River, and health and wellness/strengthening the middle class.

Members of the City Council addressed each of the initiatives. Jude Prather began, focusing on the San Marcos River and its importance to the city.

"When I think of how beautiful the San Marcos River must have been when our Creator made it, and what it must have looked like 10,000 years ago, it probably must have been a Garden of Eden," he said. "The reality is, everything we do in life carries with it an environmental impact, but in San Marcos, we do what we can to minimize that impact."

Prather detailed the city's passage of the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Plan and the creation of a Habitat Conservation Plan.

"I'm proud of the fact that the San Marcos City Council was the first city in the region to adopt a habitat conservation plan to protect our river," he said. "We were the first city in the Edwards Aquifer region to buy surface water from Canyon Lake, reducing what we pump from the aquifer from 100 percent to, now, 20 percent. That's a big deal."

Councilman John Thomaides addressed the issue of sound finances.

"We can't achieve a thing—provide essential utilities; public safety; parks, recreation and library services; build streets and infrastructure; or plan for our future—without sound finances," he said.

Thomaides discussed the updated financial management policy and highlighted the city's collaboration with Open San Marcos.

"As a result of this collaboration, the City Council adopted an open government guideline to govern documents, financial transparency, the understandability of city communications and codes, citizen notifications and participation, finances, customer service and much more," he said. "The city began putting much more financial information online. You can see every check that the city writes, other than payroll, on the city website."

Councilman Ryan Thomason addressed customer service and what used to be the complex process of obtaining a city building permit.

"Throughout the last year, instead of some of the frustrations that I expressed, we've seen such creations like the Redbird Skyport at the airport. This went from concept to grand opening in under eight months," he said. "Half of that would have been permit time [before]."

Councilman Wayne Becak, past chairman of the Central Texas Medical Center Foundation, spoke to the crowd about health and wellness issues facing San Marcos.

Becak cited statistics from a 2008 study, including, "15.2 percent of our county population lacks health insurance, 45 percent of our county residents are overweight and 25 percent are considered obese."

The city created a Healthy City Task Force in January 2010 to address some of these issues, he said. More recently, San Marcos saw the creation of a Teen Pregnancy Coalition and a Diabetes Coalition.

"We're striving to make community wellness an important part of our culture in our community," Becak said. "Having healthier citizens will definitely contribute to the educational attainment of our students at all levels, to the economic vitality of our community and to the overall quality of life."

Councilwoman Kim Porterfield addressed ways that the city is working to strengthen the middle class.

"The working class is the key to the vitality of our economy," Porterfield said. "Jobs and education are critical to strengthening our working middle class and creating prosperity for all of our citizens."

She cited five pillars on which the city is building support for the middle class—literacy and education, home ownership programs, early childhood development, healthy lifestyles initiatives and partnerships with local nonprofits.

"I believe that municipal investment in education will pay off for all of us as we build a smarter, healthier, stronger San Marcos," she said. "But we need you—we need nonprofits, we need the faith-based community, we need parents, we need neighborhood leaders, business leaders, elected officials and others to join us as we improve the lives of our children and families."

Guerrero concluded the evening by acknowledging that the city still has plenty of work ahead, with a focus on education.

"First and foremost, one of the most important issues that this city will take on—in conjunction with our school district, Texas State University and Hays County—will be the pursuit of ensuring that we are providing all citizens with the best educational opportunities in Central Texas," he said. "There's a lot of work that we've done. There are a lot of goals that we've achieved. There are a lot of successes that we've been able to celebrate, but the work is hardly close to being done."

Pioneer Spirit Awards

At the end of each council member's address, he or she presented the city's Pioneer Spirit Award to a person or organization for contributions to the community. Awards were given by council members to the following:

Prather gave the award to Dan West, state assistant adjutant at Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Thomaides recognized Lee and Linda Porterfield, owners of Blue Sky Mortgage and Gulf Business Forms.

Thomason awarded Chase and Seth Katz, owners of Zelick's Ice House.

Wayne Becak highlighted the work of Sam Huenergardt, president and CEO of Central Texas Medical Center.

Kim Porterfield recognized Ofelia Vasquez Philo and the founding board members of Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos.

Councilman Shane Scott, who focused on big-picture infrastructure projects with a video for the crowd, gave the award to Maggie Hutchison-Wagner of the Greenbelt Alliance, and former Mayor Susan Narvaiz.

Guerrero recognized Bea Flores, director of student services at San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District