Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Candidates debate local economic development - University Star Story

Candidates debate local economic development
Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 1:07 am | By Theron Brittain
News Chris Jones City Council election Lisa Coppoletta
The campaign has begun for seats three and four of the City Council, and two Texas State employees are squaring off for the post.

Lisa Marie Coppoletta, academic advisor for Texas State, hopes to unseat career advisor Chris Jones for seat four. Fred A. Terry, local realtor, is running unopposed for seat three.

Coppoletta and Jones shared their ideas for the future of San Marcos with the public in a debate Thursday. “I’m very concerned about continuing revitalization of the downtown,” Coppoletta said.

Coppoletta said she was interested in creating more paths for bikes and pedestrians and wanted to have a “green” approach to city development.

“I want to make sure we have conservation and protect our river, as well as conservation on how we use our power on a municipal level,” Coppoletta said. “We can save up to 17 percent just by having smart measures on municipal buildings alone in terms of saving energy.”

Jones said in his opening statement that he and the council had set San Marcos on a path of great promise during his last term.

“The last three years have been great years,” Jones said. “I still think we face some challenges for the future. One of those challenges is transportation. From a policy perspective, the question is: Do we build more roads or do we better utilize our resources? As a candidate, I will tell you I believe we must strike a balance. We must build roads where we need to build roads, but we also must develop a transportation system that’s effective.”

Jones said San Marcos faced economic development challenges. He said market analysis is needed to determine which companies are moving to the city and evaluate how well they fit the economy. He said it was time to invest money in making the Interstate 35 better depict the city.

Coppoletta said on Wednesday that she thinks her chances of winning are “outstanding.”

“I have a very specific economic policy that affects students, the youth of San Marcos and the workforce,” she said. “I feel I can make a difference.”

Coppoletta ran for mayor of San Marcos as an undergraduate student in the late 1980s and was a debate coach. Coppoletta said she is anxious to have a series of debates against Jones in coming months.

“I don’t believe candidates should run unopposed,” Coppoletta said. “I feel open dialogue is important, and I believe it’s important for candidates to articulate specific points of their position.” Jones said he holds a similar viewpoint.

“I know and respect my opponent, and I look forward to a public debate and communicating with the public to make sure they are aware of what’s going on in the city,” Jones said.

Jones was elected in 2005 and has been involved in the development issues San Marcos has faced for the past three years, which includes a downtown master plan and projects such as Rio Vista Falls. He said decisions made by the council in the coming years will be important to the economic growth of the city.

“I’m really excited about the next three years,” Jones said. “That’s what I’m going to be talking about with people.” He said city officials should be more aggressive in purchasing land to benefit economically from development. Jones said the city needs a mass-transit system.

Terry is running unopposed for the seat three, which Daniel Guerrero occupies. Terry served on the Planning and Zoning Commission for the past six years and said the city needs a sound business plan.

“I’ve seen a lot of things come through the commission that I would like to see come through the City Council,” he said. “I’m a business person. I’m looking for avenues for San Marcos businesses to develop in.”

Terry said he would like to see relations between students and residents improve. He said the relations have been strained by students’ prevalence in generally quiet neighborhoods, among other things.

“I’d like to see if we can create a specific area of town where students can own and reside without conflicts with nonstudent neighbors,” Terry said. “I see a major division between the population of the university and the population of the town, and I’d like to bring a balance between the two factions.”

Council members are elected at-large for staggered, three-year terms. Candidates are not affiliated with political parties. The election will be held on Nov. 4, which coincides with the general election.