Sunday, September 14, 2008

City Council Place 4: Jones vs. Coppoletta - San Marcos Daily Record

City Council Place 4: Jones vs. Coppoletta
From attracting film industry dollars to fine tuning city policies, candidates discuss the issues
Published: September 13, 2008 11:33 am
By Anita Miller
News Editor

San Marcos — Is Hollywood coming to town?

It almost seemed that way during last week’s debate between Chris Jones, who currently holds Place 4 on the San Marcos City Council, and Lisa Marie Coppoletta, who wants to win that seat on Nov. 4.

Coppoletta, 40, said that embracing the film industry could go a long way toward solving many of San Marcos’ problems, high development costs among them.

Becoming a site for shooting feature films, commercials and TV shows would not only provide high-paying jobs to local residents such as construction workers, painters and tailors, she said, but would amount to “free advertising” for the city by showcasing it.

“It’s an investment we don’t have to fund,” she said of film crews which would make major improvements in properties they wanted to use as sets.

“Jobs would be created here and that money would stay here,” said Coppoletta, who is an academic advisor/professor.

Jones, 25, who works as a career advisor, stuck to the more traditional topics of fine-tuning city policies to meet changing needs and making certain that investments the city makes would pay off not just in the short term but the long run as well.

When queried about the higher cost of development in San Marcos compared to other area cities — 57 percent more for multi-family housing, 17 percent more for retail and 15 percent more for single family homes — Jones said he’s for further council analysis and a possible “shift” into “utilizing a percentage of money we gain from our tax base to possibly offset some of the costs.”

Acknowledging the question is a difficult one, Jones said when the numbers are analyzed, “you find differences that can be addressed from a policy perspective and others that can’t be.”

Regarding the many Capital Improvement Projects the city would like to be able to undertake, Jones said the city has spent thousands on master plans and it’s time “to take the Master Plans we have and put them together.

“From a policy perspective, the council needs to take a step back and ask ourselves will the dollars we’re putting into our Capital Improvements Project actually translate into something our sons and daughters can utilize down the road.”

Coppoletta said the answer lies in prioritizing for residents. “I would prioritize in terms of ethical decision making to make sure it affects in a positive way our citizens.” She also said San Marcos should “think about economic trends on the national level before implementing policy.”

On the issue of smart growth, Jones said it begins with the basics of transportation. “We need to prepare for light rail. Light rail is coming,” he said. “Growth in San Marcos should be centered around light rail” with other projects designed to move people from the rail station to other areas of town.

He also said he would continue the city’s practice of courting business to come here, though he says the perfect company hasn’t yet presented itself.

“We’ve spent three years trying to find companies. We’ve worked hard and that has translated into some jobs but the pristine company is still out there. We need to figure out what that company is and go after it.”

Coppoletta said smart growth involves “tying in small and big things,” and gave the example of cultural tourism coordinated with Austin and San Antonio, something she said would also be boosted by a film industry presence.

“When those revenues kick in we can start a state-of-the art 3D animation studio and train people to be set directors or how to build sets. We could fast track programs for Texas State students. The film industry generates billions of dollars,” she said.

The debate was sponsored by the San Marcos Area Board of Realtors.