By Kasandra Garza
Today is election day with five men running for mayor of San Marcos. Aside from national elections, citizens of San Marcos will decide today who they want to be the face of San Marcos. Just last week, the five mayoral candidates debated for the final time in front of college students to sway their vote.
The five candidates are Ruben Becerra, John Thomaides, Sam Brannon, Cherif Gacis and Jacob Montoya. Each candidate had their time to discuss important topics pertaining to San Marcos, including education, growth and the university.
Brannon said he wants to be mayor because he has been watching the city for sometime now and, with every big decision, opposition has been growing within the city.
“There’s no reason everyone should be up in arms about any big decision that’s made,” Brannon said.
Thomaides said to be Mayor, a candidate needs experience. Thomaides said a candidate, like him, should have experience in planning and zoning.
“I believe I have more expertise and experience than my colleagues running for mayor,” Thomaides said.
Montoya said, being a San Marcos native, he has seen the city and Texas State University grow in ways no one imagined. Montoya said it seems that current government officials are lacking a “common sense approach” when it comes to making big decisions. Because of this, Montoya decided to run for mayor.
Gacis said he’s heard residents express their dislike for current government decisions that he, too, does not agree with.
Becerra said he is running for mayor because he believes in a better, cleaner policy for small business. He said he is for the community as a whole, including college students and residents. He said he does not intend to divide the two groups.
The first topic included education in San Marcos and the school board. Brannon began by saying he does not want to comment on school business.
“We have to trust the board,” Brannon said. “We elected them. They are a separate entity from government, not a small business.”
Thomaides said a great city requires a great school district and he would like to see improvement within the school system.
Montoya said he would like to see a partnership between the school district and the universities. Gacis said he would like to see an increase in tax revenue for the school district in order to hire better teachers and better fund the schools. Montoya added that fixing the school system is not about money, it’s about getting people on the same page.
The candidates shifted their focus to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test. Gacis said the test isn’t something local government can change and the only thing city council can do is provide school with the tools they need to better help the students.
Becerra said in order to better accommodate students in San Marcos, and citizens, city council members need to be bilingual.
The candidates turned to the topic of growth, each spoke about how they will handle the expansion of San Marcos in terms of housing.
Brannon began by saying development is fine as long as development doesn’t affect water quality and the neighbors. Thomaides said the city has to understand that large apartment complexes, primarily for students, will not be allowed to build near single family homes.
Montoya said he would like to bring back a “common sense” approach to making decisions within city council. He agreed with Brannon by saying development should be kept away from single family homes and historic neighborhoods, such as downtown San Marcos.
Gacis added that building in downtown is destroying it and he will be sure to keep development out of historic areas.
Becerra went further by saying that he is a property owner in downtown San Marcos and he will focus on the transportation system.
“We can make a bus map,” Becerra said. “If we have a bus map, we can develop routes for all of downtown. This would eliminate traffic.”
The mayoral candidates discussed the importance of bridging the gap between the university and the city, and how they plan to accomplish this.
Montoya said he plans to maintain a system of openness, however, he said it is up to the students to get involved with the city. Montoya said he hopes to have better communication with Texas State University President Denise Trauth.
Thomaides reverted his direction back to planning and zoning with very little to say about bridging the gap.
Becerra said what he brings to the table is a fresh perspective, this includes making sure the university builds in areas that will not affect the city. Becerra said he wants to bring both entities together because there is no “divide” between the city and the university, we are a “family.”
Candidates continued the debate by discussing how they plan to handle the city budget and access to resources during a flood.
Polls in San Marcos close at 7 p.m. For more information on what to take to polling stations or where you can vote, visit http://www.co.hays.tx.us/elections.aspx.