Julian Castro, Mayoral Candidate

1. Do you support the addition of two new nuclear power plants to the South Texas Project to meet our future energy needs? If not, please describe the alternatives you favor. If so, please explain your position or philosophy on the long-term storage of nuclear-fuel waste. 

San Antonio must enhance its energy portfolio to meet the needs of our growing city. I toured the South Texas Nuclear Project with CPS Energy officials and came away impressed. However, I am reserving judgment on whether to invest in two new reactors until CPS Energy provides its capital cost analysis in the fall. I fully support CPS's push for energy conservation and investment in solar and wind energy. 

2. Do you support Mayor Hardberger's Mission Verde initiative in its entirety? If so, what do you see as the most critical steps council must take to implement it successfully? If not, do you support any of its provisions, and why (not)? 

Yes, I support Mission Verde. The Council’s most critical step will be to embrace sustainability by prioritizing each of the 11 initiatives in Mission Verde and to allocate resources to achieve its goals. Investment in renewable energy, energy conservation, and green collar job training will also require significant collaboration among the City, CPS Energy, SAWS, the ACCD and others. I am committed to carrying forward Mayor Hardberger’s vision and furthering it with my own.  

3. What is the right mix of public-transit options for San Antonio’s future, and what do you think is the best method to fund/maintain each element?

I firmly believe that a well-built transportation infrastructure and a superior mass transit system are fundamental to enhancing San Antonio’s quality of life and keeping our city competitive in today’s global economy.  Traffic congestion is one of the biggest problems facing our city. As Mayor, I will strategically address San Antonio’s transportation needs. I support light rail, bus rapid transit and bike lanes. This means: improving major thoroughfares; alleviating traffic congestion along the Highway 281/Loop 1604, IH-10 and Highway 151 corridors; investing in mass transit; fixing neighborhood streets; building neighborhood sidewalks; creating a citywide network of bicycle lanes; and synchronizing our city’s traffic lights. Ultimately, San Antonio voters will decide whether local transportation options are pursued. 

4. If San Antonio faces a budget shortfall, where would you be willing to make budget cuts? 

I will work with the council and the city manager to make necessary budget cuts. A hiring freeze for non-emergency services personnel has been implemented and city departments have been asked to identify two percent cutbacks for the 2010 budget. The current budget environment will require the city to prioritize its core functions – in particular public safety and public works.  

5. What are your top spending priorities for the HOT tax? Would you support a recommendation to use some of those funds to expand the Convention Center?

Hotel occupancy tax funds are essential to maintain a strong hospitality industry and to foster a vibrant arts scene in San Antonio. My top priorities are the funding of the CVB, marketing San Antonio, and the arts. Mayor Hardberger led the effort to increase arts funding from the HOT fund. I support the enhanced funding level. I can support the investment of HOT fund dollars for a Convention Center expansion based on the timing and the cost/benefit of the investment.
6. Please briefly describe your conception of San Antonio’s economy, its strengths and weaknesses, and what you would do to build on the former and address the latter?

Top priority will be to create jobs and keep San Antonio competitive in today’s global economy. I will work to attract and retain jobs by leveraging San Antonio’s industry clusters in biosciences and healthcare, military, information security, automotive manufacturing, and hospitality. I will also focus the city’s efforts to invest in effective job training initiatives that prepare San Antonians for jobs in growing industries. In addition, I will push to establish stronger tax incentives and information resources for locally owned small businesses. As Mayor, I will also lead an effort to collaborate with school districts, colleges and universities to set high achievement goals for academic excellence. I will do this by supplementing their work through use of the City’s library system, After School Challenge initiative, the Education Partnership, and Head Start. San Antonio will aggressively pursue new business and grow local jobs, and I am committed to keeping our city business friendly.

7. Keeping in mind the playground scandal, the Healy-Murphy Park sale, and the El Mercado flap, how would you increase accountability and transparency at City Hall? Specifically, would you change the role or method of choosing a City Auditor and his/her scope of authority? 

Having a strong, independent auditor is in the public’s best interest. Ideally, San Antonio would have a well-qualified auditor elected at large. Within the current appointed system, however, we must ensure the auditor has the latitude to conduct thorough independent audits.

8. Do you support extending the digital-billboard pilot program? If so, what restrictions, if any, would you recommend on their placement and use?

I do not favor digital billboards, particularly in our city’s scenic corridors. I am willing to compromise only if additional billboards are removed from the same highway corridors in which they are being placed.  

9. Do you support SAWS' current plans to secure San Antonio’s water supply? If so, please explain why. If not, please explain what you believe they should be doing differently.

Yes, I support SAWS’ plans. Securing a robust water portfolio is vital to enhancing our city’s quality of life and economic competitiveness. SAWS should invest in projects that provide reliable water and make sense on a cost per acre-foot basis. Desalination, additional aquifer storage, the use of recycled water and conservation incentives must be kept as options on the table.

10. Please briefly describe how you financially support yourself. How will you balance your work demands with your council responsibilities? Do you foresee any conflicts of interest between your profession (or former profession, if you're retired) and a position on council? If so, how will you handle these?

I am civil litigation attorney and the owner of a small law office. However, if elected, I will be able to dedicate myself fully to the responsibilities of the Mayor’s office. I do not foresee any conflicts of interest arising.

11. What is your opinion regarding the Parade Ordinance that is the subject of the Free Speech Coalition lawsuit? Specifically, what fees, if any, should the city charge for parade permits? Should they distinguish between types of applicants and events, and if so, how and by whom should those decisions be made?

The right of free speech and to peaceable assemble are fundamental to who we are as Americans. I believe the City of San Antonio should revisit its Parade Ordinance to significantly lower permit fees and provide for greater consistency on how event applicants are handled.

12. Please briefly describe your philosophy toward the maintenance and funding of publicly owned and/or operated spaces such as golf courses, libraries, parks, and El Mercado. Should these entities break even, make a profit, or be viewed as investments with tangible returns? Please propose a solution for the issues surrounding Healy-Murphy Park, El Mercado, or La Villita. 

We cannot measure the value of our public, cultural or historic spaces simply in dollars and cents. They have a value apart from, whether they make a profit for the City of San Antonio. The City should partner with private sector and non-profits to enhance their profitability but these community assets should not be sold. 

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