Trish DeBerry-Mejia, 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.

As we look at our energy generation, it is clear that we must take into account environmental and human health concerns.  Reducing carbon production is critical to protecting our environment and not contributing to ozone pollution, which can create so many respiratory illnesses.  As such, I do believe that construction of the additional two nuclear reactors should be considered as San Antonio determines how best to meet its future energy needs.  However, full support of expanded nuclear power generation is contingent on knowing the affect on utility rates. 
As for the long-term storage of spent nuclear rods, the pen-cap size rods are currently temporarily stored on site in tightly sealed, reinforced compartments.  The US Department of Energy (DoE) is responsible for permanent storage of spent fuel rods and will assume this responsibility prior to 2024.  The licensing for additional units will require another DoE agreement for final disposal of spent fuel rods.  Local, state and federal jurisdictions must come together to determine the best long-term storage possibilities for spent fuel rods. 
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)?

Mission Verde is a great vision for boldly moving San Antonio into the future.  However, its 11 points and corresponding action items must be considered in light of the overall economic health of the city and region.  I support sustainable energy and potential partnerships with Austin regarding renewable energy sources, i.e. wind, solar.  However, given CPS Energy’s status as the nation’s largest municipally owned utility, I think it is wise to keep San Antonio in the driver’s seat regarding any potential regional partnerships. 
In a community where a mere 13% of the population practices recycling at home, it is difficult to believe that the average resident will support sustainable/renewable policy guidelines.  We have to master the basics first before we can successfully try anything else.  Improving our individual/residential recycling rate is among those basic practices we must improve.  Opportunities to reinforce the merits of recycling include having “Green Ordinances” which encourage recycling at public events.  We need recycling bins at Fiesta events and other venues which attract a large crowd.  We must reinforce the merits of recycling throughout the community and at every opportunity.
For these reasons, I think it important that we assess those Mission Verde goals which the community can support and readily endorse.  Chief among these is the development and delivery of comprehensive transportation solutions, to include considering light rail, car pool lanes, bus rapid transit, toll lanes, and commuter rail between San Antonio and Austin.  As the only city among the 10 most populated US cities with only one public transit system, we need to diversify our public mobility options in order to ease congestion, reduce travel time stress, and retain and attract a younger population.  San Antonio competes worldwide for the best minds.  Young professionals seek transportation alternatives in order to move about a city.  San Antonio’s economic health depends on diversifying its transportation system.   

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?

San Antonio is significantly behind its Texas sister cities as well as those around the country with regard to a public transit system.  San Antonio’s option must include bus rapid transit to get people from residential areas into high employment centers; light rail to move larger groups throughout the city easily; and expanded bus service where feasible.
No public transit system is self-supporting.  In order to finance public transportation options, state and federal revenue must be leveraged.  Fair-box revenue must be maximized through increased ridership.  Increased ridership may be achieved through discount passes to large employers for their employees to use, and to area universities for student use. 

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

As the only small business candidate in the race, I know what it is like to watch the bottom line and stay within a budget.  With recent news that we are facing a possible $10 M to $11 M revenue shortfall on a $2.3 B budget, it is highly likely we will have to make some cuts. 
First, if there is an opportunity to overcome the shortfall by requiring across the board cuts – 1% to 3% -- then that will be the first approach.  Failing that, determining duplication of city services with outside agencies and eliminating that municipal service may provide additional relief.  I have every confidence that the city manager, with the right business leadership from the mayor’s office, can craft a budget which meets our city’s needs in a tightening economy.

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?

The Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) should be used to augment those activities/functions that attract additional visitors, and to supplement the emergency services visitors may need while in town. 
HOT revenue is already 100% committed.  In order to find any additional funding, either the mandated formula needs to be changed, or the tax needs to be increased.  San Antonio’s current HOT is at 16.75%.  This rate is the second highest in Texas and fourth nationwide (Houston’s HOT is first statewide and nationally).  San Antonio hoteliers may have some thoughts on the net effect a HOT increase may have on consumers.  As such, they would need to be consulted before making any decisions regarding HOT increase and appropriation.  Other communities which have increased their HOT have seen a loss in convention business.

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?

San Antonio has six economic development sectors.  They include:
Aerospace/Advanced Manufacturing with an economic impact of $3.8 B (2007)
Many nationally recognized businesses have operations in and associated with Port San Antonio.  We need to do all we can to develop the former Kelly AFB (Port San Antonio) as a hub for aerospace and advanced manufacturing jobs.

Information and Technology with an economic impact of $5.3 B
Perhaps one of our sleeping giants.  Many of the successful local companies have come from the technology transfer of ideas/concepts developed by military retirees.  We need to do more to assist UTSA in the development of its Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security. 

Department of Defense with an economic impact of $13.3 B (2006)
The military has always had a presence in San Antonio.  It is credited with creating a middle class with its civil service jobs post-WWII.  Although the decision to close Kelly was met with resistance, it now affords us the greatest opportunities for future job growth and economic diversification.  Likewise, the decision to locate all medical military training facilities at Ft. Sam Houston will go a long way toward further developing the healthcare/bioscience cluster.  We must do everything we can to protect these military missions.  

Healthcare/bioscience with an economic impact of $13.7 B (2004)
There is no other cluster within our economy which has more potential than healthcare/bioscience.  The partners in this arena alone point to a very successful future. These partners include:  Southwest Research Institute, Texas Research Park, UT Health Science Center, U.S. Military Medical Training facilities.  By harnessing all the potential synergy each partner creates, we are capable of achieving tremendous job creation and economic diversification.

Construction with an economic impact of $19.4 B (2005)
The construction industry is an ancillary economy. In order for residential, commercial and government activity to occur we have to have a robust, vibrant economy.  Having said that, I am committed to ensuring the city leads the way in creating jobs through necessary capital improvement projects.  With an exemplary bond rating, now is the time to launch aggressive, necessary public works projects for the betterment of our community.

Financial Services with an economic impact of $20.5 B (2004)
San Antonio’s area banks – Broadway and Frost, among them – very wisely decided not to engage in the predatory sub-prime lending practices which have gripped communities nationwide.  As a result, we have a healthy lending community.  Additionally, San Antonio Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union and a host of others all provide our citizens with credit/lending opportunities.  Additionally, Southwest Business Corporation and USAA are large, successful businesses who employ many people in the community.  Although this sector may not be as strong as it once was, the local leadership in this area provides San Antonio with a wonderful opportunity to generate additional economic development. 

Our economic development process is severely splintered among too many government and non-profit community partners.  We need to speak with one voice and pursue opportunities with a single strategy.  That strategy then needs to be shared with our regional partners – Austin, lower Rio Grande Valley, etc. – as we look to regionalization of our economy. 
Once elected I would bring together all the local leading partners in the six primary economic sectors and task them with devising a comprehensive strategy within 90 days that would maximize opportunities, protect existing jobs and pursue additional employers.  The plan would be implemented within 45 days and quantifiable results would be expected within six to nine months.   
As a small business owner, I am proud to be a part of the local small business fabric.  Approximately 80% of economic development is borne by small businesses.  In order to succeed, small businesses need improved access to capital.  As mayor, I will champion establishing public/private partnerships with area banks to make funding/credit available to area small businesses.  A key path to economic recovery is through the success of our small businesses.  I will champion their causes through programs to improve access to capital, ensuring municipal bond programs have small business procurement goals, and strengthening the ability for all businesses to compete in our free market.  

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?

Transparency and accountability are paramount in city government.  Backroom deals and initiatives launched by lobbyist representing special interest would not be welcomed.  Any effort which involves financial consideration – whether ill-advised or conceived – will be aired out publicly. 
The guidelines, direction and expectations of the city auditor need to be explicitly spelled out.  There shall be no gray area in the auditor’s defined duties.  This individual shall be hired by the mayor and council, and shall report to the elected officials.  That being said, the council needs to let the auditor be truly independent and not interfere with the auditor’s responsibilities.  I do not favor making the auditor an elected official.  The process has been far too politicized as it is and making it an elected position would further exacerbate the problem by limiting the pool of candidates who could apply for the position, and perhaps making the position beholden to campaign contributors. 

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 support extending the digital billboards pilot program. I would like to see further national, state and local studies before arriving at a final conclusion on this issue, but at this time see little merit to their further encroachment on our city. 

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.

I was glad to learn last month that SAWS is pursuing additional sources of water, to include a desalination plant.  It is clear that a drought affects surface water.  As such, we cannot in good faith pursue additional water supplies from rivers, lakes or reservoirs.  These bodies are all susceptible to evaporation and dwindling supply during a drought.  Desalination of brackish water offers the best potential for additional water for human consumption and use.   We also need to continue to promote conservation, as well as the potential for regionalization of our water supply. 

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?

If elected, I will take a leave of absence from my business (Guerra DeBerry Coody Marketing & Communications (GDC)) so that I can dedicate myself full-time to the office of mayor.  I will draw-down on the equity reserves I have built up over the last 15 years.
I will remove myself from any perceived conflicts of interest by either resigning the business account or recusing myself from a vote.  GDC currently holds no city contracts. 

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 to peaceably assemble is guaranteed by our constitution.  Likewise, freedom of speech is guaranteed by our constitution.  Neither of these rights should be encroached upon by local law enforcement officials acting on behalf of municipal ordinances. 
However, we do need to look at this issue from several vantage points.  Chief among these views is safety concerns.  The safety of those marching as well as those individuals operating vehicles, etc., is of great concern.  Providing safe public spaces is within the city’s jurisdiction.  This function comes at a cost. 
Likewise, the proper clean-up of parade routes, etc., is expected after any event, and it too has a cost. 
We must reach a conclusion that satisfies the city’s need to protect the community and allow individuals and groups to assemble peaceably and exercise their constitutional right to free speech.
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 either Healy-Murphy Park, El Mercado, or La Villita.

Public spaces serve a specific purpose.  They are intended to be used by the public for leisure activities.  The city has a commitment to make sure these spaces are in proper order for public use. 
Of the public spaces cited, I would take exception with golf courses.  These facilities, while meeting a public need, also require significant resources to maintain the grounds.  Golf courses consume many acres and require landscaping, watering, and general maintenance.  As such, I do believe they should be self-supporting.   
Parks are a different facility.  Generally speaking, they provide open space – at times the occasional asphalt surface for a pick-up game of basketball – with minimal landscaping.  These are facilities which the city should maintain, and perhaps partner with non-profits in meeting maintenance needs. 
Other facilities, such as El Mercado, which have cultural significance, need to be protected.  They should not, however, generate profit for private individuals leasing land from the city, especially those who contribute to the campaigns of elected officials or people running for city council. 
When elected mayor, I shall ask that the city manager, if she has not done so already, take inventory of city-owned properties, assess market value/existing use, and present solutions to properly managing the asset to its full potential and best public use. 
13. If we've failed to raise a question or issue that you feel represents your values and priorities as a candidate, please discuss it here.

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