District 1 council candidates share views on housing incentives, Alamo plan, scooters

by Heron StaffApril 9, 2019

In an effort to inform our readers for the upcoming May 4 election, we asked all candidates running for the District 1 City Council seat how they feel about some of the downtown area's most pressing issues, including housing incentives, the Alamo master plan, and the scooter pilot program.

Below are the responses we received from the candidates, the order of which was randomly chosen. The answers have been edited for punctuation, style and egregious grammatical errors.

As a reminder, early voting begins April 22, Monday, and ends April 30, Tuesday. Visit the city's election page for more info.

Brad Kessler

What is your job, or how do you earn a living?

I am a general contractor, I work in the blue collar/construction industry.

What is your age?

I am 22 years old! A proud millennial.

Where were you born?

San Antonio, Texas. I have been a lifelong Bexar County resident. I lived in Converse, Texas, most of my life until recently moving back into San Antonio.

Do you live in the district? If so, what neighborhood?

Yes, I live in the Los Angeles Heights neighborhood, off Blanco, Fresno area.

What qualifies you to hold this position?

My willingness to go above and beyond for my community, to work tirelessly for a better city, fixing the issues facing the community. I put being a businessman and studying to be a attorney aside to run for public office, to give back to my community and help working families. I want to run San Antonio like a business, full of opportunities and equality for all. I want to promote and fight for human rights, equality and economic and social prosperity for all, addressing issues of affordable housing, climate, transportation, jobs and economy and public safety. As a 22-year-old, I've been helping out communities since I was nine years old, going to New Orleans during Katrina helping folks and from then I've been working in many nonprofits and organizations such as the American Red Cross, Humane Society and Goodwill.

What is your background in politics?

I've worked on and helped numerous amounts of campaigns, from both Republican and Democrats. I worked to help elect good people, from block walking, putting up signs and hosting meet-and-greets. I've been around politics on my own to have met three U.S. presidents, numerous governors, and even a few foreign politicians!

What is the biggest issue facing San Antonio, and how do you plan to address it? What's one issue you feel San Antonio City Council isn't paying attention to?

I feel it's the five issues I always address: affordable housing, climate policies, transportation, jobs and public safety. I will work on and ensure we invest in affordable housing. We have successful climate policies that work such as clean air and clean water initiatives and promote San Antonio to be a solar city. Also, it is time to modernize our public transportation, reduce traffic congestion and have protected bike lanes. Also with our economy we must have good jobs, jobs with living wages and will invest in our city's East Side, South Side and West Side, hiring hundreds of people and reinvesting back into the communities. Another is public safety. I want to ensure we work to reduce response times and also have safer neighborhoods and have a good community involvement in our first responders to hear what issues may concern residents and also the first responders can address what was accomplished or done within the time period.

What do you think of the Alamo master plan that was approved in October 2018? What parts of the plan to you agree with? What parts of the plan to you disagree with?

I think the plan is interesting, it will tell how both sides of history were played and it will show the culture, history, and hardship of both Texans and Mexicans. I am for preserving and honoring history and preserving the Alamo, honoring Texas history and San Antonio culture. I support. The plans don't bother me. However, I believe the Cenotaph should be left alone and I don't think there should be glass walls put up at the Alamo grounds. And also there shouldn't be a time period to be in front of the Alamo, it should be open 24/7 all the time to anyone wanting to respect the monument and also relax in the plaza park.* [ See note at bottom. ]

What is your opinion of the Center City Housing Incentive Policy? What role do you believe San Antonio should play in incentivizing affordable housing?

Yes, I support it. I always talk about affordable housing every event I am at. We need to work on it, invest in it and address it to help residents here in San Antonio.

What do you think of the city's current regulations on scooters?

The city is not doing much to regulate scooters. I believe we should have protected bike and scooter lanes. They should be ridden on the road and they must be ADA compliant and respect folks walking and those who are disabled. We should charge scooters $1,500 per cycle to operate in San Antonio and put a list of rules on usage and also on the companies.

What do you think of the City Council's decision to not bid for the 2020 Republican National Convention?

I think it's interesting. The climate of politics on the national level is divided. I would be open to looking into if the city is capable to host either the Republican or Democrat national conventions and checking with transportation, hotels, and businesses and also law enforcement on the potential pros and cons of the event. I will say this: It is good the city did not bid on it for the reasons of safety concerns and issues. I wouldn't want to see a riot in my district and also TXDOT has many road operations going on throughout the district and the highways and traffic congestion and transportation would be bad. There aren't enough hotels I believe to fit the delegates from the event and the normal tourist and international tourist we have on the daily. We are not ready for an event that big, especially for politics for San Antonio. In the next few years the city could maybe consider. Until now we are not prepared. I however looked at how successful the Republican and Democrat STATE conventions were and they were operated smoothly. But national conventions should be on hold until we are able (to meet) the capacity.

What is one thing the city can do to increase transparency in local government or to better engage its citizens?

Transparency is important. The city currently, if this question is being asked, is not doing a good job on transparency. I don't hold the current public officials of wrong doing. I like many of our elected officials and would love to work with them on many issues. I want to have an open dialog and relationship with my constituents. The seat on the dais is theirs, not mine. They deserve to have a voice, say and place at City Hall, to answer their needs and fix the wrong doings. I love being around the community, I am always open to listening and answering my constituents, having good transparency and accountability. The citizens know they can trust and believe in their government and good trust and relationships always results into a positive and better city for all.

...

Oscar Magana

What is your job or how do you earn a living?

I’m an International Trade Specialist for the U.S Department of Commerce.

What is your age?

34

Where were you born?

Burbank, California

Do you live in the district? If so, what neighborhood?

I live in the northern part of District 1, in the Greenbriar neighborhood.

What qualifies you for this position?

I have over 10 years of public service in different areas. As a veteran, I have experience working under extreme pressure and know how to handle tough situations. As a businessman, I know the importance of keeping a business-friendly environment to keep a thriving economy. As someone who loves San Antonio, I understand the importance of keeping our unique charm that we are lucky enough to see every day. I want to preserve our historic sites and make sure our neighborhoods stay inviting.

What is your background in politics?

I have volunteered with the Alamo Young Government Leaders to help improve networking opportunities for young public servants. This is my first time running for public office. I felt called to run because of decisions that the City Council were making. As a veteran, the instinct to protect and help the city kicked in.

What is the biggest issue facing San Antonio, and how do you plan to address it? What’s one issue you feel San Antonio City Council isn’t paying attention to?

This Council has been fiscally irresponsible with regard to some of the decisions they have made this past year. More recently, deciding to deny a contract because of the involvement of one company without having a conversation with the ownership. This decision immediately caused backlash and the most shocking thing was there was no discussion of the contract prior to the vote. Meaning, they had not taken the time to discuss this decision, but the amendment was brought up on the dais. San Antonians deserve better decision making than that. This is the biggest issue facing San Antonio, quick decisions with little thought put behind them.

What do you think of the Alamo master plan that was approved in October 2018? What part of the plan do you agree with? What part of the plan do you disagree with?

Over 34 million visitors come to San Antonio annually, all to see the majestic Alamo and experience the authentic and historical culture that is entwined deeply in our city. I support any idea to help increase visitation to the Alamo. However, the Alamo masterplan gave away a piece of San Antonio history. At one point the plan called for a glass fence around the Alamo, adding a modern accessory that they claimed would put in a more accurate representation. I agree with the part of moving the entertainment district to another area. I do not agree with moving the Cenotaph.

What is your opinion of the Center City Housing Incentive Policy? What role do you believe San Antonio should play in incentivizing affordable housing?

CCHIP is a program that helps potential developers within regional centers create high density residential projects and for-sale housing projects. I support policies that help developers and create affordable housing options for citizens around San Antonio. I do not believe that we should be pushing solely for affordable housing in downtown, but that we understand the importance of mixed income housing. I know there have been recent discussions about preventing downtown from becoming a "gated community." Developers should have the choice of creating the types of projects that they want and what will make them the most profit. So long as the market allows for the projects to be built, then those are the projects that should occur.

What do you think of the city’s current regulations on scooters?

I applaud Center City Development (and Operations department) for creating the pilot program for scooters. Like any other pilot, we are seeing what is wrong and what could be done better. I support putting a cap on the number of units each company can bring into the city. At this point I feel like there is oversaturation in the market. Further, with the amount of accidents that have occurred with scooters and pedestrians, I feel that tickets should be issued to those who do not scooter properly. Further, issues that we have with scooters highlight the need to increase the number of micro mobility lanes within the city.

What do you think of the City Council’s decision to not bid for the 2002 Republican National Convention?

Not bidding for the Republican National Convention was simply a bad business decision. Regardless of what political affiliation you have, to simply not bid for a convention that will draw in hundreds of thousands of people, national media attention and potential new businesses creates an unfriendly business environment and further hurts potential development. The city has bid multiple times for NCAA men’s and women’s contracts and has received them. We have great facilities, wonderful attractions and not to mention amazing people that would have welcomed visitors who would have shopped, eaten and stayed in San Antonio.

What is one thing the city can do to increase transparency in local government or to better engage citizens?

The city needs to accept that we have a large digital divide. Not everyone has constant access to the Internet, nor do they necessarily know how to navigate online surveys or websites. We need to continue to have paper surveys and focus groups in areas that have higher marginalized populations. While it is great that we have Spanish translators available, we need to increase translation services for the hearing impaired and for those that speak languages other than Spanish and English.

...

Justin Holley

What is your job, or how do you earn a living?

Owner of ABH Hospitality Management – a third party asset management group

What is your age?

47

Where were you born?

Oconto Falls, Wisconsin

Do you live in the district? If so, what neighborhood?

Yes, Woodlawn Terrace

What qualifies you to hold this position?

As a business owner I have the unique understanding of labor management, budgeting and fiscal management. As someone who has made their living in the hospitality industry, I understand the importance of delivering customer service, something that our district office and city should get better at. As someone who has served on many boards I understand the role our city charter has bestowed on the council offices to be a board of directors over the city manager’s office.

What is your background in politics?

No political experience.

What is the biggest issue facing San Antonio, and how do you plan to address it? What's one issue you feel San Antonio City Council isn't paying attention to?

I believe our City Council has lost its way in terms of being a board of directors over the city manager's office. Councilman (Roberto) Treviño has been focused on taking on projects that should be handled by highly qualified city staff. Our council office will focus on setting the bar of excellence that my fellow neighbors deserve in the district and then holding the city manager's office accountable to deliver upon this. It is time for District 1 to finish the streets and sidewalk challenge. It has been going on way too long. I would ensure we set a date and then make sure the city manager can deliver. My job as the council person would be to then get out and create the economic drivers to ensure we can pay for it.

What do you think of the Alamo master plan that was approved in October 2018? What parts of the plan to you agree with? What parts of the plan to you disagree with?

I believe the Alamo project has the capability of delivering what HemisFair did for our city back in 1968. The difference is that it tells the story of who we are as a historical and cultural destination like no other in the U.S. I am very concerned that the initial principles set out were not adhered to and that many concerns of our community were dismissed without proper vetting. We should be at a point in this process that we know what we are getting and how it is being done and paid for. The initial commission started back in 2014. I would have voted "no" for the current plan. When elected I will serve our community to ensure that the Alamo and all that is stands for is respected and showcased in a world-class setting. We can preserve buildings and ensure no barriers are created to retain free and public access to one of our greatest assets as a community.

What is your opinion of the Center City Housing Incentive Policy? What role do you believe San Antonio should play in incentivizing affordable housing?

I am glad to see there have been some changes to it. I think we need to be very thoughtful in how we use our tax payers' dollars. Housing is already at a shortage and affordability is almost extinct. It is vital to any community to have different levels of affordability to be a strong community.

What do you think of the city's current regulations on scooters?

I think they should be stronger.

What do you think of the City Council's decision to not bid for the 2020 Republican National Convention?

Councilman Treviño proudly says he was the guy who stood up to say "no" to the RNC. Well I would ask him how did he determine that "no" was the right answer for our entire community? Were there town hall meetings? Did he do a displacement analysis? Were there other conventions waiting to use the space at the same time? I would have taken the time to talk with all the parties involved as well as those in the community to see the effects of having this conference.

What is one thing the city can do to increase transparency in local government or to better engage its citizens?

Be accessible. Spend less time at City Hall and more time within the community.

...

Roberto C. Treviño

What is your job, or how do you earn a living?

Currently City Council member for District 1. I am also a licensed architect.

What is your age?

48

Where were you born?

McAllen, Texas

Do you live in the district? If so, what neighborhood?

Yes, in Shearer Hills/Ridgeview for more than 20 years.

What qualifies you to hold this position?

I’ve been in the District 1 office since being appointed in 2014. I was re-elected in 2015, and again in 2017.

My experience as an architect primed me for using creative solutions to solve chronic problems. It also taught me the value of planning before executing. Since I’ve been in office, I have started a number of programs and initiatives by utilizing pilot programs. This way, we are able to use data and analytics to inform our next steps.

This practice was crucial in producing policies to protect neighborhoods from incompatible development. We learned from loopholes that existed which allowed developers to build structures that didn’t fit the character of the neighborhood. In response, we crafted policies that allow neighborhoods to be alerted to new developments, wide area rezoning to further preserve the character of our communities, and safeguards to prevent “bad actors” from being able to build in the first place.

The same goes for tackling housing affordability through my Under 1 Roof program, or finally working towards solving our sidewalk gap. I have a track record of balancing growth in our downtown while preserving the character and charm of our neighborhoods.

What is your background in politics?

My background began in 2014 when I was appointed to City Council to replace Diego Bernal.

What is the biggest issue facing San Antonio, and how do you plan to address it? What's one issue you feel San Antonio City Council isn't paying attention to?

The biggest issue facing San Antonio are legacy issues that lead us to being the most economically segregated city in the country. Our history of redlining and discrimination is visible in everything from policies such as people being forced to fix their own sidewalks (UDC 2911) and improper zoning making it more difficult for people to care for their homes. My office is focused on investing in those communities. We are working with UTSA to relocate downtown. We recently opened a youth Re-engagement Center at the Frank Garrett Center. We are working to increase mobility between neighborhoods through more and improved sidewalks. We are helping residents stay in their homes and age in place through repair programs such as Under 1 Roof.

One issue that City Council can begin working on is understanding that if we don’t change our methods, we won’t get better results. I have created a sidewalk master plan to increase the amount of sidewalk we build with the budget we have now—we can do much better than the 27 percent efficiency that is happening today. We are already underway with implementing in District 1 as a pilot to increase sidewalk output by five times with our current budget. This is just one example of working to improve methodology to improve outcomes.

What do you think of the Alamo master plan that was approved in October 2018? What parts of the plan to you agree with? What parts of the plan to you disagree with?

As a management committee member and tri-chair for the citizens Advisory Committee it is my belief that this plan represents the combined efforts of the city, state and Alamo endowment.

What is your opinion of the Center City Housing Incentive Policy? What role do you believe San Antonio should play in incentivizing affordable housing?

I believe it can play a role to generate revenue that can fund efforts to support affordable housing. The current plan creates incentives where 25 percent will be allocated to an affordable housing fund. This helps build revenue so that we can implement strategies like the Under 1 Roof program or minor home repair. We are looking to innovate more programs as well.

The city should definitely play a role in incentivizing affordable housing. We know that the need for multifamily outweighs our need for single family. How do we plan for that?

CCHIP is an economic development tool. Trying to make it fix the affordable housing problem is not the most efficient or effective way of tackling the affordable housing issue. Through a risk mitigation study, we should be building an appropriate set of tools to tackle affordability. We can use a wrench to hit a nail, but let’s find the right tool to solve the problem.

We should be ensuring that the city is not culpable of indirect forms of displacement. Whether we are changing zoning or investing millions, the city should understand the impact of the housing being built. We should also be trying to determine in which areas we should be investing in affordable housing. There are adjacent areas to our center city where land values are affordable. As a city, we should be focused on finding those lots now prior to their prices elevating further.

What do you think of the city's current regulations on scooters?

I believe that we have made progress with regard to effective regulations on scooters, but we must continue utilizing data and community input to arrive at the best possible resolution.

I wrote an op-ed urging the city to review our six-month pilot program after the first three months due to consistent complaints and issues from residents.

My staff and I advocated for parking zones, sidewalk master plan, and inclusion of scooters in our 311SA App—all of which have been adopted since. There is still work to do, but the progress we have made gives me confidence that we will find a way to include them in our multi-modal transit plans moving forward. If nothing else, the scooters have shown us the glaring lack of infrastructure in place for our transit plans, and revealed our unbalanced approach (or preference) to motor vehicles such as cars as opposed to pedestrian mobility.

What do you think of the City Council's decision to not bid for the 2020 Republican National Convention?

I was very forthcoming with my opinion on bidding for the 2020 Republican National Convention. In my 2018 State of the Center City speech, I stated the following:

"I would be remiss if I did not mention that short-term economic gains should never be confused with sustainable economic development. As such, it is my belief that the fiscal benefits of hosting a Republican National Convention in San Antonio do not outweigh the tremendous respect we have for our cultural heritage. We are a welcoming city, but our kindness should not be mistaken for naivety. As San Antonians and Americans, we will continue to acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today. We will accept that our diversity in thought and flesh is what allows us to grow as a community, as a city, and most importantly, as people. It is my hope that we all recognize that the collective character of our city has never been, and will never be for sale."

I believe this clearly outlines my position.

What is one thing the city can do to increase transparency in local government or to better engage its citizens?

One out of four families in San Antonio do not have Internet access at home. I’d like to applaud Councilwoman (Ana) Sandoval for her public engagement policies which include live streaming our public meetings. I believe live streaming should include two-way communication so everyone can participate. I have heard loud and clear that our meetings are not convenient or accessible for community members with children. In response, I look forward to advocating for these livestreams to be available at libraries and community centers paired with free or affordable childcare services provided by the city so parents can more easily participate with their government.

...

Editor's note: District 1 candidates Alan Dennis Inchaurregui, Raymond Zavala, Colton Unden, Lauro A. Bustamante and Richard Gonzales did not respond to our questionnaire.

*—The Alamo Plaza master plan approved by the City Council in October shows one primary entry point during museum hours. During non-museum hours, the plaza would be accessible using six entrances, officials have said.

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