Yesterday John was invited to participate in a debate on the Jack Riccardi Show on KTSA. Here's a recap of some of the questions that were asked as well as John's plans for addressing those issues. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to listen to the full debate!
Question 1: As you walked the neighborhoods and met the voters, what were the top three issues of concern to people in District 9?
Number one is public safety. A lot of people in San Antonio are concerned about safety, but in District 9, it's a little different from some areas. The concern isn't so much about bodily injury or people being physically harmed, but there's a lot of property crime concern.
We're fortunate in District 9. We don't have the level of crime that many parts of the city do have. People in our district are concerned about break-ins at their homes or damage to their cars. In some cases, it's a matter or whether or not emergency services are arriving quickly enough. I think that's related to being understaffed, particularly within the San Antonio Police Department.
Another concern is transportation. There's a lot of congestion in District 9, and we really need to resolve that. Another issue that people have talked to me about is fair taxation.
Question 2: What kind of relief can you offer people who are being subjected to higher property valuations and subsequently paying significantly higher property taxes?
I believe the fault is with the way we appraise property in Texas. There's a built-in unfairness in the process.
Residential properties are appraised based on a lot of public data that's available to the appraisal district to determine what are fair and accurate market values for residences. But there's no way to truly appraise the value of commercial property, in this city or in the state.
That's because the State of Texas has refused to pass laws that would require full disclosure of sales prices of commercial property. The appraisal district estimates that in Bexar County alone, we are under appraising our commercial property by $30 billion dollars.
That's a lot of money. That's a lot of tax value. And who pays the difference when it comes to raising money for the city? It's the residential property owners. So what I contend is that the City of San Antonio, in conjunction with the other major cities in the state, really need to put a full-court press on the legislature to pass legislation that would require full disclosure of the prices of properties that are sold throughout the state to enable a truly fair system of taxation.
Question 3: As a result of the explosive growth happening in District 9, you've got all the major arteries choked with traffic, and it's taking people longer and longer to get home. What do you say to that?
I think the solution to unbridled growth across the north side of San Antonio requires a couple ingredients. First of all, we need to look at smart growth - not unbridled growth. That means we need to look at a lot of areas in the city that are underdeveloped, that the city can offer incentives to develop in. There are a lot of prime areas for development in other parts of the city, but we need to incentivize that development.
And at the same time, we need to hold developers accountable and responsible for what they're doing and not just give them carte blanche to develop everywhere they want. It's really leading to problems in our area that are diminishing the quality of life for people in District 9.
Question 4: How could the City Council, Mayor, and City staff have better handled the review process leading up to the river barge contract negotiations currently underway?
I think the key is more transparency throughout the whole process. Moreover, we need City Council members who are more involved in the detail of what's going on. City Council is too willing to sit on its hands and listen to staff and let them make decisions. Then when things go south, they blame it on staff, and when things go great, they take the credit for it.
I'm a detail-oriented person. I want to really look at each issue myself and understand what's behind all the numbers and figures and make a reasonable, responsible decision. I don't want to just be a rubber stamp for what goes on at City Hall.
Question 5: What can be done about airline noise over District 9 neighborhoods?
I was walking just Sunday in Churchill Forest, and I was amazed at the amount of air traffic right over that neighborhood and how loud it was. I talked with some of the people who live in the area, and they said it's been more than 10 years since they've had any kind of assessment of the noise level in their community. They've made calls to the right people in the right departments, and they simply aren't getting any response.
We need to do another evaluation on where those noise levels are currently at and hold the airlines accountable for living up to their obligations to make sure they are adhering to noise reduction standards. We need to start looking for new alternatives and truly assess what the noise problems are in our district.