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Get to know your May election candidates: District 8

Voting is a vital part of our democracy and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce encourages all residents to educate themselves and cast ballots for city council and mayoral candidates.

We sent out a questionnaire to all candidates running in municipal elections this year. In the questionnaire, we asked candidates about the city’s relationship with the business community, transportation, and the Climate Action and Adaption Plan.

For the District 8 seat, incumbent Manny Pelaez faces a challenge from Tony Valdivia, among others. Here’s what they had to say:

Manny Pelaez, Incumbent

  1. Please introduce yourself and share why you are seeking a seat on the San Antonio City Council, including why you feel you are the best candidate for the position.

I’m Manny Pelaez, your District 8 city councilman. Over the past two years I’ve dedicated my work at City Hall to helping San Antonio’s large, medium, and small businesses thrive in an ever-increasing competitive environment.

For the past 20 years, I’ve served as a trusted advisor representing employers of all size, real estate developers, and companies from all of the world. I served as Toyota’s in-house counsel for its manufacturing operations in Texas and Mexico and later served as North American General Counsel for a publicly traded automotive manufacturing company. Today, my law practice is dedicated to representing businesses in litigation and serving as a commercial arbitrator.

I’m the immediate past Chairman of Brooks Redevelopment Authority, a former VIA trustee, an AACOG trustee, and I served on the board of the MPO. I have experience and expertise in the area of enterprise level finance, bonds, infrastructure, government relations, economic development, and public-private partnerships.

  1. What steps would you take as a city council member to strengthen the City’s business environment?

Three things: 1. I will continue my campaign of challenging BCAD’s practice of heavy-handed valuations and its refusal to understand its impact on local economic prosperity; 2. I will continue to fight for fewer restrictions and regulations on local businesses – – regulations that disincentivize domestic and foreign investment and make it more difficult for San Antonio businesses to create jobs and value for their investors; 3. I will continue to protect our investment in SAWS and CPS.  CPS must continue to belong to the City of San Antonio and its market share must be defended from the threat of misguided legislation in Austin. CPS must also continue to be a best-in-class utility that will be essential to our Smart City goals and will keep us competitive for generations to come.

  1. What are your thoughts on municipal government adopting policies to regulate employer operations regarding wages, compensation and scheduling?

I am a labor and employment attorney. There is no constitutional or statutorily legitimate way for municipalities to set mandates or regulate private employers regarding wages, terms of employment, or scheduling.  I will continue to remind my colleagues that attempted end-runs around state and federal law is bad for business and unlawful, no matter how well-intentioned those end-runs might be. Should you include State law here since no law has been passed yet? I recommend you leave it at Federal law.

  1. How would you encourage the City of San Antonio to develop safe, effective and efficient multi-modal transportation systems that moves people throughout San Antonio and this region?

We have reached a point where San Antonio must make a thoughtful investment in dedicated-lane rapid transit. We can continue to build bus stops and buy buses or we can make the necessary bold infrastructure decisions that will finally allow us to reduce traffic, move more people, and benefit employers. Implementation of the ConnectSA plan will require a combination of bond financing, state investment, federal grants, and public-private partnerships.  I am the only District 8 candidate that has experience in each of these.

  1. In January the City of San Antonio unveiled its draft Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP). The Chamber is concerned with that the draft plan does not address how we – as a city – are going to pay for the plan. What are your thoughts on CAAP?

Before the CAAP’s enactment, City Council must disclose the plan’s costs and how those costs will be distributed among tax payers, businesses, and the public coffers. That’s why I’ve led efforts to push the CAAP vote back until at least September of this year so that the business community can participate in an authentic and collaborative input gathering process. Once this has been done, the dialogue can shift to a cost benefit analysis and prioritizing of the plan’s strategies prior to any council action.

  1. If elected, how will you work to strengthen the relationship between the city council and the business community?

Simply put, we must engage more meaningfully and more often. It is not good practice nor very effective for the business community to engage with the Manager’s office and the Mayor’s at the exclusion of communication with individual council members. This approach produces less impactful results than is ideal and impedes a healthy exchange of ideas. This is why I have made a serious effort to frequently communicate with Chamber leadership and individual Chamber members. I will continue to seek input and advice from the Chamber.

Tony Valdivia

  1. Please introduce yourself and share why you are seeking a seat on the San Antonio City Council, including why you feel you are the best candidate for the position.

I believe in challenging the status quo at all levels of city government. I believe District 8 needs a change and a new vision for the future. District 8 is the fastest growing and most diverse district in the city and as such, we need a councilman who will lead through innovation and inclusion. I will champion property tax relief, transportation solutions, transparency, economic opportunity, and programs to reduce homelessness.

I am the best candidate to lead District 8 towards prosperity due to my unique skillset and background which combines business with civic engagement. I have a BBA in finance and experience in financial modeling, budgeting, forecasting, and conducting cost benefit analysis through my many years of work, from investment banking to my current role at USAA. I also have built my own real estate company, teaching me the importance of partnering, collaborating, and negotiating. In addition, I have served as Special Projects Coordinator for District 8 and was appointed to serve on the Neighborhood Improvements Advisory Commission giving me an insight into the operations of city government.

  1. What steps would you take as a city council member to strengthen the City’s business environment?

As my platform shows, I hope to create an Office of Internship Provision, allowing San Antonio’s talented college graduates to partner more easily with local businesses for internships. I believe that this is an important step towards keeping our graduates from moving to Austin, Houston, and Dallas to start their careers and staying here in San Antonio instead. I also hope to inaugurate a Small Business Area within District 8, supporting and celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit of local business in key neighborhoods. In keeping with this support, I will identify local fees and regulations which I believe may be harmful to the growth of area small business – and work to remove these.

  1. What are your thoughts on municipal government adopting policies to regulate employer operations regarding wages, compensation and scheduling?

Paid sick time and similar proposals are all likely to be preempted at the state level. I would therefore focus on what we can do in the city to promote livable wages and paid sick time in partnership with local businesses. One such solution might be to create a voluntary program for local business participate in. This program would publicly recognize local establishments that offered paid sick time and higher than minimum wage starting salaries to their employees. In return, these establishments could use this recognition as a way to market themselves and differentiate themselves from their competitors. This program would be completely voluntary and market driven.

  1. How would you encourage the City of San Antonio to develop safe, effective and efficient multi-modal transportation systems that moves people throughout San Antonio and this region?

During the Northwest Bexar Democrats forum, the incumbent chastised me for believing in the power of scooters to enhance transportation opportunities for District 8 residents. I believe that the incumbent is mistaken about the future of multimodal transportation in our city. I believe that VIA bus stops can also accommodate scooter depots, and that private enterprise and public systems can work in harmony to allow all of District 8 to enjoy fast, safe movement. Residents tell me time and time again that they use scooters to go to work and to visit loved ones. Along with autonomous vehicle trials, smart traffic lights, and other transportation innovations, I believe that my vision of multimodal transportation is the one that District 8 prefers.

  1. In January the City of San Antonio unveiled its draft Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP). The Chamber is concerned with that the draft plan does not address how we – as a city – are going to pay for the plan. What are your thoughts on CAAP?

I have concerns that many of the 80-odd action items within CAAP are, as currently stated, not realistic. Too many of the action items within the CAAP document lack specificity on funding, as well as anticipated effects on key stakeholder groups in the city. While I am deeply concerned about the effects of climate change on San Antonio, I feel that we must take our time to address each item within CAAP – and implement only those items that do not overburden our city, its poorer citizens, and their many thriving small businesses.

  1. If elected, how will you work to strengthen the relationship between the city council and the business community?

I will partner with the business community by keeping the lines of communication open and by being transparent. I will make sure that business and individuals all have a seat at the table and included in key decisions.

 

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