I recently responded to a candidate questionnaire submitted to me by San Antonio’s Current, an alternative newsweekly. The questions are significantly different (more liberal) than those in the Express-News questionnaire. In fact, the Current questions remind me of those posed at the UTSA forum, while the Express-News questions are more like those posed by a political group. Here, at least, I had time to think about the appropriate response, but at UTSA I didn’t. UTSA was tough.
The Current promised that candidates’ answers will appear in an online voter guide and potentially in print in their April 17 issue.
Name as it will appear on ballot: Mike Kueber
Current employment (if retired, please describe your previous career): A lawyer who took early retirement in 2009 after almost 22 years with USAA. As an executive attorney, I was responsible for ensuring that Auto Insurance operations (Claims, Underwriting, and Actuary) complied with ever-changing statutes, regulations, and caselaw in 50 states. For the past three years, I have been an amateur current-affairs blogger at “Mike Kueber’s Blog.”
50-word (max) bio: Grew up on a farm in North Dakota and obtained a political science degree from UND and a law degree from UT-Austin; lived and worked in District 8 for 25 years; put four boys through Northside schools, including Clark High School; ran for Congress in 2010.
50-word (max) reason for becoming a candidate in this election: Because I have the time, energy, finances, and inclination to serve and because my background, critical-thinking skills, and governing values (fiscal conservative and equal-opportunity advocate) will enable me to effectively represent the residents of District 8.
1) Could the City’s recent ethics reforms be better enforced? Should there be more of a focus on potential conflicts of interest among City Council members as well as City staff? Enforcement has been weak and should be strengthened. And City Councilmen should be subject to stringent conflict-of-interest standards.
2) What’s your opinion on encouraging economic development and cultural/nature programming via public/private partnerships, especially where public land, such as Hemisfair Park, is concerned? Public/private partnerships should be utilized when available to accomplish important governmental objectives, but should not be used to effect private-sector objectives.
3) Should the city establish an independent police monitor to better oversee the San Antonio Police Department? Why or why not? The City has a Police Chief, and if the Council doesn’t have confidence that he can effectively monitor the police department, he should be replaced.
4) Do you support the way the health department currently regulates food trucks? If not, how could the regulations be changed to better serve San Antonians? I am not familiar with the program and am not aware of any deficiencies.
5) How can the City support sustainable transportation options? I don’t see an important role for the City in developing sustainable transportation options, but would be amenable to cost-effective proposals. Of course, VIA does have an important role.
6) What value do you think the arts (visual, performing, literary, etc…) bring to San Antonio? In what ways can the City support local arts organizations and individual artists? A thriving, vibrant arts community is important to San Antonio, but does not require taxpayer support. Creating a culture of dependency on government is as corrosive to artists as it is to the poor.
7) Is it important for the City to strengthen its non-discrimination ordinances to protect LGBT citizens? Why or why not? Yes, I support non-discrimination against LGBT citizens, but would need to analyze the language of any proposed ordinance.
8) Is Animal Care Services doing enough to increase its live-release rate? Is ACS’ public-private partnership model is working? If not, what else could be done? No, the ACS is not doing enough, and it can be more successful with more effective management.
9) What would you do to address the high vacancy rate in downtown buildings? As a District 8 Councilman, my major focus will be on the development of District 8, not the downtown vacancy rate. Of course, the entire City has an interest in downtown San Antonio remaining Texas’s premier tourist attraction.
10) Is the City’s million-dollar incentive for the creation of a downtown grocery store appropriate? Why or why not? Is there a better way to bring a grocery store downtown? No, the incentive is not appropriate. The location of grocery stores is something for the private sector to determine. The downtown will have a grocery store as soon as there are enough residents/consumers downtown to cost-justify it. And it is not the city’s job to produce those residents/consumers.
11) How can San Antonio balance economic development with historic preservation? Historic preservation is an important objective, provided it can be accomplished without causing San Antonio to be economically uncompetitive.
12) Do you support union organizers’ push for a Tip Integrity Act for the downtown hotel and restaurant industry? I support the push in principle, but would need to see the language of any proposed ordinance.
13) What is the City’s role in making consumer solar power affordable for residents as well as local businesses? I don’t see a significant role for the city, but would be amenable to cost-effective proposals.
14) Is there more the City could do to protect the Edwards Aquifer in terms of building restrictions, funding conservation easements, or other means? Building restrictions and conservation easements are promising, but would be much more effective if San Antonio didn’t have to act unilaterally. Joint actions should be developed, either through cooperation with other jurisdictions or state legislation.
15) What are the most critical components to implementing Pre-K 4 SA? Are there any other opportunities for the City to support education? This question reveals what is fundamentally wrong with Pre-K 4 SA. A Councilperson should not be expected to become an expert on how to implement a “high quality” pre-K program. After almost 50 years of trying, Head Start is still trying to figure it out, and San Antonio has 16 different school districts trying to figure it out. The City should support pre-school education for all of its kids, not just disadvantaged kids, by supporting the efforts of the local school districts. The Pre-K 4 SA money should have gone to those districts as block grants.
- Correcting the travesty committed by the 2012 re-districting. The City Council violated the City Charter by approving districts with unequal populations. While progressives become apoplectic about one elderly lady in a rural area who might have difficulty securing a photo ID, they are cavalier about packing an additional 55,000 people in Districts 6-10 as compared to Districts 1-5.
- Reforming the employee pensions. Most of America has transitioned from defined-benefit pensions to defined-contribution pensions. The American military is even in the process of doing this. The city of San Antonio needs to move in that direction, too.
- Eliminating the city’s affirmative action in contracting program. Earlier this year, the City made a mistake in eliminating its race-neutral practice of awarding contracts and instead instituting a program for racial preferences. Racial preferences, which rarely make sense, are especially inappropriate for a city government firmly controlled by minorities.
- Stopping San Antonio’s status as a sanctuary city. Immigration reform is needed, but in the meantime San Antonio should not be a scofflaw Sanctuary City.
- Employer incentives. Employer incentives should be utilized, provided their cost-effectiveness can be shown. Although this is not a traditional governmental activity, it is now, ironically, a part of the free market and something that the City of San Antonio needs to do to compete with other cities. But I reject Mayor Castro’s position that it is appropriate for the City to provide more generous abatements/incentives for Southside locations, which he admitted doing a few months ago with Nexolon.
- Professional politicians. Professional politicians have no place on the City Council. The voters want citizen volunteers. Yet my opponents have not only compromised themselves by collecting tens of thousands of dollars from special interests, they have gone on record as supporting full-time pay for the Council. I am not collecting any money from special interests and will oppose full-time pay for the Council.
- Experience. Life experience is an important issue because it is the best way to develop the most important trait of a councilperson – good judgment – and the candidates in District 8 have starkly different life experiences. My life experience includes raising four sons (three college grads and one in college) and having a high-responsibility career in law and insurance. High-responsibility and its associated decision-making are essential to honing your good judgment, and in my career I made thousands of decisions affecting thousands of employees, and I never stopped learning from the decisions that turned out right and especially those that turned out wrong.