During its June 1 meeting, the San Marcos City Council approved Ordinance 2021-45, on the first of two readings, which requires registration of lobbyists and periodic reporting of contacts made by lobbyists with elected city officials, city board and commission members and city employees.
Ordinance 2021-45 was made to "improve transparency regarding city business and services to the public." It is also meant to retain the public's trust in the city and city officials. In order to do that, the ordinance limits the relationship city officials have with lobbyists and required organizations, such as the San Marcos Police Officers Association and the San Marcos Professional Firefighters Association. It requires these organizations to register as lobbyists themselves since they have support or are supporting a public official.
The ordinance defines "lobbyist" as "any oral or written communication (including an electronic communication) to a city official or city employee, made directly or indirectly by any person for compensation or economic benefit in an effort to influence or persuade an official to favor or oppose, recommend or not recommend, vote for or against or take or refrain from taking action on any municipal question."
Councilmember Mark Gleason motioned to postpone the ordinance discussion and vote. Gleason called for postponement due to not feeling prepared to discuss or vote on the ordinance. He also believes the ordinance impacts freedom of speech.
"I think there's an unintended consequence here," Gleason says. " I think there's some things in there that I'm not too happy about, and I feel does limit people's political speech, and I think there's just a [verdict] here I'm not fully comfortable with."
The motion to postpone the ordinance failed to pass, and the motion to approve the ordinance passed 4-3. The ordinance will go into effect on Aug. 3. Lobbyists and officials who violate any provision of the ordinance can face a fine not to exceed $500; each day a violation occurs is punishable as a separate offense. During the first six months after the Aug. 3 effective date, no sanctions will be administered for violations.
The council unanimously approved the publication of notices of intention to issue certificates of obligation in the amount not to exceed $72,670,000 for constructing, improving, designing, acquiring and equipping the city’s water and wastewater system, electric utility system and streets including related drainage, sidewalks, traffic improvements and lighting.
The funds will also be used to improve the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning in municipal buildings, security improvement in city buildings, public safety facilities, including police and fire improvements technology equipment upgrades and recreational facilities such as parks and sports fields.
City Council also filled vacant positions on several boards and commissions, including the Animal Shelter Advisory Board, Library Board and Neighborhood Commission. The Historic Preservation Commission's position was left unfilled due to a lack of applicants.
The council discussed the creation of a Mexican American and Indigenous Heritage and Cultural district. The district would consist of the first four Mexican American neighborhoods in San Marcos: El Barrio de la Victoria, now Victory Gardens neighborhood, El Barrio del Jorobado, El Barrio de la Nalga Pelona, now the East Guadalupe neighborhood and El Barrio del Pescado, now called the Wallace Addition.
Mayor Jane Hughson says the agenda item was presented to bring awareness to the historic background of the neighborhoods. She says making a district for these neighborhoods will help preserve them rather than them be bought and sold.
"They just want to ensure that folks know about these heritages and reasons it's a historic Hispanic neighborhood," Hughson says. "They have been there for a very long time, and one's already gone."
The San Marcos City Council meets virtually at 6 p.m. every first and third Tuesday of each month. For more information, visit the City Council website.