To inform readers about the candidates seeking their votes on the May 1 ballot, the San Antonio Report asked all City Council and mayoral candidates to respond to a brief questionnaire. Only candidates who responded are listed below. Some responses were edited slightly for clarity, and we did not fact-check responses.

See more Q&As with candidates in the May election here.

Quick navigation: Mark Vargas | Angela Cardona | Walter Murray | Katherine Herrera Garza | Phyllis Viagran | Marcello Martinez

Mark Vargas

Age 24, former college and career readiness counselor. San Antonio resident “since I was three months old.”

List any previous experience in government or participation on local boards, commissions, or neighborhood associations.

I have proudly represented and fought for issues I believed would better our community for literally half my life. One of my first interactions with civil service and activism was when I walked to my local church and spoke out at a CPS Energy town hall against nuclear energy when I was 13. That led to me meeting my councilwoman, Jennifer Ramos at the time, which eventually led to her selecting me to serve on the San Antonio Youth Commission (SAYC). I served for four years, throughout my high school career, and held the positions of secretary, chairman and vice chairman. I was reappointed by Councilwomen Letica Ozuna and Rebecca Viagran.

During my tenure, SAYC revolutionized our mission and vision statement, and agreed that our goal was to “Empower the Youth to Succeed.” We soon became partners with SA2020 and were founding members of Destination College Week, the week-long celebration that our city uses to celebrate and excite our students on their next steps. Destination College became so popular that former First Lady Michelle Obama chose the celebration’s finale, College Signing Day, as her kick-off for her ReachHigher campaign in 2014. College Signing Day and the rest of the week’s events have been so popular, they continue to be celebrated today.

Aside from SAYC, I have also served as an SA2020 Ambassador since 2011, working with our partners and fellow ambassadors to ensure we reached our goals that we collectively set in 2010. 2020 might have come and gone, but now we turn our eyes to the next decade, with much work to still be done, especially with sustainability, growth, and job opportunities.

What are the top priorities you would like to address as a council member?

While there are a multitude of issues and projects that I would like to work on over my time on City Council, I have held three priorities since the beginning.

1. COVID-19 – I have campaigned on a pledge to restore our trust and partnerships within the small business community, particularly with our restaurant and bar owners. Initially, the city did not offer as much aid to support them, nor was the process easy or accessible to apply for. Since then, the city has allocated more aid, with more on the way thanks to American Rescue Plan. I want to make sure that we are reaching out as many businesses as possible, so not one more shuts down. Additionally, I want to make sure that we are targeting those workers who have not yet found a job, and help them find new ones, such as with the new SA Works plan.

Furthermore, I want to see more vaccine sites within District 3 and the South Side of San Antonio, which has been hit the hardest by the pandemic. We have seen too many cases and residents lose their lives. We must ensure that we have a vaccine registry and mega sites within the area.

2. Wi-Fi access – As an educator and college and career readiness counselor, I worked with grades 5-12. I saw firsthand how difficult it became for some of our families. Something as simple as an internet connection became a luxurious necessity. After losing their jobs due to decreased business operations, many of them struggled to pay their bills. It was one thing to make sure our student had laptops, it was another ensuring it could connect to the internet.

I believe San Antonio needs free equal and equitable city Wi-Fi and I propose we can start this process in District 3. I want to make sure that every park within our area is a Wi-Fi hub, while also ensuring we are covering some of our lowest-connected areas. In D3, some zip codes have as much as 60% of our homes not connected. This sets up these families at a disadvantage, especially when it comes to education rates and getting back on track, such as the workforce programs that have been proposed. By connecting our city, we also set ourselves up for remaining competitive to national business when it comes to expanding in San Antonio.

3. Revitalizing our district – This pandemic has hit District 3 hard, with our side of town having the most infections and deaths within the city. Too many businesses have closed their doors, too many people have lost their job, and too many families have lost a loved one. I believe my district needs a full-time councilman who will fight for them. I strongly believe that if we can accomplish the above, while also focusing on what makes our side of town so special, we can have the future of San Antonio run through District 3.

Do you support the proposition to change city charter language and expand the use of bond money beyond public works?

I do support it. We can consistently improve and create new projects that address different needs, but we need to be sure that we are addressing the root of the problem to properly fix it. Homelessness is a top concern for many residents, especially as the number of homeless residents have increased over the past few years. If voters allow it, we can start attacking these issue head on, much like other cities already do.        

What I will do as councilman is ensure that the use of these public monies is not providing free and unchecked development. The use of these funds should not be abused by developers looking to make it a profit. While there is some concern over the language, it has been vetted by the city attorney. I am committed to ensuring there are strict requirements for use outside of the bond projects that the city already undertakes.

Do you believe there is a need for policing reform in San Antonio?

Yes, and I plan to pursue those reforms as councilman. Part of my plan for public safety in District 3 ties directly into police reform. I believe we need to have more clinical psychiatrists for mental health calls and more social workers to deal with domestic abuse cases because an officer is not needed for every call. These additional resources will play heavily into a Public Safety Substation in District 3, not your average police substation. This would serve as a state-of-the-art facility for both our district and San Antonio and is needed to address an array of issues that have affected us. As the largest district in terms of size, I believe it is a disservice to our community members that we do not have one.        

Regarding the ballot initiative, this is a question on police accountability. For that reason I am voting yes on Prop B. I am glad that the city is getting a chance to vote on this issue after nearly 50 years. I do not believe in defunding the police, considering we lack the substation I am asking for, but San Antonio sends $478 million of taxpayer dollars to SAPD, I want to make sure that we have a paper trail for every dollar. No matter the outcome of the ballot, I will always stand for removing officers who exhibit poor judgement and do not uphold their oaths to the community. Thankfully, most officers do serve and protect, and I will gladly pursue avenues that we can increase their pay.

How do you see the concept of “equity” applying to a City Council member’s job?

A City Council member does not just provide leadership, they also must provide representation to their community. For too long, our side of the city has been dominated by the same politics that has got people stuck in an endless cycle with no upward growth. Wages are not increasing, development is not spreading, and people are being displaced. After this once-in-a-generation pandemic and deadly winter storm, we do not need a band-aid fix at City Hall. It is one thing to make sure that everyone has access to services or goods, but we need to make sure that they have the same equal footing to benefit. 

So many people have fought to make sure inequalities are addressed, but barriers remain within various industries in San Antonio. These inequities need to be a priority for the next city council. With an open seat in District 3, our next council member has potentially eight years to work on initiatives for our residents. With that being most of this decade, we cannot fail to act.        

My focus is to provide a voice to those who have felt forgotten and to always listen to those who ask. We might not agree on everything but that is OK, because we can work together to address the issues that affect our community. I firmly believe that at its core, politics is to do good. I am in this race to serve and I hope to be that new direction for District 3.

Angela Cardona

Age 45, employed with AVANCE Inc.’s national office. Native San Antonian.

List any previous experience in government or participation on local boards, commissions, or neighborhood associations.

Earned an internship with the office of Mayor Julián Castro and then continued to work with elected City Council officials in District 3 as dIrector of constituent services and chief of operations and strategic initiatives. After leaving those offices, I worked as a zoning planner for the City of San Antonio and was recognized as Employee of the Quarter multiple times for my assistance with neighborhoods across the City. I then joined Southside First to help with economic development strategies on the South Side. I am an active board member of my neighborhood association as past president and vice president. I also served as a board member of Hispanas Unidas, an after-school leadership and mentoring program.

What are the top priorities you would like to address as a council member?

Strengthening the well-being of our community, safety, and equitable investments.

Do you support the proposition to change city charter language and expand the use of bond money beyond public works?

I do have my concerns about how this expansion will dilute the monies for the needed infrastructure, particularly the expansive need in District 3; however, we do need to consider our options to expand affordable housing development. Still, any option to be considered has to be viable and equitable to our tax payers.

Do you believe there is a need for policing reform in San Antonio?

Yes, I believe there is a need for reform for police departments across the US, but the magnitude of this topic will need more community input locally.

How do you see the concept of “equity” applying to a City Council member’s job?

Equity is of the utmost importance, as I represent ALL residents of District 3.

Walter Murray

Age 32, occupation not provided. 

List any previous experience in government or participation on local boards, commissions, or neighborhood associations.

None.

What are the top priorities you would like to address as a council member?

1. Prioritizing public safety: As a city, the primary goal is the safety of our families. At the same time, our police officers and firefighters should feel supported and engaged with the community. I believe we must prioritize our public safety and the core functions of the city government.

2. Property taxes rollback: I will hold the line on taxes and focus the budget on basic services that impact District 3’s quality of life. I will develop ideas on how to avoid wasteful spending and seek efficient ways to invest your tax dollars.

3. Infrastructure  and continuing to improve our streets: Our City and District 3 are expansive and our extreme weather conditions always make streets a challenge. Still, improving traffic flow, fixing potholes, and making our roads safe will be a top priority. As your council member, I will focus on the basic a priority, leading for investment in more public safety, deteriorating streets, alleys, community parks, and animal parks that impact our daily quality of life.

4. Create jobs and a stronger economy: San Antonio must continue to work to diversify our economy. As our city continues to attract new jobs, we must create an economy that rewards innovation, hard work, and local entrepreneurs. I am committed to making San Antonio a city where entrepreneurs want to launch and grow businesses by making certain the city is responsive to today’s economy.

5. Parks and recreation: I will focus on keeping the parks and recreation areas in District 3 as a center point of San Antonio. The San Antonio parks and recreation department does such a great job of making these areas a desirable place for all to visit. I will fight to make sure they continue to get the funding they need so all San Antonio can be proud of what we are doing. 

6. Veterans affairs: I have been a long-time supporter of veterans affairs in San Antonio and in the community. My family has a long history of military service and this has given me an even greater appreciation for our men and women who have served in the armed service as well as those currently serving.

Do you support the proposition to change city charter language and expand the use of bond money beyond public works?

Yes

Do you believe there is a need for policing reform in San Antonio?

Yes

How do you see the concept of “equity” applying to a City Council member’s job?

Equality is very important especially when it comes to equal rights and opportunity for both men and women in San Antonio.

Katherine Herrera Garza

Age 31, occupation not provided. San Antonio resident for 31 years.

List any previous experience in government or participation on local boards, commissions, or neighborhood associations.

Government experience: precinct chair, campaign manager, treasurer. Youth sports coach and team mom.

What are the top priorities you would like to address as a council member?

Improving infrastructure quickly and efficiently, spending accountability, reinforcing quality senior care, improving public safety, saving small businesses, and bringing in quality jobs and training opportunities.

Do you support the proposition to change city charter language and expand the use of bond money beyond public works?

No, I do not.

Do you believe there is a need for policing reform in San Antonio?

No, I do not.

How do you see the concept of “equity” applying to a City Council member’s job?

I do believe that a City Council member should be fair and impartial while performing their civil duties.

Phyllis Viagran

Age 48, Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) community outreach coordinator and trainer. Lifelong San Antonio resident.

List any previous experience in government or participation on local boards, commissions, or neighborhood associations.

Brooks Gives Back (2017-2020), Rape Crisis Center Board (2017-2020)

What are the top priorities you would like to address as a council member?

My immediate priority is to ensure that the vaccine rollout does not exclude the most vulnerable members of my community. We must remain diligent to keep the number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths on the decline. While the district has many issues and needs that have been amplified by the pandemic, I believe that if we address the four pillars found in my campaign platform, we can continue to move the district forward and get the city back on track toward economic recovery. The first priority is getting our community back to work. I want to make sure the city’s workforce program addresses the specific population that have lost their jobs and are unable to return to the same work. The second is ensuring that the needs of our aging senior citizens are met. From keeping property taxes low to promoting social services for healthy living, we must provide an opportunity for seniors to age in place with dignity. I’m also passionate about reducing domestic violence because of my work as a Crisis Response Team specialist for SAPD. So my third issue is public safety and bringing a Public Safety substation to District 3. The fourth is closing the digital divide and working to bring broadband infrastructure to our neighborhoods.

Do you support the proposition to change city charter language and expand the use of bond money beyond public works?

Yes, I support Proposition A because I believe that we should offer the voters a myriad of options when it comes to bond projects.

Do you believe there is a need for policing reform in San Antonio?

I do believe there is a need for reform. However, I support collective bargaining and therefore I am against Proposition B. 

How do you see the concept of “equity” applying to a City Council member’s job?

We have a district with very unique traits, characteristics and needs. As a City Council member my job is to make sure we recognize where the greatest needs exist and that we give priority to these areas in services and social programs.

Marcello Martinez

Age 49, architect. Lifelong San Antonian.

List any previous experience in government or participation on local boards, commissions, or neighborhood associations.

Planning Commission Member, chair; Alamo Plaza Citizens Advisory Committee; SAWS Rate Advisory Committee; Westside TIRZ board; San Antonio Playhouse Board; several YMCA branch boards; YMCA Association Buildings & Properties Committee; SA Children’s Museum Board; SAMYS Board.

What are the top priorities you would like to address as a council member?

Walking through our neighborhoods, I love how much of our history lives in District 3, and I am committed to making sure the progress we make honors that history.  I am concerned about the unfinished projects I see with our streets, sidewalks, and drainage. I plan to prioritize projects through our five-year rolling maintenance plan, our annual city budget process, and our city bond program. We will advocate to get a fair share of city certificate of obligation bonds. I plan to create a standing drainage committee, and to keep an eye on the overall impact of these developments in our district.

Our team has covered over 9,000 rooftops and we repeatedly hear the need for this investment. My ultimate goal is to foster walkable, thriving neighborhoods, filled with choice and opportunity for all of us.

Neighbors have also shared with me the challenges their elderly parents have had, especially with the latest winter storm.  Some of us are blessed to have the resources we need to check on our senior family members, and help them stay safe and healthy.  Unfortunately, there are also those in our district lacking this type of family support.  I plan to create a senior help group out of my office, focused on speaking face to face with seniors in our district and connecting them to vital resources. We are creating family around those who do not have family.

Do you support the proposition to change city charter language and expand the use of bond money beyond public works?

Yes. One solution this flexibility can provide is addressing the shortage of workforce housing. We can be strategic about using assets the City already owns. Digital infrastructure, and other alternative methods of communication, is another. This is an important public benefit gap that bond dollars can address. Our recent winter disaster revealed the fragility in our service and communication networks. That’s an issue. Let’s fill that gap with all tools available to us.

Do you believe there is a need for policing reform in San Antonio?

Back in the 1990s, the San Antonio Police Department was one of the most sought after places for officers to work in the country. That process of recruitment, potential cadet screening and a top HR department, is where we can invest – to get the top, most ethical, cadets into our system. Let’s improve those screening tools, and bring the candidates with the best potential and strength of character to San Antonio. The best recruiters will know what speaks to the best candidates of today. I will also work to expand the Mobile Medical Service in the 2022 budget so that more house visits can be made to those with medical needs in District 3.

How do you see the concept of “equity” applying to a City Council member’s job?

All citizens in the United States have the right to equal protection under the law. We need to work to apply the equal protection clause locally. As a council member, I will use an equity lens to work on: historically under addressed neighborhood infrastructure, communities without basic resources like access to libraries, missing sidewalk connectivity, and eliminating the food desert bringing healthy food options to all.

Equity can apply to our overall quality of life.  We will use City investment, and incentivize strategic urban planning, in the direction of creating neighborhoods that are livable, diverse, and full of opportunity. We will identify locations in District 3 where businesses and employers can locate, we will create opportunities for GED completion programs and workforce training programs so that our residents can learn, train, and work in our neighborhoods.  

Neighborhood by neighborhood, we will complete a site survey of current conditions. We will complete a needs survey, capturing what the people want. And we will prioritize these development proposals and show them, neighborhood by neighborhood, the progress we are making.

San Antonio Report Staff

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff.