Mayor John Thomaides at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Submitted photo
Thomaides hopeful about opportunities for regional efforts
It was time for engagement and building alliances as mayors from across the country traveled to Boston for the 86th Annual meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors.
“It was a chance for mayors, regardless of the size of their city, to talk about similar problems,” said San Marcos Mayor John Thomaides. “A lot of the smaller city mayors got a chance to learn from larger cities that have the staff and resources to be innovative. But, I also think mayors from larger cities learn from us who are much closer to our constituency.”
The conference theme centered around three words: Innovation, Infrastructure and Inclusion. But it wasn’t all just attending meetings. Thomaides also utilized his time to meet with a select group of mayors — as many as he could — from the Lone Star State whose border touches Interstate 35.
“From Georgetown to San Antonio it’s been the goal of Kyle Mayor Travis Mitchell and me to create a ‘Corridor of Mayors Coalition,’” Thomaides said. “We’ve identified 12 cities, obviously the two largest were Austin and San Antonio. I wanted to communicate with them directly about their interest in coalition. I’m happy to say both were very enthusiastic.”
Thomaides said they lack a few more mayoral participants but believes all will join the coalition.
“I think we’re all realizing as a region, with a new legislative session coming in 2019, we need to be unified,” Thomaides added. “There’s strength in numbers. Our coalition in this region represents between 4-5 million people. That’s an impressive responsibility and opportunity.”
He said he hopes the coalition comes together on issues facing everyone in the group. Issues like: transportation, economic growth opportunity and the environment.
Asked about a timeline for the coalition to meet Thomaides said, “soon.”
“We’re not going to mess around,” he said. “This is too important. It’s time to step up and make it happen.”
After returning home Thomaides said he was eager to keep momentum going with the discussion of Innovation Districts.
He said the city council supported the concept “enthusiastically” at Tuesday’s meeting and the measure will be approved in August.
“We’ve talked about it before and now it’s time to act,” he said. “We’ve created two innovation district proposals; first the Star Park area on McCarty – the south innovation district - the other in downtown, the central innovation district. “
Thomaides said the concept is simple. It’s an opportunity to allow people in a small geographical area to interact and exchange in a meaningful way, ideas to accomplish their goals, often around a unifying theme of the district itself.
“We will set up an advisory committee and someone to help oversee it,” he said. “As a city, if you can lay out the playing field and allow the private sector the opportunities, some great things can happen. A lot of jobs are being created out of these districts.
We have folks with ideas and energy willing to take a chance. I want to facilitate that even more with the creation of these districts.”