This article is the final interview of the Helotes City Council candidates on the May 1st, 2021 ballot. Only candidates who participated in the previous interview were invited to participate in the second and final interview for this election series.
Helotes News: How would you collaborate with the Helotes Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) to foster managed commercial growth in Helotes?
Matthew Merchant: In a word, listen. The members of this very important organization in Helotes can and have been making some very impactful decisions for quite some time. I have been reading everything I can to learn what they have done, what they are doing, and what they have in mind for the future. I will work to build a relationship that is mutually respectful. I have the utmost respect for passionate people who work to build a successful business, and I think we are lucky to have the EDC who promote, and assist brave entrepreneurs in the best interest of citizens (wide tax base).
Helotes News: In terms of oversight, how involved do you plan to be with the activities and action items brought before you on Council from the HEDC, Planning and Zoning, Board of Adjustments?
Matthew Merchant: This question, to me, has everything to do with creating, building, and fostering relationships. I need to do my research, and ask appropriate questions. In order to do this, I need to gain the trust of the people I will be interacting with, while also earning and maintain the trust of the citizens of Helotes. I am not afraid to ask questions. The chances are, if I am asking the questions, there are citizens who also don’t understand.
Helotes News: We’re not expecting you to know it all. So, if there is one thing you could change about Helotes zoning, what would it be?
Thankfully we have a very capable Planning and Zoning committee. I don’t know if I will change anything as this is something I honestly have not looked too deeply into. What people can be sure of is that I will ensure and advocate for the property rights of citizens. Changes to current zoning should be made only in the best interests of citizens.
Helotes News: There is a good amount of frustration with traffic in Helotes. What is your view on our private and commercial traffic?
Matthew Merchant: My thoughts on traffic is that we all have some place to go and invariably not enough time to get there. The most important issue is that we need to ensure safe travel; not just motorist, but pedestrians and cyclist as well. There are locations in Helotes that want more roads (connecting road from Davis Ranch to Beverly hills to gain FM-1560 access), some want traffic lights (FM-1560 & Helotes Trail) and few more that need sidewalks (Riggs Rd & Bandera Rd). In the interest of public safety, we need leaders who will work with TXDot and citizens to locate issues and problems, and then prioritize sound practical solutions.
Helotes News: What areas, if any, do you believe the City can work better with TX DoT to improve our commuter’s experience?
Matthew Merchant: Engage with TxDot. Expand and generate a better relationship with TxDot to ensure that they don’t engineer anymore blind corners (Riggs Rd and FM1560). With the widening of 1560, be forward thinking enough to include bike lanes and sidewalks where appropriate. There is also quite a bit of conversation about the FM-1560 widening at Antonio Drive, Iron Hose Way, Riggs Rd, and the road to City Hall; and deservedly so. There will only be left turns at these Roads, except for Antonio Drive. This is an issue that needs more conversation.
To make a (highly encouraged) comment see https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/K5WG5X8?fbclid=IwAR0urQMfmWTHsjwXKiHM9oSgI-wdjYl1Rli6wdbb2mDSCsiHiVwRgjZN1YQ
Helotes News: Will you report observed or employee reported violations of Texas Municipal and Penal codes to the proper authorities?
Matthew Merchant: Without question.
Helotes News: How will you ensure the items brought before you on the City Council Meeting Agenda packets for any given meeting are presented to you unbiased, complete with relevant facts or background omissions?
Matthew Merchant: I don’t want to be so naïve as to think that everything brought before City Council has some personal agenda. However, I believe in the idea of a free market and that bad ideas die on their own lack of merit. Conversely good ideas will thrive.
Last Minute Thoughts
Helotes News: Consider everything you have learned from campaigning this year; what is the most important positive item you learned about that should be sustained or improved upon, and what is the most negative item that should be eliminated or amended? You don’t have to answer if there is nothing that comes to mind?
Matthew Merchant: The single most positive item I have learned while campaigning is that the people of Helotes, whether they are voting for me or not are positive, upbeat, encouraging and kind. It is intimidating to go door to door to ask for support and votes. Almost all the people I spoke with were engaging and supportive. I will never forget this experience.
The negative – I never thought I would experience this in a great place like Helotes, is that those with power and authority are not as polite as those who put them into said authority. The poor attitude and lack of professionalism displayed by the Mayor and a very few supports will not be soon forgotten.