City Council District 3 candidates answer your questions ahead of San Antonio’s May 1 election

We took your questions to the candidates for answers, here are their responses

Editor’s note: Find answers for all districts and the mayoral race here. Find news, resources and results from the election on our Vote 2021 page.

Saturday, May 1, 2021, is the municipal election in San Antonio. On the ballot, a rematch for mayor and nearly 80 candidates competing in 10 city council races, along with a proposition aimed at repealing the police department’s collective bargaining rights and a charter change for city bond projects.

We wanted to be sure you had a chance to ask your most important questions to the candidates before making your decision in the election — early voting begins April 17.

We received more than 400 questions from KSAT viewers and readers for the candidates.

We chose three of the most commonly asked questions, sent to each candidate and asked them to respond by April 12.

  1. Are you for or against Prop B and why?
  2. What are your plans to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Antonio?
  3. What is your plan to clean up and improve our city -- specifically when it comes to the condition of our roads, litter (dumping) and graffiti?

Below are the unedited responses we received from the candidates who responded to our questions. The candidates are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot.

San Antonio City Council District 3 Candidates

Rodolfo “Rudy” Lopez, Self-employed

Did not respond.

Mark Arthur Vargas Jr., Educator

Are you for or against Prop B and why?

Vargas: “I took time to meet with both the San Antonio Police Officers’ Association and FixSAPD to hear both arguments. After doing so, I came to the conclusion that we should not let police accountability be up for negotiation. Because of this, I am voting Yes for Prop B.

“Currently, there is a process that has allowed bad officers to appeal and override a suspension or firing. This undermines the authority of our police chief, and harms the credibility of our department, when the vast majority of our officers uphold their oath. This is not about defunding the police department, nor is this about hurting unions.

“I reject all calls for defunding, but believe reforms are needed to better assess how the department spends its nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money. District 3 needs a substation, and I am pushing for a revolutionary facility that has clinical psychiatrists and social workers to deal with mental health, domestic violence, and substance abuse issues.

“I am glad the voters are getting their say on something that has not been voted on in nearly 50 years. If the voters decide to keep collective bargaining, I will not try to overrule their decree. I will still push for reforms within the department to ensure they are always bettering their commitment to serve and I will fight to remove bad officers.”

What are your plans to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Antonio?

Vargas: “Homelessness is an increasingly complicated issue that we must deal with compassionately and humanely. As the homeless population grows in District 3, we must be sure to tackle this issue as soon as possible. Within the group, there are several issues that homeless persons may deal with: mental health, substance abuse, lack of trust in city services, or displaced peoples.

“With the resources that I would like to see within SAPD, we can address half of these common problems, as well as work to unclog the justice system that usually arrests someone and places them in a jail cell for a few days, only to see them back on the street.

“I want to work and increase the city’s partnership with community partner organizations who have already done tremendous work in building trust with some homeless people. We need to get these organizations to work collectively. Furthermore, we need to be sure we are doing all we can to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place. After this pandemic, many people are struggling. We need to be there for them.”

What is your plan to clean up and improve our city -- specifically when it comes to the condition of our roads, litter (dumping) and graffiti?

Vargas: “We must take pride in our district, that means we need to be sure that all parties are doing their part to keep it clean. Many of our residents have done a diligent job at contacting Code Compliance with regards to any issues they may notice throughout our neighborhoods. As councilman, I will make it a priority to work with our Code Compliance officers and increase response time and feedback to our residents.

“I would like to see continued partnerships with our local schools and community organizations to clean up our district as we work to decrease and eliminate the homeless population in our area. We also need to work to eliminate plastic waste, protecting our environment and creekways.

“For our roads, District 3 saw a record amount of money allocated to it with the most recent bond. Many projects are still underway today to improve roads among our busiest intersections. But that has come at a lack of neighborhood street and sidewalk projects. City and Council staff work at the pleasure of the resident, so we need to be active in fighting to get sidewalks and ramps for our residents within District 3. A walkable, rideable, accessible district, is a happy and proud one to live in.”

Rafael C. Vela, (Occupation Not Listed)

Did not respond.

Angela Cardona, Executive Assistant/Community Relations

Are you for or against Prop B and why?

Cardona: “I am still looking to our current elected official to share more about this. Just as others that have family members that are first responders and want to see their families protected, I too am disturbed about the lack of accountability being enforced to the wrongdoers and repeat offenders . I think it’s time for the community to speak up and make their voices heard at that ballot box. As their elected official, I will respect and respond to the decision the community brings.”

What are your plans to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Antonio?

Cardona: “Houslessness should be a city wide concern, as it will take a city wide effort to meet the needs of this community. In my experience, I have learned that an effective way of addressing deep issues is to include those dealing with them as part of the solution process. It is critical that COSA collaborate across the spectrum of experts that are devoted to meeting this population where they are at and work by serving them individually, connecting them to organizations that can better meet their specific needs. These efforts need to be documented and measured so Council can continue funding the organizations that are most effective in bringing change.”

What is your plan to clean up and improve our city -- specifically when it comes to the condition of our roads, litter (dumping) and graffiti?

Cardona: “I plan on continuing my efforts in educating our community about the resources we have to help resolve these issues via 311 and holding myself accountable to participating in every effort to relieve our roads and riverfront watersheds from dumping and trash. Just this weekend, I participated in a river clean up and last weekend, I made reports of illegal dumping and potholes by calling 311. As the elected official, I look forward to collaborating with all sectors of our district in addressing their concerns.”

Walter Murray, Business owner

Are you for or against Prop B and why?

Murray: “My stand is not to defunding the police vote against Prop B...Without the police department we don’t have a safe city.”

What are your plans to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Antonio?

Murray: “A plan is to find them all housing.

  1. Housing - We need to get the homeless off the streets.
  2. Health Care – We need to provide them with health care.
  3. Building a career plan with a real vision.
  4. Foster Education Connection.
  5. Strengthen Crisis Response System.
  6. Reduce Criminal Justice Involvement.
  7. Build Strong Partnerships with local and national agencies that help with the homeless.”

What is your plan to clean up and improve our city -- specifically when it comes to the condition of our roads, litter (dumping), and graffiti?

Murray: “We need to bring back successful programs like - Community cleanup – A program that brings volunteers together to clean, repair, and improve public spaces or other areas such as vacant lots or abandoned properties that have been neglected and commonly used for littering. Cleanup projects can involve all kinds of public spaces—parks, riverbanks, schoolyards, sidewalks, playing fields, and even parking lots, to name just a few.”

Ted Gonzalez, Sales manager

Are you for or against Prop B and why?

Gonzalez: “I understand the importance of bargaining rights and negotiations to ensure our police officers are treated fairly and have the resources they need to protect and serve our community. However, the right to bargain and negotiate does not give officers the right to break the law and not be held accountable for their actions. There needs to be a middle ground between the City and Union where we can ensure our officers are protected and also held to the same standards that the citizens of this City are.”

What are your plans to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Antonio?

Gonzalez: “I would partner with local outreach programs to help develop plans that will help identify and provide resources for the homeless. We need to develop a plan that provides housing and shelter to these individuals and not just a short term solution, we need to invest in permanent housing and supportive systems to help the homeless who live with disabilities, mental illness or other health problems. Once we can get housing and shelters established, we can focus on maintaining stability for them and their families to prevent them from experiencing homelessness again in the future.”

What is your plan to clean up and improve our city -- specifically when it comes to the condition of our roads, litter (dumping) and graffiti?

Gonzalez: “One of my top priorities is to repair and maintain our roadways and sidewalks. There are too many children walking to and from school on dangerous roads with no sidewalks, curbs or dedicated bike lanes. This needs to be addressed immediately! In regards to dumping, we need to educate the community of the dangers and cost illegal dumping.

“We need to also create mobile disposal sights throughout the City that would give individuals the opportunity to dispose of waste free of charge.

“The prevention of graffiti can come from a couple different avenues. One is community involvement, we need to ensure the community is aware of graffiti reporting procedures. Whether that be through more television /radio ads or town hall meetings, the more info we can get to the public about reporting graffiti the easier it will be to stop it. We also need to adopt and enforce stricter penalties for individuals caught performing graffiti and educate our youth the importance of respecting property and image of our great City. Another way is to install motion activated lights/cameras on areas where graffiti is known to occur. This would deter would be vandals and also help identify those caught on camera.”

Katherine Herrera Garza, BDR

Are you for or against Prop B and why?

Herrera Garza: “I am against Prop B. I do not believe that repealing Ch. 174 will improve police accountability but instead will cause a breakdown of SAPD.which will negatively impact our community. I am all for improving upon existing procedures, but do not think that a full repeal of Ch 174 is the way to go.”

What are your plans to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Antonio?

Herrera Garza: “Working hand in hand with non profits and other smaller led organizations to find out what each homeless individuals needs are when it comes to homelessness. Also working on plans with the state hospital to ensure that individuals released from there are not simply just left out on the streets, but have a plan to transition to keep them healthy and sheltered.

What is your plan to clean up and improve our city -- specifically when it comes to the condition of our roads, litter (dumping) and graffiti?

Herrera Garza: “Working in collaboration with the community.Trouble shooting those spots that are repeatedly targets of illegal dumping and utilizing cost efficient methods to ensure those spots have surveillance. Making sure that complaints of road conditions are reviewed and responded to quickly. Also, making sure our city workers are reporting issues and steps are continuously being made to have constant improvements throughout the community.”

Tomas Uresti, Self-employed

Are you for or against Prop B and why?

Uresti: “Not in favor reasons being:

“Removing collective bargaining affects the entire families of the employees and takes away the ability to set ground rules across the board for employees so no one person or rank is favored. When it comes to reform it should be done by SAPD themselves. A plan of action needs to be brought before city council and if accepted then whatever funding is needed if any then council sees that if moves forward. In the case that results are seen, city council would need to bring in an outside source to implement one. I don’t believe the entire force should be penalized because of a few bad actors.”

What are your plans to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Antonio?

Uresti: “Taking city owned facilities or obtaining them and renovating to adhere the housing needs of the homeless. Within these facilities assessments of possible mental health, substance abuse or other possible causes keeping individuals from obtaining their own housing be assessed getting assistance that will hopefully help them to get back on track. In some cases it could be nothing but someone just falling on hard times and possible job training to help an individual.”

What is your plan to clean up and improve our city -- specifically when it comes to the condition of our roads, litter (dumping) and graffiti?

Uresti: “Many individuals have lost employment to the pandemic. Opening job opportunities in these areas would help both those in need and help the city catch up on the back log of repairs and cleanups needed. Harsher punishments on those in violation of these city ordinances and making the public aware of these changes being made.”

Phyllis Viagran, Trainer at Oats Senior Planet

Are you for or against Prop B and why?

Viagran: “I am against Proposition B. I do not believe we should take collective bargaining away from workers in unions or associations. We need representatives from the city and from the police department, chosen by SAPOA, to have the ability to come to the table and negotiate. I think we can get more accountability using this process. I was quoted by the San Antonio Express-News on this particular issue: ‘Reforming officer discipline, she notes, has taken center stage in the current round of contract negotiations between the city and the police union...”I think we can iron those things out at the bargaining table,” Viagran said.’”

What are your plans to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Antonio

Viagran: “When we speak about homelessness, we need to understand it has many different forms: from those living under bridges to multiple families all living in one house to a single mother couch surfing. There is no one fix all solution and it is going to take a national, state, and community collaborative approach. The City needs to work in coordination with other departments and local nonprofits and organizations to uplift and help those experiencing homelessness. We need a robust ID recovery program as well as coordinated needle exchange efforts.”

What is your plan to clean up and improve our city -- specifically when it comes to the condition of our roads, litter (dumping) and graffiti?

Viagran: “We need to ensure that infrastructure improvement projects from the 2020 bond are completed as promised. Looking at the 2022 bond, we need to work to incorporate a Best Value - Dig Once policy, which aims to reduce over excavation of infrastructure projects by coordinating city and utility companies’ efforts. When it comes to litter dumping, we need more dial-a-trailer options and stronger code enforcement. For graffiti, the City must work with the police to identify if the graffiti is gang tagging or just a graffiti artist and proceed accordingly. We must continue to fund city programs that assist with graffiti clean-up so that home and business owners aren’t left with paying the bill when their properties are vandalized.”

Stephen “Steve” Valdez, Communications

Did not respond.

Marcello Martinez, Architect

Are you for or against Prop B and why?

Martinez: “Thank you for this opportunity. I am opposed to Proposition B for multiple reasons. Firstly, I believe it is a mistake to remove collective bargaining from a group of workers. Unions play an important role in our system; this would be a precedent in the wrong direction. Secondly, I believe there is a confusion between issues. Police reform, holding officers to a high standard, negotiating the next contract between the Citizens and our Police Department, are all incredibly important issues that deserve serious and thoughtful attention and accountability. I believe we can accomplish that by sitting at the same table and working on these complex issues together. Removing collective bargaining will not accomplish any of those goals of reform, and I believe will make it more difficult to achieve them. We may instead create the unintended circumstance of a Police force that does not attract the top recruits that we want to serve our city. We have the tools to address discipline matters now, without waiting for an election. The accountability and transparency of a negotiated contract also exists now, in the form of our representative City Council. The voters have the right to hire a representative and hold them accountable.”

What are your plans to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Antonio?

Martinez: “Homelessness has a number of root causes including unemployment, domestic violence, mental health challenges, youth displacement (foster care children aging out of system), medical cost hardships, and more. Focusing on addressing those issues will allow us to address homelessness more effectively. We can do this by working with community partners and providing the resources necessary to prevent homelessness, help individuals transition from homeless to home, and support those individuals in their new homes to ensure their transition is successful. Ensuring our first responders and frontline workers are trauma-informed and knowledgeable about these resources is key to getting our homeless neighbors to the right place for the right help. We need to strengthen communication to connect our existing resources to the individuals who need them. We will work to obtain more funding for these efforts through measures such as tax credit apartment project set asides for homeless with wrap around services.”

What is your plan to clean up and improve our city -- specifically when it comes to the condition of our roads, litter (dumping) and graffiti?

Martinez: “Within the first 6 months of being in office, we are going to complete a site survey. We will catalog conditions throughout our District, and we will work with our neighbors to create a priority list of improvements. We will then use the myriad tools we have available to improve our infrastructure and clean our neighborhoods. We will work to shorten the waiting time mandated to enter private property that is out of code compliance. My office will also work to get an affidavit to enter private properties that are out of compliance. We will then coordinate volunteers and other efforts to clean up these areas.

“I am in support of a City bond that address all roads that score between 30 and 50 on the Pavement Condition Index (PCI). Fixing these lower scored streets with a major bond will help improve the average score of all streets. Then our 5 year rolling budget plan can go further; we will be maintaining topical problems across all streets, and not using our budget for streets that have deteriorated severely. I continue to support equity spending. This is another version of that principle. We will work to address all these issues, and we will keep the neighborhoods informed of our progress.

“Thank you for your time, and I respectfully ask for your vote. Please go to for more information and ways to help.”

Diana Flores Uriegas, PSR

Did not respond.

Find out if you are a San Antonio resident and which city council and school district you are in here.

Important Election Dates

  • Monday, April 19, 2021: FIRST day of Early Voting.
  • Tuesday, April 27, 2021: LAST day of Early Voting.
  • Saturday, May 1, 2021: Election Day

Find more information about the election here and visit our elections page for the latest election-related stories.

Click on the races below to read more candidates’ answers to the reader questions:

About the Author:

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 25 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.