Council Asks For More ‘Aggressive’ Implementation of SA Tomorrow, Project QUEST Funding

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Mayor Ivy Taylor. Photo by Scott Ball.

Mayor Ivy Taylor listens to an overview of the City's 2017 Municipal Bond program. Photo by Scott Ball.

Now that the SA Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan has been approved by City Council, several members want to see its steps implemented sooner rather than later.

“I just want us to get off to an aggressive start,” said Mayor Ivy Taylor after being presented with City staff’s recommendations to fund just one regional plan with the fiscal year 2017 City Budget.

To keep on pace with the plan’s proposed five-year implementation and community plan cycle to produce 13 regional plans and five community plans, they’ll need at least one community plan and two, if not three, regional plans a year.

Taylor and others expressed concern that it would be a “slow start with one regional center” for a massive plan that will act as a roadmap for City sustainability, transportation, health, and development as Bexar County is expected to add more than one million people to its population by 2040, most of them in San Antonio.

City Council is undergoing a series of departmental budget work sessions in the lead-up to the budget adoption vote on Thursday, Sept. 15. There is one more public budget open house scheduled for Sept. 1 at the South Side Lions Community Center, 3100 Hiawatha St., from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Comments are still being accepted and more information is available online.

(Read More: City Unveils Budget to Eastside Residents)

City staff proposed that two more City planners be hired with $160,000 in next year’s budget and that $250,000 be allotted for the first regional plan.

Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8), who was tri-chair of the SA Tomorrow planning effort, said he’d like to see Council “accelerate the program, to make sure we’re getting all of (the regional centers) addressed certainly within five years and potentially faster than that.

“It’s really important for us to as get aggressive on this as possible,” Nirenberg said.

The regional center and community plans – each unique to their side of the city – will be based on existing neighborhood plans and inform future land use, transportation, and development efforts. Every five years, the planning process will start over and adjust to accommodate changing economies and unexpected challenges.

The nonprofit SA2020, which was initiated under former Mayor Julián Castro, is often cited as the “community vision” that served as the basis or launch pad for Taylor’s SA Tomorrow. Next year’s proposed budget includes $150,000 for SA2020, $50,000 of which will be used for SA Tomorrow implementation outreach activities like marketing and community engagement events in partnership with the nonprofit, said Deputy City Manager Peter Zanoni.

“SA2020 and City staff are working to see how we can better align the SA2020 performance metrics with the City’s performance metrics that are within our SA Tomorrow plan,” Zanoni said. For example, SA2020 has a goal to increase complete streets across the city and SA Tomorrow has 20 indicators that mention complete streets.

“The indicator alignment will be one where the Planning Department and other staff work closely with SA2020 to see how we can ensure that we have a well-balanced, practical set of indicators that we can track over time – over the next five years,” he said.

A majority of City Council members said they supported a request initiated by Councilman Joe Krier (D9) and Shirley Gonzales (D5) to add Project QUEST, a nonprofit workforce development program, as a more permanent line item in the City’s budget moving forward instead of requiring it to compete with other social service agencies for City funding.

Haven for Hope, its campus health center ($5.9 million combined), and after school programs ($2.7 million) are categorized and funded under separate line items under the Human Service budget. About $12.7 million are up for grabs through a competitive application process. That money will be divvied up between 62 agencies in four different service categories: Children & Family Services at $2.1 million, Youth Services at $3.7 million, Safety Net at $3.6 million, and Workforce Development at $3.6 million – $2 million of the latter is already proposed for Project QUEST.

City staff did not recommend making Project QUEST its own line item.

“There are a number of (other) job training programs that would consider applying during this process,” said Human Services Director Melody Woosley.

The so-called “delegate agencies” will lobby City Council for funding this and next Wednesday.

In order to continue level funding for domestic violence and child abuse prevention agencies, $318,000 was added to the mix from last year’s delegate agency fund balance – $250,000 from the new agencies allocation and $312,000 from Workforce Development, Woosley said.

After a Council survey warranted more support for Workforce Development earlier this year, City staff recommended giving money to agencies in that category during the preliminary budget goal setting session in June. After several Council members voiced concern, funding was instead maintained for domestic violence and child abuse agencies.

Taylor praised Project QUEST and said she would support its bid for separation from the other delegate agencies if that was the consensus of Council members, but said it was a “slippery slope” toward allowing more permanent funding for agencies.

“While the majority of us may feel today that Project QUEST is worthy of being a line item … all of us can have causes and issues that we feel are ‘do or die’ and should always be in the budget,” Taylor said. “I just want to caution us about boxing ourselves in.”

She added that the vetting and competitive process set-up allows for more flexibility.

Other items discussed on Tuesday include the nonprofit San Antonio B-Cycle, which received City assistance to the tune of $121,500 during the its transition period last year, but will not be seeking City funding next year.

Most Council members were interested in expanding Councilman Roberto Treviño’s (D1) pilot San Antonio Under 1 Roof program. The 12-month program, funded by $200,000 reallocated from another District 1 program this year, aims to reduce energy bills and the urban heat island effect in San Antonio.

 

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Top image: Mayor Ivy Taylor listens to an overview of the City’s 2017 Municipal Bond program earlier this month.  File photo by Scott Ball. 

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