SA Next Considers City’s Future, Looks to Past

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Anita Ledbetter speaks to SA Next attendees. Photo by Mitch Hagney.

During the inaugural SA Next event on March 13 at Geekdom‘s Rand Building, Anita Ledbetter, executive director of both Build San Antonio Green (BSAG) and Solar San Antonio, spoke of a bright future – inspired by the past. In particular, she highlighted the founder of her organizations, Bill Sinkin.

Anita Ledbetter

Anita Ledbetter

“Bill would go where no one else wanted to go, and he saw the tools for social change that no one else did. He was born in 1913, and his vision was framed by the many cataclysmic changes of the 20th century,” Ledbetter said.

Sinkin was a San Antonio activist for nearly a century, founding organizations that made job opportunities for the disabled, gave loans to minorities, and reduced pollution. He chaired the San Antonio Housing Authority‘s board and was the precinct chairman for the Democratic Party from 1942 to 2008.

In 1968, he completed his dream of hosting an international fair in San Antonio, HemisFair ’68 – which included the construction of the Tower of the Americas.

“When you see the Tower of the Americas, it’s important to acknowledge that it was an idea that a middle aged Bill Sinkin had while he was walking down the street. If we choose to do what comes easily, then developments like the tower and the River Walk would never happen,” Ledbetter said.

Lanny Sinkin (left) sits with his father, Bill Sinkin, who turned 100 on May 19, 2013 and passed away Feb. 3, 2014. Bill holds a photo of himself wearing the velvet suit he wore to school at age six. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Lanny Sinkin (left) sits with his father, Bill Sinkin, who turned 100 on May 19, 2013 and passed away Feb. 3, 2014. Bill holds a photo of himself wearing the velvet suit he wore to school at age six. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

It is difficult to quantify Bill’s impact, but Ledbetter provided some data about his environmental organizations. Since its founding, BSAG has certified 4,405 homes to date, which is 51 million pounds of carbon dioxide saved, 40,000 pounds of the air pollutant NOx, and more than nine megawatts (MW) of peak demand reduction. Solar San Antonio facilitated CPS Energy’s installation of 46 MW of centralized solar, including more than 19 at their newest solar farm named after Bill, who passed away in February 2014. He was 100 years old.

“We are still in the infancy of this city and these opportunities, and we have to imagine what the city is going to look like in 50 years,” Ledbetter said. “I’m here to challenge you to discover what makes sense moving forward. It’s not just about environmentalism or economic development, though it’s partially about them, it’s about social change. One day you’ll wake up and it will be tomorrow. We have a great opportunity in San Antonio to use the assets around us.”

Raiford Smith from CPS, another slated speaker, had to cancel because of personal matters.

Arugula Catering provided food for the SA Next lecture at the Rand Building. Photo by Mitch Hagney.

Arugula Catering provided food for the SA Next lecture at the Rand Building. Photo by Mitch Hagney.

Fittingly, Alamo Beer Company and Arugula Catering provided the lavish refreshments. Both companies opened in San Antonio more than 10 years ago, and recently opened their brick and mortar locations. Alamo brewery opened up earlier in March, and Arugula Catering will open their location next to Main Plaza this summer.

Their longtime marathon of community participation through innumerable events and outreaches fit with Ledbetter’s prescription for a bright San Antonio Future.

*Featured/top image: Anita Ledbetter speaks to SA Next attendees about the future of San Antonio. Photo by Mitch Hagney.

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