As SA2020 refocuses and rebrands its work tracking San Antonio’s progress toward its social and economic goals, it may start coordinating more closely with the City of San Antonio.

Several City Council members and Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Wednesday said the community vision that SA2020 aligns groups and agencies toward should play a role in how the City allocates spending.

“If we’re doing it right, all of this is integrated into Council committees and policy priorities – including the budget process,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

Wednesday was the first time since 2014 that the Council was given a formal update on SA2020, which began as a community engagement initiative in 2011 under then-Mayor Julián Castro. The nonprofit releases an annual report that serves as a report card on the San Antonio area’s progress in categories that measure community well-being and economic growth such as education, environment, health, culture, and transportation.

“It’s an organization unto itself that answers to the public and holds us accountable,” Nirenberg said. “It should take the guesswork out of policy priorities up here on the dais.”

Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) suggested City Council should endorse or adopt SA2020’s annual report when it’s issued each January.

“I think it would behoove us to strategize how we can take some level of ownership on the goals making sure that what we do here at the City is supportive [of those goals],” she said.

SA2020 President and CEO Molly Cox said the nonprofit is ready to assist the City in its budgeting process and in making sure the City’s programs are aligned with other partner goals.

“We are always, always, always open to any partnerships,” Cox told the Rivard Report. “Our job is not to do the city’s work. … Our job is to listen and coordinate with cross-sector organizations to realize the common community vision. The city cannot and shouldn’t be owning community results because no one institution can ever [be responsible for] a result.”

While SA2020 doesn’t do the work, such as establish programs that combat prison recidivism, it “sets the table” for hundreds of community partners (corporations, nonprofits, and other agencies) to do so by providing analysis of their programs and coordination with other partners working on that goal.

“If City Council is not prioritizing the community vision then I don’t know how City departments who are taking policy direction can integrate the work [SA2020 is doing] into their [functions],” Cox told council members.

Better coordination is needed, City Manager Erik Walsh said.

“I think it’s important that there be regular touchpoints with SA2020 and the Council,” Walsh said. “Decreasing domestic violence was a priority [identified in the community vision] 10 years ago. It wasn’t a major budget initiative in our budget until 2019.”

Over the years, the City has produced reports and created plans relating to the same issues tracked by SA2020 and using the same indicators, such as domestic violence and the recent Status of Poverty Report.

“We haven’t consulted with SA 2020 [on those efforts],” Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger said, noting that data efforts between the two organizations have been disconnected. “With some of the work SA2020 is doing in the community, they haven’t always consulted with us. We need both sides to do a better job … figuring out where our lanes are and making sure we’re not duplicating work.”

That alignment comes at a critical time for S2020 as it embarks on year-long community listening tour that will inform its rebranding and refocus the community vision for the next decade.

Kiran Kaur Bains, SA2020’s director of community impact, gave City Council an overview of the roughly 3,o00 responses to its community engagement survey the nonprofit launched last month.

SA2020 will host dozens of community events this year and has enlisted volunteer “ambassadors” to help collect to answer a survey that asks:

  • Thinking ahead in the next 10 years, what is one thing you hope is preserved or maintained in San Antonio?
  • Thinking ahead in the next 10 years, what is one thing you hope is improved or changed in San Antonio? 
  • As a neighbor, parent, student, policymaker, journalist, nonprofit, or corporate employee, and/or member of the San Antonio community, what will you do to impact our shared Community Vision?

So far, transportation and mobility has been cited most frequently (more than 32 percent) in responses to what community members most want to see improved/changed, followed by infrastructure (nearly 13 percent) and education (more than 12 percent).

Respondents want culture (26.6) percent) maintained, followed by landmarks (14 percent) and greenspaces/parks (12 percent).

SA2020 wants to engage 162,850 area residents in its rebranding effort, including 10,000 responses to the survey. Survey results, including demographics of respondents, are updated weekly on its website.

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) said City Council should consider the City’s annual budget survey, SASpeakUp, as well as SA2020’s during budget formulation.

“It seems like we listen to SASPeakUp when it comes to the budget process and we’ve not brought SA2020 into the budget process,” Trevino said. “I think this is good information to help shape the policy.”

This article has been updated to clarify how many surveys have been taken (3,000), and how many total community engagements SA2020 plans to collect over a year (162,850).

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@rivardreport.com