City Council Members Hope to Double Funding For Domestic Violence Initiatives

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Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5)

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Transportation Committee Chair and Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) said she was disappointed following a briefing with members of the Transportation and Capital Improvements department.

There were 25 domestic violence deaths in Bexar County in 2018 – the highest rate in the state – and the numbers have nearly tripled since 2015, according to the Texas Council on Family Violence.

At a luncheon benefiting the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter at the Grand Hyatt downtown on Friday, Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) said a proposal submitted to City Council aims to double the funding the City budgets toward programs and initiatives combating domestic violence.

“I would hope that [doubling funding] would be seen as a simple request” by members of City Council and City Manager Erik Walsh, Gonzales said. “We currently have $21 million that goes toward [agencies and programs working with victims], but we need additional funding, and we need to develop a focused approach that will better address the issue.”

Gonzales and Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) crafted the proposal presented Thursday to City Council asking for domestic violence to be prioritized in the upcoming budget process in June. Council members Rebecca Viagran (D3), Rey Saldaña (D4), and Ana Sandoval (D7) also signed the consideration request, which requires five signatures.

For Gonzales, the issue is important because her district, mostly just south and west of downtown, is home to the highest rates of domestic violence and child abuse in the city.

“Domestic violence impacts the whole city, not just those who experience it. It impacts the economy, people’s ability to get jobs, their ability to function well, and it impacts chances of them being successful,” Gonzales said.

Pelaez, an attorney, served as general counsel for the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter for two decades and represented victims receiving assistance through Family Violence Prevention Services, which oversees the shelter.

“One in three women in San Antonio have a domestic violence story to tell. It’s unacceptable. It’s not the city we deserve,” Pelaez said. “We have a comprehensive plan to address public art, for tourism. … But we do not have a comprehensive plan to make sure that women and children don’t die on our watch. Shame on us.”

Pelaez also pointed out that San Antonio has an LGBTQIA population that suffers intimate partner violence at “much higher rate than other populations.”

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said he hopes the comprehensive approach at addressing domestic violence includes a focus on eliminating opportunities for it to occur, whether that be through educational programs, or more services and shelters for victims.

“When the police have to get involved, it’s too late, because that means an escalated and continued pattern of violence has gone on for some time” and already impacted the family and their community, McManus said. The chief noted that he hopes a coalition will form and work to “find and address the gap where domestic violence continues to flourish despite current best efforts.”

City Manager Erik Walsh, a featured speaker at Friday’s Honoring Mothers Luncheon, referred to the 1-in-3 statistic Palaez cited and asked the audience to think of the three closest women in their lives.

City Manager Erik Walsh speaks to a crowd about combating the growing levels of domestic and intimate partner violence.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

City Manager Erik Walsh speaks to a crowd about combating the growing levels of domestic and intimate partner violence.

“This is a sobering statistic,” Walsh said. “We need to help people deal with violence in their lives, homes, and families. The way we respond to victims [of domestic violence] is critical to restoring their dignity.”

Walsh noted that this year it became a requirement that every San Antonio police officer go through specialized domestic violence training. Its aim is to create an understanding of how “toxic stress” over time – in adults and children – can change the wiring of the brain in ways that have a lifelong impact on health, relationships, and decision-making.

“There are so many things we as a City can do to better people’s lives and lessen the impact domestic violence has on victims. It’s a community issue and one that impacts San Antonio [financially], in addition to how it impacts negatively people’s personal lives.”

4 thoughts on “City Council Members Hope to Double Funding For Domestic Violence Initiatives

  1. city council cannot solve the problems of domestic violence with funding ANY new government program. I support city council providing tax abatements and other incentives for non-profits which specialize in programs for assistance with domestic violence victims.

    these city council members need to focus on developing streets, sidewalks, drainage, lighting, fiber communications and other necessities of their districts.

  2. City Council (CC) has already released its survey for public input based on CC priorities. If you want to double funding, why is it not listed as a priority? Was it not discussed? Do you not get reports on abuse statistics? It is one of about 8 items listed under the general priority Youth and Senior Services-a misleading place to put it imo.

    My point in this is that if CC planned their priorities for the budget already why was this not included until now? You go to a luncheon and come out submitting a special request to double funding (from $21M to $42M). Is the survey meaningless and a waste of time to fill out bc CC does not know how to plan or do their job? They just fund and allocate here or there based on the topic du jour! And you wonder why people don’t fill out surveys or vote???! Get your act together.

    (This is not about funding for abuse programs, but rather the process. What is the justification for the increase, where will it be allocated,how will you measure success, who will oversee and report back to taxpayers,how does council come up with priorities, etc. It is about being accountable and doing your job w thoughtful deliberation and planning…not just attending a luncheon and submitting a request to double funding! That is no way to govern.)

  3. “Pelaez also pointed out that San Antonio has an LGBTQIA population that suffers intimate partner violence at ‘much higher rate than other populations’.”

    I roll my eyes whenever Pelaez talks about anything related to my community; the man ignored the queries of LGBTQ folk repeatedly during the 2017 election, and only cared about us to a minor degree during this highly competitive 2019 election. He is generally seen as an enemy to the local LGBTQ community, so excuse our bitter laughter at him pretending like he cares.

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