Mayor Ivy Taylor announced her picks for the 2017 Municipal Bond Program tri-chair positions Tuesday, signaling one of the first steps in the lead up to next year’s May election when San Antonians will vote on a package of $850 million in capital projects.
Some of those projects could transform entire neighborhoods, parks, and traffic corridors; others are decidedly less “sexy,” but represent the growing need for improved streets, sidewalks, drainage, and facilities as San Antonio anticipates adding 1.1 million more people to its population by 2040.
“(The 2017 Bond Program) will lay the foundation for our growth by dedicating a majority of the funding to basic infrastructure needs,” Taylor said.
SA Tomorrow Tri-Chair Darryl Byrd, marketing and communications specialist and SAISD Foundation Co-Founder Carri Baker, and IBC Bank Senior Vice President Eddie Aldrete will lead the formulation of the proposed project list by coordinating the efforts of five bond committees.
About 30 volunteer citizens will be selected by City Council members to serve on each committee: Streets, Bridges, and Sidewalks; Drainage and Flood Control; Parks and Recreation; Facilities and Improvements; and Neighborhood Improvements.
Anyone can contact their district representative and ask to be considered for the committees. Most Council members are already interviewing candidates. Committee rosters will be finalized in early August.
Which projects make it to the ballot will ultimately be up to City Council when it finalizes a list in January 2017 and sends it to voters, but the City is taking a “citizen-driven” approach in formulating these lists, said City Manager Sheryl Sculley.
The mayor’s new tri-chairs also emphasized the importance of community involvement.
“We get to make the largest public investment in public infrastructure in this city’s history (based on) what thousands and thousands of San Antonians themselves have said is important to them,” said Byrd, who founded the community development and management consulting firm ULTRAte, LLC after stepping down as CEO of SA2020 in February 2015.
However, project priority lists are already being formulated and circulated by City staff and Council members in each district. Some projects like Hemisfair’s $40 million ask, funding for the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, and the $3.8 million to purchase acreage for a park and sports field expansion in District 9 have been well publicized and its advocates tentatively expect wide community support.
Bond committee meetings are free and open to the public and will start in October. Each committee will host 4-6 meetings through December. Public input will also be gathered through social media and online surveys.
“This will continue to be a citizen-driven process,” Baker said. “We will continue to have the accountability and transparency throughout this process to make sure that we strategically invest in the right projects and put taxpayer funds to good use.”
Baker served as a tri-chair of the 2012 Bond Program while Aldrete previously served as co-chair of the Facilities and Community Initiatives Committee. The mayor will also appoint co-chairs for these newly formed committees.
“It’s not until you serve in a capacity like this that you truly get to see the needs of our community from every sector – from every side of the city, from every part of the city,” Aldrete said. “It’s the public input and the public requests that drive the prioritization of the project. It is a bottom-up process from start to finish.”
Each project on the preliminary lists has been reviewed and selected by staff according to “about a dozen guiding principles,” Sculley said. Projects that support the goals of the SA Tomorrow growth plan, leverage funds from other public or private agencies, complete a phase of a major project, and contribute to the even distribution of money across districts and neighborhoods are higher on the list than those that don’t.
Between 75-80% of the $550 million 2007 bond was spent on streets, drainage, and basic infrastructure – roughly the same percentage for the $596 million 2012 bond. Sculley expects that trend to continue with 70-75% of next year’s bond.
“The mayor and Council have asked us to make a substantial recomendation for improving sidewalks in all our neighborhoods throughout the community,” Sculley said. “There are many areas that have never had sidewalks. We’re focused on connectivity to schools and bus routes.”
That leaves about 25% of the bond for those sexy, “transformative” projects.
However, some of the street projects are transformative, Sculley said, citing the Broadway corridor/complete street proposal.
“There are opportunities for some of the street and sidewalk projects to also help us accomplish the overall goals in San Antonio,” she said. “That design is underway and paid for by the private sector. (Construction of) that project will also have money from TxDOT.”
The committees will need people that can identify with a wide range of issues, Councilman Roberto Treviño said after the announcement of the tri-chairs at City Hall. He expects a “diverse slice of the city” will be appointed.
“What I’m hoping we can get is a responsible group of people that know how to stretch that dollar and make it work on impactful projects – meaningful projects,” Treviño said. “I want to empower constituents.”
Top image: 2017 bond tri-chair appointees (from left) Tri-Chair of SA Tomorrow Darryl Byrd, Senior Vice President of IBC Bank Eddie Aldrete, and Linebarger Blair & Sampson Chief of Operations Carri Baker. Photo by Scott Ball.