What motivates me as mayor is the vision of San Antonio as a city where everyone has the opportunity to prosper. It’s what keeps me going through my thousand and one meetings every week. It’s what keeps the fire burning.
On Aug. 11, we took concrete steps toward making that vision a reality. First, City Council unanimously approved all three parts of the SA Tomorrow blueprint for San Antonio’s growth through 2040. Then we learned the police union voted in favor of the mediated employment contract, by more than 70%.
Maybe you’re wondering what these two events have to do with the prosperity of our people. My answer is: everything. They have everything to do with making San Antonio a city where we can all thrive.
While the police contract isn’t perfect – because no compromise ever is – it accomplishes three critical objectives.
First, the agreement provides our officers with the best pay and benefits that the City of San Antonio can afford.
Second, it creates a cooperative atmosphere where the City, police, and residents can come together to improve police-community relations and address concerns about levels of violence used against men of color and, now, against officers themselves. We need a discussion that leads to concrete action on the SAPD’s disciplinary process and revamping training protocols. To create a culture of change that enables police reform, we all have to start talking now.
Third, and most importantly, the agreement will help rein in health care costs that had threatened to crowd out other basic services, such as senior and library services, and undermine our coveted AAA bond rating. Underwriting agencies have already signaled that the settlement will shore up our fiscal strength.
Fiscal strength means we set aside enough funds in our reserves to weather an economic downturn while maintaining the wherewithal to pay for projects and services – such as street work that eases traffic congestion and workforce training – that make our city an attractive place for employers and residents. Fundamentally, it means we are investing your tax dollars responsibly and prudently.
However, our breakthrough with the police union alone isn’t enough to keep our financial house in order and allow us to continue making those critical investments in the years to come. We need the firefighters union to now come to the bargaining table.
I am confident we can reach an agreement that benefits both our firefighters and San Antonio taxpayers.
In the meantime, I strongly encourage Council members to join me in voting yes on the police officers agreement in September.
We should show the same degree of support that we demonstrated with the adoption of SA Tomorrow, all three components of which – the zoning and land use, sustainability, and transportation plans – passed overwhelmingly.
SA Tomorrow is our answer to the question, how will San Antonio accommodate more than one million new residents arriving here by 2040, while making life better for our current residents?
The plans as approved are the framework for a future in which nearly three million people get around town by car, bus, or light rail without being stuck in ever-increasing traffic jams; the pace of urban sprawl is arrested; our air and water quality are protected; and newcomers to our city live alongside those already rooted here, without displacing them.
To me, striking a balance between new and existing residents in our neighborhoods is at the heart of SA Tomorrow.
I was born in Brooklyn, one of New York City’s five boroughs. If you have read anything lately about how Brooklyn has changed, you know that it’s a victim of its own success. Many of its old families have been forced out by fast-rising costs.
San Antonio must protect its families and neighborhoods from the downside of a thriving real-estate market.
Because we are looking 24 years into the future, SA Tomorrow sets out options for future City Councils rather than narrow prescriptions for the challenges ahead, some of which we won’t recognize until they arrive. Executing on SA Tomorrow is the work of two generations, not a single Council. Any serious long-term plan must be flexible above all else. That’s why we provided for reviews of the plans’ progress every five years.
Finally, as we begin filling in the SA Tomorrow framework, beginning with projects in the potential $850-million bond package in 2017, I want us to take up this work together.
Late in the process of adopting SA Tomorrow, some participants attempted to fall back on the old divisions that have run through so much of San Antonio’s modern history – namely environmental and community activists versus the business community.
This is as clear as I can be: If we’re going to concentrate on what divides us instead of what brings us together, we can save ourselves the heartache and put SA Tomorrow on the shelf now.
Fortunately, I am an optimist, and I believe San Antonians generally want the same thing – the opportunity to get ahead, to make a good life for themselves and their families in a city that they love.
I believe in my heart that this is the SA of tomorrow.
Top image: Mayor Ivy Taylor speaks during Tech Bloc’s one-year anniversary at the Pearl Stable. Photo by Michael Cirlos.