Editor's Note: San Antonio City Council, staff, family, and friends celebrated the historic inauguration of Mayor Ivy Taylor as she takes her seat as the first elected black mayor of San Antonio after a close race against former Sen. Leticia Van de Putte on Wednesday in City Council chambers. During her speech, she called for increased voter engagement as well as public and council unity. Her prepared remarks are printed in full below.
I want to thank you all for being here to share this historic moment for the city. Today I feel that this will surely be a highlight of my career in public service. This is a turning point for our community, and an occasion that I will never forget.
I have to start by recognizing my family, especially my husband Rodney and my daughter Morgan who weathered the storms of a tough campaign. Rodney’s parents and family members are here and special visitors include my cousin Lamont Grady from Dallas, Aunt Beverly and Uncle Abdul Shereef along with my sister Vanessa Grady who traveled from Wilmington, North Carolina to be here with me.
I also want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of my City Council colleagues. We come together every week not only to represent our districts but for the mutual benefit of our community. Thank you colleagues and I am looking forward to a new chapter of our journey together.
Although we have different perspectives, we can always find common ground in our commitment to serve. We all want San Antonio to be a better city for the people who live here.
I look out in this Chamber and I see people who’ve traveled here today from different parts of the community, from different backgrounds but to celebrate together another milestone in the history of our nearly 300-year-old city.
We are a city that maintains a culture of authenticity that is unique, and one that we must continue to cherish and promote. Our community remains filled with rich culture and traditions. From the Missions to the Hill Country we are steeped in history that is recognized internationally.
As Mayor, my key focus is building on who we are and what we already have accomplished to connect all San Antonians and our neighborhoods to our community’s prosperity, whether that’s preparing our people for 21st century jobs or investing in new infrastructure ranging from high-speed fiber to well-designed sidewalks.
It's appropriate at any inauguration to take a moment to reflect on how blessed we are to live in a democracy, and with the Fourth of July coming up next week it's an especially good time to recall that the rights we often take for granted were truly revolutionary only a few hundred years ago.
For many of us, indeed, marking the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth this past weekend was a powerful reminder of how much our forebears suffered and struggled on the road to freedom.
Each of the elected officials on this dais has made a vow to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States and of the State of Texas. We have sworn with God as our witness that we will do our best to carry out the responsibilities entrusted to us by the voters of this city.
This is a solemn contract and I know that I speak for all the members of City Council when I say that we are humbled by the trust that members of this community have placed in us and that we will strive always to be worthy of that trust.
In May voters approved a salary for City Council members, which will allow each of us focus more time and attention on City business and which should, in future years, allow a wider range of San Antonians to serve on Council.
This is a healthy step – it will broaden and deepen the pool of those aspiring to elected office and enhance their ability to serve.
We need to take another step, however; we need to broaden and deepen the pool of those who participate in local elections. Fewer than one in eight eligible voters turned out on May 9th and about one in seven, or 14%, voted on June 13th.
Even worse – you have to look back a decade to find a municipal election with higher turnout.
In addition to ensuring that all eligible citizens who want to vote are able to do so, we have to do a better job making citizens want to vote – especially our younger San Antonians, who make up more than a third of registered voters but represented less than 10% of those who went to the polls.
San Antonians in that 18-35 age range should know that the stakes are high. San Antonio is expected to grow by 1.1 million people during the next several decades and we need to make decisions now about what kind of city we want to be.
The decisions we make will be better if they are informed by diverse voices from throughout our community, whether in community meetings or through on-line polls or at the ballot box.
So my challenge to all of you listening to my words today, let’s focus on positive steps forward and let’s build participation in sites like Ideas For COSA, an online community that aims to close the gap between San Antonio citizens and the city government. When you have an idea to make our city better, use the Ideas for COSA website to post it – and to vote on other members' ideas.
Through sites like Ideas for COSA, San Antonians are offering thoughtful and well-reasoned commentary on topics ranging from senior safety to libraries to public parks to B-Cycle.
As Mayor I am constantly reminded of the mosaic that is San Antonio, our depth and diversity, how much each of us has to offer and how much we can learn from each other. Expanding our traditional outreach efforts to include new media and technology will make that collaboration so much easier — and bring new voices and new solutions forward.
For this reason I’ve asked the industry group Tech Bloc to help me understand how we can best use technology — not just to improve our current processes, but to capitalize on the disruptive nature of innovation to solve today’s problems in San Antonio.
In the past, large-scale projects championed by a select few have been touted as a path to our future, but as we are seeing in Smart Cities across the globe local governments can use the power of connected citizens to both identify problems and come up with creative solutions.
This is highly relevant to the SA Tomorrow planning process that is underway right now, which will develop three community-driven and interlocking plans: our comprehensive, multimodal transportation, and sustainability plans that will provide a framework for the San Antonio of the future.
We have an unprecedented opportunity to build on the work of the Mayor's Task Force on Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods through the current SA Tomorrow Comprehensive Planning program to create stable, accessible, mixed-use, mixed income neighborhoods throughout our city.
In “planner speak” that sounds pretty boring, but translated into plain English, that means a place where your children can walk safely to school and the corner store, where apartments over the deli provide a great opportunity for a young couple starting out and town homes are available for those who don't want to take care of a yard.
A place where sidewalks, paths and transit allow every San Antonian to be independent, a place where parks and street trees help clean the air and low-impact development standards help clean our water.
In this San Antonio, public health improves dramatically because residents are active every day and compact growth improves air quality.
San Antonio will be a place where everyone has access to reliable broadband internet access and we no longer face a “digital divide.”
A place where unique neighborhood businesses thrive and entrepreneurs have access to the information and support they need to grow new companies — imagine a dozen “Geekdoms” throughout town, feeding different industries like architecture, film, and manufacturing.
Now imagine that when you leave your neighborhood you have your choice – express bus, rail, bike path, driving your car if you like. If you choose not to drive it's because something else is more convenient.
And imagine a network of creeks, bordered by trails and connecting neighborhoods throughout our city, north and south, east and west. Everywhere you see a concrete drainage ditch today, imagine a little slice of the Mission or Museum Reach linking us up and bringing new opportunities.
Across the United States and around the world, cities and towns that offer this quality of life attract new residents and retain the young people who have grown up and been educated there.
San Antonio should be a great place to be young and single, with plentiful entry level jobs and neighborhoods where you can walk home from the corner bar. A wonderful place to be a kid — or a parent – because housing is affordable and mom doesn't have to drive you everywhere! And a perfect place to enjoy active senior years, with opportunities for community engagement and necessary services in easy reach.
Not to mention that we’ll be a good place to be a developer or a banker, because the updated community master plan and streamlined policies and regulations make building and lending easier and more predictable.
We can do this. It's not a pipe dream – it's within our reach.
SA Tomorrow will build on the goals residents established through the SA2020 process, and we will align our 2017 bond program to make better use of our infrastructure dollars.
Those of you involved in the SA Tomorrow process know that we are expecting an additional 1.2 million San Antonians by 2040. The choices that those new residents make — the choices that we offer them — will determine the vitality and sustainability of our city.
In a sustainable community we conserve water, protect air quality, provide parks, libraries and other public goods for all our citizens — and just as importantly, we use our human resources wisely.
A key part of our effort to nurture our human resources will rely on creating stable, mixed-income neighborhoods that welcome a wide range of families.
More mixed income neighborhoods spread throughout our city is critical. Compared to more affluent Census tracts, poor neighborhoods lack job opportunities, safe places to play, convenient, affordable and healthy food choices, and quality education options.
Divisions within our city by income, class and race is not just wrong, it perpetuates the need for expensive social services, remedial education, and even inefficient mass transit. Furthermore, it denies our city the one thing we need most to grow and prosper — engaged, skilled residents.
Our economy in San Antonio is thriving. The City Council and I will work in partnership with business and industry to continue that prosperity. But providing a link between that prosperity and more San Antonians is one of my key goals. The City organization cannot do that alone. Collaboration with all sorts of community partners will be necessary. In particular, I believe our faith community is able to reach people and families in a unique way and can be instrumental in breaking the chains of generational poverty by focusing on creating engaged, skilled residents.
To ensure these opportunities in the future we must continue our work together with a unified vision so that community is prosperous for years to come. At the core of our vision for the future are three things.
- We must remain economically competitive and attractive to residents.
- We must continue having a smart and fiscally responsible city government.
- And we must continue to act as one San Antonio, working together for the future of our city and its people.
My election is not about being the “first” at something. To me, this election is a tremendous statement to our state and nation that in San Antonio, anyone can achieve anything if they work hard.
When young San Antonions who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods in our city turn on the evening news and see me and see the diversity of this City Council, my prayer is that they will believe they can be anything and more importantly, they will recognize that they have the power to become involved and shape the community that they envision.
For San Antonio to continue its momentum and to create more of those neighborhoods I talked about, with better infrastructure and more skilled, engaged citizens, will take everyone getting involved. We can only do it through working together. Now is the time to think differently and act together. I am so excited at the prospects of what we can do to bring our collective vision for our wonderful city to life. I am ready for us to get started!
*Featured/top image: The Taylor Family (left to right) Ivy, Morgan, and Rodney Taylor. Photo by Scott Ball.