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Editor’s Note: Mayor Ivy Taylor delivered her “State of the City” address at a North SA Chamber of Commerce luncheon event on Wednesday, 10 days after winning a full term in office. The complete text of her remarks follows:
When I was selected to serve as mayor last August my first speech was to the North Chamber, so it’s fitting that today’s luncheon is my first opportunity after my election as mayor to share my vision for San Antonio.
This is such an exciting time for our city and I am humbled to have an opportunity to play a part in creating our future.
I have to begin by taking a moment to thank my wonderful husband Rodney, who has been by my side for 17 years but who has been tested so much by the past four months. Rodney, you have all my love and respect — thank you. In addition, you may have just a little more of my time now since I quit my second job today. For the first time in six years I will just have one job!
I’m also glad to work with a great team at the City. Will my city council colleagues please stand to be acknowledged! In addition, we have a wonderful city manager. Sheryl we appreciate your hard work!
Some of you may know that today is my 45th birthday. Now at the risk of making myself feel even older, let’s reflect on what United States was like in 1970:
The North Tower of the World Trade Center became the tallest building in the world; the Beatles broke up. The pocket calculator debuted, as did the American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. It would still be several years before the first woman was allowed to run in the Boston Marathon — race organizers thought the course was too strenuous for females.
In 1970, San Antonio had 654,000 people and was the 15th largest city in the United States.
Most of Loop 1604 was still a dotted line on a map, Mitchell Lake was known as a sewage treatment facility, and you could buy a Pearl brewed in downtown San Antonio. Our very own San Antonio Spurs were still playing up north as the Dallas Chaparrals.
And San Antonio City Council Members were paid $20 per meeting. Now that is still true — but only for another two weeks!
So many changes over the decades, and so many of them for the better.
And much of that positive change is due to the people in this room.
You started businesses, served our country in uniform, volunteered, raised families, and ran for elected office – you are teachers, doctors, bankers, scientists, engineers — you have figuratively and literally built this city.
From companies as large as H-E-B, USAA, Valero, and CST to small businesses like NewTek that are opening global markets for our high-tech products, and Gregory Hudson at Genesis Concepts and Consultants, who was named Texas Small Business Person of the Year in 2014, you are the force behind our growth and you are our bright future.
San Antonio is a fast-growing, vibrant, progressive city with a storied past and a clear path to continued success — and we are in a great position to tell our story to the rest of the country and to the world.
In two weeks I will travel to Germany to attend the World Heritage Committee in Bonn, where I hope to be present for the selection of our missions as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’ll celebrate our unique past and mix of cultures again in 2018 with the 300th Anniversary of our founding, and I recently appointed a Tricentennial Commission to help us make the most of that occasion.
There is so much that makes San Antonio a city that we love, a city that we invest in and where we hope our children will find their futures.
Most importantly, we are One San Antonio — we recognize that we succeed together, and that we fail alone.
Coming off a contentious Mayoral campaign, I remain convinced that a genuine commitment to serving our community can transcend all other boundaries — the boundaries that separate us into different political, racial, ethnic and ideological camps.
Focusing on our differences may win us points with our own in-group or circle of friends or supporters, but it does not build bridges that we can use to address problems collectively.
In thinking about our city’s long term success and how we can work together on tough challenges, I believe that securing our fiscal security is our most important first step. Therefore, we must see a successful conclusion to public safety union negotiations that limits these expenses to 66% of the general fund.
In order to do this the Police union needs to rejoin the process and address the offer that they left on the table pending the outcome of the municipal elections.
Silly season is over — no more distractions or diversions.
When I spoke at this event last year, union negotiations were indeed the headliner, but in the time I’ve served as Mayor, we have made progress on a number of other issues that I laid out in my speech to you last July:
- I led the City Council to unanimous support of the Vista Ridge Water Supply Project, ensuring access to an abundant and affordable water supply.
- City Council has approved the Weston Urban-Frost P3 to provide a significant boost to downtown development and our urban core — including some badly needed class A office space and a signature building for our skyline.
- We’ve executed an agreement with the State of Texas to collaborate on the restoration of the Alamo and reinvention of Alamo Plaza, and secured $31 million in funding.
- We are developing a multimodal transportation plan that is integrated with our SA Tomorrow Comprehensive and Sustainability planning efforts. Because — we’re not going to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for any more answers until we know what the questions are. At the same time we are working to find innovative solutions for our most immediate needs.
- We passed substantial expansions of the aquifer protection and urban creekway programs, including $10 million that I requested for urban aquifer protection demonstration projects and $35 million to help create creekways that do for the rest of city what the Mission and Museum Reaches have done for neighborhoods in our urban core.
- We created a charter commission to address governance issues that I identified, including City Council pay and on May 9th, voters approved the commission’s recommendations, including council pay. This allows more San Antonians the opportunity to serve the community on the council and allows your representatives to focus on the City’s business full-time.
- I’ve co sponsored the City-County Public Health and Workforce Development Summits and created the SA Talent for Economic Competitiveness industry oversight board to ensure that our human infrastructure receives the same level of attention as our natural resources and capital infrastructure. We must have a 21st century workforce for a 21st century economy.
- Under my leadership we’ve adopted stricter standards and greater transparency for council aides and council offices.
- I created the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to help our City government function more efficiently, whether that’s in dealing with a discrimination complaint or finding the best contractor for a City opportunity.
- I held the first Housing Policy Conference in almost a decade so that we could work together as a community to define what we want for our neighborhoods, including downtown and our urban core.
We have an unprecedented opportunity to build on the work of the Mayor’s Task Force on Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods and the current SA Tomorrow Comprehensive Planning program to create stable, accessible, mixed-use, mixed income neighborhoods.
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.” We are dedicated to continuing our work with Google Fiber so our businesses and residents have access to the highest speed internet in the world.
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 – or brewpub. 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.
In order to increase the number of San Antonians with skills to connect to our growing economy, I have asked The Alamo Colleges to serve as coordinator for our workforce development and adult education and training efforts in order to make sure that we are responsive to industry and efficient in preparing our residents for the jobs of the 21st century.
I believe we can do a much better job of determining what skills employers need, sharing that information with today’s low-wage or unemployed San Antonians, and providing training tailored to jobs in demand.
While economic development can include luring high-profile companies to San Antonio, it’s also about supporting local business and residents so that they can achieve their full potential.
We will build on our strengths in sectors where San Antonio is a clear leader, including the biosciences and healthcare, military, finance, cybersecurity and global trade.
The goals I just outlined are big, but they are achievable. Just imagine if 20 years ago someone had told you that San Antonio would be home to a major tech company like Rackspace or that Toyota would move here, or that the old Pearl Brewery would be revitalized. It may have been hard to picture! Let me tell you, I know firsthand that the impossible is possible; the elusive goals can be achieved and that no dream is too big and no vision too grand.
But 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.
We are One San Antonio, now Let’s get started!
Featured Top Image: Mayor Ivy Taylor gives an address to the North Chamber. Courtesy Photo.