San Antonio Bids and Bids, But Never Learns

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The future CPS Energy Headquarters.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The former AT&T headquarters located in downtown San Antonio was left vacant when the company decided to move to Dallas.

Despite intense political pressure from the business establishment and editorials in the Rivard Report and the San Antonio Express-News, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Council last week said no to efforts to bring the 2020 Republican and Democratic National Conventions to Bexar County.

The backlash has been swift and media commentary one-sided with the business community seeking to use the outcome as an example of why San Antonio fails to attract more business opportunities, such as the Amazon H2Q project. Unfortunately, the issue is far more complicated.

San Antonio needs to be a city that learns. The only way to become more competitive, hone our strengths, and work on our weaknesses is to ensure our young people show up at the starting line and compete with every other U.S. city in the race.

Right now, collectively, local kids are not even close to competing, much less winning. When our local schools fail, the local economy loses. Until the status quo changes, San Antonio can bid all it wants, but will continue to lose out on solid, long-term, high-dollar economic investments.

AT&T already sent a message to the city highlighting what it takes to become (and retain) a world headquarters and international business destination when it relocated to Dallas. Did San Antonio's political and business leaders learn anything from that experience?

Toyota also sent a loud and clear message. (Full disclosure: I worked for Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, as a corporate affairs specialist during the 2006 startup.) The city landed a fantastic manufacturing plant requiring mostly non-degreed jobs, but Toyota chose recently to relocate its North American sales and manufacturing headquarters and mostly degreed jobs to Plano, one of the most highly educated, economically wealthy community with some of the best public schools in Texas.

In other words, Toyota, like AT&T, chose a city unlike San Antonio. Are there any local economic development leaders willing to tamp down past successes and explain that one to us?

As for the Tesla battery plant, San Antonio and Texas lost not to Reno, but to Nevada’s sunnier climate, unlimited cheap land, and close distance to the Tesla plant in Fremont, California. In fact, San Antonio’s bid exceeded what Nevada submitted.

So let's get the story straight. San Antonio does bid – and loses – repeatedly.

Anyone still under the delusion that Amazon (i.e. Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post) might have come to San Antonio if the mayor and City Council had just bid, need only drive up Interstate 35 past Austin and Dallas and up the Dallas North Tollway to the Headquarters Drive exit in Plano. What are we competing against? From my experience, it’s a variation of that old adage – billion-dollar birds of a feather flock together.

Our city can barely keep Kawhi Leonard, but people are blaming the mayor for the city missing out on Amazon. Not even close.

If the local business community really wants to understand why Fortune 100 companies and their employees won’t come to San Antonio and stay, they should stop taking their cues from outside disruptors and instead start speaking to local school superintendents and university presidents, especially now as we approach the May graduation season. The city will not win the international economic race with underfunded schools, low college graduation rates, and a myopic business community focused on politics, profit, and self-interest.

Local public school districts have been reporting budget shortfalls and staff reductions, including teachers. How does the local business community intend to respond? Will they call Gov. Abbott and express their dissatisfaction with the very real and current Texas public schools funding crisis? The Texas Rangers can’t help there.

When less than 50 percent of the students who started college four years ago in Bexar County graduate this month (not including Trinity University), how does the business community intend to respond? With the same feigned outrage over how the city or school leaders blew it? I doubt it. They don’t even know.

When the Rivard Report published an article this past week regarding local STAAR testing scores, did the chambers of commerce and business community respond with off-the-record commentary? School performance affects our economic competitiveness, but I would guess the media did not receive so much as a press release or an interview or an unidentified business owner to comment. Instead, leaders spent the week crying because San Antonio doesn’t get another party.

The city can no longer afford to rely entirely on misguided economic incentives and marketing opportunities as a strategy for attracting game-changing billion-dollar investments – especially if we keep losing to other major cities.

What San Antonio needs to bid on – and win – to achieve solid economic footing in the fiercely competitive 21st century is a robust, comprehensive, high-quality, and well-funded education system and workforce development strategy that negates the perception of a city focused entirely on its tourism and service-based economy.

For when companies like Amazon, Toyota, and Tesla undergo extensive site selection reviews for corporate headquarter locations and manufacturing hubs, don’t you think AT&T’s 2008 departure and Bexar County’s lagging school performance indicators stand out far more than San Antonio’s already well-known reputation for hosting a great event?

63 thoughts on “San Antonio Bids and Bids, But Never Learns

  1. Fantastic article and exactly what Rivard Report needed.

    Crying and moaning about not bidding for things we were never going to get or things we don’t want to get, we need to be crying and moaning about under funded school districts and poor grades at our elementary schools.

    • Right on, David Garcia! Our business community has been stuck in the rut of wanting big, showy locations or meetings without looking to the condition of the city’s workforce and its ability to handle 21st century endeavors. When the business community settles down and commits to building an educated city, then we will have something to sell with a solid base to offer. So quit whining and get with building a workforce we can offer.
      About the RNC bid: there’s a reason that only one city in the country wants them. Get a clue?

  2. Finally someone explaining the root of San Antonio’s problem. As someone who grew up in DFW, the school systems here are certainly lacking.

  3. A great article highlighting the drawbacks of the city. I’ll add that air travel to and from our fair city is no major benefit.

  4. Education is one element of what cities need to thrive. Our city also must consistently set the bar high and reach it in a number of areas — avoiding the SA300 fiasco, for instance, and giving the world “must attend” events that include local, national and global talent.

  5. Exactly!!
    Developers receive enormous incentives to build! We don’t need another fancy development or high-rise hotel, etc. We need the funds for rehabilitating school properties, hiring good teachers and providing them with the materials to teach.
    We are going to have to tackle school funding at the state level, and/or bypass that and create our own way to fund public schools.

    • Developers and incentives have nothing to do with the school system. They’re two completely separate things. You can’t use incentives that developers get for schools.

  6. Be careful San Antonio to not fall in the trap of thinking more money is the answer. As a former & native Los Angeles resident, I saw a stream of bond issues add more funding to schools. LA is now has one of the highest per student funding and is near the bottom nationwide in performance. Be careful to focus on fixing the root of the problem, rather than thinking money will be the answer.

      • Great teachers and more of them and more hours in the classroom! Until districts upgrade teachers who are subpar the same as some businesses in the private sector, all the money in the world will struggle to move the needle. Can you imagine Southwest Airlines keeping around a disgruntled employee who is not succeeding in delivering customer service in their job??? And more hours…50-55 minute classes don’t cut it. By the time the kids settle in to their chairs and all of the other “non-teaching” time, I would be surprised if they see 40 minutes of actual teaching. I bet by the time you factor all the nonsense including extracurriculars, lunch, sports, etc,…they get about four hours per day. Try 6 hours and the needle will move!

      • The “root” is parenting and being able to grow up in a wholesome healthy environment full of love and respect. It’s very hard for a child to do well in school when they have an unstable home life. It’s hard to pay attention in class when you’re hungry or worried about belonging. I’d rather see some school money spent on public announcements on bill boards and television helping parents understand how important they are to their child’s success. Teachers find themselves becoming the defacto parent for a lot of children. That’s what makes teachers so important but its not their job.

  7. David, Strong article, thanks for writing for the Rivard Report. For the record, we write often and with equal passion about our city’s unacceptable public education outcomes, our underfunded schools, and the pressing need to do more. On that point there is no disagreement. –RR

    • Maybe tap the brakes a bit. While I totally agree the state funding system for our public schools is a disaster that must be fixed, it is hard to cite that as the reason Fortune 500’s or 1000’s don’t relocate to San Antonio. Unless something has changed, Plano, Frisco, Southlake Carroll, etc. are funded exactly the same way our local school districts are funded. Doesn’t make it right, just equal. The reason schools in DFW area perform better is because the parents are more likely to be employees of Fortune 500 companies who have college degrees and six figure jobs. I moved here from Southlake, where my neighbors were all from somewhere else, and worked for Exxon, Zales, EDS, Kimberly Clark, Verizon, etc. Why are those jobs there instead of here? The answer is simple, DFW Airport is an economic engine that drives North Texas. A very wise investment in 70’s that continues to pay dividends today. The airport brought the companies, the companies brought highly paid jobs and the employees (parents) bring up kids who have very high expectations on their shoulders. We still have to improve our schools and use competitive economic incentives, but until we make the city more accessable to the rest of the world we will be a long shot to land major corporations.

      • Boom. This. There are public schools that perform as good good or better than DFW here…but parents all around this city need to help the teachers and back the teachers, in more ways than just money…

      • This is another fantastic point. Many will say it’s just an airport. We have an airport. That’s silly. Many won’t recognize how important an airport can be to being an engine for future growth.

        You should write a response for the Rivard regarding how important a capable airport is to bringing in the jobs and companies that eventually bring up the schools.

  8. Its time for the civic leaders in our community to worry about our children and their future. Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs and all alike need to see how they can work together to focus where and how they can make a difference.

  9. One of the best commentaries refuting arguments that all San Antonio had to do is bid. The educational system has been underachieving for decades yet nany City and business leaders have failed to make the connection between that and companies’ reluctance to consider SA as a home. Why would they? All of a sudden the companies would have to act as educators of the basic fundamentals of learning.

  10. The public education system in San Antonio is not working. Please focus on the QUALITY of education – reading, writing and arithmetic – instead of high priced stadiums and high school sports. My kid graduated from Health Careers High School several years ago and got a top notch education! The building was old and there were no major athletic programs but the quality of education back then was outstanding. They never taught to the Texas standardized tests – they didn’t have to because the teachers gave those students the educational tools they needed to succeed. When it came to state testing time, those kids consistently ranked above board.

  11. As a native of San Antonio, I agree with the comments on local education. That is not new any familiar with the fight for equality is aware the Supreme Court first found ruled Texas was funding with equality on the case from from San Antonio. Both at lower education at the university level. Decades later and no change,
    We keep expecting the state to correct the issue and it will not happen, If we want to correct for the racist funding of education it has to be done by the public forcing change,
    We can talk about education issues all we want, but the truth is the education for all those below I 10 has always been poorly funded and the North districts will fight any change,

  12. What an enlightening article and wonderfully written — started with current event topic and moved into a far different, complicated problem. Opened my eyes. I really appreciate this commentary and the RR for publishing it!

  13. Well said! Air travel needs to improve too so that we are more accessible. Rethinking the entire school system such as only one school district so every child has equal access and teachers equal pay.

  14. USAA is opening a downtown campus .
    HEB continues to expand its campus .
    SAISD is very aspirational and has good leadership.
    The heart of public school education innovation …is supported by local entrepreneurs and companies …here in SA .
    Rackspace ,Geekdom,U.S.Cybersecurity..all here
    In our town.

    The downtown is in a renaissance .

    Please

    Some perspective on our city !

    I am proud of our accomplishments …

    • I TOTALLY AGREE Mr. Lake!
      CIVIC PRIDE? WHERE HAS IT GONE?
      It seems all I have been reading about is the negativity that exists in this city about our beautiful city. I see a BIG change coming to San Antonio and it is exciting. All the things that Mr. Lake has mentioned in his reply are happening NOW. I just visited the San Pedro Creek Culture Park, and that is going to be a HUGE catalyst when it is all finished. CHANGE is coming and there are lots of citizens out there who do not want CHANGE. And I haven’t seen an ARTICLE in THE RIVARD REPORT about the POSITIVE side of this TREMENDOUS change that is happening NOW in our city. Still looking for THAT article.
      EDUCATION?
      I was an educator for 28 years and the real problem is the PARENTAL SUPPORT that our kids NEED. It is NOT there. Educating parents on how to raise a responsible and motivated child is what we NEED in our city to bring education to a higher level. BLAME NOT THE ADMINISTRATORS, EDUCATORS, OR THE STUDENTS. The CYCLE at HOME must be BROKEN!!
      MORE FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES?
      The fact of this matter is FORTUNE 500 companies will build where THEIR MONEY is worth building. THAT’S ALL. They may say “we picked this city or that city for this reason or that reason”, but it all BOILS down to what is WORTH FOR THEIR MONEY.
      KEEPING KAWHI LEONARD?
      KAWHI IS BEING LIKE THE FORTUNE 500 COMPNIES: G R E E D Y and S E L F I S H
      Which is a SHAME.
      Mr. Leonard is no DAVID ROBINSON, TIM DUNCAN , AND MANU GINOBLI.
      THESE men are TEAM players that did NOT care about the MONEY or the STARDOM in their lives.
      So DO NOT blame our beautiful city for MAYBE losing Mr. Leonard. It will be because HE chose to be GREEDY and SELFISH.

      • I agree with you in that a lot of the change must occur in the home before results are seen in the classroom. My mother was a teacher and I saw for myself the undue blame placed upon teachers when their students underperformed, as well as the stress it causes them. That does nobody any good- just makes the classroom environment tense, and teacher’s home environments tense as well. The home is integral.

        Truth is, many kids simply dont care about school. This is likely because of their upbringing, so the change really does needs to come from the home Sure, there are plenty of bad teachers, but in my SA public school experience, there were many more good ones. The educational system and standards are flawed, not so much the teachers who are essentially forced to teach in accordance with this broken system.

        As for city pride, I think most of us readers have it in spades. I think most of us appreciate the change happening in our beautiful city- and we have a vested interested in seeing even more positive change. Not in a greedy manner, but in a compassionate one. We truly care about the future of SA and only want whats best for it

    • There are good things in San Antonio. I have lived her almost 80 years. But when we are ranked 75th out of 80 US cities in literacy, we have a problem. Call centers continue to find a home in San Antonio, because our workforce is not recognized for its educated value. SAISD is trying to find different answers for its children, but teachers seem to be more worried about their employment than about our children’s education. It’s time for different solutions. With UTSA, Incarnate Word, Trinity, and Our Lady of the Lake, along with the community colleges and Texas A&M – San Antonio, there must be better and different solutions to raise the expectations and abilities of our future job-holders.

    • Civic pride and understanding our accomplishments is all well and good. Especially since other cities do not have our long and storied history. However, it is not a sustainable strategy. A full perspective would include more than just successes. What is wrong with David A Garcia’s clarion call to focus and improve our/SA’s educational system? Reliance on the current status or bidding on short term shots will only lift some boats that are afloat already.

    • I agree, Mr. Lake, downtown San Antonio is experiencing a renaissance. The current downtown atmosphere reminds me a bit of how downtown Austin felt twenty years ago at the cusp of its current period of explosive economic growth. It’s exciting to see parts of San Antonio change and improve before our very eyes. However, we must be honest to the challenges the city still faces and to the new challenges that will arise if the current pace of economic growth continues.

      For all the urban core growth, there is also the perspective that too many traditionally underserved areas of Bexar County continue to be underserved economically and that much of the accomplishments you describe benefit primarily the well-connected, educated, and affluent. This is not my view alone.

      In addition, periods of renaissance often lead to unintended consequences. From your perspective, is Austin any closer to successfully managing issues, such as transportation, affordable housing, public safety, and education, with two decades of renaissance under its belt? Indeed, current reports out of Austin seem to suggest that these issues have only become more contentious and intractable, quite possibly because they weren’t honestly and critically assessed and addressed from the very beginning.

      I love San Antonio and believe in its potential to do great things, for all the reasons you suggest and more. I, too, am very proud of my city, its people, it’s corporate citizens like HEB, USAA, and the innovation of Geekdom. I’ve been witness to it all just like you. It’s the very reason I’ve chosen to stay and establish roots here, despite numerous opportunities to leave.

      Please do not conflate critical perspective with a lack of civic pride.

      The longer local leaders ignore the challenges of an aging, underperforming, and outdated education system, the more the city risks repeating the pitfalls Austin currently faces and a backlash from those in our community who would not use the word “renaissance” to describe their current condition.

  15. Very good points made except that AT&T has repeatedly said (then and now) that it left San Antonio because of the lack of direct flights from San Antonio International airport. Researching articles from the departure time frame about the departure, I am not seeing any articles mentioning the lack of an educated work force a reason for AT&T leaving. That is now to say we shouldn’t be striving for a more educated work force as this article mentions.

    I feel the business community was very politically motivated when requesting a city bid for the RNC. I didn’t see a single quote from a business community leader asking that we also bid for the DNC. If such a convention is an economic boom in several levels, then why should our elected leaders shorten us by picking one convention over the other.

    I, for one, am very glad that we did not bid for the Amazon headquarters. Anyone claiming it would have been good for San Antonio is only wanting the notoriety of hosting the headquarters and doesn’t see how it affects the city. Such a headquarters would require a work force that for the most part does not live in San Antonio (again, our under educated work force mentioned in the article). That means instead of employing San Antonians, Amazon would have been bringing in outsiders to fill those positions. This metropolitan area should never be in the market of creating jobs that serve outsiders instead of locals. A bid for the headquarters also would have most likely included huge tax incentives. So the city/county would not only not have a significant increase in jobs for locals but also lose out on valuable tax dollars most likely made up by citizen property taxes. How do any of these results benefit the city? They don’t.

    • The RNC expressed interest in San Antonio. The DNC has not. Either one would be fine with me, but only one has asked SA to bid.

  16. This article nailed it with its in-depth view on what and does go on in San Antonio yes it ranks as a good city to live but to business it’s not basically SA is a big poor city as native from SA I had no choice but up root and take my progressive thinking up to Austin at least as liberal and forward thinking Austin is they’ll lend you their ear and work together for a better tomorrow.

  17. Great article. As another reader mentioned, I do not think San Antonio was a good fit for Amazon the way things stand now. Amazon would have momentously driven up our low property costs period (and not just property taxes). This certainly happened in Seattle. However, Seattle is one of the most educated cities in the US, and thus, was better able to withstand the sociological consequences that accompany the economic benefit of Amazon being headquartered there. Had San Antonio’s public education and the airport been improved long ago, San Antonio could have been a serious contender. For now, we are a city of the working poor. Same rings true for South Texas as a whole.

    I go to an elite East Coast university, and SA is quite underrepresented. There are students here who have multiple peers from their small towns and even high schools. Meanwhile, you can count the number of students from SA on your hand- a metro area of 2.5 million!

    This puts our higher education levels into context: https://wallethub.com/edu/most-and-least-educated-cities/6656/. Only Riverside-San Bernadino is larger than SA and ranks below us. Much of the skilled labor drawn to the region likely goes to nearby LA. This might, in part, be the case for SA-Austin as well. Austin was once only an hour away, but grows farther each day (traffic!). The transportation infrastructure of the region is such that it is not feasible to commute between the two cities. Consequently, Austin’s economic growth happened independently of San Antonio’s, and the two cities have not grown as one as we perhaps could have. Maybe pursuing greater economic integration and transportation infrastructure between the two cities is something to consider? It’s worked wonders for Baltimore-Washington DC. Worth noting: the DC area is a front-runner for Amazon’s HQ2.

  18. Good article, BUT a few corrections to your comments and lack of research. AT&T left for Dallas for different reasons. It was cultural and lack of events here. The inside story is that a certain spouse never liked SA and she wanted Dallas. They will never tell you that, but it is the truth. The air service WAS the excuse. The scapegoat. No one will admit this to the press. Also everyone that started on a training wage or working in service then develops skills to move up in the World. No one goes to college and becomes a CEO in 2 years. It is a process of skills development. I do agree with you in ONE area. Look and read the high number of high school dropouts and many % never finish High School not even GED.

    • First off, which spouse?

      Second, that’s s load of bs. I mean you may have heard that, but a company like At&T isn’t going to relocate because the wife of whoever dislikes the city they’re in. It’s not a singular vote where one person decides on a move. It’s a well thought out, board voted in move.

      Simply saying they moved because a spouse didn’t like the city is beyond moronic.

  19. A great article by a good friend and former Toyota colleague, and a thoughtful, intelligent leader within our community. His sense of urgency must come from all levels of leadership within the government, business and sector — our greatest resource is the human capital which resides in our community. When we ignore the warning signs of substandard education, and simply accept it as “the way things are,” then we, like the dinosaurs, are doomed long before we realize our fate. How our city continues to allow for the operation of several ISD’s, for example, without striving for a unified school district with world-class standards for all our schools, continues to perplex me. We are a city where a child’s future is largely determined by the part of the city in which he or she is born. Education is the key to improving one’s self — and it must be delivered in the highest capacity and quality for all, at all levels. As long as people like David speak and act and inspire others to do the same, I remain encouraged.

  20. I was a bit shocked that our City tossed Amazon out the door. Jeff Bezos has connections to San Antonio. He spent his summers on a his grandfather’s ranch in Cotulla. George Strait is a cousin. He is also a large land owner in this state. It seems the small thinking of our “leaders” has not limit.

    • What does that even matter? He’s not choosing the HQ2 site solely nor is he going to choose it because of personal connections. That has to be the silliest way of thinking ever. A CEO of a giant company like Amazon isn’t going t choose SA because his grandfather had a ranch nearby and he spent a summers there 40 plus years ago or his cousin is George Strait. Bezos has connections in so many places now, probably stronger than the ones you just listed. He, nor his company is going to base their decision on any of that.

      Damn, I can’t believe I just humored your aenselsss thinking. But I did.

  21. As a native San Antonian I agree with this but I think the challenge is even deeper than the schools. Schools can only do so much if the adults raising the children and running the community are not learners and seekers of growth and knowledge themselves. I wonder if there is any discussion or work done on creating a culture of knowledge, growth, and learning in San Antonio. I know for myself I love to learn and crave that growth and knowledge. But whenever I find the rare opportunity to find events here in San Antonio that allow me to grow in that way there are typically no or few Hispanics in attendance. So what I hear from the well-meaning adults of the culture that I was raised in and that I love in San Antonio is “We want you to be educated and learn all you can and make us proud.” But few of us want to do the hard work of introspection and personal growth so we can show our children what that looks like and truly transform our schools and community. To transform our system of education we must go through transformation ourselves. This gets to the topic of leadership as well because strong leaders who can see a community through that transformation must do this hard personal work of introspection, growth, and learning. These leaders must have the stamina to finish hard work and there must be a good base of them, meaning only a small handful is not enough.

  22. There are many children that graduate from some of the cities “worst” schools each year that go on to thrive at Ivy League universities like the author. What sets these students apart from all the educational failures this author speaks of? Parents!!!!!!! You have a huge culture where education is not important. Change the culture!

    • No, Sir, what set me apart as a successful Ivy League student was the incredible level of support I received from my entire community, school, and family, beginning from as far back as my pre-k years up until my graduation from high school.

      I love my Mom more than anything and she sacrificed the world for me, but she’ll be the first to admit her parenting skills alone didn’t get me into Yale. An entire community of people, including teachers, teachers, teachers, counselors, neighbors, local professionals, grandparents, siblings, extended family members, peers, mentors, and countless others contributed to and supported my Mom’s efforts to help me succeed.

      Parents are key to educational success, but they represent only one piece of a vast, complicated puzzle.

      I’ve counseled literally thousands of students and know my own experience — not all students have access to the same level of traditional parental support you seem to suggest determines student success, nor can we assume the lack thereof determines whether or not a student thrives in an academic setting.

      And, yes, I agree — the culture of San Antonio must change where leaders prioritize politics and profit over education.

      • Perhaps you can lend your family, extended family, teachers, peers, friends and mentors to the rest of the city.

        And if you think the cultures of the “underserved” areas of our city is not part of the problem, then you are not paying attention. Parents may only be one facet of a child’s education, but they are the most important facet. If the parents don’t give a damn, the kids won’t either.

  23. Good article! Except, I think that your opinions on the budget shortfalls and staff reductions fail to recognize the reasoning for the decline in SAISD student enrollment – which is the increase in enrollment of students into charter schools and specialty schools.

  24. We might also consider the brain drain of young talent that we suffer. How many of the best and brightest of our own home grown talent actually stay, or return to SA after college, compared with those cities to which we are “losing?”

  25. The irony of hearing so many people moan about the school systems in San Antonio and Texas as a whole while complaining about the non bid for the RNC is dumbfounding… The Republican led government here in Texas has continually stripped funding year after year, pillaged the rainy day fund which was why we started the state lottery in the first place. (initially was meant to absolutely never be able to be tapped for anything other than education) I hear plenty of people who are using old statistics on our great cities retention rate. (which has been growing at a rapid rate) Don’t compare us to Austin either, thats not who we ever want to be. The 2008 article on At&t is also badly outdated. The company is progressively shifting itself back to a big part of its workforce back to our city. (Because Dallas was a mistake) Do better homework before you put something into print and want to prop yourself up as an expert.

  26. From my perspective, San Antonio is not interested in new ideas or input (including critique) or experimentation at a leadership level — hence the feeling that San Antonio as a city doesn’t learn or progress or strive for betterment. It seems a defensive (mission?) city and not a learning one.

    As Garcia raises, innovation heads to places opposite of this. To citie where new ideas and players are more than tolerated or token or cordoned off and there’s enough self-esteem and truly public amenity and opportunity that “competition” with other cities isn’t a consideration.

    Other commentators have referred to San Antonio in recent years as stagnant or worse, “drainsville” — a place that robs the life force and opportunities of the ambitious. I think San Antonio is a friendly place, but as a boomerang resident, I’ve noticed how a small leadership circle has fossilized (with younger leaders puppets for the old) and the city has broken off the rungs that could make San Antonio attractive to a thoughtful young adult, visiting or local.

    First, the cost of a public university degree in San Antonio has become outrageous, as has the cost of rental housing compared with minimum wages. Pedestrians young and old are further degraded by traffic management and public urban design that is against their comfort and safety, with copious public spending diverted to parking construction VIA bus service in greater downtown is decidedly worse (much more expensive and difficult to navigate or to rely on, early morning to late night) than it was a decade ago, and absolutely terrible for most university students and young military members — not to mention visitors arriving at the airport and most workers.

    Recreation in San Antonio seems limited to (mainly beer and expensive cocktail) drinking and driving or ubering. Private sector innovations — from Limebike to Airbnb to SolarCity to Trader Joe’s to various food trucks and trailers — have been fought bitterly and as driven by shortsighted and selfish protectionism that hurts the public.

    In San Francisco’s bay area, I note rents that are only double what I’ve encountered in San Antonio, grocery costs that are on par or cheaper, environmental commitments that make sense (a charge for plastic bagbyse and a refund for bottles and cans, no polystyrene), traffic management that encourages walking and biking (even in parking lots), kids on Limebikes everywhere and bus transit that is light years better than San Antonio’s.

    I agree with some of Garcia’s assertions, but we can’t blame the youth for not completing undergraduate degrees in San Antonio or choosing better US environments in which to pursue lifelong learning, happiness and prosperity. How San Antonio has transitioned from a working class startup city to a drainsville for the young (fun fact for the over 30 and local policy makers and reporters — apparently some colleges in SA will hold your transcripts hostage / not release them if you fall behind on payments) should be the public conversation. There’s apparently developer talk of wanting to see more students with backpacks in greater downtown. Good! The City might want to start with Megabus and Limebike and work from there towards bigger issues such as environmental, pedestrian, tuition cost, public transit, grocery access, public pool and playing field and protected bike lane access and wage degradations hurting young (and old) people locally.

  27. Excellent article. There are many factors that need to be addressed. There is money wasted – a good example is unused textbooks because little time for all subjects when focus is teaching to the test!
    Teachers are very underpaid – except for coaches. Most teachers are not allowed to hold students responsible as they have lost their right to discipline and correct behavior.
    Why is so much money spent on college freshman remedial
    classes and not go to the root of the problem?
    Mainstreaming has it’s benefits if a teacher has adequate help. When you have a class with special needs, second language learners, discipline problems, a teacher spends more time on classroom management than instruction.
    Why are trade careers not promoted more?
    The poor education system in this city is not an insurmountable problem. The city needs to recognize that we have a very serious problem and do something about it.
    Why don’t scholastic accomplishment receive at least a fraction of sports’ accomplishments?
    Why are drugs so prevalent in our schools? Is there ever any open discussions about such?
    There is no quick fix. But, the problem gets worse every year!

  28. We have a lot to work on in San Antonio, but please stop saying that AT&T left San Antonio because of our airport. AT&T was not founded in San Antonio; it moved here from St. Louis. Why did it not move to Dallas in the first place? Simple explanation: AT&T’s headquarters move coincides with its change of CEO from Ed Whitacre (who still lives in San Antonio) to Randall Stevenson. Mr. Whitacre wanted the headquarters to be in San Antonio; Mr. Stevenson did not. By the way, I wonder how often Mr. Stevenson flies commercial instead of taking the company jet. He could get to that jet a lot faster if he lived here.

  29. I am going to raise some hackles by my statements about the level of education of the average San Antonio resident.
    First, I wonder if birth control (meaning measures to prevent pregnancy) were readily available and if sex education were taught robustly in schools throughout the curriculum, what the level of parental involvement in their children’s education would be? Good parenting is a skill — like driving a car, cutting hair, providing medical care, etc. — all of which require proven competency and a license. But anyone who is fertile can become a parent whether they are capable (emotionally, financially, etc.) to be responsible for a child. Some rise to the occasion. Many do not. Please refer to SA’s teen pregnancy rate (which I know is diminishing slightly, fortunately) and its rate of teenagers with multiple children (increasing, unfortunately).
    And then drive around your ‘hood on garbage/recycling pick-up day. Many if not most SA citizens are unable to comprehend the simple instructions on the lids of their receptacles and put the wrong stuff in the wrong bin. Is that a failing of education? A failing of responsible social culture? (Again, birth control, folks….don’t have a baby until you WANT to have a baby and can provide for it.)
    Or just SA being SA?
    Let’s face it: SA ain’t an intellectual hotbed. Remember that bumper sticker “Keep San Antonio Lame”? I was offended by that for many reasons. Sadly, I fear it is true. I remember about 10 years ago, a roving TV reporter interviewed SA citizens on election day who were hanging out at beer joints while the polls were still open. The folks he interviewed who said they didn’t vote gave some very idiotic reasons for what it would take to get them to vote. The one that stands out: “I’ll vote for a guy if he puts gas in my truck.” Another Lone Star, pal?
    I rest my case.

  30. David—

    Although I enjoyed your populism, I worried about your realism. The business community focuses on what it can DIRECTLY affect. It can directly affect economic opportunities in San Antonio. At best, it can only indirectly affect education policies coming out of the legislature.

    The business community lined up SOLIDLY behind Joe Strauss, the Speaker of the House, as he tried to get the legislature to focus on education rather than bathrooms.

    Education policy and funding is the purview of the state legislature, not the city council. To make things even more complicated, the education problem, and many others, can’t be solved until the tax system in the state reflects the real economy of the state.

    Whatever politician embraces that will face, “She just wants to raise your taxes,” while having to explain, “No I don’t. I just want everyone to pay.”

    Our business community has supported school bonds, school boards, school foundations, and legislators who support public education for decades, but their support isn’t enough.

    As a STATE, we have to prioritize public education at all levels. As a CITY, we have to prioritize economic opportunities for our community. That is what our business community was complaining about.

    As far as relocations go, they all relocated for a hub airport. We lost that opportunity decades ago. Dallas and Fort Worth figured it out, while Austin and San Antonio were still being parochial.

  31. As a San Antonio native, I agree, very good article.

    What an amazing city we have!!!

    I’m so proud of the people in our community coming together to vocalize diverse viewpoints and work collaboratively to represent all backgrounds especially those who are historically under-represented or marginalized in our great city.

    Outsider disruptors will never understand! Well said!

    Thank you for the Rivard Report!

  32. Strawman much?

    The education of our children and the bid for the RNC are not linked topics. The City & State government didn’t have to put up a dime for the RNC bid. The business community has stated repeatedly that they would put up the required monies. The lack of our kids education is controlled by government, not the local business community. So many other sub-thoughts too.

    David, congrats on steering the conversation from one government flaw to another government flaw: Lack of a bid to Lack of a quality education system.
    Maybe the Business Community should be in charge of both!?!

  33. All good comments, even when getting off topic. As I’ve told subordinates, we have identified the problem, now build a road to the solution.

    But please, not another Mayoral appointed Committee with the same names. I like our Mayor, but I’ve failed to see any reports of progress of these committees, and whether they are building roads to solutions. We need problem solvers. Not those who only throw rocks.

    Excellent writing David. You really got people talking, or commenting, anyway.

    I hope we are more than just commenting, and really want to work on solutions.

  34. While Mr. Garcia has a lot of good points in this commentary, please allow me to make a direct and bold comment on your commentary about Plano . The demographics of race/ethnicity of Plano vs. San Antonio and the REAL reason Plano is a wealthy community that receives and wins the bids for major companies. The race/ethnicity of San Antonio is over 67% Hispanic and the race/ethnicity of Plano is less than 45% Hispanic. I am certainly not trying to sound like the redundant word “racist” or that Hispanic is bad, but I am referring to the Hispanic population that comes in as illegals and/or does not speak ENGLISH and is uneducated. Plano is over 67% ENGLISH speaking and comprehending, and does not have the illegal immigration problem that San Antonio does. Plano, therefore has more graduates and more public education funding. Don’t blame the public school system underfunding and low graduation rate for being the fault of poor education, blame the lack of comprehension of the American ENGLISH language which equals low paying jobs and low graduation rates. I know some will take offense to these statements, but the census demographics do not lie.

  35. “If you want to see the poor remain poor, generation after generation, just keep the standards low and make excuses for their academic shortcomings and personal behavior. But please, don’t congratulate yourself for your compassion”.
    -Thomas Sowell

    Let’s dispense with blaming the business community for lack of education in San Antonio. They have a fiduciary responsibility, bound by law, to their shareholders. The schools in Plano are funded the same way the schools in San Antonio are.

    If you’re advocating for taking their money to fund our students, say so. Quit prevaricating.

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