San Antonio CityFest to Feature ‘Visionary Conversations’ with Local, Global Thought Leaders

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Laboratorio para la Ciudad / Flickr

Gil Penalosa, founder of 8 80 Cities and Síclovía, is CityFest's keynote speaker.

The inaugural San Antonio CityFest next month will bring dozens of San Antonio’s brightest minds together with other thought leaders from elsewhere in Texas and the world to discuss this city’s future.

The lineup and schedule have been finalized for the three-day event, Nov. 8-10, produced by the Rivard Report in partnership with the Southwest School of Art. For tickets, click here. A number of events and panels will be free and open to the public.

The San Antonio Tricentennial Commission voted to make CityFest its capstone event, with three different panels touching on the 300th year, and various key moments in the city’s contemporary history. The theme of this year’s CityFest is, “The 300th anniversary is history. Where do we go from here?”

CityFest will include more than a dozen events and panels and will feature more than 50 leaders from different levels of government, higher education, and the private and nonprofit sectors contributing their intellect and ideas to the goal of accelerating progressive change in the city.

“CityFest will be loaded with the kind of visionary conversations that a city with our trajectory needs,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “The festival will ensure that smart ideas and a progressive problem-solving mindset will be front and center.”

Nirenberg will join New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell on stage at the Southwest School of Art on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 11:20 a.m. to discuss “A Tale of Two Tricentennials: How San Antonio and New Orleans Celebrated 300 Years, and How History Is Turned into Momentum.”

The panel will be moderated by Tricentennial Chair Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president of Texas A&M University-San Antonio, who also will host a Friday morning CityFest on campus that will be free and open to the public.

“We are fortunate to be mayors of two of the nation’s most unique cities during the Tricentennial year for both,” Nirenberg said. “It has been a great year. CityFest will be the perfect way to get focused on our next 300 years.”

Saturday’s lineup also includes these panels:

  • San Antonio Icons and Turning Points in Contemporary City History
  • A Conversation with Contributing Authors to 300 Years of San Antonio and Bexar County
  • Gender, Power, and Leadership
  • The Future of Home Rule and City Management in Texas
  • Park the Car: 21st-Century Mass Transit and the Micro-Mobility Revolution
  • Art, Culture, and the Nexus in City Building
  • The Decade of Downtown and SA2020: An Early Assessment

A partial lineup of panelists and speakers includes:

  • Graham Weston, co-founder of Rackspace, Geekdom, and Weston Urban
  • Julián Castro, former San Antonio mayor and HUD secretary under President Barack Obama
  • Aaronetta Pierce, San Antonio civic leader
  • T.C.​ Broadnax​, Dallas city manager
  • Sheryl Sculley, San Antonio city manager
  • Lourdes Castro Ramirez, principal deputy HUD secretary under President Barack Obama
  • Red McCombs, founder of Red McCombs Automotive Group
  • Lila Cockrell, former San Antonio mayor
  • Evan Smith, co-founder and CEO of the Texas Tribune 
  • Christine Drennon, director of urban studies at Trinity University
  • Henry Cisneros, former San Antonio mayor and HUD secretary under President Bill Clinton
  • Phil Hardberger, former San Antonio mayor
  • Molly Cox, president and CEO of SA2020

CityFest begins with a luncheon Thursday, Nov. 8 at the Pearl Stable (11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.) and an opportunity to hear from keynote speaker Gil Penalosa who is traveling to San Antonio from his home in Toronto.

Penalosa is best-known for partnering with his brother, Enrique, the mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, as founders of Cíclovía, which has become a global phenomenon and carries a slightly different spelling locally. The event temporarily closes major streets in large cities all over the world and makes them available to citizens for exercise and play.

In Bogotá, more than 80 miles of streets are closed each Sunday. San Antonio’s biannual Síclovía drew more than 67,000 attendees in September, with the next event here scheduled for March 31.

Penalosa also is founder of nonprofit 8 80 Cities, an organization focused on urban core livability and sustainability. He encourages cities to design themselves to be accessible and usable by 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds. If cities meet that goal, Penalosa says, they will meet the needs of everyone in between as well.

Penalosa said he has worked with more than 350 cities on every continent. He plans to bring a challenging message to San Antonio, one which will encourage the city and its citizens to be bold.

“I think the festival is going to touch on many points that are critical to the quality of life of everyone,” Penalosa said. “When we evaluate cities, one of my perceptions is we should evaluate cities on how we treat the most vulnerable people – and that’s one of the things I’m going to be talking about. I think the most vulnerable are the children, the older adults, and the poor.

“We have to stop building cities as if everyone is 30 years old and athletic.”

Friday’s 10 am.-12 p.m. program on the A&M-SA campus is free with registration. Penalosa will discuss “Mobility and the Path to Public Health” after an introduction from Teniente-Matson.

Two more panels free and open to the public with registration will take place from 5-8 p.m. at the Alamo Brewery on the near-Eastside. One panel will focus on the city’s affordable housing strategies, and the other will focus on the links between mobility, public spaces and design, and community health.

“The program is really strong for a new event, and we’ve kept it affordable and even scheduled plenty of free programming,” said Rivard Report Publisher and Editor Robert Rivard. “And we have some really great thought leaders coming into San Antonio to connect with local leaders in our community.”

The San Antonio Tricentennial Commission and the sAn Antonio Area Foundation are serving as presenting sponsors for CityFest. The Rivard Report is seeking additional sponsors. Click here for more information on sponsorships opportunities and levels.

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