San Antonio, Still a City on the Rise

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Ivy Taylor speaks with Robert Rivard at Main Plaza. Photo by Scott Ball.

Ivy Taylor speaks with Robert Rivard at Main Plaza on June 12, 2015. Photo by Scott Ball.

Call me an optimist. We left our offices in the historic Rand Building just before midnight after Saturday’s hold-your-breath mayoral runoff. As we stepped on to East Houston Street, the feeling hit me that I  was still living and working in a city on the rise.

Saturday night is history now. Ivy Taylor dropped the word “interim” from her title as Mayor, holding off former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. But this column isn’t about the campaign, voter analysis, or the low turnout. I’m more interested in what comes next.

My colleagues and I headed to a nearby bar, honoring the journalistic tradition of toasting another election night in the books. East Houston Street, even at the late hour, was still alive with people on foot. An energetic piano solo – that’s an understatement – followed by some urgent saxophone stopped us in our tracks, an invisible force field. We all had the same thought: change of plans. We stepped lively into Bohanon’s, unable to resist Doc Watkins and the South Texas Jazz Quartet.

Brent "Doc" Watkins performs with a South Texas Jazz ensemble at the Esquire Tavern. Photo by Kody Melton.

Brent “Doc” Watkins performs with a South Texas Jazz ensemble at the Esquire Tavern. Photo by Kody Melton.

Watkins and his band could play any room in any city and own the audience, in my opinion. They are one reason for my optimism. They are in San Antonio, not somewhere else. There are, however, a lot of other reasons to feel optimism in the air, even when the music’s not playing. A few blocks east, Hemisfair Park is undergoing an incredible transformation. An unprecedented $32 million infusion from the Texas Legislature will help us get started on the Alamo Plaza next.

A few blocks west, the Weston Urban/Frost Bank Tower deal and all the redevelopment that comes with it looms large. The San Pedro Creek Improvements Project is going to happen at the same time.

Mayor Taylor will join Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff in leading a San Antonio delegation to Bonn, Germany at the end of the month to attend the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting and witness its decision on the application for the San Antonio Missions and the Alamo.

For some time I have thought the Castro era ended when the former mayor left for Washington. His early departure from the mayor’s office upended politics in San Antonio. Officeholders played musical chairs, and all sense of unity and purpose seemed to give way to chaos.

I now think differently. We’ve come too far to be stopped, and the Castro era continues without him. In fact, the city’s progressive era reaches back to the Hardberger administration, which really got things started a decade ago. With all the campaigning and elections behind us, the city and its leadership now have the opportunity to open a new chapter. Yes, I’m an optimist and the Ivy-haters will storm the Comment walls on this website, but let’s see how differently this elected mayor and City Council govern. After all, in a few weeks they’ll start to get a paycheck, and with a little maturity and leadership, damaged relationships can be repaired. Momentum can be regained.

That doesn’t mean 11 people will be singing “Kumbaya My Lord” at City Hall, but it does mean they can work together as a team and accomplish significant things.

I’ve made my case here for why I thought former state Rep. Mike Villarreal would have made a strong mayor, the best mayor, but my allegiance is to the city, not an individual officeholder, and I’m ready to see the city moving forward again, this time under Mayor Taylor. I can’t think of anything less productive than dwelling on what didn’t happen. I’m as interested as anyone in the gleanings from the election, but it’s historical data now.

If Mayor Taylor and a united City Council can get collective bargaining talks back on track, show some momentum on negotiating a return of Uber and Lyft, and use a late June retreat to establish a working atmosphere of goodwill and mutual respect, I see a lot getting done in the next two years.

One positive step, as I’ve written, would be for the Council to unanimously deliver a vote of confidence to City Manager Sheryl Sculley and her team. The timing would be good after last week’s announcement that Cytocentrics, the German biotech and robotics company, is moving to San Antonio to establish its corporate headquarters here and build a workforce of 300 highly paid, highly trained technicians and assembly workers. That was a deal crafted by City staff.

I thought Leticia Van de Putte was incredibly gracious in defeat Saturday night. Those of us who have never run for office can’t appreciate the agony of defeat in a hard-fought, expensive election where a candidate and his or her family live in a fish bowl for months. If Van de Putte could wish Mayor Taylor well, I thought, everyone else ought to be able to do it.

Leticia Van de Putte gives her concession speech at her election party. Photo by Scott Ball.

Leticia Van de Putte gives her concession speech at her election party. Photo by Scott Ball.

I spent Sunday morning reading in bed. Mayor Taylor went to church. Some think she blurs Church and State. I don’t worry about that, as long one doesn’t rule the other.

Finding a way for the mayor and the LGBTQ community to find common ground and get past the current standoff would be productive for both sides. That will not be easy. People in the community feel deeply about Taylor’s no vote on the non-discrimination ordinance as a council member in 2013, but looking at it another way, who is happy with the current relationship?

In May, Taylor directed city staff to establish the Office of Diversity and Inclusion that will enforce the NDO. That should be seen as a pragmatic gesture of goodwill on her part, and while there will be no agreement now on extending the reach of the NDO, goodwill is a solid foundation on which to build over time.

I called Mayor Taylor Sunday afternoon, curious about her day-after feelings. I wanted to know how she felt, and whether she sounded triumphant, or perhaps, affirmed?

“It just feels good today,” Taylor said, “still overwhelming. I’m here at home, wading through about 100 text messages. My phone was buzzing all through church services.

“I am definitely thinking about unity. I’ve always seen myself in this job as the team leader for the Council, so I’ve been wanting to do something like the (coming late June) retreat for awhile. I’m excited to be leading the way on this and have a productive team building session.”

Taylor and the City Council will be sworn in to office on Wednesday, June 24. The retreat will be held Friday, June 26, shortly before City Council recesses for the traditional summer break in July.

“The location is not for certain, but it will be some place within an hour of the city, far enough that people are not distracted by other things, but close enough we won’t stay overnight,” Taylor said.

What’s on her agenda?

“Right now, team building is first, but I’m also starting to think about budget priorities before our break. Getting collective bargaining back on track is on the immediate horizon.”

SA Tomorrow, Taylor’s comprehensive planning initiative, will host its first Sustainability Forum on June 23 at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center. That project will be another continuing priority. But in a nod to the Castro era, Taylor said Sunday that SA2020 remains an important community initiative.

“SA2020 is serving as the base for all our visioning, including SA Tomorrow,” Taylor said. “We went through a significant community process, so we don’t want to push it aside. We have five more years to SA2020. We will use our planning process to figure out how it all fits together.”


*Featured/top image: Ivy Taylor speaks with Robert Rivard at Main Plaza. Photo by Scott Ball. 

Related Stories:

Down to the Wire: Ivy Vs. Leticia for Mayor

Brian Dillard: Moving Forward with Ivy Taylor

Last-Day Rush Swells Early Vote Turnout

#SAvotes…Sorta. What It Means to Have Low Voter Turnout 



26 thoughts on “San Antonio, Still a City on the Rise

  1. I’ve lost hope that we’ll continue to be a city on the rise. Ivy Taylor lied and said she wouldn’t run for mayor, she is supported by the Texas GOP. We lost Uber and Google Fiber, and I’m sure we’ll lose more in the future.

  2. Bob, good thoughts but the use of the word “still” in a city on the rise is a bit of a back-handed compliment. Have you stopped to consider how a lifelong resident with the backing of nearly every democrat (including prominent African-American elected ones), the backing of the Chamber, the backing of the Express News, the backing of police and fire, and a million more dollars than her opponent could lose? How did that happen? How could a near native San Antonian with all that support and money and a huge political machine lose to someone from New York? Maybe the answer to that question can bring healing.

  3. I’ll go ahead and analyze the campaign for you Rivard. The progressive “cartel” tried to buy the election with special interest deals…..and the most absurdly nasty campaign in history……and got Busted… a REAL public servant politician who showed character and integrity. THAT is what happened….and you know it. Good for San Antonio!!! And….good for integrity in politics in America.

  4. Bob, great perspective. It’s a new day. I’m also optimistic that the progress we’ve seen over the several years has gain traction and will continue regardless of whom sits in the mayor’s seat. For Mayor Taylor the real work now begins and it will be a test of leadership for her as we move forward. But I’m hopeful that Ivy will exhibit the kind of responsive leadership that will unify both city council and the city. This election exposed some serious fault lines in our city so effective leadership will be key. Ideally we want our leaders either elected or appointed to be responsive, fair, gracious, open to change, and free as possible of any ideological or religious belief filters. I’m optimistic that Ivy will tap into these characteristics as we move forward and build her council team so that we can continue to be progressive. I did not support Ivy mostly based on her position on NDO. But we must move on and put our differences aside so we can continue in making this a great city. It’s time to get behind our newly elected mayor but as citizens we need to be mindful, actually it’s our duty, of holding the mayor and council accountable. In the meantime, it’s a new day!

  5. I appreciate this column. Moving on from the acrimonious election is a good thing to do. I have no doubt that the Rivard Report will continue their role as the Fifth Estate by holding local government accountable and keeping its readers informed.

  6. I hope she’s the “Obama” of Texas politics. May she be able to do nothing to reverse the last 10 years of progress. May she learn acceptance, change parties & stop being a DINO (Democrat In Name Only), & more importantly get rid of that bail bonds company on her books. Sad to see someone that supports My Brother’s Keeper & make a buck off the same boys & men that the initiative looks to improve the lives of. Also, being more like a person & less of a politician. Honestly, keep her promises. Maybe then she will have a chance to do good.

  7. “…my allegiance is to the city, not an individual office holder.”
    “I can’t think of anything less productive than dwelling on what didn’t happen.”

    Great lines! Right on target Bob. Election’s over, time to get to work. We can all play a part making San Antonio better, even if it’s by reminding mayor Taylor that she’s wrong on the NDO (WWJD) and that we don’t want to lose the momentum started by mayor Castro. We want a walkable/bike-friendly city and an education system that prepares our kids to be happy productive citizens.

  8. My thoughts exactly, Bob. Thanks for informing the uninformed of the Mayor’s establishment of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. She may not have voted for the NDO but she is enforcing it and I think that speaks volumes.

    Now can you help people understand that Google Fiber is not gone – they just need more time to get it in place. Google is the delay, not the Mayor. And that Uber walked away from a negotiated agreement with the City. They didn’t want their drivers to be fingerprinted here as they agreed to do in Houston. I’m sorry but if I have to be fingerprinted for my job, those drivers can be fingerprinted for theirs. Uber cannot write their own rules and regulations and if they agreed to fingerprinting in Houston, they can do it here too.

    I see a continued bright future for San Antonio.

  9. A rise? I agree. San Antonio is on a hill. Improving? Time will tell..

    Congratulations to the winner in an open election. 3,331 + votes made a difference. Remember to get involved in the city and help make it what you think it should be. Both Taylor the LVP broke pledges not to run, and circumstances did not dramatically change to justify a change in that pledge. But hopefully people evolve.

    What troubles me about Taylor, and similar politicians who reference mythological beings as orchestrating actual events, is that they never plan appropriately because they think planning by people is a waste of time and money, and then they are constantly surprised when problems occur (Who could have imagined? Let’s pray for their success.).

  10. Well written, Bob. While Mayor Taylor’s election was the worst case-scenario (ignoring all scenarios where one of the non-viable candidates with funny nicknames somehow pulled it off) in my mind, it’s time to move forward. I’m hoping that Mayor Taylor will use this close election as a learning opportunity and do what she can to keep San Antonio pointed in the right direction.

  11. Great article! I hope you are right, and I like her comments about bringing unity to the City Council. I hope she understands the importance of getting Uber back. Previous comments that she has made have me concerned about that.

  12. Great article! I hope you are right, and I like her comments about bringing unity to the City Council. I hope she understands the importance of getting Uber back. Previous comments that she has made have me concerned about that.

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