Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report
Councilman Alan Warrick (D2) met with members of the Neighborhoods First Alliance and COPS/Metro Alliance at an Eastside church hall Tuesday evening, publicly pledging his support for a $15 an hour minimum wage for all City employees by 2018 and a $2.2 million grant for Project Quest and its job training programs in the City's 2017 Fiscal Year Budget.
An audience of 50 organization leaders and community residents turned out for the meeting at Holy Redeemer Parish Hall at 1819 Nevada St. There were no media alerts beforehand, and at least one Eastside neighborhood association president in attendance complained his organization only learned about the meeting through word of mouth.
It was at times a politically-charged meeting amid growing speculation that former Zoning Commission Chair William "Cruz" Shaw will run against Warrick in the May 2017 City Election. Shaw resigned his appointed position in July shortly after Warrick's chief of staff asked him to resign when rumors began circulating that Shaw would challenge Warrick for the Eastside council seat.
Warrick's commitment to embrace the community organizations' goals will help secure their support, but it's no guarantee that others on City Council or City staff will agree.
“I actually have told the city manager ... and she knows that it’s really for us to dictate to her, not for her to dictate to us, what we’re gonna do with the budget," Warrick added. "We really have to take charge and make sure that we provide that direction to make our city attractive for all wages and all (people).”
A $15 an hour minimum wage
COPS/Metro Alliance, a coalition of religious institutions, schools, and unions, asked for a $15 minimum wage for all City employees by 2018, as well as for support for a $2.2 million budget for Project Quest, a jobs training program that has been in place for 25 years. The NFA, a nonprofit community-based organization, also proposed a $777,000 crime prevention budget for "Organizing for Unity in the Community," although no details were offered for how the money would be spent.
On Wednesday, June 9, City Council held a budget goal-setting session at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, where City staff was tasked with bringing different priorities to the table before the proposed budget is reviewed on Aug. 18.
Public meetings will be held at various city locales Aug. 22-29, with a final draft set to develop on Sept. 15 for the consideration of City Council. To view the City’s budget timeline, click here.
Demonte Alexander, who serves as Warrick's director of communications and special projects said that individual meetings were held previously with each of the groups. Tuesday evening's meeting, he said, was designed to give Warrick the opportunity to publicly pledge his support for the minimum wage initiative and Project Quest funding.
“There are so many great things happening on the Eastside, but in some parts of the community they are few and far between," Warrick said. "We want to change that so that we can grow the footprint of positive things happening on the Eastside ... it’s a community-wide (effort) as opposed to just pockets.”
Joseph Oubre, a member of the Holy Redeemer Church, chaired the meeting and welcomed Warrick, reminding the audience that "the agenda is already set."
“It’s important to have living wages," Sister Gabriella of the Holy Spirit Convent told Warrick. "It’s about families, helping families become educated and self-sufficient.”
Project Quest funding
Supporters and members of COPS/Metro Alliance who called for an increase in minimum wage for City employees also highlighted the importance of continuing funding for Project Quest.
COPS/Metro Alliance member Shirley Ellis said Project Quest has been "recognized by the White House for its pioneering work in long-term job training," and that more funding is needed to reach more people.
"We are asking if you will support Project Quest as a separate line item on the City budget, (which would) stabilize the amount that we will get every year,” Ellis said.
“I will support both of those items,” Warrick said.
Eastside community policing and anti-crime initiatives
Police shootings of unarmed black men and the need for the department to adopt de-escalation methods took center stage at the meeting. NFA representative T.C. Calvert Sr. spoke about acts of violence that have occurred in other cities as well as incidents that have taken place locally.
Calvert asked Warrick to commit to supporting a community policing initiative to de-escalate tensions between police and inner city minority communities.
“We are asking you to work with us to establish a partnership with the San Antonio Police Department, Bexar County Deputy Sheriffs, Bexar County constables, the FBI, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the District Attorney, U.S. Marshals, and residents of the targeted neighborhoods with the highest crime and murder rates.”
The Eastside is home to the city's highest concentration of black residents, highest unemployment rates, and some of the poorest and most crime-plagued neighborhoods. Despite significant federally-funded public infrastructure and neighborhood investment in recent years, the historically underserved area has many unmet needs.
Calvert asked Warrick to help organize community efforts "not with city funding, state funding, or federal money, but with private money," and to help raise "at least a million dollars to put some troops on the ground.” He did not say where such funds might come from.
In addition, Calvert called for cash incentives for identifying suspects in crime hot spots to be put in place. He also proposed developing a crime prevention program through a sustainable 12-month action plan for future success in targeting neighborhoods that suffer from criminal gang activity.
Tensions in the room rose when the conversation turned to the police union.
(Read more: City Awaits Police Union Vote on New Contract)
Warrick acknowledged the presence of police union spokesperson Greg Brockhouse and spoke of the productive strides in strengthening communication with SAPD, saying he's had "very positive meetings (which are) really moving the conversation forward in our community."
Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association President Brian Dillard slow-clapped Warrick after the Councilman refuted the claim that SAPOA "isn't doing anything in the community," by mentioning SAPD and SAPOA's volunteering effort with the San Antonio Food Bank that morning in the Eastside Promise Neighborhood area.
After an awkward, "Thank you, Brian," Warrick continued, saying "there are things that are going on that are really changing because relationships are being made in the community.”
"Councilman, this is the second time that you've met with SAPOA and T.C. Sr. in less than a week," Dillard said, pressing Warrick and asking why the neighborhood association and other community members weren't invited to the meeting.
"This isn't my meeting," Warrick said.
Later, Warrick told the Rivard Report that the meeting was about connecting with constituents and listening to their needs.
“My constituency is very diverse and the issues in the community are diverse," Warrick told the Rivard Report. "I want to bring those diverse issues to places where we can can come up with solutions, in order to make this a better community for everyone.”
Top image: City Councilman Alan Warrick (D2) speaks about the efforts to increase minimum wage. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.