Precinct 1 is the largest of the four precincts within Bexar County, and it’s also very diverse. If we look to the south of the precinct, we have our poor neighborhoods that do not have paved roads or access to the internet. If we look to the north of Precinct 1, we have our more affluent neighborhoods that have amenities such as pools and clubhouses. 

The issues that concern me the most are health care, property taxes, public safety, and parks and recreation. San Antonio is one of the hardest-hit areas in the nation for chronic kidney disease. Kidney dialysis centers are popping up everywhere. Former County Commissioner Paul Elizondo had a plan to expand health care through the University Health System, but that has not happened in unincorporated areas. Growth is coming. We need to consider another medical center and build it where it will be accessible to many that need it. Port San Antonio and the Texas A&M corridor have lots of space. Education, early detection, and early treatment will lead to better outcomes.

Property taxes affect all, yet no relief is in sight. We must work with our state lawmakers to bring tax relief, especially for our senior citizens. Some residents must choose between putting food on the table, paying for their medications, or keeping their home by paying their property taxes. This year to help the taxpayers the Bexar County Appraisal District board could have frozen appraisals to last year’s values by not doing reappraisals. Appraisals only need to be done every three years. The chief appraiser is hired by a board made up of elected officials whose offices stand to gain from higher appraisals. It is time for a change.

As the City of San Antonio continues to grow and much of that growth is occurring in Precinct 1, we need to have a top-notch public safety department. Our first responders must have the proper tools, equipment, and manpower to keep us safe. They must be prepared for the next large event/pandemic by having training sessions. These training sessions must include all public safety agencies located in Bexar County. 

With so many flood-prone areas, each with a potential for loss of life, we need to focus on our constituents’ safety instead of spending millions to beautify a downtown creek and call it flood control. This is unacceptable.

Unincorporated areas of Bexar County receive limited services compared with incorporated areas of the County, with less access to parks, trails, and libraries. Commissioners Court duplicated City of San Antonio services by building the Bibliotechs within city limits while ignoring unincorporated Bexar County. Twice in the past 15 years, a community center was approved for the community of Thelma. We are now in 2020, and the community center for the town of Thelma still has not been built. We should have multifunction centers in each quadrant of the county – a place for our seniors to gather, hold health clinics, a place for our kids to play, and a to place to hold evacuees.

West Bexar County is one of the fastest-growing areas in the state. Our roads and streets should have been a priority to Commissioners Court. Texas State Highway 211, which is supposed to connect Potranco Road to Bandera Road, should have been built years ago. Grosenbacher Road cannot handle the growth. It should not have taken an election year to expand Potranco Road or Talley Road. West Bexar County is still waiting on early voting locations. 

I have traveled around Precinct 1 for 34 years as a paramedic and firefighter. I have seen the struggles that many residents face. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. The next county commissioner needs to be a full-time commissioner dedicated to the people of the precinct. The public must have easy access to their elected official. It is the duty, obligation, and responsibility of the elected official to serve, promote, and respond to the needs of the residents of Precinct 1. I vow to always meet the needs of the many and not the wants of the few. 

Read opponent Rebeca Clay-Flores’ commentary here.

Gabriel Lara is a San Antonio native, U.S. Navy veteran, and retired firefighter and paramedic of the City of San Antonio Fire Department.