An entertaining SA2020 staff briefing for City Council on the comprehensive long-term community plan on Wednesday turned into an homage to Mayor Julián Castro and his signature initiative launched nearly four years ago.

As SA2020 shifted out of "planning mode," Darryl Byrd takes the stage in 2012 as CEO at our first public convening. Photo courtesy SA2020.
SA2020 Darryl Byrd takes the stage in 2012 as CEO at the nonprofit’s first public convening. Photo courtesy SA2020.

“We’ve been on a pretty exciting journey since Sept. 25, 2010,” said SA2020 CEO Darryl Byrd. Recalling the kickoff that “beautiful Saturday morning” at the Tri-Point YMCA where 1,100 San Antonians crowded into the community room, requiring hundreds more to participate via a video feed from the nearby SAWS headquarters, Byrd described Wednesday’s briefing as “where we’ve been, where we are and where we are going.

“The SA2020 conversation began with one big question,” he said “When you look at the end of the decade, when you look half a generation ahead … what kind of San Antonio do you want to see?”

Click here to download the full presentation.

Castro seemed pleased with the progress made by the small, nine-member SA2020 team, which has engaged 84 local non-profit “opportunity partners.”

“The city has grown on all fronts, but had not taken a step back since the 1980s and asked what we wanted to do with all that growth,” Castro said. “I know that for the next couple of months I may not be here with you guys, but I will say that SA2020 has been the strongest vehicle. My strong hope is that its momentum will be continued. I look forward to the work that SA2020 will continue to do.”

Council members lauded the low-key Byrd and his more animated co-presenter, SA2020 Chief of Engagement Molly Cox, for the progress on the program’s core 11 vision goals and 59 “indicators” or measurements.

SA2020 Chief of Engagement Molly Cox and SA2020 CEO Darryl Byrd pose for a photo with a B-cycle in downtown San Antonio. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
SA2020 Chief of Engagement Molly Cox and SA2020 CEO Darryl Byrd pose for a photo with a B-cycle in downtown San Antonio. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Most reserved their most effusive praise for Castro.

One by one, a clear majority of Council members praised Castro’s vision and expressed a commitment to sustain the community initiative long after he steps down from office this summer to join the Obama administration as the next Secretary of Housing & Urban Development.

The Democratic-controlled Senate Banking Committee is expected to hold confirmation hearings and approve President Obama’s nomination of Castro before the August recess. Castro did not directly address his planned resignation or the confirmation process, but he made several references to what will be his growing absence from the city in the coming months and the ensuing transition in city government.

District 6 City Councilman Ray Lopez said SA2020 would thrive as a testament to Castro long after his departure.

“Thank you for starting a process that’s been institutionalized,” Lopez told Castro. Turning to Byrd, he added, “The reality is this transcends Julián.”

District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran agreed.

“I think SA2020 is a great example of San Antonio,” she aid. “We come together, we talk things out, we don’t always agree, but we work things out.”

District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg: “This will not be subject to an election,” meaning SA2020 would continue regardless of who succeeds Castro as mayor.

District 7 Councilman Chris  Medina: “We have an obligation to see this through, even though we will be in transition.

District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña, who has taken to riding the VIA bus as his public statement of support for mass transit goals set out in SA2020, used the occasion, as he has done in the past, to suggest a relevant book he is reading.

“I’m reading ‘Switch’ right now and recommend it,” Saldaña said.

"Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard," by brothers Chip and Dan Heath.
“Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard,” by brothers Chip and Dan Heath.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard,” is written by brothers Chip and Dan Heath. Chip is an economics professors at Stanford University, Saldaña and Castro’s alma mater. His brother, Dan is on the faculty at Duke University.

Given the looming challenge Council faces in picking one of its own to succeed Castro and serve out the remaining one year of his unexpired term, Saldaña might have recommend the Heath brothers’ latest leadership bible, “Decisive: How To make Better Choices in Life and Work” published last year.

District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal joined Byrd in recalling the grass-roots response to Castro’s initiative that soon made it a community initiative.

“I remember watching as someone from the Westside sat down and talked with someone from Stone Oak and tried to create common ground,” Bernal said. “People were sharing ideas where normally they don’t have the opportunity to do so…In those meetings we didn’t see any of that North-South divide.

“I’ve never seen anything like this and it’s only going to get better,” he finished.

The real substance of the Wednesday presentation by Byrd and Cox focused on “collective impact,” which describes how SA2020 has evolved from a program with an aspirational agenda to a data-driven, results-oriented collaborative with the 84 non-profits and other stakeholders where goals are set, progress or regression is measured, and 59 separate indicators are tracked.

From SA2020's presentation to City Council May 28, 2014.
From SA2020’s presentation to City Council May 28, 2014.

Given the two years since SA2020 updated Council and the looming transition, it might be time for another grass-roots gathering to share the evolving framework with the thousands of citizens who signed up at the start to support SA2020, and to underscore the community plan’s strength even after Castro departs San Antonio for Washington DC.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report, is now a freelance journalist.