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After a protracted discussion with much confusion over procedural points, City Council approved nine candidates to a new workforce development advisory board.

Thursday’s agenda called for council members to approve 11 candidates to the new SA Ready to Work Advisory Board. But dissatisfaction over the process that called for expanding the board from nine to 11 members resulted in two candidates for board seats being sent back to the Governance Committee, which approved the addition of those seats at a February meeting.

In a 10-1 vote, City Council approved nine of the 11 recommended advisory board candidates. But in a 6-5 decision, City Council voted to return the remaining two candidates back to the Governance Committee and ask the committee to reconsider how to change the board structure. Council members Shirley Gonzales (D5), Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6), Manny Pelaez (D8), John Courage (D9), and Mayor Ron Nirenberg voted against that request. Council members Roberto Treviño (D1), Jada Andrews-Sullivan (D2), Rebecca Viagran (D3), Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4), Ana Sandoval (D7), and Clayton Perry (D10) were for it. Viagran and Rocha Garcia are the advisory board’s City Council liaisons. 

Viagran pointed out the full City Council first approved a nine-seat advisory board structure in December and that adding two seats was a “substantial amendment change.”

“If we are going to have a conversation about expanding the structure of the advisory group, I think we need to do it like the email from City staff said: in a full Council consideration and that should be done separately,” she said.

Voters approved SA Ready to Work in November. That gave the City $154 million to implement the education and job training initiative, which aims to aid up to 40,000 San Antonians whose livelihoods were affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The SA Ready to Work Advisory Board is tasked with providing feedback on the workforce development program. Board members were selected to represent different interests and perspectives – trade and labor, employers, former or current workforce program participants, community organization, and job training providers. The board will meet once a quarter and also help promote the SA Ready to Work program with the community and employer participants.

SA Ready to Work plans to begin enrollment in September.

The following advisory board members were unanimously approved:

  • Sonia Garza, vice president of operations for WellMed Medical Management
  • Peter J. Holt, CEO of Holt Cat and chairman of Spurs Sports & Entertainment
  • Ben Peavy, local managing director of Accenture Federal Services, 
  • Rosa Santana, CEO of the Santana Group, Integrated Human Capital, and Forma Automotive
  • Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president of Texas A&M University-San Antonio
  • Daphene Carson, risk manager at Edgewood Independent School District
  • Doug McMurry, executive vice president of the San Antonio Chapter of Associated General Contractors
  • Emily Spurlock, registered nurse
  • Jerry Graeber, senior project manager with Leonard Contracting Inc.

The two candidates who were not approved Thursday were Bobby Olveda, field representative and president of union group Laborers’ Local 1095, and Juan Solis, vice president at TRUIST and former District 5 councilman.

Rocha Garcia suggested adding board members that may not focus solely on workforce issues, such as a representative of the disability community.

“We have great candidates but if we have the opportunity to add two more, can we consider adding some additional [board seats] that I think are greatly missing from representation right now?” she asked.

Perry took issue with the small-business representation on the board. According to Alex Lopez, the director of the City’s Economic Development Department, one of the final advisory board candidates is certified as a small-business owner.

“To me that’s outstanding that we don’t recognize our small businesses more on this committee, who are actually going to be using this particular service more than anybody else,” Perry said. 

Sandoval noted that three of the nine board members do not live within the City of San Antonio, though she did not specify which ones.

“I just want to make sure that we’re aware that 33% … of this advisory board for a tax that was approved by the residents of San Antonio would be represented by individuals who may have businesses [here] but do not not reside here,” she said.

At the same meeting, City Council unanimously denied a historic designation request for a former dairy farm on De Zavala Road in District 8 without any discussion. The Historic and Design Review Commission voted 7-1 to forward the request to City Council at a December meeting. 

Council also voted to establish a “Clean Zone” downtown during the NCAA women’s basketball tournament between March 16 and April 1. The clean zone designation allows only licensed vendors to sell goods within the boundaries. Those vendors must apply ahead of time to do business there, said Patricia Muzquiz Cantor, director of Convention Sports and Entertainment Facilities. 

City Manager Erik Walsh told Council members he would return with a public health strategy recommendation for the college basketball tournament at the Alamodome, especially in light of Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent lifting of the mask mandate and business occupancy restrictions.

“We’re going to still require those same protocols going forward for all of our city facilities, as well as the rules for city employees and visitors in our buildings,” Walsh said. “The outdoors is a different challenge in the sense that the River Walk [walkway], versus the basketball court, versus the La Villita open plaza area, how are we going to deal with those issues? We’re working on that now.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the City Council vote to approve nine advisory board members.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.