Civic engagement is at the core of the San Antonio Report’s nonprofit news mission, and the organization’s annual CityFest ideas festival brings together thought leaders and engaged citizens for dialogue on key issues facing the city.

The San Antonio CityFest 2020 Oct. 5-9 lineup of events, panel discussions, and entertainment features an array of topics including public health, business and job growth, transportation and development, and recovery from the economic and health crisis of the coronavirus pandemic.

The full schedule is available here.

All CityFest 2020 programming will be free and open to the public, with pre-registration required. Once attendees are registered they will receive an email giving them access to the festival web app. Registered attendees are also invited to download the Whova app for more opportunities to network and take the festival anywhere they go.

CityFest panelists include (first row L-R) Ojiyoma Martin, Ron Nirenberg, Ana Sandoval, Bruce Bugg, and T.C. Broadnax. (Second row L-R) Thu Nguyen, Somava Saha, Elizabeth Johnson, Erik Walsh, Jeff Arndt. (Third row L-R) Graham Weston, Juan Gutierrez, Colleen Bridger, Nelson Wolff, and Marina Gonzales, among others. Credit: Courtesy

Leadership during crisis

Editor and Publisher Robert Rivard will kick off the week on Monday with an 8:55 a.m. introduction, followed by a 9 a.m. conversation with Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg on crisis leadership. Rivard said part of the time will be devoted to addressing the continuing tension between city and state government on pandemic safety protocols, policing, and budgets.

The 11 a.m. panel, moderated by San Antonio Report Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick, will bring in City Manager Erik Walsh to discuss San Antonio’s response to the pandemic with other city managers from Austin, Dallas, El Paso, and San Jose, California.

“I hope the audience – myself included – will gain some insight into the complexities of managing local governments through disasters,” Dimmick said. “Knowing what worked and didn’t work throughout this pandemic will likely come in handy during the next crisis whether it’s related to a virus or not.”

The 1 p.m. “Smart Job Growth in San Antonio: Geographic and Demographic Trends” will kick off the festival’s focus on how the business sector will move forward from the economic downturn of the pandemic. Moderator and columnist Rick Casey will talk with James Russell, a geographer and demographer from Washington, D.C., and Texas state demographer Lloyd Potter on balancing job growth with challenges facing the city’s working poor.

How businesses cope

Other business-focused discussions will include “Business and the Pandemic Pivot” on Tuesday at noon, highlighting the creativity and resiliency of local business leaders, followed by a panel on transportation and development moderated by Rivard, and a discussion on “Running a Restaurant During a Pandemic” with Chef Elizabeth Johnson of Pharm Table, Chef Alejandro Paredes of Carnitas Lonja, and Pete Cortez, chief operating officer at La Familia Cortez.

The restaurant panel is a special San Antonio Report members-only event, with an incentive for non-members to join: any new member will be entered into a raffle for gift cards to each of these restaurants.

Wednesday morning continues with “A Pulse Check on Startups” at 10 a.m., moderated by San Antonio Report’s general assignment reporter Lindsey Carnett, who will speak with representatives of the nonprofit 80/20 Foundation and EPIcenter Energy Incubator and Accelerator.

Thursday’s 3 p.m. “Smart Testing: Taming the Pandemic” panel will touch on how a vigorous coronavirus testing program can improve not only business conditions, but education, public health, and city governance, with 80/20 Foundation chairman Graham Weston, Tullos Wells of the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, and Tobin Endowment Chairman and Trustee J. Bruce Bugg Jr.

Education and Engagement

Education is the focus of two Wednesday panels moderated by San Antonio Report Education Reporter Emily Donaldson. “The $1.3 Billion Proposal” panel at noon will examine the largest proposed bond in the city’s history with San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez, Blue Ribbon Committee Co-Chair Victoria Moreno-Herrera, and SAISD Trustee Christina Martinez.

“I hope that attendees will come away with an understanding of the bond’s scope – it’s pretty astounding in comparison to previous bonds in the city – and with answers about why so many projects are needed at once,” Donaldson said.

At 5:30 p.m. Donaldson will turn her focus toward “Difficulties in Distance Learning” brought on by inequities in internet access and educational methods.

News itself will be the focus of several panels, including “Bexar Facts: Amplify Your Voice” Thursday at noon, about the partnership that drives the Bexar Facts Poll’s continuing effort to track the opinions of San Antonians on political and social issues affecting the city; the 5 p.m. “Covering the News” panel led by San Antonio Report Audience Engagement Editor JJ Velasquez with other media representatives; and “Photojournalism During a Public Health Crisis” at 2:30 p.m. on Friday featuring San Antonio Report Photo Editor Scott Ball and photographer Bonnie Arbittier in conversation with portrait photographer Bria Woods and New York-based Christopher Lee.

Healthy futures

The culminating day of CityFest on Friday will examine the complex mix of issues facing San Antonio today, with a panel on policing at 10 a.m. with city leaders and social justice activists, a keynote address at noon by world health practitioner and advocate Somava Saha, followed immediately by a panel discussion on health equity with Metro Health Director Colleen Bridger, retired President and CEO Jaime Wesolowski, formerly of the Methodist Healthcare System, and prominent physician Erika Gonzalez.

The “Future of the City” will be examined by panelists Ximena Alvarez, a media specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, City of San Antonio Chief Innovation Officer Brian Dillard, nonprofit consultant John Burnham, San Antonio Economic Development Foundation President and CEO Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, and Alex Birnel, advocacy manager at MOVE Texas.

Festive entertainment

Sprinkled through the festival will be entertainment interludes. Monday programming concludes with a 3 p.m. session featuring podcaster Brandon Seale, who will talk with San Antonio Report Arts and Culture Reporter Nicholas Frank about Seale’s recently-completed third season of A New History of Old Texas featuring 16th-century explorer Cabeza de Vaca, followed by performance artist Marisela Barrera at 2:30 p.m.

Other guests include singer-songwriter Nicolette Good on Oct. 6, The AM Project featuring 12-year-old DJango on Oct. 7, married duo Dreambored on Oct. 8, and The Foreign Arm featuring San Antonio Poet Laureate Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson on Oct. 9.

By its conclusion, CityFest will have attempted to paint a detailed portrait of San Antonio as it enters a new season teetering on the double precipice of the ongoing pandemic and a contentious presidential election.

“This year’s program of speakers and panels was deeply informed by the events of 2020, notably the impact of the pandemic and shutdown and the social unrest and calls for police reform,” Rivard said.

“That programming reflects the way our own dedicated journalists have worked tirelessly this year to cover the most relevant issues and challenges of the day,” he said. “Now that CityFest is free and open to all, we expect really good audiences.”

This story was updated to correct the time of Marisela Barrera’s performance Monday.

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff.