Robert Rivard

Before departing for a 10-day economic development trip to India last week, Mayor Julián Castro announced plans via youtube to seek  a third term of office as mayor of San Antonio.

Given his strong standing, it’s doubtful he’ll face a serious challenger. If he wins a third term, he will be the first San Antonio mayor to serve more than two consecutive terms since former Mayor Henry Cisneros held office from 1981-89.

If Castro’s re-election is not in doubt, what about his legacy after two terms? What do people who voted him into office think of his performance as mayor so far? The Rivard Report invites readers to offer their own assessments of the Castro administration as it nears the midpoint of what could be an eight-year run.

Post your comment at the end of this article, or on the Rivard Report Facebook page. We’ll review the postings and report back on interesting or important threads that emerge.

We especially want to hear where you think Castro has succeeded, fallen short, or failed. We also want you to list suggested priorities for Castro’s third term agenda.

Preparing to launch Pre-K 4 SA undoubtedly will feature prominently in a third term, as will Castro’s goal of improving education outcomes from early childhood attendance to college graduation rates. Job creation and public safety probably figure as leading measures in any mayoral term, and Castro rides a good wave on both fronts into a third campaign.

Mayor Castro stretches to shake hands
Mayor Julián Castro stretches to shake hands as he makes his way through the crowd at La Fonda on election night, just before the Pre-K 4 SA initiative passed on Nov 6, 2012. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

His call to make this the “Decade of Downtown” will continue to attract strong interest, including the City’s plans to redevelop Hemisfair and efforts, so far unsuccessful, to attract a grocery store operator to the center city. Transportation, specifically the streetcar project, falls under VIA, but how the initiative fares as planning picks up momentum will inevitably reflect for better or worse on both city and county government.

City Manager Sheryl Sculley
City Manager Sheryl Sculley

Castro’s performance leading a new City Council and working with City Manager Sheryl Sculley also will be monitored closely by City Hall watchers. Sculley has held that office since 2005 and is considered key to the city’s fiscal performance and efficient operations. She is highly regarded by the business and leadership community but has taken heat in the media for what critics charge were lax ethical standards in the handling of the convention center expansion contract by former Deputy City Manager Pat DiGiovanni. Digiovanni was negotiating to leave public office to take the helm of the Centro Partnership, a new downtown economic initiative. Were Sculley to grow frustrated enough to leave as city manager it would be hard if not impossible for Castro to recruit someone of equal talent.

Some also wonder if Castro’s national profile will add up to fewer days in San Antonio, and more days out of town, participating in politics at the national level.  Many of us want it both ways: a mayor whose national profile helps elevate the city’s reputation as a good place to live and work as well as a hands-on mayor who is on the job and leading the city forward.

Mayor Henry Cisneros
Former Mayor Henry Cisneros

The longer he holds office, Castro will increasingly be compared to his mentor, Cisneros, who was the first modern mayor to attract national attention to himself and the city. Much of the foundation for modern-day San Antonio was laid during Cisneros’ years in office. Castros is no less ambitious and has far more to work with now.

San Antonians who were not old enough to vote before 1990 or who have moved here from somewhere else are unaccustomed to mayors serving more than two, two-year terms.

Angry voters here approved some of the country’s toughest term limits in 1991, limiting the mayor and council members to two, two-year terms. Many in the community believed the restrictions went too far in ushering out against long-serving incumbents and forcing their replacements to leave office before they learned how to get things done. Six mayors came and went under the new rules.

Those limits were relaxed by voters in 2008, largely due to the performance in office and popularity of then-Mayor Phil Hardberger, the last mayor to serve under the 1991 limits. Under the new rules put in place, the mayor and council members can serve four, two-year terms. Conceivably, a council member could hold office for eight years and, if elected mayor, hold that office for another eight years.

Castro’s national profile has risen sharply thanks to his keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and his work as one of the national co-chairmen of President Obama’s re-election campaign.

That sparked speculation that Castro would leave office as mayor and join Obama’s second-term Cabinet, but he repeatedly said he was not interested in going to Washington and hoped to remain in office as mayor through 2017. This would give him eight years to implement his SA2020 initiative and its 11 ambitious goals.

With Castro’s announcement to seek a third term, he is living up to that commitment. You can click on the SA2020 link to review those 100 “vision areas” and decide yourself whether Castro and San Antonio are on track to your satisfaction.

Don’t forget: Post a comment.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.