Editor’s note: Mayor Ivy Taylor delivered her first State of the City address on Tuesday before an audience of 850 at the Grand Hyatt. Below is a copy of her speech. Click here to read our coverage of the event.
I am proud to stand before you today. I am proud to be surrounded by people working together for the betterment of our community. I am proud of what we have accomplished together and what we will accomplish in the future. I am proud to raise my family here and I am indeed proud to call San Antonio Home. I am proud to say that today we are more prosperous than we have ever been.
Today I am proud that I am able to say the state of city is strong.
I know that a luncheon like this takes months of planning and lots of people behind the scenes, so I want to extend my appreciation to all of you who made today’s event possible, whether you are taking names at the door or serving us our meal. Thank you.
I would be remiss if I didn’t pause to acknowledge my support network in the person of my husband Rodney. Honey can you please stand to be recognized?
I would also like to thank my staff for all of their hard work. I am so grateful for the team of dedicated public servants with whom I serve. Will all members of our San Antonio City Council please stand and be recognized?
As members and friends of these Chambers, everyone in this room understands the tremendous effort that it takes on the part of staff and hundreds of volunteers to support and advocate for San Antonio’s businesses, from staging trade missions to working with state and federal legislators to celebrating the opening of new businesses in all parts of town.
Your four Chambers working together to host this event is an important symbol of the fact that we are One San Antonio, not an assortment of special interest groups, or partisan advocates—we come together today as one community, one enterprise, with one goal: envisioning and building the very best San Antonio.
Let me share why I can confidently state that our city is strong. San Antonio is one of the Top Ten fastest-growing cities in the United States for 2015. We have been ranked in the top twenty American cities for business and career opportunities and named the hottest spot for Millennials in the Southwest.
Take that, Austin.
Our real estate market is flourishing. Home sales during the last three months of 2014 were at their highest level in years, and we have been named one of the five most affordable, desirable cities in the United States. The New York Times recently named San Antonio one of their top destinations for travel.
Now, none of this is a surprise to those of us in this room. We all know how fortunate we are to live in San Antonio, how special our community is, and how strong our people are. Today is a day to reflect on it all, but it is not a day to rest. There is still much work to do.
The last decade has been marked with development and growth as well as challenges. As a community, We are becoming more diverse, more connected, better educated, and indeed more prosperous. Just spend an afternoon exploring our community to see the change occurring everywhere.
Last year alone we created more than 4,700 jobs in this community and brought in or expanded 28 companies. Since 2010, we have developed more than 4,000 housing units in the downtown area, representing more than $650 million dollars in investment. We are seeing some of the highest high school and college graduation rates that we have ever seen, and communities like the Eastside Promise Zone are undergoing dramatic revitalization.
We are securing our long-term water supply with the vista ridge project, and in May we will have an important municipal election where voters will get a chance to continue investments by renewing the sales tax for both the protection of the Edwards Aquifer and the extension of the creekway parks system. In just a couple of days council will vote on the partnership agreement we have with the Alamo Colleges to continue the remarkable and nationally recognized success of the Alamo Academies. Pre-K 4 SA opened two more centers this past year, and is providing high quality full day pre-k to more than 1500 of our youngest residents.
We have started a comprehensive plan that will take us out to 2040 and also started a transportation plan that will provide guidance for developing our infrastructure in the coming years. As a City, we are actively supporting new industries and businesses that commercialize technologies based on our existing strengths, such as military, bio-medical and clinical trials and ongoing research at our universities and medical school. Our strategic planning in these fields is paying off. Each of you is an investor in our community, whether as a business owner, a taxpayer, a voter, a volunteer—or as a parent, raising the next generation of leaders in San Antonio. So this work is your work. These accomplishments are your accomplishments.
These successes are what make me so thankful that God guided me to this city, where I began my career in community development, started my family and have had the honor to serve as a member of the City Council and now as Mayor. Growing up I never imagined I would live in San Antonio. I was born and raised in Queens, New York and brought up in a modest household with parents who were committed to instilling in me an unwavering faith in God and a strong moral compass. When I was growing up, my parents were not adamant about higher education and college was not on my radar. Only after I got into Yale University did I find out my mom always had that dream for me. I was the first in my family to earn a college degree and went on to earn a Masters Degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I came to San Antonio for a 10-week internship not knowing that it would one day become the city I call home.
After two weeks here I was invited by a co-worker to church, and I sat behind this gentleman there. The pastor asked us during the service to join hands and 17 years later I am still up holding hands with Rodney Taylor and we are still holding hands today. About a year after we met, Rodney proposed and I moved to San Antonio when I completed graduate school. Rodney, our daughter Morgan and I have made a wonderful life together in this city. San Antonio has provided excellent opportunities for us. I was able to establish myself here professionally and have grown in my career. Rodney is a small business owner who purchases and redevelops underutilized properties and transforms them into quality homes. His investments in real estate are consistent with our collective efforts to stabilize neighborhoods.
We have experienced building a home from the ground up and refurbishing an old house in East San Antonio where we currently live. In San Antonio, we continue to enjoy low taxes, a strong economy, healthy housing market, and opportunity for economic mobility, benefits that encourage native San Antonians to remain, and attract individuals and families from across the country to move to our city. My experience in San Antonio is not unique; it is like all of our experiences. San Antonio has provided us all with incredible opportunities.
Vision for the Future
To ensure these opportunities in the future we must continue our work together with a unified vision so that community is prosperous for years to come. At the core of our vision for the future are three things.
- We must remain economically competitive and attractive to residents.
- We must continue having a smart and fiscally responsible city government
- And we must continue to act as one San Antonio, working together for the future of our city and its people.
Through innovation and collaboration San Antonio is working together to create an environment that companies from around the globe find attractive. In his bestselling book, The Triumph of the City, Edward Glaeser says “cities enable the collaboration that makes humanity shine more brightly.” San Antonio embodies this statement. More than just attracting new businesses, we are focused on growing the companies within our own community. Much of the growth we have seen in the past year has been due to our business retention and expansion efforts. Employers recognize that San Antonio is the best place to do business, and that we are true partners in ensuring that companies have the tools and assets needed to be more competitive than any other place they could locate. This work has resulted in the continued growth of high wage industries that benefit everybody. I am dedicated to ensuring that this growth continues, and that San Antonio becomes the most attractive location for businesses to come and new industries to develop.
At the top of our priorities is ensuring that we have the most talented and best-trained workforce in the nation. In January, I moved to announce Alamo Colleges as the lead agency on workforce development strategies so that more people have the opportunity to build skills for jobs that are available with good pay and upward mobility. While we must be strategic and methodical with this work, I have no doubt that this can occur swiftly. Filling the job pipeline for San Antonio corporate citizens such as Boeing, Toyota, HOLT CAT, USAA, and Rackspace as well as thousands of small businesses, should be a priority for city government and area educators. Currently, manufacturing, education and health services, as well as leisure and hospitality industries, lead the employment sectors in San Antonio. We must work to ensure that these industries have a steady flow of well-prepared individuals for current employment needs in San Antonio, and we must also educate and prepare our young people for jobs in growing areas like cyber security and the biotechnical industry. A thriving economy means that ALL businesses, large and small, are prosperous.
Let me tell you about a small business I know. If you know me, you know that I love breakfast. Down the street from my house is a diner called Panchos & Gringos. Their pancakes are the best-kept secret in San Antonio. The owner Sergio is from Mexico. He originally moved to New York and owned a deli there for years. Sergio and his wife Claudia decided to relocate to San Antonio to be closer to family and to start a business here. They took a risk by locating in an eastside neighborhood in transition and have been welcomed by the community with open arms. When I first started dining at Panchos & Gringos, I noticed that customers seemed to be few and far between. But Sergio and Claudia always have smiles on their faces and work to ensure that every customer feels at home. As time went on, I would see more and more neighbors on the weekends. Now Business is booming. Sergio’s story echoes that of many small businesses in our city. Family is a priority, faith in the community and commitment to endure when things get tough. Sergio’s story is San Antonio’s story.
Although our community and our people, like Sergio, have had close ties with Mexico, we can do more to strengthen our ties to the global economy. We must remain focused on the continued development of a robust international business strategy. It is critical to our long-term economic growth. Presently, we have close to 70,000 jobs in our community that are tied to international business. With a continued globalization of commerce, that number will only grow. I am focused on promoting more foreign direct investment in San Antonio, and strengthening trade ties with partners like Mexico and Japan, while opening new markets like Germany. San Antonio is competing in a global economy and is focused on establishing an economic development system that is globally focused and moves beyond traditional economic development practices of big recruitment toward one that embraces a global, regional and strategic vision.
In addition, to what we consider as traditional economic development is the quality of life for our residents. Life is also about the time before work, after, and on the weekends that we spend with our loved ones. This is a critical component to our economic development that is often overlooked. To remain economically competitive, we must continue to promote a high quality of life for our residents. It is about evening runs along river north, birthday parties at Hardberger Park and driving to work without consistently sitting in traffic snarls. We enjoy parades and confetti during fiesta, the cowboy breakfast at the beginning of rodeo season, and watching our World Champion San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs in late spring. There is so much to experience and enjoy in our City. Every area has something special. We have UTSA in the north, the redevelopment of Brooks City Base in the south, The Carver Community Cultural Center in the East and the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in the West. All of this makes up the heart of San Antonio and provides opportunities for all San Antonians to enjoy a great quality of life.
In his book, “A Country of Cities,” Vishaan Chakrabarti talks about the infrastructure of opportunity. “The means by which people can attain their aspirations with increased access to employment, education, recreation, enjoyment and health. This must be how we view our own infrastructure development.”
Everything from our roads to our telecommunications must be the best in the nation. Sometimes infrastructure isn’t the sexiest thing to talk about. Storm drains, sidewalks, and sewer systems are not glitzy and glamorous, and I can assure you that it is not politically advantageous to promote as Mayor. There are no slick slogans or ads to talk about building a new road or enhancing our water supply, nevertheless, it remains a top priority of mine. Good infrastructure is not an option, it is a necessity
To do this we must continue to have a smart government that acts with fiscal responsibility at the forefront. Now I would like to recognize City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who has always made our City’s fiscal integrity her number one priority. Ms. Sculley and her staff have focused on attaining and then maintaining Triple A bond ratings from Moodys, Fitch and S&P through sound financial policies. This has allowed us to maximize our capital dollars to deliver the key infrastructure and community projects that voters approved through our 2007 and 2012 bond program. We cannot veer from this path. It is far too important for our future.
However smart government is more than just fiscal responsibility. Smart government is innovative, it is creative, it thinks outside of the box to find solutions for complex problems. It is putting egos aside to get the job done. It means being responsive; it means hearing the public, evaluating the facts and acting on their behalf. We all know that Washington is gridlocked with partisanship and political games. Far too often Austin is exactly the same. As a city, as a community, we can’t allow that to happen to us. The stark reality is that we cannot rely on the federal or state government to provide us with the things that we need. We must do it ourselves. We must drive the transformation and investment through our own ambition and unique solutions tailored to our community.
We are also investing in our city through developing a comprehensive plan. That’s why in August of last year I championed the development of the city’s comprehensive plan that will take us out to 2040. The development of this plan is an 18 month process, which in political realities is a lifetime. But this city has to be about more than politics. It has to be more than fancy slogans and catchy hashtags. It has to be about doing what is right for the community and not for political careers and short-term gains. Smart government is thoughtful, open, collaborative, and adaptive. It is about understanding that San Antonio has been around for nearly 300 years and ensuring that it is prosperous for another 300. We will remain focused on improving delivery of core services like public safety and infrastructure. We will demand better education systems and more robust opportunities for ALL residents. We must continue to think as One San Antonio and not disparate communities. We are more than term limits and election cycles. More than conservative or liberal. We are San Antonians first and foremost.
One San Antonio
I confidently stand before you today and say that we are One San Antonio. Our city is home to people from all walks of life, with diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds and differing beliefs. I am proud of the level of respect and acceptance we have for one another. The very fact that I serve as your Mayor is reflective of this aspect of our community. Part of my San Antonio experience has been embracing so many different cultures. I recently visited a Sikh exhibit at the Institute of Texan Cultures, enjoyed music and dance at Diwali and celebrated the Chinese New Year with friends. I have watched my daughter grand marshall a children’s parade during Fiesta and this year I will join in the celebration of 100 years of The Van Courtlandt Social Club, one of America’s oldest black men’s clubs. What makes San Antonio extraordinary is that through our differences we share the same hopes and dreams for our families and our lives in this city. It does not matter where you live in San Antonio, families across the city want to enjoy healthy neighborhoods, a thriving economy and a good quality of life.
Ed Cross gave me a fantastic book “The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City.” In it, Alan Ehrenhalt examines how communities across the nation are changing. Downtowns are being revitalized and the social and economic characteristics are transforming. Without thoughtful planning this change can be harmful. Over the past several months I have been working with a group comprised of council colleagues, community members and stakeholders to discuss neighborhood change in San Antonio. At times, emotions ran high and threads of anger, fear and hope were woven into conversation about policy and advocacy. That is OK. Through tough conversations we were able to agree that San Antonians want to live in neighborhoods with good, well-maintained housing stock. We want access to amenities and retail options that support our family needs and we want the opportunity to send our children to high performing schools. We should always have a voice in how our neighborhoods grow and change. Equally, we must take responsibility and actively pursue our vision for our community. This group, the Mayor’s Task Force on Preserving Dynamic & Diverse Neighborhoods, will make recommendations to City Council to support and enhance neighborhoods through smart policy and strategic investments.
We are one San Antonio. The groups that brought us here today, The Alamo Chamber, the San Antonio Chamber the Asian Chamber the Hispanic Chamber might each have certain areas of focus, but all have the same goal. When businesses thrive, community thrives. When community thrives businesses thrive. We might not all agree every step of the way, but that’s ok. Smart government provides the forum for civil debate and sometimes disagreement, and works to resolve challenges and to take advantage of new opportunities.
When I think about the future of San Antonio I think about my daughter Morgan. She is 11 years old now, and one day she will decide if she too wants to make her life here. I envision San Antonio’s future by looking through the eyes of a grown-up Morgan. When I come to work serving as Mayor of San Antonio, I think about all of the families who wonder about the future for their children in our city. I think about the legacy we are leaving, the possibilities we are creating. Building a vibrant, diverse and strong community weighs heavy on us all. This work is not easy. It is tiring, it is complex, and sometimes it is frustrating. We all want San Antonio to continue to be a safe, healthy, competitive city where our children can make their dreams a reality.
Those dreams inspire us and they drive us, they are the fuel that provide the fire within each of us to create action so that when our children become adults, they choose to stay, build and grow in San Antonio. That is our task. That is our mission. To make San Antonio, our home, an even better place for all families, for all who dream big, as One San Antonio. Thank you and God bless San Antonio.
*Featured/top image: Mayor Ivy Taylor delivers her 2015 State of the City address. Photo by Iris Dimmick.