I’ve had the pleasure to serve as a member of the San Antonio City Council for about 30 days now. It is an incredible opportunity and one that I am not taking lightly. In the past 30 days, I have:
- met with more than 40 neighborhood association presidents, twice;
- visited with 38 City department directors to learn about their work and its impact to our city and to District 7;
- attended more than 45 hours of public briefings and hearings;
- thought deeply about the infrastructure and quality-of-life needs of our residents.
It is a very serious job. Thankfully as a City Council member, you are allowed a staff that supports District needs – including folks who handle constituent needs, organize my crazy schedule and policy folks who help me think through the big issues.
When I worked for then-Mayor Phil Hardberger, I made amazing friends, many of whom remain my best friends today. One of those people is Jed Maebius. Jed has been a significant part of my life for the past 10 years. He was at my wedding, he attended my baby shower and personally stocked my son’s extensive library collection. Jed served as the Liaison to City Council for both Mayor’s Hardberger and Castro. He has been at City Hall for nine long years, living through many budget and policy issues. He is also a retired attorney and incredibly funny guy.
I asked Jed to help guide my thinking for these 60 days and – as true friends do – he said yes. I am so grateful to have someone with Jed’s ethics, background and kindness on my team.
Elizabeth Garza is another longtime friend. I met Elizabeth when she was the chief of staff for CEO of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas Anna Chavez. I knew when I met Elizabeth that she made the earth go ’round. She was practical, supportive, incredibly smart and organized. And when Chavez was chosen to lead the Girl Scouts of the USA as their CEO, she took Elizabeth with her as her chief of staff to help lead a national women’s organization. I knew her perspective, her professionalism and attention to detail would be a game changer for District 7.
The District deserves top talent like Jed and Elizabeth and I am grateful that they have agreed to serve our City on my staff.
Part of this serious job is approving our City budget. I am working to ensure we have significant investments in streets, drainage and sidewalks for our District. I am particularly concerned about parts of our district where the infrastructure is aging and where drainage creates flooding issues. No resident should have to live in fear of losing their homes, and I think we can all agree that this should be a priority. Sidewalks leading to elementary schools is another no-brainer. Kids must be safe as they walk to and from school. This is a city priority and we are working diligently to make those sidewalks a reality.
But I have other priorities in this budget and they come directly from our residents, via the City’s incredible 311 system. I believe in data driven decisions and the 311 City Services department produced this incredible graph:
To summarize the needs from the residents, one only need look at the data. We must ensure our residents are safe from aggressive animals and also ensure sure that animals who are suffering are supported. We must also support our solid waste management department with the resources they need to pick up deceased animals quickly, trash on time, and that residents have the appropriate carts they need. Code issues such as overgrown yards and bandit signs also need to be addressed quickly and efficiently.
But there are other, long-term issues that touch on the larger quality of life and affordability issues that our residents face. That my family and I face. As a city on the rise, it is our duty to study, learn, and act on these issues. Issues ranging from charter reform, public safety costs, teen pregnancy, gentrification, our creative economy, and entrepreneurship. These are tough issues we must not shy away from. I believe that San Antonio is the city of the future and I am honored to be part of community conversations that matter.
Mayor Hardberger used to say that Sheryl Scully was the Tim Duncan of City Managers. Having been a part of her team for the past 30 days, I can tell you that she is Tim Duncan and more. She has assembled a dream team of leaders – folks who are passionate and committed experts for our City. Her reputation has allowed us to recruit the very best of the best. Strong leaders beget strong leaders and they create environments that encourage innovation, flex with the evolving short and long-term needs of our city. We are lucky to have a City Manager like Sheryl and I have already learned so much from her. We should all be so lucky.
But, I would be remiss if I did not talk about our dynamic, youthful and bright City Council. Our Mayor, Ivy Taylor, is an incredible star, a strategic and supportive leader. Each member of our City Council is as gracious, smart and funny as you can imagine. This is truly a team that is devoted to San Antonio and I am the new player who they have helped through a tremendous learning curve. I am grateful to all of them.
On Sept. 4, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts opened to the public and as a member of the Council I was able to sit onstage with the San Antonio Symphony and its Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing, the entire City Council, the Commissioners Court and the board of the Tobin Center. I walked out in wonderment, snapping pictures of the experience for my social media pages (that is the youth in me) and as I sat there looking at the audience and at the beauty that is the Tobin Center, I had one prevailing thought: Here I am, a kid from the inner city of San Antonio, enjoying this view as a leader, a decision maker, and a working mom in this community. I never dreamed that in my life I would have the opportunities I have been provided – opportunities I have worked very hard for and intend to continue to work hard for. It’s an honor and I intend to respect it and honor the responsibility.
Please know that I will always remember that kid inside of me. The part of me that still lives in wonderment of what we can do together.
*Featured/top image: From left: District 7 Councilmember Mari Aguirre-Rodriguez, Mayor Ivy Taylor, and District 7 intern and resident Matthew Baiza. Courtesy photo.
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