I recently sent Mayor Ivy Taylor a letter to convey my personal dreams of San Antonio with her new tenure:
Dear, Mayor Ivy Taylor,
My name is Wilber Castro, and I reside in District 9 in the city of Hill Country Village. If circumstances were better, I would be writing only to congratulate you on your recent victory; you have big shoes to fill, even if in a temporary capacity. Unfortunately, the dissolution of the VIA Metropolitan Transit Modern Streetcar project has made me question the direction of your leadership. As someone who resides on a side of town where public transportation is obsolete, this project would have had a ripple effect on the local mindset when it comes to sustainable, environmentally friendly, and accessible public transportation.
The Northside receives a huge amount of government funding for infrastructure and connectivity. Just down the street from my home, I have seen the massive work being done on the 281/1604 Hwy. interchange and the expansion of Wurzbach Parkway. However, I believe that facilitating transportation in the urban core is equally important.
The VIA Streetcar proposal has many flaws, but it is my personal belief, as a 20-year-old Millennial living in San Antonio, that San Antonio’s urban core needs to have some cohesive sense of interconnectivity to spur economic growth and rebrand downtown as an economic hub in addition to a tourism destination. Although the VIA Streetcar project would not have had a major influence in my day-to-day life, I feel it is my civic duty to implore you to please reconsider your stance.
I believe that the governing bodies should care about having public input. But just as our founding fathers believed that public opinion and the whims of the masses are easily swayed, local governments should consider that putting the governing and taxing power to the public would be absolutely biased, politically motivated, and easy to influence. We cannot have the public – largely uneducated in regards to the streetcar project’s potential benefits to the city – find itself fueled by fervor, emotion, and fear of progress.
If you look at great cities in the U.S. and abroad, you will see that we are lagging far behind when it comes to accessible public transportation. We rely heavily on gas guzzlers to satisfy even our most basic transportation needs.
We as San Antonians need to reinvent ourselves: we need to make ourselves unique. Think of Santa Fe and its traditional architecture, recognizable anywhere, or New Orleans – a vibrant and multicultural crossroads of various societal roots. San Antonio can be that and much more. San Antonio has lost itself in a single-minded pursuit of economic progress. Its identity is a blur. We are a confused stepchild looking north towards Austin, yet looking south toward the border, but it is not too late. We can change that.
By fostering a sense of interconnectedness in the urban core, strengthened by efficient and accessible public transporation and a cohesive vision for our city’s economic and cultural future, San Antonio can eventually become a place where owning a vehicle is not a necessity. Owning an automobile can harmoniously coexist with relying on public transportation. Don’t ignore the plight of the voiceless and faceless majority in favor of the vocal minority.
However long your tenure as mayor of San Antonio is, don’t forget all the progress Mayor Julián Castro contributed for all of us. Building on his legacy does not make you weak, but rebranding it as the City of San Antonio’s legacy would make us all that much stronger.
*Featured/top image: A faint view of downtown San Antonio’s skyline as seen from the Northside. Photo by Iris Dimmick.