A citizens committee tasked with making recommendations for drainage bond projects voted Wednesday to divert public art funding to more drainage projects.

The committee met Wednesday evening and voted to put $165 million toward 21 drainage and flood control projects; that list will go to City Council early next year. The entire 2022 bond package is $1.2 billion and will be split into six different bond propositions on the May ballot.

District 7 committee member Bianca Maldonado said she supported eliminating the public art commitment from the drainage bond proposition, given the importance of drainage projects throughout the city.

“I’m kind of embarrassed that we didn’t get more money in our category, given the size of the $1.2 billion bond,” she said. “The needs are great.”

An ordinance states that 1% of bond programs must go to public art projects. City staff recommended increasing that art commitment to 1.5% in October. But City Council can vote to bypass that 1% public art commitment, Assistant City Manager Rod Sanchez said told committee members Wednesday.

Caleb Etheredge, a committee member from District 1, said he was concerned that public art felt like an “afterthought.”

“Art really is part of the city and quality of life is super important,” he said. 

Mark Camann, representing District 5 as a substitute committee member, said that though he had voted to keep 1.5% of the streets bond proposition committed to public art, he would support slashing that portion of the drainage bond proposal completely because of the impact flood control projects have.

“On Monday, I argued in favor of keeping the 1.5% within our committee — streets, bridges and sidewalks — because we need better streets, we need better sidewalks, but we need art, also,” he said. “But tonight, I’m going to vote that we reduce the funding from this committee, drainage and flood control … because when it comes to drainage, people’s lives are at stake.”

With the $2.47 million funding originally allocated for public art, the committee added two previously unrecommended projects to its final recommendations: work on Barbara Drive in District 1 and improvements at Quentin Alley in District 7.

Other recommended projects include drainage improvements on Marbach Road in West San Antonio for $15.8 million and in the Peggy Drive area in East San Antonio for $20 million. Find the full list of projects the drainage bond committee recommended here.

City Council is scheduled to hear the bond committees’ recommendations in January and approve the final proposed projects in February.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.