Editor’s Note: The Rivard Report sent the following questions to both Mayor Ivy Taylor, and former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. Click here to read Van de Putte’s responses. For more context about the nondiscrimination ordinance and the local LGBT community, read: “Will the Next Mayor Make San Antonio More LGBTQ Friendly?”
Taylor and Van de Putte are in a June 13 runoff for mayor after a tight finish in the May 9 General Election. Early voting in the second round starts Monday, June 1 and continues though Tuesday, June 9. Click here for more voting information.
Rivard Report: How has your view of the LGBTQ community evolved in your lifetime and since becoming mayor?
Mayor Ivy Taylor: I grew up in a strict religious household without a lot of exposure to the world beyond my family and church. My view of the LGBTQ community in San Antonio is that they are a varied group of individuals with distinct life experiences, political beliefs and values. I believe we are making progress in eliminating the notion that people should be categorized by skin color, gender, or sexual orientation.
RR: Would you vote in favor of the non-discrimination ordinance (in its current form) if it came up for a vote tomorrow?
Ivy: As I stated in 2013, although I wanted to vote “yes” on the ordinance because I believe that all human beings deserve respect and should be free from harassment for any reason, I also strongly believe that individuals should be free to exercise their faith or moral values. For that reason I voted against the ordinance and would do so again.
RR: Why did you create the Office of Diversity and Inclusion? Do you think it will help enforcement of the NDO?
Ivy: I created the Office of Diversity and Inclusion because I believe that every San Antonio should be treated as asset for our community and should have access to resources and opportunities that we all need to succeed. Issues addressed by the office could range from local preference mechanisms to enforcement of the City’s non-discrimination ordinance to fair housing to helping those with criminal records obtain employment. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion will help with enforcement, but it will only be successful if it actually reduces the need for complaints to be filed in the first place.
RR: Would you support making the human relations liaison position a permanent one and/or expanding the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s staff?
Ivy: During the 2015-16 budget process I will advocate for the expansion of this office to include additional staff and offer a full range of functions including standardizing the complaint intake process, coordinating responses, providing community and social media outreach, offering facilitation and training, serving as a conduit between the private and public sectors, and building relationships in the community.
RR: Currently the NDO applies to companies that provide “public accommodations” (i.e. restaurants). Would you support – either now or in the future – expanding the NDO to include private companies that operate outside of public accommodations?
Ivy: I would not vote to further expand the ordinance.
RR: Some LGBTQ advocates say that more businesses – big and small – are ensuring equal rights to their employees because it’s “good for business” and that states/municipalities that do not, are putting talent attraction and retention at risk. Do you agree that providing equal protections for all is essential to San Antonio’s workforce development strategy and economic growth?
Ivy: Committing to diversity and inclusion is not about checking boxes and filling out forms. Committing to diversity means that as a community we recognize that every San Antonian is a unique individual with skills and abilities that can help our community grow and prosper. Diversity and inclusion is about ensuring opportunities, cultivating talent, and recognizing that sometimes the best man for a job may in fact be a woman, or a veteran, or a person using a wheelchair. Diverse communities are more vibrant and more vital than exclusive ones; to use a current buzzword, “monocultures” are not sustainable.
RR: Several state bills were filled during the current session that have attempted to override, some would say “undermine,” local control, including some bills would have eroded some aspects of the NDO, rideshare ordinance, etc. If elected mayor, would you actively follow and speak out against state bills that threaten to do so in the future?
Ivy: As Mayor I have been a leader in opposing legislative attempts to thwart local control. While municipalities must work with state government—and we have many productive partnerships such as the new Interlocal Agreement with the Texas General Land Office to protect and preserve the Alamo–local elected officials need to be adamant about our right to self-determination. In February of this year the mayors of major Texas cities pledged to the Legislature that we would be “partners in maintaining the state’s robust economy by providing safe communities, essential infrastructure, and vital services” as long as the Legislature recognized that “Cities-the government closest to the people-embody the idea that We the People should be in control. Because of that, local control is a central facet of our state’s government.” We actively tracked and advocated either for or against dozens of bills that either promoted or hindered local control during the session that is currently winding down, and will do so again during future sessions.
RR: In general, what do you feel is the greatest challenge facing the LGBTQ community and how, as mayor, would you work to remedy it?
Ivy: I think that stereotyping continues to be the most serious challenge facing any minority community, because it fuels fear and prejudice. I am in a unique position as Mayor in that, superficially, I resemble only a tiny fraction of my constituents. I certainly have received some racial slurs and gender-based insults on my Facebook page and through social media and email, but I think that we are gradually breaking down the perceptions that all people can be categorized by skin color, religion, language, or even politics. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion would be a major step forward toward remedying these misperceptions.
*Featured/top image: Mayor Ivy Taylor is interviewed by reporters after a forum at KLRN-TV. Photo by Scott Ball.