Council members Teri Castillo (D5), John Courage (D9), and Clayton Perry (D10) are asking for a special meeting to give the entire City Council another opportunity to discuss recommended projects for the 2022-2027 bond package.
An Oct. 13 meeting in which City Manager Erik Walsh and staff members briefed City Council on the projects they recommended for inclusion in the $12. billion bond program left some council members dissatisfied, Castillo, Courage, and Perry wrote in a letter Monday.
“This situation warrants further discussion and possible action in an open and public setting so that all Council members have the opportunity to provide further input on a proposed list that would then be vetted by citizen bond committees,” they said in their request.
The city anticipates putting the bond package in front of voters in May, split into six different propositions. Council members largely agreed with that format, but many said they wanted to see more district-specific funding for basic infrastructure needs like street repairs and drainage projects.
One of the flashpoints of the 2022 bond package was a $126 million funding proposal to expand the city’s linear greenway trails. Last week, Castillo suggested taking $128 million — roughly the same amount as the trail funding — from citywide projects to pay for infrastructure projects in each of the 10 council districts, while Perry said he did not see the need to invest that much money into greenway trails when Bexar County only committed $83 million over the next 10 years to help finish the city’s network.
He reiterated that he was not advocating to remove the entire greenway trails proposal from the bond package.
“I never said ‘eliminate,’ but it needs to be cut down,” Perry told the San Antonio Report on Wednesday.
Walsh said last week that staff recommended that funding amount for trails in order to fulfill a previous promise to voters that the trails would not be impacted after moving a one-eighth-cent sales tax from aquifer protection and trails to workforce development. He did not say whether staff would change their recommendation for trail funding.
“I heard a couple of council members asking about, ‘Do we need to do $126 million?’ The $126 million, plus a $25 million grant that we have with the federal government, gets us halfway there to finishing everything so that we can complete [the trail system] in the 2027 bond program,” Walsh said last week. “So that we’ll take a look at, a little bit.”
Castillo said her constituents prioritized streets and drainage projects, and the size of the recommended expenditure on trails came as a surprise.
“For the sake of process and transparency with our constituents’ public dollars, that’s a conversation that needs to be out in the open and not just presented with a draft,” she said.
“It’s important that we have a bottom-up approach with this bond rather than top-down, which means echoing the needs of the community rather than us being presented something without consensus or consideration,” she added.
Perry said that he also would like to see the amount of funding put toward “citywide” and “regional” projects be reduced. The money that goes into each category of bond project needs to be set before citizen bond committees receive project lists, otherwise there’s very little chance of any major changes being made, he said.
“I’ve been on a bond committee [for the 2017 bond], and it’s very difficult to move money from one committee to another,” he said.
According to the city charter, City Council special meetings “shall be called by the city clerk upon written request of the mayor, the city manager, or three members of the council.” No date had been set for the requested meeting as of Tuesday, Perry said.
The last time council members called a special meeting was in March, when three members asked for time to discuss a vaccine registry. A pilot program of that registry system was ultimately approved by City Council later that month.