(left) Councilwoman Ana Sandoval is challenged by Blue Duck Scooters Regional Director for Governmental Affairs Trevor Whitney.
(left) Councilwoman Ana Sandoval is challenged by Blue Duck Scooters Regional Director for Governmental Affairs Trevor Whitney and two other candidates.

In seeking re-election to District 7’s Council seat, Ana Sandoval points to progress in the way the City answers constituents’ concerns, especially about roads, drainage, sidewalks, public safety, and citizen engagement.

“I’ve worked hard to deliver, and have delivered, what the residents have asked for: safer, healthier neighborhoods, better infrastructure, and greater accountability and transparency,” she said at a candidate forum last week at Jefferson United Methodist Church.

Sandoval is seeking her second term after defeating three-term incumbent Cris Medina in 2017. She is facing three challengers, all of whom said they feel City Council is not listening to residents.

“More and more people feel the City Council is doing its own thing, that it has its own agenda,” challenger Trevor Whitney said at the forum.

Whitney is Blue Duck Scooters’ regional director for governmental affairs. The other two candidates challenging Sandoval are Will McLeod, who has worked in the security industry, and Kimberly Grant, who has spent decades volunteering for social service organizations.

McLeod has said the City is overlooking basic needs, such as streets and public safety, in favor of issues such as the paid sick-leave ordinance, anti-smoking initiatives, and the City’s proposed climate action plan.

At last week’s forum, McLeod said he’s running for City Council “because citizens are being ignored, their calls are being ignored.”

Sandoval dismissed critics’ claims of a lack of transparency and accountability. She and her staff have held one-on-one coffees with residents, met with neighborhood leaders, and hosted property tax workshops.

“As a local government, I think we owe it to our residents to be transparent and accountable,” she said.

Sandoval has said the City’s recent increase in infrastructure funding levels will help to address many problems across a Council district that extends northwest from the historic Jefferson, Monticello Park, and Woodlawn Lake neighborhoods to sprawling subdivisions north of Leon Valley.

Sandoval is working with officials from the City of Leon Valley and the state to help nail down a long-term solution for increasing traffic congestion on Bandera Road, the backbone of District 7.

Sandoval said healthier, safer neighborhoods also means “people not speeding down their street,” adding that her office secured extra money to clear several years’ backlog of requests for speed bumps.

She pledged to seek more money to fill gaps in the 200-plus miles of sidewalks across District 7 and to fix existing drainage challenges. Sandoval also promised to keep supporting more funding for fire and police departments, and for more personnel.

“Even though crime has gone down across the city, the truth is any crime is too much crime, so that’s something we’ll always be working on,” she told the Rivard Report after the April 9 forum.

While the City explores possibly offering a homestead exemption to eligible taxpayers, Sandoval said taxpayers can be helped in a more holistic way.

She explained a homestead exemption would help some people but that many San Antonians must pay to several taxing entities in addition to city taxes.
The City is also keeping its eye on the State Legislature’s efforts to cap municipal property tax revenue, and the outcome of contract negotiations with the fire union.

“It would behoove us to look at all of this very carefully before we look at the next (City) budget,” Sandoval added.

Sandoval said she would support the possible expansion of the City’s current property tax exemptions for disabled and elderly property taxpayers. She also encourages taxpayers to learn about the property appraisal process, and her office has hosted workshops to teach homeowners how to protest their tax valuation.

“It’s meant to ensure the process is fair for them and to bring transparency to the appraisal process,” Sandoval said.

One of the main campaign issues for Whitney, who is mounting his first campaign for public office, is property taxes, which he said compound the frustration and disenchantment that community members are feeling.

“We’re pricing people out of their homes,” said Whitney, who proposes decreasing the city’s property tax rate.

Whitney said cutting the city’s rate would not negatively impact the City’s budget, suggesting the City could tap reserves that aren’t part of the annual spending plan. He also supports the City providing a local homestead exemption.

“We can cut property taxes without touching the City budget,” Whitney said, adding that taxpayers deserve a break. “It’s the people’s money.”

A former Marine, Whitney also wants to help homeless veterans. He proposes setting aside several acres to develop a community where homeless vets spend time undergoing rehabilitation, education, training and other services toward becoming self-sufficient.

“There’s a general feeling that San Antonio doesn’t do enough for veterans in spite of our being Military City USA,” he said.

Will McLeod

McLeod, who has twice run for mayor, said the City should prioritize repairing and re-striping roads, and fixing streetlights before adding more bike lanes. He also urged the City to hold VIA Metropolitan Transit and local utilities more accountable regarding their fiscal management.

McLeod said he’s the only Council candidate who regularly rides VIA buses. “I will reform VIA,” he said. “We’re spending tens of millions of dollars on them.”

Grant spent 25 years volunteering to help the homeless and domestic violence survivors in Dallas before moving to San Antonio four years ago, according to her Facebook page. Self-employed, Grant said she hopes to use her volunteer experiences and her finance and accounting skills to benefit the community.

Grant said in an interview that the District 7 residents she has met want a return to basics and a focus on reducing property taxes, improving infrastructure and public safety, and addressing homelessness citywide, especially among military veterans.

Kimberly Grant

“My constituents want to feel that they have an actual voice,” Grant said. “They don’t want someone in that position that has their own agenda, but someone that’s actually going to work in their best interest.”

As is typical for incumbents, Sandoval is well ahead in fundraising. An April 4 campaign finance report shows her with nearly $14,000 cash available.

Whitney’s campaign had nearly $800 cash on hand. Grant’s April 4 report showed that she received $300 in contributions in the previous three-month reporting period, but does not indicate how much money she has left.

McLeod’s lone finance report to the City, filed Jan. 15, did not show any contributions or expenditures.

Sandoval has been endorsed by the San Antonio Police Officers Association, the San Antonio Board of Realtors, the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, Texas Organizing Project, and Alamo Sierra Club.

The Republican Club of Bexar County and South Texas Merchants Association have endorsed Whitney.

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.