District 2 Councilman William “Cruz” Shaw focused on business development and the City’s proposed equitable budget in a speech Wednesday to San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE).

“My number one priority in this position is to ensure that your voices are heard, your concerns are addressed, and your needs are met,” said Shaw, who won his Council seat in June by defeating incumbent Alan Warrick in a runoff.

Shaw told SAGE, the Eastside’s economic development organization, that while the number of businesses opening on the Southside have gotten plenty of attention, business development on the Eastside also is on the upswing.

“We have gone through so many grand openings right here in District 2,” Shaw said. “So the Eastside is open for business. We’re seeing a mass array of individuals move into the district – not only living, but bringing their businesses and creating jobs for people in the community.”

Commenting on the proposed 2018 municipal budget, he outlined the city’s plans for allocating funds through a so-called “equity lens.” His hope is that the new approach will help make up for years during which District 2 did not receive adequate funding for infrastructure and other needs.

“Our community, and our city, is now investing in our future in a way that we haven’t seen ever in San Antonio,” Shaw said. “I believe it is safe to say that everyone in this room knows that District 2 hasn’t received the investments and attention we need in order to prosper. The fact is the city has shifted to looking at our city through what’s called an equity lens, which assures we’ll no longer be getting the short end of the stick.”

Under the proposed budget, funds for improvements such as street maintenance will not be distributed equally among the 10 districts. Districts 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10 would be provided more funds due to their higher percentage of below-average or failing street conditions.

“Infrastructure is going to be the biggest asset we have in this city budget,” Shaw said. “We are receiving a lot of money in the proposed budget to fix our streets, sidewalks, and drainage.”

Shaw acknowledged that equitable budgeting necessitated having tough conversations that could only be bolstered by genuine collaboration and input among neighborhood residents, business leaders, and educators in the district.

Beyond strengthening businesses through better community investment, Shaw also spoke about the importance of workforce development inside the district.

“I believe it is essential that District 2’s workforce development is deepened, and I am working daily to assure that it happens,” Shaw said. “This is our greatest tool in moving people up the economic ladder.”

Shifting to the hot topic of public safety, Shaw again stressed the importance of community input in fighting crime. He stressed that for any community to thrive its residents must first feel safe.

“When we see crimes being committed, we need not just sit back and watch,” Cruz said. “We need to be vigilant. We need to report, but most importantly discuss with our neighbors and loved ones what’s going on in our neighborhoods.”

During a question-and-answer session, Shaw discussed connecting constituents to economic opportunity, the importance of support from residents outside District 2, and infrastructure projects. He also spent time addressing the issue of gentrification and his thoughts on the mayor’s recently announced housing initiative to examine gentrification and the need for affordable housing.

“I would like to see clarification,” Shaw said. “I want to make sure we address the term ‘affordable housing.’ Different people have different interpretations.

“I think the mayor has a great initiative. I think that just moving forward, how does it look to move forward? We have to ensure that we create great housing stock, and at the same we’re not pushing people that have been in this community for decades out of their homes.”

Asked to comment on the issue of gentrification and protecting longtime residents from displacement, Shaw acknowledged that it was a tough issue because it is often hard to define.

“I’ve always believed that the way to truly combat gentrification is property ownership,” Shaw said. “Once you own property, no one can tell you that you have to leave.”

Shaw reiterated that community interaction, discussion, and collaboration were the keys to making the district strong and equitable in all outcomes.

“The state of the district is strong,” Shaw said. “And will grow even stronger with all of our collaboration.”

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.