I’ve often said District 3 represents the past, present, and future of San Antonio, and we were reminded of that this weekend. We lost a leader, not just for the Southside, but for the entire city. He was a man who made fighting for his community his life’s work. Of course, I’m speaking of Mr. Roberto Anguiano.

Even as councilwoman, I still spoke of him as Mr. Anguiano, as I know so many of you did. Just a couple weeks ago, I had the honor of recognizing him for his service to the city in front of the whole body at our Thursday council meeting, and one-by-one nearly every council member took a moment to thank Mr. Anguiano for his work. It was a moving tribute made bittersweet by his passing. To Andrew and the rest of the Anguiano family, I offer my deepest condolences for your loss. If we could, I’d like for us to take just a moment of silence to reflect on his service and commitment to our community. Thank you.

As many of you know, we are in the midst of a new era in District 3, and we continue to celebrate that it is the past, present, and future of this great city. Let’s talk about our present and future.

Today, I am here to share how the narrative is changing. I am proud to report to all of you that the State of District 3 is strong and we continue on our path forward with unrelenting momentum.

I would also like to share with you ways this narrative is changing as I see it.

We have a lot of new faces on council, and I am suddenly the second-most senior member of council! Mayor Ron Nirenberg and I enjoy a productive and excellent working relationship. In turn, the mayor has secured my appointment to every council committee I requested. These include the Governance, Inter-Governmental Relations, Arts, Culture, and Heritage committees, as well as Visit San Antonio. I was also appointed chair of the Economic & Workforce Development Committee and the San Antonio Public Finance Corporation.

The weight of the responsibility I have to shape our city’s future, speaks to the faith Mayor Nirenberg has in my abilities, and I will continue to work hard for all of us.

But, in District 3 we are changing the narrative of our growth in the city. In the four short years since my first election, our Southside has been elevated to a level many hadn’t even dreamed of. Together, we are building an economic engine fueled by new educational opportunities, workforce development and job creation, our World Heritage site, and renewed investment from partners new and old.

Sebastian, 13, stands along the silhouettes in front of Mission Concepción, lit up to recreate the facade’s original designs during Restored By Light.
Sebastian, 13, stands along the silhouettes in front of Mission Concepción, lit up to recreate the facade’s original designs during the 2017 World Heritage Festival. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

District 3 is quickly becoming the leader in new educational opportunity in San Antonio. Right now, the new UIW School of Medicine has 250 new medical students on their campus at Brooks. All will put their training to work here in District 3 through service programs and many will build a career practicing medicine on the Southside and in San Antonio. Texas A&M San Antonio has opened a new dormitory – the aptly named Esperanza Hall – and a new STEM building. Both will bring a whole new energized and excited community of District 3 residents. The UIW School of Osteopathic Medicine and the expanding Texas A&M San Antonio campus are a beacon of opportunity for students across the region.

We continue to lead the way with economic development that benefits ALL San Antonio residents and recognizes that a diverse population needs diverse employment opportunities. From the 1,000 jobs to be created by TJX, which for many people will be the first step on a path to a better life, to continued growth at Toyota and Nissei, which provide the advanced manufacturing jobs that cities across the nation wish they had, the Southside is home to a growing economy that respects all San Antonio residents.

Now, some of you will remember we had our “State of the District” event last year at the Guenther Sheraton downtown because, at that time, we did not have an appropriate venue in the district. As you can see [at Brooks], this has all changed.

Today, the phrase “economic segregation” seems to be on everyone’s lips and on their minds, but, last year, that was hardly the case. My remarks that day were about looking forward, emphasizing our future. One line in particular stands out for me: “We’re beginning a new era in District 3, where anything is possible and our story hasn’t already been written.”

But it’s not enough to just look forward to all we want to do. We have to look backwards to begin to understand why so much is left undone. That day, I reminded everyone in the room, myself included, of our role in making San Antonio the most economically segregated city in the United States. We continue to share in the shame and disgrace that designation brings.

Moving forward we will not romanticize poverty but work together to mitigate and end economic segregation.

It is the responsibility of everyone here today, along with every elected official, business leader, and community activist, to address this fundamental disparity in San Antonio.

Fortunately, that work has begun with the Fiscal Year 2018 budget and the 2017-2022 Bond, and over the next two years, I will use my position on council and various committees to lead the fight to close that gap. This includes using the Economic and Workforce Development Committee to ensure investment in job growth and workforce development is balanced throughout the city, so we can leave the label of “Most Economically Segregated City” in the past. We need you to join the growing list of partners working on this.

Finally, on this topic, I want to mention a conversation we’ve been having. That’s the question of tax relief and, essentially, what is the City’s job in today’s San Antonio.

I have begun a broad effort to identify concrete policy options for lowering the financial burden on low- to mid-income San Antonio residents with the goal of offsetting every dollar of relief with a dollar of new revenue.

This effort will be good for business because we know that every dollar we give back to a resident who lives paycheck to paycheck will be reinvested into our local economy.

This effort will be good for neighborhoods because it will allow us to protect and provide relief to generational homeowners who often struggle with rapidly increasing property values.

But most importantly, this effort will be good because it’s the right thing to do. As inequity rages in San Antonio more than any other city in America, we must recognize the right of all San Antonio residents to share in the benefits of a growing, prosperous city. I will work to make sure we get it right.

The narrative is changing because the level of opportunity and investment in the Southside and District 3 is changing. The most direct way I can affect this change is through the city budget and the bond process. People are seeing the action taken and projects getting completed.

The fiscal year 2018 budget puts a down payment on generations of disparities and inequities that have piled and piled up on top of each other until we had no choice but to stare them in the face. This down payment may only be one step, but it’s a crucial step in the right direction.

Last year, when I reported we were working hard to secure dollars for the 2017-2022 Bond, I said I was confident that our committee members would be persistent in their pursuit. This year, I am proud to say that District 3 had the most amount of bond dollars designated, outside of the downtown area, and I thank you for voting to approve those measures.

Recently, we have been hearing about the health disparities and differences in life expectancy throughout San Antonio. Well, I’d like to share with you that the medical and health community investments in District 3 are changing and the future looks beautiful!

Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) greets attendees of the Fit Family Challenge Jump Into Fitness Finale & 5K at Southside Lions Park.
Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) greets attendees of the Fit Family Challenge Jump Into Fitness Finale & 5K at Southside Lions Park. Credit: Courtesy / Council District 3

The Gonzaba Medical Group is changing the narrative of quality healthcare on the Southside, in San Antonio, and the nation. They are creating their own medical center right off of Pleasanton Road, in our community, revitalizing the area and creating quality jobs. It is an absolute pleasure to work with them as they remember their roots and carry on their family legacy.

As I mentioned earlier, the University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine, our second medical school in San Antonio is already gaining momentum and making inroads. Students at the Medical School will be matched to the families of District 3, specifically those in Southside ISD. Their new partnerships will provide community outreach on issues ranging from diabetes, vaccinations, and senior health, and the other maladies that affect our people.

With the opening of the new Harvey E. Najim YMCA and Southside Lions Senior Center, we can enable people to get activate and healthy no matter your age or location throughout the district.

We can see the synergy with Mission Trails Baptist Hospital, UIWSOM and the new Methodist Healthcare Ministries clinic that will be taking over the old site of the SE Baptist hospital on E. Southcross and transforming that community.

Related: Two More CAST High Schools Taking Shape on the Southside

In addition, a new collaboration between SAISD and H-E-B is here to bring the next CAST High School to Brooks, which will focus on medical and biological sciences. It takes us all working together to change the narrative, and that is exactly what we are doing, and what our partners on the Southside are doing for the entire city!

Our momentum in leadership is second to none. The narrative is changing because we are seeing more growth in engagement from District 3 residents. People are seeing things get done and they want more- and that expectation is good! Exhausting, but good!

My consistent leadership at City Hall has allowed our momentum to grow. This May, I was re-elected to my third term on council, winning 62% of the vote against six challengers. For those of you here today who supported my campaign through donations, volunteering, or just spreading our message – thank you! Your support and commitment means the world to me.

Of course, I’ve always considered community engagement a core part of this job. For the third election in a row, voter turnout has grown in District 3- an increase of over 50% higher in 2017 than in 2013. We’re bringing new people into the process – especially young people – and bringing more diverse voices into the conversation. I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished in that regard, and we will continue those efforts.

Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) speaks during career day at Pearce Primary.
Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) speaks during career day at Pearce Primary. Credit: Courtesy / Council District 3

Our small business and neighborhood engagement is growing and was such a success in our East Southcross Corridor Council that we’re bringing this model to other corridors across District 3. We look forward to partnering with Southside First on this exciting endeavor!

We’ve had an unprecedented response to board and commission appointments with many new people engaged! The work of our boards and commissions is critical, and I want to thank many of you here today who are serving.

I am especially intentional in my investment in women leaders. Over 50% of my board appointments are women, and I am proud of that fact. Why? Because when women support each other, we invest in courage, we break through barriers, we set new standards, and the entire community succeeds.

My office continues to nurture leaders of the present and future, and I am counting on everyone here to make those investments with me. My District 3 Legacy leadership Initiative, or D3LLI, is now in its fifth year building our leaders of today. New this year is our “Find your Park initiative” where, in partnership with the National Park Conservation Association, we are cultivating in middle and high schoolers from East Central ISD to learn about Youth Stewardship in our National parks. This empowerment in our young people ensures our momentum will last.

One investment I am proud to announce right now is by our beloved partner Toyota Texas Motor Manufacturing. As many of us know, they are committed to our community and workforce. Working together, we identified areas where we could close the gap on some inequities in our community. We love our libraries in San Antonio and especially in District 3. But, unfortunately, we do not have enough computers, desktops or Wi-Fi hotspots to meet the demand. Well, that is where our friends at Toyota are stepping up.

I am excited to announce, Toyota Texas Motor Manufacturing will be donating $40,000 to McCreless, Pan American and Mission libraries for technology needs. This will help close the gap and transform families in the Southside.

In closing, I would like to say that we, the Southside, are in the midst of our greatest story. We are changing the narrative in San Antonio with our unrelenting momentum.

Our narrative for District 3, the Southside, is that we are a vital economic engine for the entire city, pushing progress while maintaining our unique identity that make us “puro San Antonio” and the heartbeat of this city.

We – you and I – need to get caught up together in something bigger than ourselves. It takes every one of us in this room. Everyone has a role. We can no longer be spectators. We must be fully engaged in what is happening.

You are critical to this journey. Each role is vital and each of us will play a part in this next chapter of our great story.

Thank you!

Rebecca Viagran

Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran is proud to be from a family whose 200-year history in San Antonio and South Texas has a long-standing legacy of service in the community she currently represents. She was...