One of the most difficult parts of the pandemic has been seeing residents of her Southside district directly affected by COVID-19, said Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) during a livestreamed conversation with the San Antonio Report Wednesday.
Currently serving her fourth and final council term, Viagran spoke with reporter Lindsey Carnett for the penultimate discussion in the San Antonio Report’s Conversations with the Council series.
Viagran, who first took office in 2013, said District 3 saw more COVID-19-related deaths in October than every other San Antonio council district except District 4. Health disparities within the San Antonio community are to blame, Viagran said.
“I’m very concerned about what we will see going forward in these next couple of months, now that we’re seeing another resurgence of [COVID-19],” Viagran said. “[My team and I] are working with UIW’s School of Osteopathic Medicine and other private doctors offices in District 3 to see … [how to] holistically and as a community address the issues of hypertension, diabetes, and [community health].”
Without a police substation in District 3, public safety is also a major issue facing constituents, Viagran said. Since she took office, the residents of District 3 have been calling for a substation, she said. The closest existing substation is west of Interstate 35.
In 2019, Viagran fought to include within the City’s $2.9 billion-dollar budget dollars to be used toward the development of a public safety substation in her district. She secured $500,000 to lay the groundwork for and develop 2022 bond program funding to build the substation. Viagran called it one of her biggest achievements.
“In last year’s budget, we were able to confirm … dollars committed for design of a public safety substation, and then also to get a commitment from our city manager that the substation would be part of the next bond package,” Viagran said.
Viagran said the substation will aim to tackle more than just crime issues in District 3; it will also be designed to have mental health resources and resources for District 3 residents who are homeless or struggling financially.
While the South Side has seen the growth of manufacturing and of Brooks City Base over the last decade, Viagran said she will continue to advocate for economic growth through educational opportunities that lead to higher-paying jobs within her district. She hopes her successor will as well.
The economic disparities between school districts on the City’s north and south sides were made even more apparent during the pandemic, she said, pointing to the widening digital divide.
“I worked personally with the Southside Independent School District. They needed money for laptops,” Viagran said. “Out of our district budget, we actually funded dollars for laptops for the Southside Independent School District, because they were still needing [devices] for their students.”
Other topics Viagran briefly touched on throughout the discussion included her work with Brooks City Base, efforts to get more sidewalks and dog parks built in District 3, and the city’s economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.
The final discussion in the San Antonio Report’s Conversations with the Council series will be Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 3 p.m. and will feature District 9 Councilman John Courage and District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry in conversation with Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick.