Former San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley got personal in the second part of her conversation with San Antonio Report about her new book, Greedy Bastards.

Sculley touched on growing up as the oldest of seven children, her previous aspirations to be a journalist, the importance of early childhood education, and how she would have handled the brutal political battle with public safety unions differently as she sat down with San Antonio Report Editor and Publisher Robert Rivard for a livestreamed interview at Arsenal Church’s studio.

While not in the book, she also shared her thoughts on the movement to defund the police, as well as the workforce and education initiative on the November ballot.

The Black Lives Matter movement has pressured cities across the U.S., including Austin, to reconsider police department funding and instead invest in social services and other public safety-related alternatives to traditional policing.

Sculley’s successor, City Manager Erik Walsh, has proposed a path to make those adjustments in the 2022 budget. So far, City Council members have not made specific requests to make changes regarding the police department in 2021.

Sculley said that, while the city manager makes recommendations, “the mayor and council hold the power of the purse.”

She mentioned the work of SAPD’s mental health team, a combination of paramedics, police, and social service workers often called to interact with the city’s homeless population and situations with drug abuse.

The team, she said, deals with the community in a “calm and effective way” and perhaps that team could be transferred to another department.

Concerns about defunding the police include worries that police won’t be able to effectively protect the community from criminal activity.

“You don’t want your police staff to be … outmatched by the bad guys that are out there,” Sculley said. “At the same time, I think we need to have a conversation about a less military-style of enforcement in the community. … There’s a balance, but I think there’s more study to do and I think we should take it in steps.”

Crime often stems from poverty and unemployment, which is another problem the City is about to take on in a big way.

“Workforce development is very much needed in the community,” she said, and it’s similar to the Pre-K 4 SA initiative as they are both attempts to lift families out of generational poverty. “People would say, ‘Why are we doing this?’ My response always was: these are our future workers. They have to be well-educated. … We want our community to succeed and education is key.”

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org