MAYOR ED GARZA'S INAUGURAL ADDRESS
PRESENTING 2001-02 AGENDA
June 1, 2001
I am honored to have the opportunity today to present an agenda for the first year of my first term as Mayor of the City of San Antonio. Before describing in greater detail the four areas of emphasis in my agenda--Human Development, Neighborhood Development, Metropolitan Development and Model Governance--I want to share with you my commitment to and passion for San Antonio, and talk about the ways in which we can work together to accomplish great things.
San Antonio is a world-class city. More new residents every year move in to join those of us lucky enough to be born here. While these newcomers add to the pressures that growth brings, they also have a fresh perspective on issues like balanced growth, environmental quality, housing and mixed-use development, water fluoridation and the knowledge of what has been accomplished in other cities. During my campaign for Mayor I did speak face-to-face with many of you, and I heard your honest opinions about real issues that affect your lives.
Blockwalking is a staple of San Antonio politics, and for good reason. It reflects the core values of this city, core values of connection, communication, the personal nature of politics and business life in San Antonio. Not only did I have an opportunity to tell you about my plans, my aspirations, but also I heard from you: your concerns and complaints, and also your vision for San Antonio.
I heard that you want better jobs for your children, safer streets, more recreational opportunities, more places to shop in your neighborhoods, less traffic, and more accountability from local government. I heard that you want San Antonio to be a great place to raise a family and a great place to start a business. And you want to preserve those qualities that make San Antonio unique and wonderful: a sense of our history, the strength of our families, the quality of our water and the beauty of our parks and open space.
I believe your vision, our vision, is our future. We must work together to grow what is sometimes called a "Sustainable Community," one where we use our resources wisely to support growth today without compromising our plans for the future. I believe sustainable growth is growth from within, growth that weaves together the threads of arts and the economy, of balanced growth and basic services, education and environmental quality, and a new way of thinking about our government.
We should bring to this effort a metropolitan way of thinking that will allow us to focus on our own successes and yet be aware of what other cities across the country and world are doing. While we learn from others, we must also be leaders in those areas where we have natural advantages, such as a large Spanish-speaking population, outstanding health and research facilities, and a tradition of working together. These are the assets we bring to the world market, whether we are supplying content for websites in Mexico or developing a model program to combat diabetes.
Metropolitan thinking means expanding our mental boundaries. Neil Peirce and Curtis Johnson have recognized an important characteristic of vibrant cities in America today: they are citistates. Their series for the Express-News has shown us that metropolitan thinking and regional planning will be necessary to address issues such as balanced growth and economic development. Peirce and Johnson also identified our strong connection to South Texas and the border, and to Mexico. With these partners we can form a community of interest to advance a mutually beneficial agenda.
We will face challenges--we must face them together. All of us who care about San Antonio--school board members, parish leaders, neighborhood association presidents, taxpayers, even politicians--need to do a better job of communicating and connecting with each other. The connection, the sense of partnership that I felt with the citizens of San Antonio during my campaign is so important to me that I am exploring ways to retain and expand it. I'll be premiering a new Internet site for questions-and-answers, and I'll be visiting your neighborhoods and parks through two new programs designed to make the Mayor's office more accessible. I'll be inviting some of you to visit me on Saturday mornings for breakfast, turning my office into San Antonio's living room.
Other partnerships already in place will be expanded. My colleague, County Judge and former Mayor Nelson Wolff, has laid out an agenda that calls for increased cooperation between the County and the City, an agenda I will second today. We have tremendous opportunities to pioneer our partnerships with the military, and to see the Brooks City Base become another model for privatization. Next week, I am launching a new effort to bring together corporate leaders and the education sector through an innovative program called CEOs for Cities, which will build on the strong role that many local corporate partners have played in civic issues. I'll also turn attention back to an established partnership, the Association of South Texas Communities, which will bring together leaders from throughout our region.
My agenda of sustainable growth from within cuts across sectors, political parties and special interests. It is an agenda that promotes individual development through education, training and family strengthening initiatives, but also promotes neighborhood development by supporting local commercial districts, better access to high-tech infrastructure, and more opportunities for housing renovation and development. My agenda encourages metropolitan development, addressing energy conservation, city-county partnerships, and parks expansion. Perhaps most importantly, I recognize that in order to accomplish these goals we must improve confidence in local government and become a model for delivery of service to customers.
The Better Jobs Initiative will bring coordination, accountability and increased investment to the existing network of service and training providers. Better Jobs is more than a job-training program, however; the goal of Better Jobs is to focus investment in successful programs and initiatives that are tailored to improving education, expanding target industries, and improving the quality of life in San Antonio. For example, the Seattle Jobs Initiative, funded partly through a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, employs job brokers and managers who work directly with the business community to identify their needs and meet labor shortages.
Our challenges are clear. First, we must improve accountability in existing programs. I will look to Enrique Barrera for his leadership on accountability and message development. Second, we must structure an initiative that responds to the needs of our partners—Bexar County, Alamo Workforce Development, schools and colleges, and local businesses. Third, we must seek and pass a measure that will dedicate sales tax revenue to successful programs. This initiative must stand alone when we take it to the voters of San Antonio. To focus on Better Jobs, I have created a new council committee on Human Development, which I will chair.
Growth and Education Initiative
The number and diversity of school districts has made it difficult for communication and coordination between the City of San Antonio and the superintendents and elected boards who serve our community. To combat this trend, I will institute an advisory meeting during which the City will share information about development plans, new service or scholarship initiatives, and other projects that may impact schools. In addition, I will work towards a goal of facilitating a collective vision for San Antonio and Bexar County schools- a vision that will compliment the City's strategic plans. On the council Bobby Perez and Julian Castro, the City's designated representatives to the Education Partnership Board, will lead this effort.
Neighborhood Transformation and Family Strengthening
The Annie E. Casey Foundation has helped bring a new way of thinking to San Antonio's West Side. Residents and organizations have adopted the common goal of connecting families to economic opportunity, the supports and services they need, and to stronger social networks. I have created a new City Council Committee on Healthy Families, to be chaired by Enrique Barrera, to bring this message into City Hall and to ensure that programs and funding support the common goal of making connections.
Increasing homeownership is an important goal for me and has been mainstay of our housing programs in San Antonio. I will seek to further expand opportunities for San Antonians to become homeowners by supporting a local partnership to bring employer-assisted housing programs to our area. In July, I will join with Bexar County and Fannie Mae to sponsor a workshop on employer-assisted housing, which helps working families buy homes while providing recruitment and retention benefits for businesses.
Homeownership can be threatened by lending practices that strip equity and burden homeowners with new debt, often because owners are not aware of their rights. Assisted by the Fannie Mae Partnership Office, Kansas City has adopted a Consumer's Bill of Rights to inform homeowners and buyers of acceptable practices; I will support the adoption of a similar Bill of Rights in San Antonio as part of a campaign to draw attention to this issue. The new Housing and Neighborhoods Committee will coordinate these initiatives.
Human Development & Economy
Stronger, healthier neighborhoods, schools and families will allow our city to improve the overall quality of life and increase the standard of living. San Antonio has been successful in diversifying its economy to withstand economic downturns. Our goal for the future is to focus on a high performance economy that creates greater economic opportunities for our residents, while enhancing the quality of life. We must focus our efforts towards leveraging San Antonio's targeted industries by securing flagship status for UTSA and a comprehensive A&M System campus in the southern sector of San Antonio and by implementing the Aviation Industry, San Antonio Technology Accelerator Initiative (SATAI) and the Logistics and Transportation strategic plans.
We must also look at our natural advantages in growing our economy. San Antonio has the best of both worlds--technology opportunities here and to the north and trade opportunities here and to the south. The merging of these two regional economic forces will fuel the growing potential at our South Texas Medical Center, Kelly USA and Brooks Citybase. I will look to Toni Moorhouse and Kike Martin to help facilitate this vision.
Maintenance of existing infrastructure is an especially important basic service. In order to emphasize this focus, I have named David Garcia to chair the revamped Infrastructure Committee of City Council. This committee will focus on the maintenance and development of streets, utilities and other infrastructure, including oversight of capital improvement projects. The committee will focus on identifying traditional and innovative ways to fund reconstruction projects throughout the city, however, with an emphasis to the 36 square-mile CRAG targeted revitalization area.
Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization Program
For the past four years the City of San Antonio has assisted fledgling CDCs in the task of bringing new life back to older commercial corridors. The NCR program brings together business owners and residents to create non-profit organizations that encourage façade improvements, business growth, clean-up efforts, and training for participants. To support this important program, I am advocating for funds to conduct an onsite assessment and provide capacity-building technical services to the NCR CDCs. The Neighborhood and Small Business Committee will have oversight of this initiative. I will also be looking to Toni Moorhouse and John Sanders for their leadership in these revitalization initiatives.
Vacant Properties and Code Compliance
Many of our older neighborhoods are marred by abandoned housing and vacant lots. Unfortunately, hundreds of those lots are under public ownership, acquired through tax foreclosures in the 1960s and 70s. Not only are these properties eyesores, but their maintenance is at public expense. Removing these properties from the public dole and getting them back on tax rolls will be a priority for me. I will be working closely with the County on this important issue. Not all problem properties are publicly owned, however. I support the recent changes in Minimum Housing Standards and the new emphasis on customer service at the Department of Code Compliance and in the Municipal Courts. While we need to lend a helping hand to those whose incomes or health make maintenance difficult, we need to be tougher with repeat violators who take advantage of the system. Councilman Bobby Perez, who will chair both the Housing and neighborhoods and the Municipal Courts Committees, is the natural leader for this effort.
Neighborhood Technology Initiative
We often hear the phrase "the digital divide" to describe the danger that low-income families will not have access to the high-tech world. It is my goal that all neighborhoods in San Antonio will have access to broad band network, and that residents will develop the skills to thrive in the 21st century while enhancing their connections to the broader community. For example, all citizens should be able to take advantage of the easier access to municipal information and services offered by the City's new "E San Antonio" initiative. I have created a Technology Committee, which I will chair, and I will look to committee member Julian Castro for leadership on this issue.
Marketing Our Assets
A recent study by the UTSA Metropolitan Policy Research Institute indicates that while two-thirds of homeowners living outside Loop 410 used the services of a Realtor during their last purchase or sale, only one-third of homeowners inside the Loop did so. Clearly there is untapped potential to sell these communities to homebuyers and investors: tree-lined streets, convenience to downtown, and vintage architecture are all in demand. In order to promote our inner city as a great place to live, I will support a marketing program that provides brochures, neighborhood tours and training for lenders, appraisers, and Realtors.
"Green Team" Energy Office
San Antonio has a chance to become a national and even global leader in the area of alternative fuel sources, especially solar energy. Thanks to farsighted advocates such as Bill Sinkin and to progressive clients such as Bexar County and CPS, several local buildings will be models for green building. Green building is a sustainable approach to architecture that encourages water and energy conservation, less toxic building materials, and recycling. To further this trend, I will join with County Judge Nelson Wolff and CPS to support the creation of an energy office in San Antonio. The Federal Department of Energy will co-fund this position, which will centralize information about conservation, innovative technologies, and the benefits of green building.
In order to assure that energy policy remains a priority, and to provide a direct link from the energy office to City Council, I am tasking the Public Utilities and Conservation Committee to coordinate this initiative. Committee chair Bonnie Conner will also lead the Environmental Quality Committee, which will address air and water quality, open space and brownfield impacts. Just as many cities in California have found their prospects for growth to be dampened by the current energy crisis, San Antonio cannot grow without sensible long-range water planning. Of course, we should be conscious of energy use as well. To that end I will meet with staff to review plans for the One-Stop Development Services Center so that we can be assured that the City will set a model for new development that saves money through green building practices.
As I have already mentioned, cooperation with Bexar County is a key goal. The County and the City are colleagues, not competitors. I have already met with County Judge Nelson Wolff to discuss several areas where service delivery could be improved and planning made more efficient. Elsewhere in this agenda I detail plans for the development of the Better Jobs initiative, the joint Energy Office and the disposition of tax lien properties.
With respect to service delivery, I will join the County Judge in seeking a master service contract. This agreement would make the contracting process easier and more efficient, and help us expand areas of cooperation. Already we work together on a range of issues, including health care, animal control, river improvements, and library services. Currently, we have the opportunity to develop new strategies for managing parks and watershed planning, among others. I fully support these joint efforts. Of particular importance to me is the development of a history center for San Antonio, utilizing the excellent collections of the Public Library System and in cooperation with Bexar County.
While improving and maintaining roads is a critical basic service, it is also necessary to expand transportation options. Cities across the country are implementing aggressive transportation plans that call for multimodal development—a mix of pedestrian, biking, auto, and transit options. For example, a recent national study of Metropolitan Planning Organizations shows that in some areas, such as Orlando, up to 28% of federal and state pass-through funds are dedicated to transit projects, with another 12% to bike/pedestrian projects. During the next year the Council members I have appointed to the MPO--Bonnie Conner, David A. Garcia, Julian Castro and Kike Martin—will explore similar mechanisms to increase transportation funding and to use those funds more creatively. Again, this is an issue where close cooperation with the County will be imperative.
We will continue to address the need to enhance the San Antonio International Airport, both in terms of direct flights and through capital improvements. This growth and expansion can be accomplished while being sensitive to surrounding neighborhoods. Councilmen David Carpenter and Carroll Schubert will lead this effort with a newly appointed council committee.
Greenways and Open Space
As I have already mentioned, a new Environmental Quality Committee chaired by Councilwoman Conner will coordinate open space efforts. This committee will work with the Open Space Advisory Board and with existing ad hoc citizens groups to ensure that community concerns are heard at City Hall and to share City efforts with our partners. I know that maintenance of existing greenways and publicly owned land has been a challenge for the City and will continue to be challenging as we purchase thousands of acres through Proposition 3 revenues. Staff is already at work on proposed improvements, and better communication between property owners, neighborhoods, the City and the County will help. I'll look to Councilman John Sanders for his leadership on this issue.
Livable Cities Initiative
San Antonio has just adopted one of the most progressive unified development codes in the country. The UDC was revised to reflect the City's 1997 Master Plan and to support a more pleasing, efficient and functional environment. Much credit should go to my predecessor, Mayor Howard Peak. We can now begin to implement our vision of neighborhoods where children can walk to school, seniors can shop and socialize without having to drive and public spaces bring the community together. To help local and national developers, designers and investors understand San Antonio's potential as a livable city, I will join with the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects and several other partners to sponsor a Livable Cities Conference in the Spring of 2002.
Preceding the conference, I will sponsor a series of Mayor's Forum Lectures on urban design, form, and function. Held in City Council chambers, this series of hour-long lectures will help City staff and the public understand the basics of a livable city and allow for civic dialogue on this topic.
CEOs for Cities
Across the country, a diverse group of leaders has come together to create a new kind of advocacy organization. CEOs for Cities is a non-profit organization based in Boston and founded by Paul Grogan, author of Comeback Cities. His belief that downtowns and inner cities are increasingly attractive to old and new residents alike, and to investors and businesses, has galvanized a group of municipal and corporate executives into creating an urban think tank for the new century. Rather than relying on federal funds, CEOs for Cities looks to the market while capitalizing on residents' strengths and resources. San Antonio's existing CRAG focus on inner-city revitalization through asset-based initiatives should allow us to become a leader in this movement.
I have always believed that our efforts to revitalize inner-city neighborhoods will benefit all of San Antonio, just as we all enjoy taking family to see the lights on the River at Christmas or walking through South Town on First Friday. A vibrant arts and cultural life and a "hip" downtown are powerful economic development tools: increasingly, companies consider these things when evaluating quality of life before a move or expansion. Even more directly, the positive effects of thriving businesses and stable neighborhoods ripple throughout the community, just as the negative effects of disinvestment do. We often think of ourselves as belonging to a certain parish, neighborhood association or council district, but in fact we are one city, and we will succeed together or not at all.
During my campaign I spoke of the need to improve accountability within City government. I see this as a two-step process. Initially, I envision a November election for proposed changes to the City Charter. Changes such as transferring the reporting of the Office of Internal Review and City Attorney's office to the City Council would address issues of accountability within City government. I will chair a Council committee to identify proposed amendments for a November election and have the committee's recommendations to the entire City Council in 60 days. I will work closely with Councilman Carroll Schubert to accomplish these goals.
The second step towards realizing a model government is to appoint a Citizens Charter and Governance Commission to look at more long-term issues of San Antonio government. This commission will be tasked to research and analyze governments in cities with similar characteristics and to develop recommendations to the City Council on governance structure, term limits and council salaries. This commission will be appointed in the coming months and it is my hope we can have a broader charter election in 2004.
I understand that charter reform is a significant and long-term effort; in the interim, I am broadening the authority of the Audit and Contract Review Committee. David Carpenter will chair the Committee, and will be responsible for selecting representative contracts for review.
Mayor's Office Initiatives
As I have mentioned, communication and connection with citizens is important to me. I will open my office on Saturday mornings for breakfast with people whose ideas and enthusiasm has intrigued me—so don't be afraid to approach me with a project or suggestion that you think would be good for San Antonio. I'll also be visiting your neighborhoods, so keep an eye out during the coming months. Finally, I am developing an interactive web site that will allow users to post questions and peruse my answers. I am your Mayor, and I want to know what you think.
The new Council Committees I have referenced today are part of a broader attempt to strengthen the connections between citizens, council and staff. By creating more comprehensive Council Committees and designating coordination between Committees and Citizen Advisory Boards, Commissions and staff working groups, I hope to enhance the flow of information and build consensus. My goal is to create better working relationships and promote a more holistic policy environment.
Connection with City Staff
Already I have met with the City of San Antonio Executive Team of more than 70 Directors and Assistant Directors. We talked about commitment to serving the people of San Antonio and to embracing whatever changes may occur as a result of the agenda I've outlined today. We have a great team of professionals; City Manager Terry Brechtel and I will be visiting departments and continuing to meet with staff as we both settle in to our new jobs. I look forward to a productive two years.
I will close with some thoughts about the nature of sustainable growth from within. The San Antonio River has long been appreciated as the heart of this community. At times threatened, the river has far more often been celebrated as an irreplaceable asset. The Riverwalk has grown organically but not haphazardly, through well-planned improvements that respect the natural environment and while adding layers of well-detailed infrastructure. Not only is the Riverwalk truly rooted in this city, but it attracts visitors from all over the globe. Our job as elected officials is to recognize our other world-class resources and to grow them in this same careful manner.
I am excited about getting to work on this agenda, and look forward to implementing these initiatives in partnership my Council colleagues, fellow elected and appointed officials and the citizens of San Antonio.