San Antonio is about to come onto hard times, given major budget cuts at the state and federal level. What programs do you think can be trimmed back? What should we not touch?
Every program and City Department needs to be evaluated. Programs, services, and projects that can be trimmed back would be those that are ineffective and inefficient. The City Manager will make her own assessment and recommendations and the City Council members will be given an opportunity to make our own.
Programs dealing with Senior citizens and young children should continue to be funded, as well as all basic city services. I will advocate for programs associated with education, economic development and neighborhood improvement. We need to invest in education for it is correlated with economic development, crime prevention, and our quality of life.
Education is the foundation of a strong and progressive community and will develop our future workforce, leaders and citizens. State cuts in education can be made up through public/private partnerships such as making libraries and Literacy centers one-stop learning centers where literacy, tutoring, mentoring, computer training, college classes and child care services are offered.
As city leaders we need to motivate and inspire people to do community service; such as encouraging retirees, parents and senior citizens to volunteer as teacher aides, tutors and mentors in schools, in libraries, Literacy Centers and in afterschool programs. We need to make sure that our city facilities are utilized to their maximum capacity through public private partnerships, such as with nonprofits, nutrition services, health/mental health services and schools/ universities programs.
I will support and promote Citizens on Patrol and Community Watch Programs, to partner with neighborhood police to address crime at the neighborhood level.
Are there programs you plan to champion to ease the impact of those outside funding cuts on our community? Are you committed to continuing the SA2020 process?
I intend to champion programs that relate to education, economic development and neighborhood improvement. I attended every SA2020 forum and am committed to continuing the SA 2020 process. With my background in teaching, my Principal’s certification, my Doctorate Degree in Education and my 32 years as Founder and President and CEO of AVANCE — a nonprofit parenting education/early childhood education and family support organization — I will certainly be committed and involved in addressing the number one goal in SA 2020, which is EDUCATION. I want to use my leadership skills to motivate, inspire, and get others to do their part to bring about the best educational outcomes for our children and adults in District 7.
What is your position on the city’s investment in two proposed nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project? CPS Energy plans for early retirement of the Deeley coal plant? Renewable energy development?
I was appointed by Mayor Cockrell to a Nuclear Taskforce to determine San Antonio’s position in nuclear energy. After careful study and deliberation, I voted against the proposed nuclear project due to the nuclear waste and the potential risk it could have on the people, property and environment. I still strongly oppose further investment in nuclear energy and would like to gradually decrease our part in the current investment. I would like to put more emphasis and resources on renewable and safe sustainable energy. I applaud CPS for planning to retire the Deeley coal plant and am VERY pleased that they are moving forward with renewable sustainable energy development, such as wind and solar energy. Coal plants produce smog, soot, acid rain, release toxic air emissions, contribute to global warming and pollute the land, water and air. I wish San Antonio would have started investing in solar and wind energy sooner, but am glad that Mayor Hardberger’s leadership was able to move the City of San Antonio in the right direction.
How could the city better support public education? Do you support efforts that would Mayor Julián Castro to be able to appoint some school board members?
The City could better support public education by investing in: early childhood/parenting education/family support, in afterschool programs, tutoring and mentoring programs. We need to help students navigate the system to go to college (such as Café College), having the business sector assist with resources to address the digital divide; encourage and support scholarship programs for disadvantaged students; have adult literacy programs where adults can learn English, get their GED or return to college. Schools can be adopted by civic or faith-based organizations or individuals. The City could be the model to enable their employees to work a flexible schedule so that they can be involved in their children’s educational activities.
I do not think that Mayor Julián Castro should tell people who they should vote for but could encourage people to get involved in civic affairs. I think that he could facilitate political forums, but it is up to the people to decide who they want for their school representative. I also feel that the Mayor should not get involved in City Council races and think he needs to stay neutral while he is Mayor.
Given the EPA is planning on toughening national air quality standards, what steps do you think the city can take to make sure our skies are healthy (and federal transportation keeps flowing to San Antonio)?
The major source of emissions is from our automobiles. Improved traffic management is a major step in reducing the amount of time spent operating our vehicles during congestion. Traffic congestion is not only polluting, but is also fuel inefficient.
Although the City of San Antonio’s Environmental Policy department has initiated its own Health Quality Health Alert Plan, I noticed that the guidelines specifically address the practices of city employees and departments while they are on the job. This is certainly a good practice; however, few initiatives and incentives are provided to encourage San Antonio residents to minimize driving their vehicles. VIA is in the process of developing a long-term plan for transportation in our city through SmartWaySA; however, the initiative is still in its early stages and will likely require a considerable investment.
I believe there are other alternatives we can implement that could cost less and utilize existing infrastructure. For example, some communities have converted unused railway corridors into transportation routes for biking and walking. Other cities have provided cash incentives for its municipal employees to use public transportation or carpools. For citizens, some cities have created carpool match programs, where residents are matched with others to carpool to work throughout different parts of the city. And still others have fostered telecommuting initiatives or trip reduction programs by utilizing video and audio conferencing. These are all ideas that could be implemented with little cost and help us maintain compliance with national air quality standards.
Trees are important as they relate to energy use, air and quality of life in the city. We need to have better ordinances to protect our trees and have more trees and green spaces in our district and city.
What is the right mix of public-transit options for San Antonio’s future, and what do you think is the best method to fund/maintain each element?
I support VIA’s plan to implement bus rapid transit, electric streetcar, light rail, commuter rail, HOV lanes and others through SmartWaySA. Furthermore, I would like for the city to continue to explore increasing bike lanes. The Federal Transportation Administration provides funds to cities to support planning, vehicle purchases, facility construction, operations, and other purposes. I am unsure whether our city has applied for these funds, but it appears that it could be an option to offset costs at the local level for transportation initiatives. To provide local funding, I would prefer to explore options such as user fees or hotel occupancy taxes over sales taxes, which are regressive in nature.
What life experiences make you uniquely qualified to serve on the city council?
I am a lifelong resident of San Antonio and have lived in District 7 for 30 years. I was a bilingual school teacher of two groups of very high-risk six year old children who it was determined that they were going to fail as of December. I worked with the first group of children for one and a half years, and then had another group of similar children who entered school so ill prepared. It was this experience that inspired me to address the education problems facing so many poor children in San Antonio through a parenting/early childhood program called AVANCE.
The success of the AVANCE Parent Child Education Program in San Antonio, demonstrates that I am a problem solver and am committed to helping people. Under my leadership, I took AVANCE, a separate legal entity in San Antonio, from $50,000 to $36 million, to sites all over Texas and in California — with proven results and national recognition.
AVANCE, dealt with education, neighborhood development, crime prevention, job creation, and in improving the quality of life of the people. We had such tremendous outcomes in high-risk communities that AVANCE was featured in the New York Times, Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, in three First Ladies books (Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush and Rosalynn Carter), and in the White House. Prince Charles came to visit AVANCE.
As Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a multi-million dollar organization for 32 years, I know about balancing a budget, meeting payroll, making tough decisions, and getting the job done.
I have served on numerous local, state, national - and one international- boards, and I know how to deliberate, work in teams and reach consensus.
I have my Bachelor’s degree in Education, my Masters degree in Supervision and Administration, and my Doctorate degree in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction. I have also attended national leadership development training programs at Harvard. I have received numerous awards and recognition for my leadership skills and my contribution to my community of San Antonio.
These include the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Leadership San Antonio Hall of Fame; the Texas Hall of Fame, 100 Most Influential Hispanics in Hispanic Business (four times), the Hispanic Heritage Award in Education and by Presidential appointment served on Presidential Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. I also received a national award from NHLI for a lifetime of ethical leadership.
Please briefly describe your conception of San Antonio’s economy, its strengths and weaknesses, and what you would do to build on the former and address the latter?
San Antonio’s economy has been based on growth and urban sprawl that was not properly planned. It has developed new communities, new malls, new recreational areas and has focused a great deal on tourism, sports and telemarketing. However, our economic strengths of growth and progress in the past decades are also part of our weaknesses. It has become evident that we cannot grow any more outside of Loop 1604 because we cannot afford to provide adequate basic services. The growth has produced traffic congestions. Our older inner city communities were neglected for too long and are in desperate need of housing repairs and infrastructure needs, such as curbs and sidewalks. The drainage system is not adequate. The growth to the North has greatly affected the flow of flood water to the inner city down South, ruining streets, property and even causing deaths.
Our major weaknesses in economic development is that San Antonio has not focused enough on education, research, literacy and workforce development to be able to attract more businesses to our city outside of tourism and sports. It has not had a strong focus on making sure that ALL our children succeed in school and complete a college education. The Hispanic population is growing tremendously, yet this is the population with almost a 50% drop out rate, and higher in some pockets of the city. There is a great digital divide between the haves and have nots.
SA 2020 is now a new blueprint that brings hope and opportunity to San Antonio’s future economy. With my educational background and experience in education, I want to support Mayor Castro in his number one goal in SA 2020, which is education. With an investment in education, we will now be able to have the pool of future scientist, mathematicians, and engineers needed to entice different types of corporations to come to our city. The investment in education needs to be comprehensive, beginning with early childhood and parent education as the foundation and the long-term investment to our economy. We all need to do our part to ensure that our schools and colleges and universities are the best by offering a superb quality learning environments and by having the most qualified teachers and professors. San Antonio needs to be seen as the city that understands and supports the importance of a good education in order to sustain a strong economy.
We also will need to continue to support tourism, but want it with living wages. I can see San Antonio growing further economically by building on our rich history and culture. I would like our relationship with Mexico, Central America and Spain to be as strong economically as it is with our “Sister City” of Japan.
Under my leadership, AVANCE was able to raise $5 million to renovate the historic Heimann Building. We were able to do it with new Market Tax Credits and Historic Tax Credits and with partnerships with banks, foundations, city and federal governments, as well as individual fundraising. We were able to restore a beautiful historic building, while at the same time improve a blighted area, and create jobs. We need to think outside the box, be creative and resourceful in improving our inner city. This is economic development, it produces jobs and makes San Antonio a better place to live, work and play.
How do you financially support yourself? How will you balance your work demands with your council responsibilities? Do you foresee any conflicts of interest between your profession (or former profession, if you’re retired) and a position on council? If so, how will you handle these?
I have my retirement plan, live on my husband’s pension, my social security, and we have rental property. I have my doctorate degree, and do periodic consulting work and get paid for speaking and writing. I am writing my second book. I do not plan to work full time if elected to City Council because I want to devote my full time to City Council. I do not foresee any conflict of interest between my previous profession and my prospective position on council. I have already asked a City of San Antonio attorney during our training session about my former position, and I was told that if I do not benefit directly or indirectly, I can vote on supporting early childhood education, as a program that would benefit the San Antonio community.
Should service on the San Antonio City Council provide a living wage? Why or why not?
I believe, as Lyle Larson does, that the San Antonio City Council should be provided a living wage. Mr. Larson made us understand that County Commissioners are paid a substantial amount of money and supposedly City Council has many more responsibilities to address at the local level, than County Commissioners at the county level. I believe it is not right to have this discrepancy between these two forms of government. How was this allowed to happen? Why public servants without pay at the city level and not at the county level? I am fortunate to be in a position to be able to serve full-time on the City Council without pay, but not too many people are able to so. It keeps good, qualified people who TRULY want to make our city better from running for office; they simply cannot afford to do so. Also, this situation can possibly encourage people to depend on “special interest” people to fund their campaign, and with that, decisions that they may make in the future may not be in the best interest of the people that they represent and that they were elected to serve. So, it is better that good qualified people have an opportunity to bring their time, talents and skills to solve the problems and serve the interest of the people that elect them to office.
It is the City Council that is ultimately accountable to the people, not the City Manager. One way to find the funds to pay a living wage to the City Council, is to reduce the $300,000 salary of the City Manager. I would also consider the consolidation of the County and City governments for efficiency and effectiveness. This would enable these needed changes to come about so that the City Council can work full time and get paid a living wage for the people of the second largest city in Texas, and the seventh largest in the nation. It is time to make this change!!!
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I believe that government should be responsive, transparent, open and “by the people, for the people and of the people.”
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