Piling on SA2020 group think this Thursday

Build a rail transit system. Bring back the go-cart track at HemisFair Park. Reopen the sky ride at Brackenridge/Koehler Park. These are just a few suggestions for improving public transportation in San Antonio flowing from SA2020, the citywide public forum on improving life in the Alamo City launched last month.

The effort, seeking input from all strata of Alamo City, whether grocery store magnate or public-school student, moves into phase two Thursday when it converges on McCollum High School on the city’s south side.

Rackspace Chairman Graham Weston and Elaine Mendoza, president and CEO of Conceptual MindWorks, SA2020 co-chairs along with Mayor Julián Castro, briefed members of the San Antonio City Council about the process last week during B Session in the municipal complex at Main Plaza. They reported that the first public-input meeting, or as they say in France, charrette, drew 1,100 participants.

“We have 800 friends on Facebook,” Weston boasted to Mayor Castro, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, and several council members, before insisting SA2020 is not a rehash of the old Target 90 or other, similar plans and studies that have flowed from City Hall over past decades. (Some of you old-timers will remember City Hall actually paid $50,000 for a study in the late 1980’s that focused on how to make Southsiders feel better about themselves; it’s gathering dust on a bookshelf somewhere).

“We’re starting from scratch, this is a very different city,” Weston told the QueQue last week with obvious enthusiasm for the visioning process. “Today we’re a contender, and we’re in the most prosperous state in the nation … We should let ourselves continue to grow into a powerful city but retain that small town culture and way of life.”

Comments made by citizens during the first meeting in this latest charrette are posted on the SA2020.org website.

A common thread among the comments regards transportation. And not all of those stop at go-carts.

“Today, land uses in San Antonio are very segregated, making cars necessary for most movement from place to place,” wrote Paula Grennes, one survey participant whose comments are posted online.

“Urban sprawl threatens our mobility and the economy of families who must spend a large percentage of their income on transportation,” wrote survey participant (and Alamo Area Council of Government’s eco conscience) Peter Bella.

Weston said the SA2020 organization so far has collected 800 such survey replies.

“We would like to have thousands and thousands of surveys,” he told council members last week.

Students at UTSA were recently encouraged via email to participate in the survey. Weston and Mendoza said St. Philip’s College students and even the kiddos at McCollum and Harlandale high schools will be surveyed.

Weston said the Southside meeting is important to solicit input from residents from that side of town (perhaps it might improve their self esteem without the $50,000 price tag). “We want to ensure the voices of all members of the city are represented. We hope to get a disproportionate number of non-Northsiders,” he said.

Coastal Bend cities, including Corpus Christi and surrounding communities, underwent a similar process beginning about two years ago.

“This has proven to work in other communities. All of us will have a strong voice as to what the final product will look like,” Mendoza said. “Our committee does not see this as the mayor’s and this city council’s plan. It has to be grassroots to be authentic. Each of our leaders needs to leave ego at the door.”

Mayor Castro said the goals that could be established after gathering such input would not be “super specific,” but would “create a framework for folks who are doing important work.” But even he couldn’t help but wonder aloud: “How do you create something broad but specific enough to be useful?” That remains to be seen. 6:30pm Thurs, Oct 28, McCollum High School, 500 W Formosa, sa2020.org.

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