The voice of Julian Cisneros

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton found her “own voice” in New Hampshire in early 2008. People noticed that something was different when her inner passion emerged as she spoke. Unofficial candidate for mayor Julian Castro may have found his own voice, too: It is that of former Mayor Henry

I heard the Cisneros voice and sensed his signature restless energy when Castro addressed a July 16 meeting of the Westside YMCA. The gestures said it all: I’m following the path of my mentor and family friend Henry Cisneros. Julian may have the right idea; it did work for Cisneros when he was first elected 27 years ago.

Later that day, at a birthday-party fundraiser for Queen Mother Mary Alice Cisneros, Castro was the emcee. During the program, Councilwoman Cisneros made it clear to the jubilant and fawning court: We back Castro in his upcoming run. The sword has been gently placed on his right shoulder; let the full majestic Cisneros court restoration begin. (And yes, the former mayor was standing guard over the festivities.)

You can only imagine District 8 Councilwoman and unofficial mayoral candidate Diane Cibrian — the vivacious, dark-haired princess — rolling her eyes in the back of the room. I can even read her mind: Julian, just you wait till I tell Northside voters that you “earned” your million dollars by referring a case to personal-injury lawyer Mikal Watts. My District 8 doctors, who loathe trial lawyers, will go nuts when they hear this one.

Castro’s presentation at the Y will mostly likely serve as a framework for his campaign. He laid the groundwork with Cisneros-style macro thinking. This is a “time for choosing,” as we run the risk of being “just like every American City.” We need a “sense of community.” It is his “concern about the road ahead” that convinces him that we need to “get together and form a plan.” The plan would be a “Target 90” style plan, an “opportunity” to “form an agenda” for San Antonio. Castro says we need to “do that again.”

Mayor, written in 1997, by current Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, describes the genesis of this Cisneros master plan. “The draft was called ‘San Antonio: Target 90 — Goals and Decisions for San Antonio’s Future.’ It was a compilation of 148 specific projects or program initiatives that he wanted San Antonio to achieve by 1990.” Wolff goes on to say, “No one had any idea how to calculate the cost of the entire program. It didn’t matter. Henry was reelected with 91 percent of the vote.”

Castro’s belief in “collective knowledge” will only be realized when we “reach across” the city to formulate a plan. He applauds “sectors” that have been “stars.” This includes “military medical training and research” and the work being done at the Southwest Research Institute. They are examples of “what’s possible.” Castro also mentions the “Toyota investment,” “information security,” and the success of “Rackspace.”

Castro advocates a “collaborative effort” among 17 school districts, even though the city has a “spectator role to play.” He describes how former Mayor Cisneros would “write authors,” encouraging them to include San Antonio in their fiction. Why? We need to “sell this city better.” The “rest of the nation” should know what we know. This is classic Cisneros.

The former councilman also recommends that we “integrate colleges and universities” into the city so they are surrounded by “cafés” and “bookstores.” Castro would also launch a citywide “book festival.” This would “set us apart as a city.” We need to do all of this to promote a “culture of achievement.” He concludes by saying we need to “strengthen neighbors and family” so we can be “greater in the future.”

Castro is animated and enthusiastic. His “I went to Harvard” tone occasionally escapes, but he does his best to rein it in.

What Castro said is not as important as what he did not say. Castro never mentions the massive transportation issues this city faces. How can you build a “sense of community” when you are always stuck in San Antonio traffic and our public-transportation system isn’t viable for most work commutes?

How can we “sell” San Antonio when women, children, and young men of color are being shot down due to gang violence? How do we make government more efficient and responsive to our growing population of seniors? I could go on and on.

Julian, let Henry be Henry. Find your own voice that addresses the real issues of this city. That is the voice I did not hear. •

Joe Solis publishes The South Texas Republican newsletter and blogs for The Walker Report.

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