District 5 Seeking a new identity

District 5 battles poverty and its consequences

Pattie Radle, District 5 incumbent

In terms of median income, District 5 is one of the poorest in San Antonio, including some areas that earn less than $13,000 annually. To combat the high poverty rates, community organizers are touting increased funding for educational programs such as Project Quest, which provides job-training opportunities for low-income residents. Poor roads, crime, and homelessness also affect the district.

Among those who want to address these issues are Raymond Zavala, a retired military officer who runs a youth organization at St. Agnes Catholic Church; Radle, the incumbent; and Don Wilkins Castillo, a retired Vietnam veteran who serves as counselor and chaplain for the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Current: Do you support increased funding for educational programs, particularly with respect to literacy, scholarships, job training, early childhood development, and after school programs?

RZ: Yes I do. I will not only ask for it, I will demand that it happen. We are way overdue on this. Too many people have been promised a lot of things, as far as education, but somehow the voters aren't getting the message to go out there and do something about it. So I support that wholeheartedly.

PR: Totally, yes. That's what we've been all about.

DC: I do believe in increasing the funds for the education, because it's an important issue. It's very interesting for the youth, especially when they're eager to go to college and make new deals of themselves. It's very important. It's part of life.

Current: Do you support increasing the sales tax to meet these ends?

RZ: Yes, especially the sin tax. In this neighborhood, which is a very low-paying neighborhood, people are struggling, and we need to invest in the future of this district. And that is one of the options.

PR: I support considering all resources. So I would consider the sales tax for that.

DC: I think so. I think an increase in tax should be a good idea, because everything's going up. Tuition, you know. High cost living.

Current: Do you support increased funding for Project Quest?

RZ: To be honest with you, every year Project Quest keeps asking for more and more money. I believe that it's a good program to be in, but there are other programs that need funding as well. My concept is this: You start cutting back on the funding for Project Quest, and funnel some of the cutbacks over to another program of equal value. Now, I say this, and I know it's a very unpopular stand to take, but it's just like `Parent/Child Incorporated`. The top people are getting the most funds, while the instructors or teachers get very little. Let's put the brakes on. Let's make sure that each program is run properly. I have three beliefs: accountability, accountability, and accountability. Because when you let others go unaccounted for, you'll end up with a mess like PCI. The lady was making like $250,000. And what about the other people?

PR: Yes. I have to clarify that. Project Quest needs to be moved out of the community initiatives. It needs to be put in economic development. In the context of that, we should go back to adopting it as our workforce development program and not just as another little program out there that has to compete with after school programs, compete with children's dance classes. That's not the realm for that. And we're always putting money into skills training and job development, you know. So if we've said that that's so important to us, why aren't we stepping up and doing that for Project Quest?

DC: That would be a new issue. But if it's based on education or anything that's good for the future, I think I'd want it.

Current: Do you support increased funding for the repair of San Antonio's streets, particularly with respect to paving and the construction of sidewalks, curbs, and infrastructure? If so, how do you plan to raise the funds?

RZ: Yes, I do. And I have other plans, unlike the current City Council, on how to attain those street repairs without increasing property taxes. I'll give you one example - and I have various examples - but I'll give you one. Take VIA, for example. That fiasco bus stop that they've created. Who pays for that? The rider-ship. Some of them are homeowners. Some of them are barely making it on what they're making. So we're going to have to get tough on these companies that use our streets. For example, right there at Frio and Guadalupe, there's a major bump there. It's been there forever. Why? Because during the summer the asphalt gets hot and starts to deteriorate, and the buses just create a hump. Uncalled for.

PR: Yes. It's one of the top priorities of a lot of my constituents. For one thing, we have this federal government money that we're anticipating coming. It's called the 108. And we've designated a lot of projects to be funded through the 108, building repair and streets and such. But for the future, past that, we would have an opportunity for a bond election in '07, and I'd like to see a lot of that designated for infrastructure. However, if Proposition 13 passes, and if our tax base stays the same, our bonding capacity will be zero and we will not be able to go out for a bond.

DC: Yes, I do, because there needs to be a lot of repair on the West Side. It's very bad right now. We need to improve drainage, the streets, sidewalks. It's important. It's part of our taxes that we need to use. If I'm elected, I think I will bring that focus to the public, because San Antonio needs a lot of healing. There's too much going on. Only the North is getting the best, and we're not getting part of the pie.

Current: How will you address the concerns of those in District 5 who consider the homeless population excessive and a serious problem?

RZ: The one challenge for the homeless issue is that no one wants to see them in their neighborhood. Now, with the City Council passing these ordinances, it's made it tough for everybody. I, for example, am planning to go out and stay out one night with the homeless, because I want to see what it's like. I've never been homeless. But I want to see what their concerns are. And I know security and being leaned on a little bit is a major concern for them. We need to address this by funding various agencies that assist the homeless and get them back in society, they way it should be. That have compassion, compassion above all.

PR: I would continue to support the 10-year plan. I worked on the committee with many people for 16 months to come up with a plan to end chronic homelessness, people who are repeatedly out on the street. So I support the SAMM shelter and Christian Assistance Ministry, who are joining to find a new facility. We have supported, through funding, three day-centers, and I want to see us have one more. A day center where people who are homeless have somewhere to go during the day, where they can start finding out resources to get them off the street, whether it be education, whether it's a pair of glasses, identification recovery, child care.

DC: There was a bill passed sometime that they banned some issues about having homes for the homeless on the North Side. But we need to provide these people homes. They need to find a better place to live. A better place to avoid problems that we're having right now, because a lot of homeless are being cited. They passed an ordinance about soliciting. They need to find homes for the homeless. There's a lot of bad weather coming, and cold fronts. Summer. And there's a lot of deals going on. The homeless are being victimized of violence and of crime.

Current: How do you plan to decrease crime in District 5?

RZ: Every night when my wife and I drive by, checking the area out, making sure that things are the way they're supposed to be, I see SAPD, uniformed patrol officers talking on their cell phones. You can't be patrolling if you're cruising. Once again, we talk about accountability here. They asked for an increase in pay. City Council gave it to them without putting any kind of restrictions on them. I don't know of any job that allows you to have a cell phone and make personal phone calls when you're on the job. At work, we're not allowed to use out cell phone during office hours, because production goes down. We need a more visible force, but with compassion for the people. And I'm talking about all people. Not just Hispanics, the Caucasians, or the blacks. I'm talking about everybody. The elderly, the youth. And we should enforce a curfew. It used to be that by 9:00, you had to be home. Nowadays, these young kids, they hang out together, they cause trouble, they ride around in cars. They should be home. And their parents should be held accountable for their actions.

PR: The efforts need to be put into these other programs early on. Education, job skills training. We need also drug rehab and alcohol rehab. Our city has access to 24 detox beds, and we know there's a whole lot more than 24 alcoholics out there on the streets, or wherever there are people who can't afford the detox. So I have been advocating for drug rehab or detox centers. I most recently had a meeting with Community Initiatives and the Center for Health Care Services to start working on a safe haven for women particularly involved in prostitution and the terrible cycle of violence and crime, and to focus on them, not just stop them from prostituting, but help them change their entire lifestyle.

DC: To bring the attention that we do have a racial profile. But the deal is, we need more police protection, because we also pay taxes.

Current: Are there any additional issues that you believe warrant close attention in the coming term?

RZ: Yes. Two years ago, those that were running for office, including myself, knew the pay for City Council. I say this. To me, the definition of public service means serving the public for free. If you knew how much they were going to pay you before you took that job offer, and after you get in you want to change it and you want a bigger salary, well then you had no business going in there in the first place. Now, in relation to the City Manager, if I'm elected, I will hold the City Manager accountable for everything that doesn't happen that should have happened. You know, I see the city workers riding around all day long not doing anything, wasting gas. Gas is a precious commodity right now. Accountability. And no misunderstandings. Accountability. That's what it's all about. I've always said, if City Council can't make do with what they're getting, then they shouldn't be there.

PR: I think continuing to work on lifting up what the really wonderful things are in District 5. I think we've had kind of an identity crisis for a long time, because we have very often been shown on the news, because of our violence. And if District 5 was so terribly violent and such a threatening place to live, those of us who are here wouldn't continue to be here and love it for so long. And so why do we stay? People see somebody getting murdered in an ambulance on Saturday night, but they don't see what's happening at Guadalupe Cultural Arts `Center`. They don't see the new Visual Arts Center that's being built. They don't see what's happening at the Good Samaritan Center for all the children there. So many wonderful things happening in our district. So we're going to continue to uplift that through our District 5 T.V. show and through our newsletter and any other community meetings and opportunities that we have.

DC: Well, all I know is that District 5 needs a lot of improvement. It's been kept aside, but we need a lot - even though I'm not a pro, but at least I'm learning - but like I said, we need a new change. A new vision for District 5. A better district. You know, better living. `I'd like to improve` the neighborhood watch for the senior citizens, because they're beginning to be victims of crime. There's a lot of home invasion going on.

Text and interviews by Brian Chasnoff

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