West San Antonio Chamber Responsible Growth Forum

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It was a treat to be at the West San Antonio Chamber Responsible Growth Forum to hear four San Antonio City Council members, two of them brand new, speak to an important segment of the business community – the West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce -- on Wednesday, July 17.

Ellen Berky, LIV’s San Antonio Board Member, and Linda Curtis who serves as LIV’s state coordinator (a Bastrop resident) attended together. (Note: LIV is an all-volunteer non-profit, 501c4 organization.)

This forum entitled “Responsible Growth” was moderated jointly by the Executive Director of the West Chamber, Kristina Villanueva, and State Representative and former Councilman, Ray Lopez. Selected questions from the chamber membership were presented to the four panel members.

We were impressed with the responses of Melissa Havdra (District 6) and Adriana Garcia (District 4). Both of them are highly intelligent and were genuine in their answers to question. We have already seen Councilmember Perry (District 10) in action and always appreciate his candor. Councilmember Pelaez (District 8) used his substantial speaking skills to maneuver himself out of a hotseat regarding his vote on the paid sick leave ordinance, and took a potshot at the Texas think tank which has been proposing that San Antonio privatize CPS Energy. This was our take on the meaning of his quite long answer. He (and "everyone") thought the Legislature would pass legislation to stop municipalities passing paid sick law ordinances. In other words -- again, our interpretation -- this was really for show by some city officials.

In addition to the sick leave issue, which came to the forefront just as the morning paper reported legal action seeking to invalidate the City’s ordinance, the panel applied their critical faculties to economic development and urban transportation. Councilman Perry went on record opposing increases in car registration fees for what he characterized as the most ‘economically segregated metro area in the United States’ and said the cost for ConnectSA is ‘almost insurmountable’. Councilwoman Garcia focused on how to get young people back to San Antonio after they have been educated elsewhere and said that the city needs to "stop pretending" that we have a great economic development track record, and "get better".

What was quite noticeable to us is that no question was asked about the actual topic of the forum – Responsible Growth. A question we were hoping for was, this: Is the waiver of $87 million (over 10 years) in developer impact fees related to the Vista Ridge Water Supply Project ‘responsible’ in terms of the city's utilization of one of the few tools they have to, though modestly, make growth pay for itself?

Note that Councilman Perry, the most “pro-business” member currently on the Council (along with progressive Councilmen John Courage and populist, Greg Brockhouse) voted against the waiver. Pelaez voted for the impact fee waivers which passed in May of this year. Garcia and Havdra were not yet on Council.

The last question – about the Climate Action Plan – was extremely important. You may know that Mayor Nirenberg is now referring to the “climate emergency” and calling for serious action. The response from Council members at this forum – Havdra, Perry and Garcia (Pelaez was unable to respond to the climate question due to time constraints) – was pretty clear. They, understandably, want to see the real numbers for the costs involved in the climate action plan. Our contention here at LIV

Our question on climate action would have been about what can be done now to stop the city’s continued quest to build out the metroplex – a major driver of manmade heat generation. We borrow again here from Fernando Centeno and his article entitled, “The basis of many of our climate woes – the city’s metroplex vision,” printed in the Express News on March 9, 2019:

The most glaring missing piece from the city of San Antonio’s proposed Climate Action and Adaptation Plan directly impacts the three pillars that define sustainability: economic, environmental and social factors.

Namely, there is no discussion or consideration of replacing the city’s long-standing “urban planning” model, which defines success in business terms rather than in socioeconomic terms.

This issue is ramping up and we – the independents – intend to be part of the conversation. Any serious climate action plan must start with what can be done now to stop the city from doing more harm to itself. Vista Ridge is a danger to not one, but two aquifers.

Make sure you join LIV and hold onto your hats for the very bumpy ride, y’all.

PS If you think we need a voter association (not a party) for independent voters (that's LIV), don't forget to pay your LIV dues to keep this all-volunteer outfit working for you.

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