Early voting begins today for local, May 9, elections. Following is the fourth profile of leading candidates in the 14-person race for San Antonio mayor. (Watch the video with candidate Ivy Taylor below.)
In the kitchen of her historic East Side home, San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor samples the chicken salad she’s fixing for her daughter. Something about the taste isn’t quite right.
“Maybe I put too much pickle relish in it,” she says to 11-year old Morgan.
“It needs sugar,” her daughter suggests.
Having a Saturday lunch with Morgan is a rare treat for Taylor. Her schedule as mayor and candidate cut deeply into her time at home. Her daughter points that out.
“Sometimes it gets annoying because I don’t get to spend that much time with her anymore,” says Morgan.
Her mother understands but sees a bigger, long-range plan.
“Certainly at the top of the list of who I am is a wife and a mom. Even though I feel a little guilty about missing time away from her I feel excited I’m providing an example of being engaged and making the community better and being a leader.”
Religion, Education and a Path to the Mayor’s Office
In her private and public lives, 44-year old Taylor is a planner, always looking ahead.
Her unlikely path to becoming San Antonio’s first black mayor began in the Brooklyn borough of New York City where she was raised in a strict religious home. She still wears a gold cross around her neck and looks to God for inspiration.
“My faith guides me and I pray for wisdom daily,” she explains.
Taylor was the first in her family to earn a college degree when she graduated from Yale. She then received a master’s in urban planning; worked six years as a planner for the City of San Antonio, and then signed on with an affordable housing program.
She won the District 2 city council seat in 2009.
“When I came on the council my passion was about restoring neighborhoods that have been left behind. And providing opportunities for people left behind. I don’t like the idea that people feel I have to move to a certain side of town if I want to experience a certain quality of life.”
Taylor says one of her proudest political accomplishments as a council member was securing over $50 million federal dollar to revitalize the East Side of town which has struggled with unemployment and poverty.
She would still be sitting in that council seat if President Obama hadn’t tapped former mayor Julian Castro to head the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development last year.
Taylor’s council colleagues elected her to fill Castro’s term. She said then she didn’t plan to campaign for the job but she changed her mind.
“I thought and prayed about it for a long time and there are some things that I started working on I’d like to see through.”
Taylor the Planner
One of those things is the SA Tomorrow Plan. Taylor recently kicked it off with an event that invited citizens to envision the kind of city they want to live in. The blueprint being developed will guide transportation, design and infrastructure projects for 25 years. This is Taylor’s candy shop- she loves this stuff.
She contributed by drawing porches on a wall chart filled with lots of other ideas for the San Antonio of tomorrow.
“I asked him to put up more front porches because I like people being neighborly. I’m a trained planner this is really why I’m serving in elected office.”
Taylor’s insistence on long-range planning helped push through council approval for the $3 billion pipeline that will transport water from North Texas to San Antonio.
Other decisions have drawn a bullseye on her back as she campaigns for mayor.
Opponents have blasted her for the city not reaching an agreement on a new police union contract. And for ride-hailing company Uber leaving town when Taylor and others insisted Uber drivers be fingerprinted to ensure passenger safety.
But it’s her vote against a non-discrimination ordinance two years ago that’s recently caused her grief.
“I don’t hate anyone. I respect all people. I don’t believe in discrimination,” she said emphatically after a week of encounters with the LGBT community.
The ordinance Taylor opposed that’s now in effect, prohibits discrimination against lesbians, gays, bi-sexual and transgender people.
Taylor explains her vote this way.
“I did vote for domestic partner benefits for city employees in 2011, but in 2013, when we had a non-discrimination ordinance that was proposed, it went beyond the City of San Antonio organization. It included language that stated if you were a business that did business with the City this had to be your standard as well,” she said
“And I felt that was getting outside the reach of where government should go, and this could place small business owners in a gray zone where they might have to make choices between their faith and the law.”
Taylor declined to say whether her own Baptist faith influenced her vote against the non-discrimination ordinance. She says as mayor she’ll enforce the law and she’s working to develop a closer relationship with the LGBT community.
TPR is working with NowCastSA to produce videos with Taylor and other mayoral candidates.