San Antonio City Council District 7 Race 2021
Note: Names are listed in order of appearance on the ballot according to the city clerks' office. Answers from candidates have not been edited or fact-checked.
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Patricia Ann Varela
Did not respond.*
Ana E. Sandoval
Q: What is your experience with city government? For instance, have you ever served on a city board or commission?
A: I am currently seeking reelection to a third term representing District 7. In my almost 4 years in office, I have served in the following capacities representing the City of San Antonio: -City Council Committees: *Community Health and Equity, Chair (2017-Present); The committee oversees policies, plans and programs that affect the quality of life of our residents. Its responsibilities include the protection and enhancement of the natural environment, public health, education and the development of equitable social services. The Committee considers policies regarding climate preparedness and resiliency, libraries, solid waste and recycling, parks and other community-oriented services. *Governance Committee, (2017 - Present); The committee is responsible for proposing, reviewing and referring new policy initiatives to staff or other City Council Committees for action. *Public Safety (2017 - Present), Chair (2018 - 2019); The committee is responsible for establishing policies and programs related to fire protection, emergency management, EMS service delivery, police and law enforcement, and judicial procedures. Also, they are charged with developing community-focused initiatives—not only limited to emergency services—and crafting policy that strengthens the bonds among residents and public safety officials. *Transportation and Mobility, formerly Transportation Committee, (2017 - present); The committee reviews plans and projects that are designed to enhance connectivity and mobility of all kinds, including the airport and air service enhancements, congestion reduction projects, transit improvements and multimodal transportation options. *Inter-Governmental Relations, (August 2019 – March 2020); IGR coordinates the City's legislative policy development and lobbying activities and considers policies and programs that promote interagency cooperation. *Audit and Accountability, (June 2020 – present); The committee provides guidance and oversight of the Office of the City Auditor in the performance of its responsibilities, including municipal audits. Additionally, the committee shall review and provide policy recommendations that promote transparency, accountability and trust in City functions. Included in the charge will be the review of high-profile contracts. -Select Committee on the 2021 Winter Storm Preparedness and Response, member, (February 2021-present); The committee created by the Mayor, is comprised of City Councilmembers and community stakeholders, to study the preparedness and response to the winter weather event and make recommendations on future preparedness efforts. -COVID-19 Community Response and Equity Coalition, City Council Liaison, (2020- Present), Meets weekly with City stakeholders to advise Metro Health on the COVID-19 response. -COVID-19 Community Action Working Groups, Business and Employment Working Group, Co-Chair, March 2020, worked as a strike team to focus on areas in the community impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Worked to identify measures to mitigate the immediate areas of impact in the community, recommend measures for long-term recovery, and identify local / state / federal resources to assist the community. -COVID-19 Health Transition Team, City Council Liaison, (April 2020); Developed and released a multi-phase plan for reopening our community as safely as possible on April 28, 2020. The plan offered guidance based on public health evidence, data, and expertise to re-open San Antonio and Bexar County. -Ad Hoc Committee on Council Aide Compensation, member, (September 2019 – present) reviewing and recommending best practices for City Council Aide compensation and benefits. -City of San Antonio Municipal Court Advisory Committee, member, (November 2019 - present) reviewing the current municipal court judges and making recommendations to City Council for approval. -Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, (2018 - Present); CAAP, City Council Liaison to the Steering Committee; advise and make recommendations on the CAAP. -Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, MPO, Transportation Policy Board, member (August 2017 – present), executive committee member (August 2019-present), Representing the City of San Antonio to oversee the continuous, comprehensive, and cooperative transportation planning process conducted for the metropolitan area. The TPB approves all transportation projects in the region for federal funding, altogether over $200 million in projects annually. -San Antonio Mobility Coalition, SAMCo, City of San Antonio Representative, (August 2019 – present); Advocates for highway, transit, and freight rail funding for the greater San Antonio region. SAMCo members include Bexar County, City of San Antonio, VIA Metropolitan Transit, the Alamo RMA, AACOG, other local governments, major San Antonio headquartered corporations, chambers of commerce, the transportation construction and supply industry, the real estate development community, the financial sector, consulting engineers and other interested organizations. -National League of Cities, 2021 Transportation and Infrastructure Services Committee, appointed member to represent San Antonio; Members of NLC’s Federal Advocacy Committees play a key role among a diverse group of local leaders in shaping NLC’s policy positions and advocating on behalf of America’s cities and towns before Congress, with the administration and at home. https://www.nlc.org/advocacy/federal-advocacy-committees/ -2017 City of San Antonio Neighborhood Improvements Bond Committee, Appointed member representing District 7, (2016); Identified 12 improvement neighborhoods in San Antonio for acquisition of land to prepare sites for development of workforce housing. -Also worked in local public agencies: *Two years working as a strategic planner at VIA interacting with local governments *Eight years the Bay Area Air Quality Management District working with local government in environmental planning, environmental justice, climate planning, and public information roles with local residents and city governments in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area
Q: What is an issue relevant to your specific district that you would like to change or address?
A: One of the most challenging and long-term issues for District 7 is its infrastructure: streets, sidewalks, and drainage. Streets: Since taking office I have voted for a 50% increase in funding for the maintenance and repairs of District 7 neighborhood streets. While there might be more funding, the needs are still great to ensure our roadways are maintained across the district. Major thoroughfares: I also established the Bandera Road Corridor Working Group to develop a plan, through public participation and collaboration with stakeholders, for sustainable modes of transportation, better traffic management, and a pathway for future community development. The needs for Bandera Rd, State Hwy 16, are estimated to be over $200 Million for a new comprehensive design and highway expansion. As the district grows, we must ensure sustainability and mobility along corridors therefore I advocated and received funding to launch the Culebra Road Transportation Study. The study will evaluate and receive public input on the estimated $27 Million needed for safety improvements for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Sidewalks: The City has a $1 Billion need for funding to fill its sidewalk gaps. I have worked to increase and prioritize sidewalk funding in areas to and from schools, bus stops, parks, libraries, senior centers, and critical areas for pedestrian connectivity. My office has advocated for comprehensive mobility solutions to include pedestrian infrastructure in city planning and seek innovative solutions. Drainage: District 7 has the highest number of structures in the 100-year flood plain and a documented need of over $220 Million in drainage projects. While the City has made some progress there is still much to be done. Drainage infrastructure is the resiliency of our City to be sustainable through the increasingly severe weather events and ensuring the life safety of residents. I look forward to the upcoming opportunities to bring more infrastructure dollars to improve the quality of life of District 7 residents and our business owners.
Q: If you are the incumbent, what are you most proud of during your time in office so far?
A: The adoption of the 10 Principles for Public Participation by City Council which changed how the City interacts with its residents. Engaged citizens are fundamental to the health of our City government. The successful development of policy and implementation of City programs depends on meaningful civic engagement, which also engenders trust between the community and our public institutions and adds another measure of accountability. Our City’s programs will only be strengthened through meaningful civic engagement that ensures participation by all those interested and impacted.
Q: Voters will decide on Proposition B this May — a potential repeal of collective bargaining rights for the San Antonio Police Officers Association. Do you support repealing collective bargaining or do you believe it should remain in place?
A: Our government process allowed for the public to gather petition signatures to place Proposition B on the ballot. I believe in accountability and transparency not just with our first responders, but across all City departments. As a former union member, I support our City Employees’ ability to negotiate pay, benefits, and terms of employment. Proposition B is on the ballot, and it is up to the voters to decide.
Q: Many residents have called for significant discipline reform for San Antonio Police officers in contract negotiations which are being debated right now between the city and the police union. What changes or reform — if any — would you like to see?
A: I support the City’s priorities established for SAPD's collective bargaining: 1) Discipline and Transparency: impose discipline from 180 days from the date the Chief knew or should have known of the incident, consider all past conduct for disciplinary actions, modify timeframes in disciplinary process, maintain appeal process for finding of fact, City has the final decision on discipline, and annual Officer Performance Evaluation. 2) Operational Improvements: Scheduling - City should determine the hours of training; Working hours - City should determine working hours of units within the Department; Leave - City shall determine leave policies for all employees; Civilianization - City should have authority to civilianize any assignment that does not require arrest powers. 3) Fiscal Responsibility: Contract changes should be in line with the City’s Financial policies and current economic conditions; Public Safety spending should remain at less than 66% of General Fund.
Q: Voters passed the Ready to Work SA initiative in November which creates funding for job training and support services like childcare for people to seek new trades — especially for those who lost their job in the pandemic — using a sales tax for the next five years. Do you feel this was the right approach to addressing not only job losses but to also grow the talent pool for industries in San Antonio?
A: I believe the Ready to Work program will help thousands of residents recover from the pandemic and achieve financial stability. It is unclear that the Ready to Work program will begin quickly enough to meet the immediate needs of those who lost their jobs, but it will certainly help fill critical vacancies in the bioscience, health care, construction, and information technology industries.
Q: What changes — if any — do you feel are needed at CPS Energy and the San Antonio Water System following the winter storm?
A: The winter storm had a devastating impact on our community, especially to our most vulnerable populations. I believe improved communication and transparency is needed as extreme weather events are approaching, during, and after to ensure the safety of the community. CPS Energy, SAWS, and the City of San Antonio need to improve their communication protocols to include redundancies and methods when power/internet/cell phones are down. Improved communications and preparation for the public must be established for potential long-term outages or rolling outages. The taxpayers approved the construction of the City’s $24.5 Million Emergency Operations Center and it should be mobilized for in person cooperation and collaboration during storm events. CPS Energy and SAWs are reliable but not resilient. In February 2021 I called for the creation of and was appointed to serve on the Committee on Emergency Preparedness. We are studying the preparedness and response of the public utilities and will make recommendations on future preparedness efforts.
Q: What is one policy or priority that you would introduce as a council consideration request that has not already been submitted or considered?
A: I would propose a policy for the creation of a Community Improvement Team. The City interacts with residents in many different ways; such as weekly trash/recycle/organics collections or for larger clean up projects in a community. I would like to create a policy which would leverage city resources and services across its departments to maximize improvements in a neighborhood. For example, if Public Works has a major street repair project on a street, the City’s Parks Department may plant trees to enhance the project and add shade. The Neighborhood Housing Services Department could then be asked to come in and provide program resource materials for homeowners or renters, such as the City’s One Roof or Housing Improvement Programs. The goal with the cross departmental collaboration would be to improve the quality of life of residents in the community.
* denotes candidates who did not respond to survey requests sent via email and/or phone calls by time of publication.
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