Down To The Wire: The Race For San Antonio's District Seven
The mayor’s race has gotten all the attention, but San Antonio voters will also decide on a representative for City Council District 7 in the June 13 run-off election.
Incumbent Council Member Cris Medina faces challenger Mari Aguirre-Rodriguez, who temporarily held Medina’s seat last year when he took a leave of absence.
District 7 stretches from the jogging trails of Woodlawn Lake to the busy and newly developed neighborhoods of Loop 1604 and Braun Road. It’s a district that includes the retro-looking Deco District; heavily trafficked Bandera Road; and architectural landmarks including Jefferson High School and homes in the Monticello Park Neighborhood.
Neighborhood Association President Bianca Maldonado says District 7 is about as diverse as you can get.
‘We need an individual that’s willing to reach out to all different areas and identify and follow up on them,” Maldonado said. “You know, my street concern is way different than the street concern on the northern end.”
Maldonado has lived in the neighborhood about 11 years. She said she and the association are concerned about the area’s aging infrastructure and business development. She contrasts the vacant store fronts here with the prominent companies settling in on the outskirts of town.
“We don’t want this to become an abandoned area. We want to promote business growth in these communities,” she said. “Just like we incentivize people from Toyota and Microsoft to go build on the outer areas of the city, we need to incentivize people to (come) back into the core of the city.”
Aguirre-Rodriguez Zeroes In On Congestion, Business Investment
Aguirre-Rodriguez said she believes District 7 is the most congested among districts, with busy streets like Callaghan, Babcock and Bandera. She wants the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), the City of Leon Valley and San Antonio to collaborate on solutions.
“Our growth has outpaced Bandera Road’s capacity, that’s on us. And I think the people who live at Bandera and Loop 1604, who pay tons of taxes, need to hear that and need to have a solution that comes to mind quickly,” Aguirre-Rodriguez said. “We have passed the buck on that for a really long time.”
Aguirre-Rodriguez also wants to set up small business locations with more than one business sharing the same space.
“I see every empty store front as … an opportunity for a small business owner to take over and provide for his family and drive our economy,” she added.
She believes residents in District 7 want a change in district leadership.
“The residents have decided that (Medina) is not effective. I think it’s less about me and more about the fact that they’re frustrated. They have needs, they have concerns, and they want them addressed.”
We attempted for two days to contact Councilmember Medina for an interview, but he did not make himself available until Thursday evening after our story was initially written. On the phone, we asked him about his vision for the district.
Medina Says He's Improved District Infrastructure
Medina said there’s no silver bullet to fix Bandera Road, and he agrees the city and TxDOT need to work together. He claims the district received more money than other districts from the city’s 2012 bond program, including some $30 million for flood channels surrounding Woodlawn Lake.
“(The district received) another $10 million to $15 million in street infrastructure to repair the streets that haven’t been touched in 50, 60 years,” he said. “So, I think we were very successful in allocating and getting dollars back into the district where it’s needed the most,” Medina said.
Medina said he’s actively working with the Westside Development Corporation to bring more businesses to the district.
“We’ve got a lot of needs. There’s nobody that can match our record of service for more than four years of delivering results to the community, whether it’s been drainage relief, flood control projects, infrastructure improvements, having a focus on graffiti issues, or code compliance issues,” Medina said.
About 10,000 people voted in District 7 during the May 9th election. Medina received 47 percent of the vote in a race with five candidates. Aguirre-Rodriguez received 27 percent. Medina feels confident he'll keep his seat in the June 13 run-off election. Aguirre-Rodriguez believes the momentum has shifted and she can win.