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Candidate Forum: Teri Castillo, Rudy Lopez Vie To Be The New Representative Of City Council District 5

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Political newcomers Teri Castillo and Rudy Lopez are headed to a runoff in the race to represent District 5 as current City Council member Shirley Gonzales terms out after eight years in office.

Neither candidate received a large enough percentage of the May primary vote to win outright. Educator Teri Castillo earned 30.65% of voter support and retired city employee Rudy Lopez received 15.65%.

San Antonio's poorest district is located between downtown and Lackland Air Force Base, with boundaries of Culebra Road to the north and Southcross Boulevard to the south. According to data from SA2020, District 5 per capita income is $13,257.

Creating and training for jobs that pay higher wages, affordable housing and education are the most debated issues in the race for District 5. Protecting neighborhoods from gentrification and repairing aging infrastructure are other top concerns.

Asked in a TPR candidate survey which district-specific issue she would like to address or change if elected, Castillo said: "We must shift our public money towards the public good and construct housing where San Antonio needs it the most, particularly for those who earn less than $22,580 a year."

Lopez did not respond to TPR candidate survey requests sent via email and/or phone calls by the time of publication.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What letter grade would you give Shirley Gonzales for the work that she's done for District 5? What have you learned from her or what would you want to do differently?

Teri Castillo: I would give her a D. I commend Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales for advocating for the equity budget. However, I believe it is imperative that we include community in the policy making process. Oftentimes, you know, we have public participation where the decision has already been made. I’ve spoken to too many folks while block walking who have collected signatures and petitions to ensure that they have their sidewalk and infrastructure needs met,all to have that petition ignored. So we need to be sure that one, we're ensuring that we're meeting with the community to ask where we want to see where our public money is spent. And two, we need to be sure that when we're finding affordable housing, we're having an honest conversation on what affordability is for District 5 working residents. For example, a lot of the newer projects are unaffordable to the established communities of District 5. And as the next Councilwoman, I'm going to ensure that when housing is produced, it's affordable to the existing constituents of District 5.

Rudy Lopez: I would give Shirley Gonzales an A. She has done amazing work in the district and bringing the district forward and trying to move us out of the disparities that we have in District 5. You know, being the president of a neighborhood association for four years and four years as vice president, I've had the chance to work with Shirley Gonzales and her staff as well. And I can say that they've been very responsive. You know, some of the things that she's worked on the equity lens and other projects have been beneficial for District 5, especially the equity lens.When we're looking at those areas that are in need and have the most need and we're funneling those funds into those areas in District 5 that that really need it, you know, the equity lens was was a perfect example. I think Shirley Gonzales has built a foundation that we need to keep on building on. Of course, we need affordable housing, and we need to be looking at that. We need to be taking care of our legacy homeowners.

What are your plans to protect residents from displacement and to protect the community from losing his historic fabric?

Teri Castillo: What we need is neighborhood stabilization, and through my work with the historic Westside Residents Association, we have gone before committees to ensure that the under one roof program, minor rehab program, programs that benefit us to establish communities to bring our homes up to code, minimizing predatory real estate practices is what we need to continue to do. In addition to that, we need to be sure that we're protecting our historic structures, do not buy a historic building, if you do not want to maintain the historic value of that building, we need to ensure that we mitigate predatory real estate practices. Again, by ensuring that we hold these practices and the people implementing these practices accountable. And investing in us again, established communities.

Rudy Lopez: First of all, we need to bring all the stakeholders to the table, right? And we need to make sure that we're doing what we need to do to preserve our neighborhoods. That's a notion that's important. And to do that, you need to be listening to the residents of that neighborhood, tearing down historic buildings. I don't believe in tearing down historic buildings unless it's necessary to bring progress into a neighborhood. The last thing we want to do is we don't want to stagnate our neighborhoods. We want to make sure that our neighborhoods are getting good paying jobs, we're getting good businesses and that we're getting quality homes. You know, as far as developers covenant, we need to hold those developers accountable to make sure that what they're doing is in the best interest of the community, and not in the best interest of a developer.

What is your stance on the CPS Energy announcement that they will begin to force disconnections this summer?

Rudy Lopez: I can't say that I agree with force disconnections, even in summer because we know that summer months are really hard on San Antonio, because you live in a very hot climate, you're in a very humid climate. I think that one of the things that we need to be looking at as well is that because of COVID, because of the winter storms, we need to be looking at those people who are vulnerable, and making sure that we're taking care of them and that we're not forcing closed energy services. So I can't say that I agree with it. I know that we need to look at it with a fine microscope and make sure that we're not hurting people at the end of the day.

Teri Castillo: Prior to COVID, a Trinity Professor conducted a study that highlighted that District 5 residents are disproportionately pulling out payday loans to pay their utilities. So why not? We know that there was an issue when it came to utilities prior to COVID. And the storm two we need to ensure that we are not disconnecting folks during this time. We are in the midst of multiple crises and an economic crisis and an environmental crisis. We should not be disconnecting folks' electricity. In addition to that, right, the city has emergency reserves. We are in the midst of COVID-19. And folks are still recovering from the storm. If we are not going to use those reserves now, then when?

What was your position on Proposition B, and how do you see the demand for police accountability in San Antonio?

Rudy Lopez: I was against Prop B, being a member of the city of San Antonio and a working civilian for the police department. I know the importance of unions and to go and take away the collective bargaining from the union is the worst thing you can do to a union. I think that the accountability issues could have been taken care of at the negotiating table, and they will be taken care of at the negotiating table. We shouldn't have had to go to a prop. So we just need to get the right people at that negotiating table to make sure that those problems are addressed. You know, I worked there for 17 years with the police department and there were many, many, many, many good people that work there. And they work really hard. And I know that every day they come home, they're happy to see their families and you know, they put their lives on the line. And when they get home at the end of the day, you know, we should appreciate the fact that they're doing that. I think that just because a few things that have happened in the past for the police department we'd have we would have been punishing many, many good officers.

Teri Castillo: I supported proposition B and I believe that police accountability is a non negotiable. Moving forward. I think it's important to have folks who have been impacted and are willing to speak on police accountability and having these conversations moving forward. I believe that moving forward we need to have a conversation about body cam footage and that if sapd officer has an incident, that that footage should not should be released immediately to families that are impacted by the incident and that I believe that families have the right to advocate on On behalf of their loved ones and sapd and the City Council our should not obstruct justice by denying families the right to access body cam footage. So moving forward, it's about including folks who have been impacted by the system and all community stakeholders on what police accountability looks like. In district five property received 52% of the vote. So that shows us that District 5 residents care about police accountability.

Guests:

  • Teri Castillo, candidate for District 5 on San Antonio City Council
  • Rudy Lopez, candidate for San Antonio City Council's District 5

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*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, May 19.