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Candidate Forum: Jada Andrews-Sullivan Faces Jalen McKee-Rodriguez In San Antonio's District 2 Runoff

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District 2 incumbent Jada Andrews-Sullivan is headed to a runoff against challenger Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, who earned the highest percentage of the May primary vote.

San Antonio’s D2 encompasses a large portion of the city’s East and Northeast Sides, and has experienced more turnover than any other council district, with six council members in seven years.

More than 21% of the district's population is African American — home base to nearly one-third of San Antonio’s African American residents. Among the important issues for its residents are economic development and police reform.

Andrews-Sullivan was first elected to San Antonio City Council in 2019. The incumbent touts first-term accomplishments including her introduction of a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis, economic-development and crime-abatement efforts. She says her second-term priorities will include "public safety, COVID vaccinations, affordable housing, economic development, and infrastructure."

McKee-Rodriguez is a math teacher and first-time City Council candidate, who says he's running because of "inconsistent representation" and "lackluster leadership." He advocates for an "overall healthier District 2," opposes "rapid gentrification of the neighborhood," and and has been endorsed by former Mayor Julián Castro, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro and the Texas Organizing Project.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Where does your campaign money come from?

Jada Andrews-Sullivan: Most of my money did come from within the City of San Antonio. It came from individuals. They came from different people that are in the development community, I will be honest about that. And it did not come with any incentives. It did not come with any promises. It did not come with any guarantees. It came with, “You are the one that is doing the job. And we respect you.” It came from earning that respect from people that see our campaign being in a positive light for our district, and it comes from people that are willing to work with us to get the amenities that we need to see for our community. So there are no strings attached. And the thankfulness of our campaign to those who see us as a guiding light as a strength for our district is how we've been receiving our money. And we are just grateful for those that are supportive for those gifts that have been given that test to be able to complete this journey.

Jalen McKee Rodriguez: I am absolutely not taking any money from developers. And I'm super proud to run the campaign that we've run so far. We're a grassroots campaign. We've received over 500 contributions from within San Antonio, and more District 2 contributions than all previous candidates combined. That being said, I'm a military brat. So I grew up all over the country from Hawaii to Kentucky to Las Vegas. And so whenever I reached out for this campaign, I told people I was thinking about running, and they're like, how can I help you? And I said, Can you send 5,10,15 dollars? So a majority of our out of state contributions are small-dollar donors. And it's an $8 out-of-state average, which is huge, because we have over 1,500 contributions. We are also endorsed by a number of progressive PACs, such as the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which helps get LGBTQ candidates elected, as well as Run For Something, which helps young candidates get elected. So we are supported by these but also no developer, no corporate tax.

Did you support Proposition B, which would have gotten rid of the San Antonio Police Officers Association’s right to collectively bargain?

Jada Andrews-Sullivan: So, as a city councilperson, we weren’t able to take a stance for or against. But what I can tell you is that now that we are in the negotiation, saying that things that we want to have in a contract is the only contract that we will vote on. When you talk about the 180-day rule, when you talk about making sure that all instances within a police officers record is brought to the accountability session, making sure our chief of police has the right to fire someone and that being maintained, is what we will continue to advocate for that is what our community is asking for. That is what we will make sure we have within our contract. But then if you look at the effects that the state mandate of chapter 143 has, we have to make sure that we are tackling the issues of accountability from that statement mandate side. So even if Prop B had passed, we still wouldn't have been able to deal with accountability. It only deals with the contract, collective bargaining piece. But we know that within all things having a collective bargaining process always brings everyone to the table. We must ensure that our community knows that we're listening to them, and that their questions will be answered.

Jalen McKee-Rodriguez: I supported Proposition B, I believe it was an opportunity to man the police Community Relations through fair contract negotiation processes. And I was grateful to those council members who did take a stance, which was legal. One of the greatest barriers we have to accountability is the police contract, which avoids accountability through provisions such as delayed interviews with officers under investigation, we need to remove that, the providing of evidence to officers under investigation for interview, limited consideration of officers disciplinary history, limited statute of limitation for officers, all of these things, these are provisions that need to be eliminated. But the evergreen clause prevents a fair contract negotiation process. The city can enter negotiations in good faith, but the union can say I don't like this part of the contract. So no deal. And they keep their current contract for eight more years. That is terrible business and prevents the city from implementing any of the changes the community asked for. That's what's stopping accountability. And that's what probably could have been prevented.

How will you effectively spend your district's budget?

Jalen McKee Rodriguez: I am a math teacher, I am not afraid of numbers. I love numbers. And the budget is an area where a lot of people who aren't comfortable with math will look the other way or will let city staff kind of dictate. I will not be that kind of council person. I also see there's problems, such as right now, the District 2 office has the second highest paid chief of staff and the second lowest average staff member. And that's something that is not equitable. And that's not fair. So that's something that I would be challenging. I believe in a livable wage for all. I believe in looking at where dollars are going and making sure that the city feels that they should be able to call the constituent services office and get an answer. They should feel the budget asks that are made during the budget setting session in August. They should feel all of those things. But right now, we're not feeling that when it comes to our infrastructure management process. We're not feeling that when we call them when we call the District 2 office, we need to feel those dollars.

Jada Andrews-Sullivan: Thankfully, with the work of the City Council that you have now, we were able to form the local government Corporation. What that does is it puts each and every city council throughout all 10 districts in the right category of being paid effectively. So you have different levels now that you have to meet in order to maintain a pay that is equitable to every person that is working within the 10 district offices through the local government Corporation. We now are able to give ourselves retirement benefits. When you work with a corporation you're now setting up a structure that speaks to equity as it works throughout the whole thing. When you look at the District 2 budget, we are so thankful to be in a right and a progressive budget to have a surplus that we can use to put back into our community that we can use to now do even more town halls. So that is the thing that we have been doing. We have been using our budget very strategically.

Guests:

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*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, June 1.