Mayor Nirenberg On Third Term Goals And San Antonio's Post-Pandemic Future
Mayor Ron Nirenberg is gearing up to serve his third term as San Antonio’s mayor. What can San Antonio expect from his office? What specific goals does Nirenberg hope to achieve in the coming years?
On San Antonio’s vaccination status and post-COVID recovery
It looks like our community will reach the targets set by the Biden administration for the July 1 mark. We have now over 70% of eligible people vaccinated with at least one dose. We're well on our way to almost 60% of people that have had full vaccination. But we need to get that number up.
There's been some concerns about variants spreading. We know we're probably a month or two behind what's being experienced in the U.K. And it's very, very important for us to continue to push the vaccination numbers up to prevent additional illness and ultimately death. What we are seeing is that the illnesses that are happening are largely among unvaccinated people. We've got to make sure that we continue the effort and finally finish the job on this pandemic. And then we get to the business of recovery, rebuilding our economy, and in doing so, making sure that we're building in a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable manner.
On San Antonio’s winter storm emergency response
There's a number of factors that go into what caused not just the failure of electricity in San Antonio, but across the state of Texas. We do have a report I put together expressly to answer that question, a committee to independently review, investigate what happened that caused those issues and what we can do to address them moving forward. That is available and they've been doing a number of public meetings, I think they had about 11 or 12 public meetings over the last several months. It was chaired by Reed Williams. That report and all the livestream of the discussions that took place is available for public viewing at sanantonio.gov/emergency-preparedness.
The cascading disaster, as has been stated, was caused by the failure of ERCOT to manage the electrical grid. Secondly, what we also saw was the failure of plants and electrical generation capacity all across the state that contributed to, again, the blackout situation. There were local complications, including the lack of coordinated communication during the days where there were “rolling blackouts,” which were anything but rolling. There were severe long term outages, so the lack of communication and interagency communication complicated the experience.
But those findings, which again, were independently reviewed, have recommendations built in, and we are, as a City Council, taking ownership and oversight and accountability of that and are beginning to implement those changes at CPS Energy, at the San Antonio Water System and within our own Emergency Operations protocols at the city.
On CPS closing its coal-fired power plant
There's a Rate Advisory Commission that was put in place with community leaders and community representatives that are having a discussion about generation capacity and generation sources and how those fit in with our rate structure right now.
Also, with the flex bundle package that we're discussing right now, I think that there is progress. But what we want to get to is a plan, and a plan with some specifics about when economically and environmentally, we can begin to shut down the coal plant. People want a date right now. But I will tell you, we want to have it shut down as soon as possible in a way that doesn't impact our most vulnerable residents and those negatively in terms of their bills.
On job training and workforce development
We've already had 6,000 people in a program that was created at the height of the pandemic that really began in earnest in October/November. Six thousand folks have completed a preliminary intake process, but 1,900 people are pending enrollment in the training program. We've had thousands of folks who have already been enrolled and are now training. We even have roughly 600 people who have completed training and we know that at least a third of those have been on the job, on a new job for over 90 days.
Over 60% of the participants were previously living below the poverty line, we know that the primary audience, the primary participants are women of color. And we know pandemic-related unemployment has hit women the hardest. We want to stress that slots are available. They're open; people are eligible if they're over 18. And they have been impacted by COVID-19. I believe very strongly that this is one of our keys to disrupting generational poverty in our community, giving people access to high-paying, in-demand jobs that provide economic mobility, that for which their entire family will benefit and ultimately the entire community as well.
Guest: Ron Nirenberg, Mayor of the City of San Antonio
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*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, June 29.