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San Antonio City Council District 5 Runoff Election 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.

For TPR's full Voter Guide, click here.

To listen to their candidate forum on TPR's "The Source":

WEDNESDAY on "The Source" — The race to represent District 5 will head to a runoff this summer with political newcomers Teri Castillo and Rudy Lopez on the ballot, as current City Council member Shirley Gonzales terms out after eight years in office.

*Denotes that the candidate did not respond to TPR's runoff candidate survey. These are the answers provided to TPR's original survey, which was sent to candidates in April.

**Denotes that the candidate did not respond to either TPR survey.

Teri Castillo*

Q: What is your experience with city government? For instance, have you ever served on a city board or commission?

A: For the last several years I have advocated on behalf of the community at Building and Standards Board meetings, San Antonio Housing Authority Board meetings, and San Antonio Housing Commission meetings (among many others), and have a proven record of working for the people of District 5. As the only candidate who has fought alongside public housing residents to challenge predatory landlord practices and mass community displacement, I know what it takes to secure victories for the people - in spite of the powers that be and well-meaning individuals characterizing our goals as impossible to attain. Through my experience as an active member of the Historic Westside Residents Association, I know the power of the collective, and recognize that decisions should not be made about neighborhoods without neighborhood voice and consensus. Moreover, as a member of the Texas Organizing Project’s Healthcare Committee, I understand the importance of organizing elected colleagues at every level. Too often, city leadership passes the buck on the issues, claiming that certain things are simply beyond the purview of the city and then walking away. I am committed to ensuring that community needs are addressed at every possible level, which takes strong coordination with sympathetic actors in the state and federal government. As a trained historian, I am experienced in the ways in which predatory policies and practices continue to be refashioned under the guise of progress and at the cost of our working families.

Q: What is an issue relevant to your specific district that you would like to change or address?

A: When we look at the city's current housing pipeline, we can quickly determine that the city has been incentivizing the development of unaffordable housing for our already cost-burdened working people of San Antonio. 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. (According to data from SA2020, the per capita income of District 5 is $13,257.) Moreover, in a city with severely underfunded public schools, a high uninsured rate, and too many neglected streets, sidewalks, speed bumps, and lighting, we must ensure that developers are paying their fair share in taxes. The City of San Antonio has a responsibility to incentivize deeply affordable housing. Our public money should serve the city's people, and we must end the passing of the tax burden onto our working families while developers make out like bandits.

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: I support Fix SAPD and their work to pass Prop B. The San Antonio Police Department contract affects all constituents in our city, and the voice of the people must be heard in that regard. When the police department identifies an officer who is unfit for the position, but then SAPOA forces the department to retain that officer, it is clearly not just the police department that is impacted by the decision. Constituents are also now subjected to an unfit and likely dangerous individual who has abrogated their duty to protect the community. This is why I believe it is important for our city government to explore alternative measures that provide accountability on officers that abuse their positions. The passage of Prop B would mark a necessary change for the better for the welfare of our citizens.

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 would move to reform through the following: 1) pass an ordinance requiring that officers be interviewed within 24 hours of an investigation opening, 2) pass an ordinance that prohibits the release of evidence to officers under investigation, 3) pass an ordinance requiring that all elements of disciplinary history be addressed in writing during investigation, 4) pass an ordinance to create a temporary community-led commission to evaluate the current statute of limitations, 5) move to have a permanent Civilian Oversight Board, similar to the 150 others in the country, instituted in the city, incorporating elements of investigation [specially trained civilian investigators of police actions during specific incidents], review [selected volunteers from the community to provide feedback and assistance to the investigators during aforementioned specific incidents], and auditing [specially trained civilian observers and evaluators of long-term police practices], and 6) subject to the repeal of Chapters 143 and 174, pass an ordinance banning arbitration for use in police discipline. These are important routes for our city to pursue in regards to police reform, and if they are not actively pursued during the contract process, they should be pursued independently through the City Council.

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: The Ready to Work SA initiative as it is currently proceeding concerns me. Having worked with many folk deeply knowledgeable about workforce needs in the city, the fact that the 11-member Ready to Work SA Advisory Board guiding this initiative has so many business representative voices yet so few labor and education representative voices is problematic. While we might be able to salvage this process in the coming years, it is currently overly opaque - there are few announced indications that folk are being trained in ways that will lead to long-term pay at livable wages, or even that the training is translatable to work across a variety of industries, in the event that industry targets prove to be inflated or incorrect. We need a watchful councilwoman who is well-versed enough with Region 20 Adult Education and Literacy Alamo Consortium (AELAC) goals, current and anticipated Integrated Educational Training (IET) offerings, as well as other workforce education subtleties within our city to make certain that this critical process does not go astray. Only with strong, transparent oversight from the community can we make sure that this program serves as many people in exactly the ways they will need.

Q: What changes — if any — do you feel are needed at CPS Energy and the San Antonio Water System following the winter storm?

A: Our city government failed us during the polar vortex. As a longtime community advocate, I worked within the extant mutual aid networks that filled the gaps for the failures of the city. We made wellness calls, and provided food, water, and repairs for countless District 5 residents. The city needs to adopt a similar approach, with trusted people as nodes across our neighborhoods, ready to activate in support of residents during disasters. As the next councilwoman in District 5, I will create neighborhood captain positions for disaster response, precisely to prevent the fear and damage that some of our residents unfortunately experienced. CPS and SAWS should avail themselves of these community connections to disseminate information rapidly; when the power is down and times are tough, it will take good old-fashioned door-knocking in our neighborhoods to reach our most vulnerable citizens. CPS and SAWS will need to reevaluate their outreach methods, and I stand ready to assist them in this process.

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: Through a carefully constructed CCR, we can strongly buttress community involvement in local government. Our city needs to implement new processes that increase involvement from citizens in government decisions. Participatory budgeting (PB) has already been adopted in two San Antonio City Council districts, although in a piecemeal fashion with mixed results; it is now time for this process, shown to be successful in several other neighborhoods and districts across the world, to be implemented meaningfully, on more than just minor cosmetic changes. We can also allow and encourage citizens to take part in fundamental decisions through processes not unlike that of the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform in British Columbia or the Citizens’ Reference Panels in Ontario. Between 2004 and 2006, those governments asked citizens to submit their names for possible participation in a fact-finding mission for future policy. From among these names of interested citizens from all walks of life, 161 were randomly chosen to work together over a series of meetings to create and submit recommendations to government officials. The process was successful in invigorating public participation outside of just wealthy donors and business executives. District 5 could benefit stron

Rudy Lopez**

Did not respond.

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