District 2 candidates discuss gentrification, other East Side issues as San Antonio election approaches

Submitted by Ben Olivo on April 22, 2021 - 3:53pm

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This article was originally published in the San Antonio Heron. In an effort to keep our readers as informed as possible for the May 1 election, we asked all candidates running for the District 2 City Council seat how they feel about some of the East Side’s most pressing issues, and specific items on the ballot.

First-term incumbent Jada Andrews-Sullivan is facing 11 challengers to the council seat she won two years ago.

As a reminder, early voting begins April 19, Monday, and ends April 27, Tuesday. Voting on election day - May 1, Saturday - takes place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit the city’s election page for more info.

Follow the links to read each candidate’s responses to our questionnaire:

» Pharaoh J. Clark
» Jalen McKee-Rodriguez
» Chris Dawkins
» Dori L. Brown
» Andrew Fernandez Vicencio
» Carl Booker
» Norris Tyrone Darden

[ Note: The order of the candidate responses was chosen randomly. ]

The answers have been edited for punctuation, style and egregious grammatical errors.

 

COURTESY PHARAOH CLARK

Pharaoh J. Clark

What is your job, or how do you earn a living?

I am a personal chef, and caretaker.

What is your age?

33

Where were you born?

San Antonio, Texas

Do you live in the district? If so, what neighborhood?

Yes, in Coliseum Oaks

What qualifies you to hold this position?

» I will always put the people first. I have a deep understanding of selfless service, and what it means to be a public servant.

» I have a proven track record of success at being relentless, and working tirelessly, across party lines to get things done in San Antonio.

» I will never pretend to know everything, but I am always willing to learn, and will keep experts in various fields around me to ensure the district has the very best.

What is your background in politics?

I don’t have a background in politics, although I do understand it deeply. Through my advocacy I have had several political victories, as well as worked with the chief, sheriff, city, county, and state officials and politicians to get things done.

What is the biggest issue facing San Antonio, and how do you plan to address it? What’s one issue you feel San Antonio City Council isn’t paying attention to?

In my opinion the biggest issue is poverty and affordable housing. I would work on incentives to attract businesses that agree to pay living wages and hire within the district.

How do you think the Alamo master planning process should proceed?

I don’t know enough detail about the Alamo master planning process to give a honest, fair, and accurate assessment on that, but I will educate myself on this plan.

What do you think of the proposed charter amendment that would broaden how voter-approved bond dollars can be spent? Do you support or oppose the amendment? Explain your position.

I am in favor of the proposed amendment. We are the only large Texas city operating under the current limitations, and I do believe that allowing some flexibility in this area will allow for economic investments, and affordable housing.

Do you support or oppose Proposition B, the measure that would repeal police officers’ collective bargaining power and thus the right to negotiate contracts with the city? Explain your position.

I am in favor of Proposition B. I believe accountability is something we should have at every level of government, and Prop B helps restore that accountability. I support the police, and their rights to pay and benefits, but what I do not support is any contract or bargaining power that shields bad officers, or denies accountability.

What is your opinion of the city’s role in incentivizing large-scale apartment developments in the downtown area and in the regional centers identified in the SA Tomorrow plan? What role do you believe San Antonio should play in incentivizing affordable housing?

I believe that the city should only incentivize developments if it plans to see a return on that investment that benefits the people. San Antonio should play a bigger role in incentivizing affordable housing.

What is one thing the city can do to increase transparency in local government or to better engage its citizens?

The city should create a website that is easy to navigate, and is devoted to transparency, and engaging citizens.

What’s the best way for San Antonio to balance maintaining the character of East Side neighborhoods while encouraging private investment?

No answer.

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COURTESY JALEN MCKEE-RODRIGUEZ

Jalen McKee-Rodriguez

What is your job, or how do you earn a living?

High school mathematics teacher

What is your age?

26

Where were you born?

Knoxville, Tennessee

Do you live in the district? If so, what neighborhood?

Yes. Northeast Crossing.

What qualifies you to hold this position?

Teachers make about 1,500 decisions in an average day. These decisions must be based on knowledge of each of our 150+ students’ backgrounds; they must be informed by local, state, and national policy and ethics; they must be responsive to student needs; they must navigate and overcome a tight budget, a lack of resources, and funding; and they must be rooted in a true desire to help students. A councilperson represents and makes decisions based on knowledge of their community’s diverse backgrounds; informed by the local, state, and national policy and ethics; responsive to community need; they must know how to navigate and overcome a tight budget, lack of resources, and funding; and they must have a true desire to help the community. As a teacher, I work to prepare our children for the world. As a councilman, I will work to prepare our small piece of the world for our kids.

In addition:

1. I have committed to rejecting political contributions from developers, corporate PACs, and the San Antonio Police Union, during the campaign and after being elected. These three groups have had undue influence over our elections, as well as our council members, for decades. By rejecting these contributions, I will be beholden only to the constituents of District 2.

2. I represent segments of the population that have never been represented by our local government. Our elected officials cannot represent the stories they don’t know and won’t listen to. Because I have a vested interest in our most marginalized communities, I will take care in achieving meaningful policy and budget goals, and will work alongside the community to do so.

3. I have worked in close proximity to each of the 10 sitting council members and the mayor. As director of communications, it was my responsibility to have a firm grasp on policy, community needs, and issues, and an understanding of each of the elected official’s driving motivators. Because of my experience in City Hall, I can work with every council member to ensure the needs of our districts are met by easily circulating CCRs to collect signatures (and later votes), make joint budget asks, and achieve shared victories.

What is your background in politics?

I do not come from a background in politics, but have discovered all of the ways in which politics affect my day to day life. This has guided me to help a number of candidates in their runs for office, including Michael Montaño in his District 1 2017 run and Monique Diaz in her 2018 run for 150th District Court Judge. In addition to serving as District 2’s director of communications, I have served as a board member of Stonewall Democrats, and as a member of Texas Organizing Project, San Antonio DSA, and Our Revolution TX. Previously I have served as a volunteer with Fiesta Youth, Child Advocates San Antonio, and City Year.

What is the biggest issue facing San Antonio, and how do you plan to address it? What’s one issue you feel San Antonio City Council isn’t paying attention to?

Lack of opportunity and upward mobility are what I believe to be the largest issues facing San Antonio. If you are not addressing poverty at its root cause, then all you are doing is putting bandaids on gaping wounds. San Antonio is the poorest big city in the nation, and it was not built that way by accident. With the mayor’s workforce development program and the city’s innovative initiatives to address affordable housing, we are at a crossroads between continuing to push towards doing what is right for the community, or again choosing private interests over the citizenry. How we use these public dollars could have a dramatic systemic impact on poverty for future generations. As such, we need to ensure these dollars are not being abused by developers and private interest. We need to make investments in affordable housing, direct aid to families and small businesses, and continue to ensure equity is at the heart of city budgeting.

Further, an issue I feel City Council is absolutely not paying attention to is substance abuse reform. Attempts toward mitigating substance abuse through plans like the city’s domestic violence plan unfortunately still do not do enough. While the plan is a revolutionary first step in policy making as it relates to domestic violence, the plan does little to nothing to address substance abuse itself even though it is present in over 80% of all domestic violences cases. Judge Rosie Speedlin-Gonzalez’s plan for creating a Domestic Violence Drug Court to specifically handle these cases is a great step in the right direction, but more action to address this specific form of domestic violence is needed on the city’s end—especially after Covid-19’s impact on substance abuse rates. I would support amending the city’s domestic violence plan to address substance abuse related domestic violence.

How do you think the Alamo master planning process should proceed?

San Antonio was promised a transparent Alamo Plaza planning process, which is not what we’ve gotten. Given the contentious nature of recent developments regarding the plaza, meetings should have been held publicly rather than behind-the-scenes.

The Cenotaph should absolutely be moved. Throughout the planning of the plaza, the city has committed itself to the “visitor experience.” Now it is time to shift priority to the history and stories of the indigenous people whose remains have been found on the grounds of the Alamo, and to focus on the dignified treatment of those yet to be discovered.

What do you think of the proposed charter amendment that would broaden how voter-approved bond dollars can be spent? Do you support or oppose the amendment? Explain your position.

I support Prop A with the understanding that we need to ensure that the approved bond dollars are spent on projects that will benefit the community and won’t be abused by developers. To do this, we must ensure that people sitting in bond committees have an active stake in the community and are not simply hand-picked developers that paid-to-play in San Antonio’s political decision making. We need more dollars spent on affordable and emergency housing, education programs, and other permanent public improvements.

Do you support or oppose Proposition B, the measure that would repeal police officers’ collective bargaining power and thus the right to negotiate contracts with the city? Explain your position.

I support Proposition B. San Antonio has the most crooked police union contract in the nation. Disciplinary procedures need to be overhauled so that we can finally get rid of bad officers and work towards a more fair and just system of policing in our city. When the city implemented body cameras for police officers in 2016, officer-reported use of force dropped by as much as 42%. This happened because officers realized they were being held accountable for their actions. Taking this step to address the union contract is no different and I predict the results would be even more substantive.

What is your opinion of the city’s role in incentivizing large-scale apartment developments in the downtown area and in the regional centers identified in the SA Tomorrow plan? What role do you believe San Antonio should play in incentivizing affordable housing?

I believe San Antonio should absolutely have a role in the development of affordable housing initiatives. However, it has become abundantly clear that developers are abusing these incentives, and are finding loopholes around development rules to cut corners. Clear examples of this include using affordable housing dollars directed to build 1 bedroom studio apartments for individuals making $80,000 a year, and then claiming to be ideal housing for two teachers raising a family. We all know these units will not be housing teachers, and that a 1 bedroom studio apartment is grossly inappropriate for raising a family.

To shed further light on the issue, it was revealed that over 95% of tree ordinance variance applications were approved by the City of San Antonio due to a “loophole” in the ordinance. Hundreds of trees from projects were cleared on some of these properties and the city just let it happen so the development could continue. This blatant disregard for the community good that is our tree canopy is not what the city should be espousing. We need to ensure that development dollars are being used responsibly and for the benefit of the larger San Antonio community. We cannot allow developer influence on these boards and committees to sway the pendulum to their favor in all instances.

What is one thing the city can do to increase transparency in local government or to better engage its citizens?

It is embarrassing for a city government boasting democratic principles to singularly hold meetings while the rest of the citizenry is working. To increase transparency and encourage community engagement, the way a democracy should, the city must move meetings to take place outside of the regular work day.

What’s the best way for San Antonio to balance maintaining the character of East Side neighborhoods while encouraging private investment?

The easiest way to begin re-establishing the balance between the preservation of East Side neighborhoods and innovation that private investment brings is to begin prioritizing community voice in the zoning and development decision-making process. At the end of the day, not all investment is done for the benefit of the community, but rather the profits of developers. As public servants, San Antonio elected leaders cannot lose sight of the fact that their duty is to ensure good for the community.

Community members feel that for too long “development” on the East Side has only meant more gas stations or car washes. There is definitely opportunity for private investment that does not exploit our communities, and returns just as much as it takes. The district wants movie theaters, recreational centers, bowling alleys, and more activities to keep our youth off the streets and to keep our families together.

Additionally, I would be remiss if I did not emphasize that what is ultimately built in D2 needs to be for the people of D2. Gentrification cannot continue to go unchecked and people cannot continue to be taxed out of their homes. Even though taxes have not gone up in almost 30 years, private developers come in and buy our houses for pennies on the dollar, flip them, then sell them at ridiculously marked up prices. This inevitably leads the county to assume that because someone’s lot is the same size as that of a marked up lot next to theirs, that they both should be taxed equally.

Truly, the answer is simple: District 2 needs to be a destination and not a pit stop.

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COURTESY CHRIS DAWKINS

Chris Dawkins

What is your job, or how do you earn a living?

I am an entrepreneur. I have a company called E-Log Plus where I am a part owner and COO. We make software for truck drivers, replacing their manual logs with electronic logs.

What is your age?

I am 66 years old

Where were you born?

Columbus, Ohio

Do you live in the district? If so, what neighborhood?

An important question! I do live in District 2! I live and vote in the Lakeside sub-division, off of Highway 87.

What qualifies you to hold this position?

To insure that District 2 gets better representation. I believe a person should show what they have accomplished in their own neighborhood before asking the public to trust you with their vote. Having said that, being president of Lakeside and working with many departments in San Antonio government and the learning of government and politics while in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve worked in San Antonio for World Technical Services which employs people with disabilities. I was named a “fellow” for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and was named Crime Stopper of the Year. When I moved to Texas, Mr. Joe Scott, Jr., taught me and I learned the people and policies that make San Antonio and Texas work and grow. And lastly, I have worked and my wife has worked in affordable housing.

What is your background in politics?

Got my start walking door-to-door passing out lit for John F. Kennedy in 1960. I’ve worked on many campaigns since then and have studied local, national and global issues to understand how different issues effect different people. I’ve worked with local (both Ohio and Texas) candidates and those who have run for the U.S. Congress.

What is the biggest issue facing San Antonio, and how do you plan to address it? What’s one issue you feel San Antonio City Council isn’t paying attention to?

Issues change almost daily. Currently, we have issues of Covid for individuals and small businesses. We have the issue about how is San Antonio going to grow (rapid or measured). Air travel and how we compete and take advantage of the growth happening in Austin. My belief is San Antonio should position itself to take advantage of our close proximity to Austin and San Antonio should have the same relation to Austin as Fort Worth has to Dallas.

How I will address our situation in District 2 is to begin to do for ourselves what others ask the city to do for them. I plan to create a CDC (community development corporation) and we will use this organization almost like our very own development department for D2.

Doing for ourselves begins with our crime. We will hold the owner of the address responsible for what happens at that address. This will be voluntary, but it will also be a litmus test for which neighborhoods are serious about ridding their area of crime and who just wants to give lip service!

District 2 has an issue with crime and an identity issue … I walked right into that didn’t I?

I spoke to Police Chief McMannus and then (former) D.A. Nico LaHood. Both agreed that crime is more likely to occur in neighborhoods where there are no neighborhood organization. So, our first step in solving crime is to create neighborhood organizations in each neighborhood.

Next, we tell the landlords that they will be responsible for background checks for all adults in the home that they rent to. (I clearly know that this will be controversial. And that is OK, because I believe drastic measures have to be taken before we notice changes in this area.) And, if there are problems at that address, we are going to hold the person who has the liability for what happens at that address. If the landlord doesn’t do background checks then the landlord is responsible but, if the background check is done then, the liability transfers to the renter.

Then, if an “occurrence” happens at the address the neighborhood will have the discretion to take the person responsible at that address to JP Court. Once it goes to court and the JP Court finds the renter or the person at that address responsible, the fine that is imposed will go the the neighborhood organization that brought the claim to the court.

How do you think the Alamo master planning process should proceed?

I’m not sure about this. But, I feel a little embarrassed about this. We’ve gotten a sizable donation and after all of these years, we still cannot decide a fitting memorial. There seems to be more than how the area should be laid out. We have an issue of what should be done to the Cenotaph and where it should be placed. And then, there is the fact about the Woolworth lunch counter and its historic symbol to African American history. This must be settled and it goes beyond what I am able to offer. I am not versed on Spanish-American history but, I know it is very important to Texas, Mexico, San Antonio and the United States of America.

What do you think of the proposed charter amendment that would broaden how voter-approved bond dollars can be spent? Do you support or oppose the amendment? Explain your
position.

Right now, on the surface, I would not be for this amendment and my concern is we are lessening the standards by which bond money can be spent. Once we are allowed to do this, I question the way in which some will want to us this amendment and how others will want to stretch the meaning of how much/less discretion is used in determining how the money can and cannot be used.

Do you support or oppose Proposition B, the measure that would repeal police officers’ collective bargaining power and thus the right to negotiate contracts with the city? Explain your position.

I support limiting what is able to be “bargained” for by any union. I want to see the 180-day window removed or allow flexibility to discipline an officer. For me, this is about strengthening our force, not weakening it. I want to see SAPOA to understand the community that they support as much as they understand their police officers. There are three entities: the city, the officers and the community in which the officers serve. All three must be understood. The council person who would normally represent the people, in this case the council person represents the city (administration) and this leaves what the citizens want, not represented.

What is your opinion of the city’s role in incentivizing large-scale apartment developments in the downtown area and in the regional centers identified in the SA Tomorrow plan? What role do you believe San Antonio should play in incentivizing affordable housing?

My idea on affordable housing is very much different from what anyone is looking at in this city. I believe I have an answer to affordable housing where we don’t make the house or apartment cheaper and thus affordable. We need to make all housing at market rate and allow our lenders to “buy down” the monthly payment to make the home affordable.

What is one thing the city can do to increase transparency in local government or to better engage its citizens?

All cities do this, but the majority of the meetings are conducted in the “B” session or in working sessions that does not include the public. These meeting should either be open or recorded so the public can see and hear how individual council members performs.

What’s the best way for San Antonio to balance maintaining the character of East Side neighborhoods while encouraging private investment?

San Antonio is an older city with old housing stock, some of which needs to be demolished. When we look at preserving living spaces as it relates to affordable housing, this will solve some of the problems you mentioned. Most people do not like change, but change is inevitable. Change must include those who choose to remain in the area. Pushing people out causing gentrification, which is not what we want. We must make sure that all segments of the community are represented when new development is planned, which includes public money for new development projects.

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COURTESY DORI BROWN

Dori L. Brown

What is your job, or how do you earn a living?

In public accounting, 20+ years, tax preparation, bookkeeping, consulting.

What is your age?

A very young 52 years old

Where were you born?

Detroit, Michigan

Do you live in the district? If so, what neighborhood?

Yes. Lakeside.

What qualifies you to hold this position?

Vested resident of this district, former constituent aide for State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon. Business owner.

What is your background in politics?

None, community servant and board member

What is the biggest issue facing San Antonio, and how do you plan to address it?

Growth—population, which brings about a whole array of challenges. It’s something that requires PROACTIVE thinking, collaboration between different levels of government.

What’s one issue you feel San Antonio City Council isn’t paying attention to?

It’s individual district residents and their desires for their community.

How do you think the Alamo master planning process should proceed?

I think it should be less construction and more virtual.

What do you think of the proposed charter amendment that would broaden how voter-approved bond dollars can be spent? Do you support or oppose the amendment? Explain your position.

At this time I oppose the amendment.

Do you support or oppose Proposition B, the measure that would repeal police officers’ collective bargaining power and thus the right to negotiate contracts with the city? Explain your position.

No comment.

What is your opinion of the city’s role in incentivizing large-scale apartment developments in the downtown area and in the regional centers identified in the SA Tomorrow plan? What role do you believe San Antonio should play in incentivizing affordable housing?

Incentivizing should be minimal. The focus should be purpose over money and remain aware of overcrowding. I would like to see more corporate business growth in downtown.

What is one thing the city can do to increase transparency in local government or to better engage its citizens?

Hmmm?!

What’s the best way for San Antonio to balance maintaining the character of East Side neighborhoods while encouraging private investment?

That’s it—FOCUS on the balance. There’s a lot of history that should not be overlooked or put on the back burner (e.g. Hayes Street Bridge).

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COURTESY ANDREW FERNANDEZ VICENCIO

Andrew Fernandez Vicencio

What is your job, or how do you earn a living?

Semi-retired. Ret. LTC U.S. Army

What is your age?

I am in my 50s

Where were you born?

Manila, Philippines. Came legally to San Antonio in 1972 and took the citizenship test.

Do you live in the district? If so, what neighborhood?

Yes, I live in District 2, off of Rittiman Road

What qualifies you to hold this position?

22 years in the military serving my nation and protecting my community. Ready to implement a diverse staff to address District 2’s problems.

What is your background in politics?

Ran for mayor in 2001. Ran for the State Rep. District 120 primary in March 2020.

What is the biggest issue facing San Antonio, and how do you plan to address it? What’s one issue you feel San Antonio City Council isn’t paying attention to?

Public safety. No strong public safety you end up with chaos. Increase police cadet class to 100 to 150 every six months. Vote NO on both Prop A and B.

How do you think the Alamo master planning process should proceed?

Leave the Alamo alone and put the gazebo back.

What do you think of the proposed charter amendment that would broaden how voter-approved bond dollars can be spent? Do you support or oppose the amendment? Explain your position.

VOTING NO on Prop A. It’s my tax money. I should have the right to vote on a bond NOT City Council.

Do you support or oppose Proposition B, the measure that would repeal police officers’ collective bargaining power and thus the right to negotiate contracts with the city? Explain your position.

VOTING NO on Prop B. This is not rocket science. I think it was fraudulent the way it ended up the ballot to begin with.

What is your opinion of the city’s role in incentivizing large-scale apartment developments in the downtown area and in the regional centers identified in the SA Tomorrow plan? What role do you believe San Antonio should play in incentivizing affordable housing?

Build apartments farther away from residential areas. Gradually take away non profits corrupt power to tax dollars. NON Profit right. NOT rocket science.

What is one thing the city can do to increase transparency in local government or to better engage its citizens?

Audit on the city budget.

What’s the best way for San Antonio to balance maintaining the character of East Side neighborhoods while encouraging private investment?

I fair balance between residents and developers in zoning hearings.

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COURTESY CARL BOOKER

Carl Booker

What is your job, or how do you earn a living?

Publisher, owner of Avista Products

What is your age?

53

Where were you born?

Walla Walla, Washington (Air Force Base)

Do you live in the district? If so, what neighborhood?

Live in Coliseum Neighborhood

What qualifies you to hold this position?

Over 27 years of creative problems solving. Proven track record of working with government, private and community organization. Historical steward of District 2 for last 27 years. Fourth generation East Side resident. Grew up on the West Side by Lackland Air Force Base. Establish and maintain the largest business directory and African American resource in San Antonio (blacksinsanantonio.com)

What is your background in politics?

My background in politics has been in a supportive role dating back to Mario Salas, Ruth Jones McClendon, Tommy Calvert Jr., Barbara Gervin-Hawkins and some outside the county races. Have not held any governmental offices. But have been held accountable to over 1,400 businesses countywide, over 200 churches citywide and over 100 medical practitioners.

What is the biggest issue facing San Antonio, and how do you plan to address it? What’s one issue you feel San Antonio City Council isn’t paying attention to?

Without knowing the facts and hearing from the people this is a moving target. From my perspective it could be economic recovery. Covid exposed a lot of flaws in the system. Who would have thought wearing masks a year ago would be a way of life, a statewide snowfall would cause someone to lose power and clean drinking water? You don’t know what you don’t know. The ability to adapt to change creatively will allow us to take on any challenges. This is what I do on a daily basis. I am ready for all of it.

How do you think the Alamo master planning process should proceed?

I believe they should move forward on the original plans. Some of those decision makers don’t live in San Antonio.

What do you think of the proposed charter amendment that would broaden how voter-approved bond dollars can be spent? Do you support or oppose the amendment? Explain your position.

I am in favor of the voter approved. The voters are the ones who will elect us to office. We must listen and be accountable to the voters.

Do you support or oppose Proposition B, the measure that would repeal police officers’ collective bargaining power and thus the right to negotiate contracts with the city? Explain your position.

I support Prop B. Collective bargaining, I don’t have a problem with the police negotiating for better working conditions, salaries etc. As a black man I have a problem with officers who abuse their power and intimidate citizens. How do we hold society accountable for their actions but provide qualified immunity to law enforcement? We hold law enforcement to a higher standard than anyone else.

What is your opinion of the city’s role in incentivizing large-scale apartment developments in the downtown area and in the regional centers identified in the SA Tomorrow plan? What role do you believe San Antonio should play in incentivizing affordable housing?

Affordable housing is a problem all over the city. Downtown development is needed to supplement the businesses during the non-tourist months. If a strategy is not in place to accommodate affordable housing I will not be in favor of any project.

What is one thing the city can do to increase transparency in local government or to better engage its citizens?

My plan includes a community dashboard that tracks FAQ’s in the community. The plan requires an internet connection to view but where access is challenging low tech solution (FM transmission and newsletters) can be provided in collaboration with community stakeholders in the community.

What’s the best way for San Antonio to balance maintaining the character of East Side neighborhoods while encouraging private investment?

Also part of my plan is the legacy project that will allow us to memorialize past leadership and historical entities (property). District 2 is the darkest district in the county. This lack of attention will be eliminated with the install of the light cannons like the twin tower lights in New York City. This beacon of light will showcase the assets of District 2 while preserving the rich history of the district. If we learned anything from 2020/21 is preparedness must be taken into consideration for a balance society growth

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COURTESY NORRIS TYRONE DARDEN

Norris Tyrone Darden

What is your job, or how do you earn a living?

I am an educator. My current title is dean of special programs at the George Gervin Charter Academy.

What is your age?

I am 41 years old.

Where were you born?

I was born in San Antonio, Texas.

Do you live in the district? If so, what neighborhood?

Yes, Chasewood.

What qualifies you to hold this position?

» Experience. Been in the district my entire life (41 years).

» Experience. Worked in the district the life of my professional career (18 years).

» Experience. I’ve been civically engaged for the past 12 years working with the Urban Leadership Council, the African American Political Alliance, the Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce and the BEAT Aids Coalition Trust.

What is your background in politics?

I’ve run for the D2 seat in 2013 and 2014 (special election) and secured about 23% of the vote each time. I’ve worked on campaigns from the federal, state, county, municipal and school board as campaign manager, field director and D2 diversity coordinator. I’ve served as precinct chair for 8+ years and co-founded the African American Political Alliance.

What is the biggest issue facing San Antonio, and how do you plan to address it? What’s one issue you feel San Antonio City Council isn’t paying attention to?

The biggest issue facing San Antonio is a lack of equity and opportunity for ALL residents. Equity in housing, basic services, representation, quality of life and economic opportunities. In addition to the gap in equity one major issue that truly concerns many residents is the lack of attention paid to the city’s youth.

How do you think the Alamo master planning process should proceed?

The process should proceed with caution.

What do you think of the proposed charter amendment that would broaden how voter-approved bond dollars can be spent? Do you support or oppose the amendment? Explain your position.

I want to have more information. From my understanding the charter amendment allows for bond funds to have more flexibility in housing investment and if this is the case I support it because District 2 needs more options than house flippers (gentrifiers) and subsidized housing.

Do you support or oppose Proposition B, the measure that would repeal police officers’ collective bargaining power and thus the right to negotiate contracts with the city? Explain your position.

I support accountability for ALL professionals but in choosing a side we have to be clear on what each side looks like. There is a lot of talk about defunding the police (SAPOA) and there is talk about protecting dirty cops (FixSAPD/San Antonio Coalition for Police Accountability). Both sides can’t be right but if both sides are then that poses an even deeper problem. With that said, it’s difficult to make a decision for or against when both sides are speaking in ‘sound bites’ and not clearly articulating the campaign. In addition, the city has not clearly communicated what a YES means for fire and the EMS as Chapter 174 is linked to safety as a whole. FixSAPD/SACforPA have stated they aren’t targeting fire and EMS so the city needs to be clear on the impact of the vote either way to avoid any unintended circumstances or invite the boogeyman of misinformation. I believe all voters should be well informed and I can honestly say neither campaign has provided enough information for me to vote either way but instead muddied the water to welcome confusion. I am pro accountability and believe if you violate the public’s trust there should be stiff consequences. I also believe in due process and fairness. When I call 911 I have a high expectation on who answers that call in regards to protection and service. I’m an early voter so I will continue to collect information for a decision between April 19-27.

What is your opinion of the city’s role in incentivizing large-scale apartment developments in the downtown area and in the regional centers identified in the SA Tomorrow plan? What role do you believe San Antonio should play in incentivizing affordable housing?

There needs to be accountability linked to any incentives offered by the city. If the city is giving away resources that would ultimately benefit the citizens there has to be a return on investment that directly replaces that benefit. I believe an accountability and equity director should be assigned to these large-scale projects for the life of the abatement at the developer’s expense. That AED would serve as a watchdog for the community. With the resident’s input (some type of advisory board for oversight of large scale city incentives) yes the city should play a major role in incentivizing affordable housing. The city is the biggest player and has the most candy to hand out. The sticking points would be oversight, accountability and ROI to residents.

What is one thing the city can do to increase transparency in local government or to better engage its citizens?

One thing would be to exhaust all means/mediums of communication. Vendors give you an option of how you want your receipt/policies/procedures/terms/etc., after making a purchase or updating a plan. Vendors ask if you want a printed receipt, a receipt sent to your phone, emailed, etc. Citizens want receipts and there are so many ways for the city to pass them on to residents (social media, terrestrial media, field campaigns using blockwalkers and phone bankers, mailers, newsletters, email blasts, etc.), Elected and appointed leaders need to do more and it starts by sharing information.

What’s the best way for San Antonio to balance maintaining the character of East Side neighborhoods while encouraging private investment?

The best way is for San Antonio to be honest.

There is a quiet movement in the development community as well as with some downtown insiders to expand into the East Side (St. Paul Square as far as New Braunfels) creating a Midtown and even whispers of moving as far up to W.W. White creating an Uptown. Some if not most specifically the Uptown part is just paranoia, but the Midtown talk is real and visible with the type of investment,
zoning and overall interest in this part of the East Side. So be honest if this is what it is and allow the current residents an opportunity to be a part of the process. San Antonio is developing more and more property far east and with honesty there are opportunities for residents to start new legacies in newer parts of the district with fresh paint. The best way to balance maintaining the character of East Side neighborhoods while encouraging private investment is to be honest and include the current residents in developmental plans otherwise push back will continue to be the norm.

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Nneka “Miss Neka” Cleaver, Walter E. Perry Sr., Jada Andrews-Sullivan, Kristi Villanueva, and Michael John Good did not respond to our questionnaire.

Compiled by Jolie Francis, a Heron intern this spring; and Ben Olivo, Heron editor.

 

Downtown San Antonio is changing rapidly

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