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A Vision for Americas 21st Century City

Mayor Ron Nirenberg


Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk | August 18, 2017
Intro

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you Gary [Joeris], for that introduction, and thank you all for
having me today, for taking a deep interest in the future of our city. I want to commend our
hosts, Duane Wilson, and the North Chamber, whose members are the lifeblood of our local
economy.

Im thrilled to be here. This is an exciting time for our city, a turbulent time for our nation and a
time of opportunity for those who want to effect change. I consider myself fortunate to call
myself the Mayor of San Antonio right now. On the horizon is our 300th birthday celebration,
the Tricentennial. And 2020, a year that will serve as a yardstick for measuring how close we
are to achieving our collective vision for our city.

Im here today because I love San Antonio. And I know you do too.

Ive heard some of you in this room say that if a city is not growing, it is dying. This is not a
statement about population projections. It is a statement about the economy, about
opportunity, about brainpower, and the will to act. And I couldnt agree with it more.

This is a critical time in San Antonio. Whether you are in public office, run a business or serve on
your neighborhood association, this is the time when our city needs leaders to lead. Its why I
ran for office and why Im here today.

San Antonio is a premiere city of the 21st Century. We are the city of Americas future.
I have a bold vision not just for the next eight years, but for us today and for my sons
generation tomorrow. Hes 9 now, and by the time he is my age, the city will have doubled in
population to the size of Chicago. What we do now matters, from transportation and
protecting our natural resources, to fostering great schools and growing jobs. My vision today is
shaped by Jonahs future. And its a shared vision, guided by community conversations that
started years ago with SA2020. It aligns with our citys own ambitious blueprint for our future,
SA Tomorrow.

And while weve grappled recently with some doldrums, with sliding back to business as usual,
were starting to reclaim our momentum. In May, residents approved the largest bond package
in our history. With record margins, San Antonio voters sent a clear signal that they are ready
to invest in the future of San Antonio. They didnt just approve a street improvement in their
neighborhoods. They chose a better future for all opting to improve historic Alamo Plaza,
revitalize San Pedro Creek and leverage private dollars to ensure that our premier city has a
premier Hardberger Park.

Our community also chose to bring in six new members to council. I look forward to working
with them, along with the veterans we will count on: our man downtown Robert Trevino in
District 1; Rebecca Viagran in District 3; who is making the southside rise again; the chair of
Comprehensive Planning and a champion for equity Shirley Gonzales in District 5; and of course,
the dean of the Council forget the youngest MPO Vice Chair Rey Saldana.

I can tell you personally and without a doubt, each one of our talented and experienced
council members is committed to improving the lives of all San Antonio families.

With their help, I feel confident that we will accomplish a lot. Already, were focusing on the
biggest task of the fiscal year, which is passing a $2.7 billion balanced budget that addresses the
needs of a modern San Antonio. To accomplish that, we found the collective courage to put the
resources of San Antonio where they are most needed, while continuing to build a city that
functions at a 21st century pace.
Equity is not a catchphrase or a slogan. Its a process and a value, fiscally responsible and
rooted in compassion. If a budget is a moral document, then this one is our most honest. It has
required us to confront past mistakes choices that have made us one of the most
economically segregated city in the country and restore equity for all of our residents.

Why does it matter? Because when we have a large and growing population in San Antonio that
lacks access to reliable public transportation, that lives in neighborhoods where the streets are
crumbling and crime festers, where parents have to work three or four minimum wage jobs to
make ends meet, the cycle of poverty continues. This cycle pushes the American Dream out of
reach for too many families and holds our city back.

We must change. The San Antonio we deserve is one that leaves no family behind.

That starts with a city staff thats committed to doing the right thing. San Antonio residents
should be proud that we have an extraordinary city management team, led by the best city
manager in the country Sheryl Sculley. Thank you, Sheryl, for your steadfast work and for
keeping us focused on equity during this budget cycle.

While a lot of great things are happening in San Antonio right now, we also have a lot of work
to do. Theres no doubt were going to be bigger but if were going to be better, we need to be
bolder.

I know that the North Chamber is no stranger to bold action. Since 1974, your members have
demanded it, backing major transportation and bond packages.

Id like you to take a moment right now to consider what YOUR vision is for our city. What you
want to see. You have a notecard in front of you. Take a moment to fill it out. Well be
collecting your suggestions.
Economy and International Relations

San Antonio has already come a long way. Weve diversified. Our pillar industries are many and
growing.

The local economy is outperforming the state and the nation. Scientists in San Antonio are
unlocking the cure to Type 1 diabetes. Research taking place at the Southwest Research
Institute is helping us pilot driverless cars.

But we cant afford to get complacent. Lets stoke the flame.

We will grow our biomedical research and manufacturing industries by targeting new
companies, and well work to restore momentum in venture capital investments within our
growing technology and biotech community. Working responsibly with our available natural
resources, existing businesses and a municipally served consumer market, there is no reason
why we cannot become a national leader in the green economy. Environmentalism is good for
business, too.

And its not just about any opportunity its about the right ones, with the right businesses.
San Antonio does not need to settle. For too long, San Antonio has suffered from an inferiority
complex. If youve called this city home for long enough, then you know. Youve heard about
the ways that we second guess ourselves. Youve seen it in the inertia of political leaders.
Perhaps youve even felt it yourself.

San Antonio is a big league city a front office city and its time we start acting like it. We
have every strength a modern city needs. Now we need to raise our expectations.

Our city also has a hidden talent: teamwork. This is the economic development approach of the
city, the EDF, and Bexar County working together to grow and retain businesses, fuel
entrepreneurship, and strategically target new corporations to invest in a future in San Antonio.
This team is officially on the hunt as we pursue expansion of the Toyota Motor Manufacturing
plant, including the partnership with Mazda. As weve shown already for the success of
Toyota, no one does it better that Team Toyota of San Antonio, Texas.

San Antonio is open for business.

But you know that our weakness is Texas dark secret. Despite the impressive numbers, the
bulk of our jobs are low wage and the high-wage, high-skilled jobs are hard to fill. We have a
workforce that is not prepared for the jobs of tomorrow but we have an ecosystem of players
working to change that.

For San Antonio to thrive and be globally competitive, we have to improve education to create
a strong workforce pipeline. We have to strengthen workforce development programs and
expand the work of our education partners. From the SA Works program, which is partnering
with local businesses to provide students with internship and work opportunities, to Upgrade,
which is giving working adults a second chance to earn a college degree.

We have to continue to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, and startups. Where can we


identify municipal red tape, we should cut it. Where we can recognize the work of business
incubators like the Maestro Center or LiftFund, we should amplify it.

And it will make us a city that competes not just in Texas, but across the world. Lets be clear:
we live in a global, borderless economy. We will build global capital through foreign direct
investment and export-import, where the majority of the growth of our GDP comes from,
fueling the growth of local businesses here at home.

As mayor of San Antonio, I consider one of my primary roles as this citys salesman-in-chief,
working to promote global economic opportunities here. Already, Ive met with local, state and
international leaders to discuss how we can ensure that the next iteration of NAFTA is good for
San Antonio. We are going to work with businesses and our congressional delegation to make
the case that NAFTA 2.0, first born in our city, should be signed once again in San Antonio,
Americas gateway to Central America.

Economically, culturally, artistically, San Antonio should be a city OF the world, not just a city in
the world.

There is broad recognition in international business and diplomatic circles that economic
partnerships dont just happen. They require lots of work and relationship building that
happens at the civic level and citizen-to-citizen level from educational and cultural exchanges
to trade.

Today, San Antonio has 10 Sister Cities around the globe. In two months Ill travel to Darmstadt,
considered the Silicon Valley of Germany, to sign a new sister city agreement as well as solidify
education and research exchanges. These are the kinds of conversations that many years ago
convinced Toyota executives to locate their manufacturing plant in our city.

Transportation, housing and public safety

But what about right now, right here in San Antonio? I am a firm believer that great cities get
the basics right from bricks and mortar investments that allow people to safely walk through
their neighborhoods to public transit options that level the playing field for working families
that dont have a car.

So lets talk transportation. We are improving the streets budget by over 50 percent this year,
up to $99 million, while focusing more of those resources where the need is greatest. We are
accelerating lane striping from a once-every 20 years to once every 2-3 years. Were building
bike lanes and were extending sidewalks faster. But still, that wont be enough.

At least 150 cars are being added to area roads, every day. By 2040, there will be half a million
new cars on our roads. The infrastructure investments we make through the 2017 bond
program will barely keep up with the pace of growth. By 2040, your commute times ARE going
increase dramatically. If we continue with the status quo, average commute times will rise by
75 percent.

This will bring our economy, and our quality of life, to a grinding halt. We can do better than
that. We MUST do better.

In San Antonio, we do not have what anyone would consider a modern transit system. Past
politics didnt make a strong enough case for it. Our pain threshold wasnt there. A transit plan
was viewed as half-baked by voters and there was little faith it would be done right.

If we dont plan for transit now, we will cripple our economy and erode the quality of life that
makes San Antonio so great. We wont blame ourselves but our children will.

A modern transit system with real options connects communities, connects our city and
supports sustainable development that helps us move our economy forward. It should include
mass transit options and better bus service.

We are taking steps. In the FY2018 budget, we will improve VIA bus routes and frequency with
an additional $4.3 million. But these forms of multi-modal will take us only so far. We know the
future that is in store for us, if we do nothing to build a mass transit system in San Antonio.

So, I put Councilman Rey Saldaa in the MPO executive committee as its vice chair and created
a new Council Committee devoted specifically to transportation issues. With former
Councilman Ray Lopez at the head of the San Antonio Mobility Coalition and strong alignment
in the county and citys priorities, the time has come to act.

However, modern mass transit in San Antonio must be citizen-driven and voter-approved.
None of this can be done without us working together not without your sincere input and
certainly not without your focused investment.

Which brings us to our citys next big lift: housing. As San Antonio grows up, will San Antonians
be priced out?

Over the next 20 years, we expect half a million new housing units to be built in San Antonio.
How and where these homes are built will help shape this citys future, its quality of life, and
the opportunities for its citizens. Already, we face challenges to accommodating this kind of
growth, including an existing shortage of affordable housing. Experts tell us we need 142,000
new affordable housing units, TODAY. At the current pace, it will take more than 100 years to
address this shortfall.

We have to face up to the fact that the housing paradigm must change. Currently in San
Antonio (and cities all around this country), the kind of sustainable, urban core growth that is
healthier, more affordable, and attractive, is only happening because it is subsidized. And to
add insult to injury, while we use public resources to build those units, more and more San
Antonians are finding it unaffordable to live in the neighborhoods where they grew up. In the
current paradigm, sprawl is unsustainable, but infill is unaffordable.

We need to protect and connect neighborhoods amid incredible growth and expand the
housing choices for our residents, no matter what their income. Our local housing policies must
work for consumers who want to keep and rehabilitate their homes, but just as important be
profitable for industry.

Today, I am announcing the creation of the Mayors Housing Policy Taskforce, led by former
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of HUD Lourdes Castro-Ramirez. The taskforce will
develop a framework for a comprehensive, compassionate housing strategy for our City. They
will be charged with ensuring that San Antonio maintains its competitive advantage in housing
affordability, while we grow in a sustainable way. It is a diverse group of experts that also
includes Maria Berriozabal, Gene Dawson, Jim Bailey, and Noah Garcia.
But a housing strategy and a modern transit system arent enough if our residents dont feel
safe. After years of seeing a decline in violent crime rates, that trend reversed itself.

Since I took office two months ago, three police officers were shot in two separate incidents.
The first senseless shooting took the life of Officer Miguel Moreno. A four-year-old child was
murdered in a drive-by shooting. Then came the horrific human smuggling episode that landed
on our citys doorstep. Ten lives were lost.

We are better than this. Remember our commitment to each other and to our children during
SA2020? Our goal then is as it remains today: San Antonio will be the safest big city in the
country. We can do this and we will.

Last month, I embarked on a listening tour to see first-hand what our police officers encounter
on the street. I rode with the Street Crimes Unit as they worked hot-spot neighborhoods and
made an effort to connect with residents. To get to know them and address issues before they
arise. I witnessed true dedication and concern from our officers on patrol.

Later this year, in a unique partnership with several law enforcement agencies, we will launch
the Texas Anti-Gang Initiative here in San Antonio. Over 100 trained law enforcement will begin
conducting focused activities on these insidious drug and gang threats to our public safety. And
this years budget adds an additional 40 officers to the force.

We cant deny that there is still more we can do now to fortify trust between our police officers
and the community they serve. I am working with Police Chief William McManus to do just that,
participating in monthly conversations with community members across the city to understand
what they see as a breakdown in relations.

We are listening. And I have to say publicly, I am proud of our Chief McManus and I hope you
are too. For the way he has handled these situations in the last few years. I have appreciated
his approach in building community through policing, Ive seen it up close now for several years.
It means making sure all members of our community I mean ALL feel safe in their town.
Close

Half a century ago, on his last full day as this nations president, John F. Kennedy stood at
Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio and declared that the United States had thrown its cap
over the wall of space, and we had no choice but to follow it.

Less than six years later, we stood together as Americans and planted our flag on the moon. It
was not by chance that the president stood here, in this city, to make that declaration. Brooks
was a center of aeronautics and medical research, the two frontiers that mankind would need
to conquer before achieving every generations impossible dream. For decades, Brooks had
launched the best pilots into battle; now, the best physicians were conquering a brave new
world in science.

And it was not by accident that President Kennedy chose San Antonio to be where he would say
defiantly, I think the United States should be a leader. A country as rich and powerful as this
which bears so many burdens and responsibilities, which has so many opportunities, should be
second to none.

The presidents words that morning were about space exploration, but his lesson was about
leadership. It was about setting a vision to lead the world: to meet setback with determination,
to meet challenge with conviction, and to turn unknown burden into achievement, so that
Americas children would live in a country that was second to none.

And we did.

Today, I feel the same way about our city, San Antonio. We are a city of dreamers and of doers,
each ready to do our part. We are community made of the young mother who works two;
sometimes three jobs so that her children have clean clothes and new school supplies. We are a
community where that same mother can dare to become the first in her family to go to college.
We are the veteran who serves strangers at the VFW soup kitchen even as he grows old. We
are the entrepreneur determined to take the risk of investing all she has to bring her product to
market. We are the intern, the new energy executive, the public school teacher. We are San
Antonio.
Not long ago, the Brooks where Kennedy once stood was a campus of empty buildings. Today,
it is teaching its first class of students in the second medical school in San Antonio.

On that foundation of confidence, our charge will be clear and achievable: embrace the citys
rise by understanding the future, planning for it and acting on it. Fearlessly.

Are you ready? Its time.

Thank you.