DEAR MR. SMITH:
We (The Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce) received your letter dated July 17, 2018 “suspending” the Agreement. While the Chamber is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the County, we are disappointed with both the suspension and the manner in which the suspension arose.
The Chamber was approached around January of 2018 regarding the results of Bexar County’s UTSA AABE study. The study demonstrated rather clearly that, despite existing programs in the County, African-American Business Enterprises (“AABE”) accounted for merely 3.8% of all firms in the Bexar County- San Antonio Metropolitan Area. The study further identified that these businesses faced barriers to contracting and advancement that could be ameliorated with management assistance and training. Despite the desire and stated commitment to alleviate this problem and prior initiatives regarding the same from numerous parties (and even the County’s own DBE department), the community continued to experience a gap in the availability and capacity of African-American Business Enterprises.
Founded in 1938, the Chamber is the third oldest black chamber of commerce in the United States. The Chamber has a diverse mix of board members and relationships with other, similarly aligned organizations. The Chamber is thus a natural partner for matters affecting the black business community in the Bexar County- San Antonio Metropolitan Area.
After being approached to propose a resolution to the issues identified in the UTSA AABE Study, the Chamber spent months developing a proposal for a program that would train and equip both African American Business Enterprises and other underserved businesses in the County to bid on County contracts and ultimately succeed in becoming contracting partners with the County. The first contract/grant proposal was presented to the County on or about January 4, 2018. Between January 2018 and March 2018, the County’s staff and the Chamber closely collaborated, and the Chamber received feedback on requested adjustments and capacity building that the County sought in order for the Chamber to be a grant recipient.
The full Commissioner’s Court fielded multiple responses from the Chamber and others regarding the proposal, and ultimately voted unanimously in favor of approving the proposed program.
The Chamber and Black Contractor’s Association then made a public presentation and request for approval of the Chamber’s proposal (and the Agreement) to the full Bexar County Commissioner’s Court on March 13, 2018 along with a proposed budget. Program goals and solutions were presented in detail, including proposed partnerships, performance measurement, and the Chamber’s capacity for goal achievement. The Chair of the County’s SWMBE Advisory Committee, Chris Forbrich, and Renee Watson, the County’s SWMBE manager, were in attendance (Ms. Watson made a presentation regarding AABE’s immediately prior to the Chamber’s presentation). Frank Dunn and Margaret Wilson-Anaglia, members of the County’ SWMBE Advisory Committee, were also in attendance. Joe Linson, another member of the SWMBE Advisory Committee, voiced his support for the Chamber’s proposal during the Chamber’s presentation commenting that “this has been vetted.” Commissioner Kevin Wolff asked various questions about the program’s reach and performance metrics, which the Chamber addressed, including multiple clarifications that the reach of the program was not limited to AABEs. Commissioner Tommy Calvert highlighted the program’s ongoing reporting requirements. Commissioner Paul Elizondo commented on the goal of developing local businesses within the Bexar County metro area to help fill the gap in such a manner that programs like the Chamber’s proposal became unnecessary. The full Commissioner’s Court fielded multiple responses from the Chamber and others regarding the proposal, and ultimately voted unanimously in favor of approving the proposed program. Video of the presentation is available on the County’s website.
2021 Budget Adopted
City of San Antonio’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Makes Investments in Public Health, Housing and Workforce Development
SAN ANTONIO (September 17, 2020) – Today, the City Council unanimously adopted the $2.9 billion Fiscal Year 2021 Budget, which is $4.4 million lower than last year’s budget, stays well below the statutory cap on property taxes and continues to invest resources in the four pillars of the Recovery & Resilience Plan, which includes keeping people in their homes, training people to secure jobs that are available today, supporting small businesses and improving digital connectivity for residents.
“The goal of the fiscal year 2021 budget is to maintain the city services that our residents expect, while also helping them recover from the devastating economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said City Manager Erik Walsh. “We’ve been able to make meaningful investments in the services our community asked for, including public health, housing and human services, such as resources for mental health and support for those experiencing homelessness.”
The FY 2021 Adopted Budget invests $346 million in the community to vital services including health, housing, education and human services; this is in addition to the $291 million from federal grants targeted to assist the City with the response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, as part of the continued response to COVID-19, many departments, such as Metro Health, Fire, Neighborhood & Housing Services, Economic Development and Human Services, have changed their focus to address the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and help San Antonio recover from its effects.
$45.8 million is allocated to Metro Health, including $20.3 million in the General Fund, which is a 29.6 percent increase compared to the FY 2020 Adopted Budget, the largest proportional increase of any department. The Adopted Budget creates a new Violence Prevention Division in Metro Health with a total investment of $8.9 million, including $1.3 million in new funds, and the transfer of 20 Crisis Response Team employees from the San Antonio Police Department to Metro Health.
The adopted budget also includes $1 million to expand the Healthy Neighborhood Program and to create a new Community Health Connector Partnership and augment other public health programs. The adopted budget also adds $120,000 to add 12 healthy corner stores in Districts 1, 2, 4 and 7, while maintaining support for the eight stores in District 3. This program provides healthy food options to areas that lack access to grocery stores.
The FY 2021 Adopted Budget allocates $27.5 million for affordable housing initiatives. This allocation also includes $300,000 for new legal kiosks at key city locations to assist at-risk populations.
The adopted budget includes $486.5 million for the San Antonio Police Department, an increase of 1.7%. Nearly all of the increase is contractually-obligated (by the collective bargaining agreement with the police union) or state law-required. The proposed budget reallocates $1.6 million from the police budget to accept a federal COPS grant to hire 25 new officers focused on preventing domestic violence and reduces overtime for police officers by $3.4 million.
The FY 2021 Adopted Budget also introduces a deliberate process to address foundational issues within the police department, review police services and engage the entire community on expectations. The San Antonio Police Department responds to more than 2.1 million calls for service per year, some of which may be more appropriately handled by other departments and service providers. The process will review foundational issues, such as accountability and discipline of officers, determine the community’s expectations of the police department, incorporate community input and identify funding and alternative response mechanisms. A draft plan will be presented to the City Council by April 2021. Negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the San Antonio Police Officers Association will begin in the spring of 2021.
Support for Residents Experiencing Food Insecurity
The budget also invests $1 million in the San Antonio Food Bank’s Culinary Center. The project will provide more prepared meals for families experiencing food insecurity. The center will also increase Culinary Training program class size, provide space for on-site nutrition education classes and allow the San Antonio Food Bank to be more prepared in the event of a natural disaster or future pandemic.
The General Fund, the largest operating fund in the proposed budget, is $1.28 billion, which is a 0.7 percent increase over FY 2020. The increase is primarily due to compensation increases from the collective bargaining agreements with the police and fire unions. The Adopted Budget includes new and existing investments in community service priorities. These investments include:
- Small business support: additional $500,000 that partially reinstates a City fee waiver program and an establishes a new entrepreneurship program
- Violence Prevention: a new division in Metro Health with a total investment of $8.9 million, including $1.3 million in new funds and the transfer of 20 Crisis Response Team workers from SAPD to Metro Health
- Affordable Housing: $27.5 million to assist residents at risk of displacement and facilitate the development of affordable housing
- Homelessness and Mental Health: $36 million investment, representing a $1 million more than FY 2021. $560,000 will allow the City to expand the Homeless Outreach Team created through the recovery and resiliency plan resulting in 11 district outreach Teams (one per district and downtown). $500,000 is added for an alternative mental health response option
- Healthy Food Access: $120,000 to add 12 healthy corner stores in Districts 1, 2, 4 and 7, while maintaining support for the 8 stores in District 3
- Education: $1.1 million to AlamoPROMISE to provide college scholarships to Alamo Colleges students
- Human Services and Workforce Development: $24.3 million for delegate agencies providing critical services to San Antonio residents
The General Fund also adapts to a new fiscal reality and the impacts of COVID-19 by including $87 million in budget cuts over two years ($38 million in FY 2021 and $49 million in FY 2022) due to revenue reductions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some the of the reductions include:
- Reduction of $14 million through City hiring freeze for most vacant positions, no pay increases for City employees, and other compensation adjustments
- Suspension of economic development incentives saving $5.5 million
- $3.4 million in reductions to the Police Department overtime budget and suspension of Police Cadet Hiring Bonus program ($739,500)
Girl Scouts Announces First Black CEO in the Organization’s 108-Year History
Nationwide — Judith Batty, a lifelong Girl Scout and board member, has made history as the first Black CEO of the Girl Scouts of the United States since the organization was established 108 years ago.
“When I was young, the Girl Scouts instilled in me the courage, confidence, and character that have guided me through my life and career. It is an incredible honor to bring those lessons back full circle to help the Girl Scouts navigate this transition,” Batty said in a statement released to the press.
For so long, Batty was a Brownie in the Girl Scouts and eventually served two terms on the National Board. She also served as senior legal counsel and an executive for a Fortune 100 corporation, where she became the first woman and first Black general counsel to one of the company’s overseas affiliates.
Batty was handpicked by the GSUSA to take over the position after the previous CEO, Sylvia Acevedo, announced her resignation. She will be the one responsible for leading the staff and council leadership in laying plans to for the organization’s further improvement.
“As families across the country contend with so much uncertainty and upheaval, I am committed to ensuring that the Girl Scouts continues to offer a shelter in the storm – a place where all our girls feel welcome, can find community, solidarity, leadership opportunities and fun, despite the challenging moment we are all collectively living through,” she said.
The Promised Land is Yours
Do you live, work, visit, worship, play, or just pass through the 78220 area? Better yet, maybe you are looking to add a new favorite menu to your curbside/carryout food repertoire. Well there’s a new chef in town serving up a variety of delicious flavors located in the heart of the Eastside of San Antonio.
Located at 3363 E. Commerce, Ste. 102, the Promised Land International Flavors kitchen is now open and serving a multitude of flavors from around the world. The idea behind the new location is to provide a missing variety of foods that offer nutritional value and address various health needs in the community while still providing a flare of flavors. The kitchen is open Monday – Friday with breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and lunch from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. On any given day you can find Italian, Asian, Latin, Southern Soul, American dishes and more. According to some of the neighboring residents and customers in the building, the Mexican Enchilada plate and the Italian Pasta with shrimp are some of their absolute favorites.
Executive Chef Fred Johnson brings his 40 plus years of experience to his new venture Promised Land International Flavors. Chef Fred grew up in a military family and then later served in the Navy himself. His passion for culinary arts began when he was just 14 years old. Realizing he was blessed with the gift of culinary skills, Chef Fred pursued his passion. His blessing has afforded him the opportunity to teach Airforce and Navy Basic Culinary classes, he’s managed a Zio’s Italian Kitchen, he once cooked at a dinner that included the late President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, and prior to his recent end of June 2020 retirement, Chef Fred cooked seven days a week on the U.S.S. Frank Cable AS-40 ship for 1,200 servicemen when the pandemic hit. So, this well traveled Plainview, Texas native is no new kid off the block, he’s got game!
Promised Land International Flavors had a soft opening July 5, 2020 for the residents and building tenants and currently is now open and serving the public. Promised Land International Flavors is also available for small catering events. For more information visit http://promisedlandif.com/, https://www.facebook.com/PromisedLandif/, call (210) 238-2625, or just stop by and place your order to go.
by LaNell Taylor
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