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SAHA CELEBRATES GRAND OPENING OF EASTSIDE COMMUNITY PARK

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The San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) celebrates the final Eastside Choice Neighborhood Grant Implementation Grant neighborhood revitalization effort by hosting a celebration for the grand opening of Phillis Wheatley Park, a one-acre recreational area located at the center of East Meadows, the site of the former Wheatley Courts.

U.S. State Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, Lou Miller, Chief of Staff for San Antonio City Council District 2 Rep. Jada Andrews-Sullivan, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development San Antonio Field Office Director Zulieka Morales-Romero, and Morris A. Stribling, DPM, Chairman
offered remarks. Students from Eastside Academy and Winston Elementary were in attendance and invited to be the first to play at the park featuring a playscape, pavilion with benches and board games, a walking path, health and wellness equipment and an open field. 

During the planning process, neighborhood residents met with the creative teams on how best to incorporate the rich history of the community in the newly-designed park. It contains two mosaic lion sculptures representing the former Wheatley High School mascot, as well as custom story walls to capture and depict the legacy of local unsung heroes Phillis Wheatley and Ira Aldridge. Children and residents of East Meadows worked alongside nationally-recognized artist Reginald Adams on location to assist in the creation of the landmark public art project.

The park maintenance and ownership will transfer to the City of San Antonio’s Parks and Recreation Department.

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2021 Budget Adopted

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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.

Public Health

$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. 

Housing

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. 

Policing

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. 

General Fund 

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) 
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New SAPD Protocols

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San Antonio Police Chief William McManus announces new mental health crisis call protocol and permanent end of the use of “no knock” warrants.

SAN ANTONIO (September 11, 2020) — Today, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus issued new orders updating San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) policies relating to how SAPD responds to mental health calls and prohibiting the use of “no knock” warrants.

“The decision to revise these policies was made to better protect our officers and the public,” said Police Chief William McManus. “The newly established Escalated Mental Health Crisis Protocol’s objective provides officers with a way to help an individual who is need of mental health assistance. This new protocol aims to deescalate situations and equip officers with the tools needed in the field to protect lives.”

“I’m completely supportive of Chief McManus’s policy revisions. These encounters can unnecessarily put officers and the public in harm’s way,” said City Manager Erik Walsh. “Over the course of the next few months, we’ll continue to work with the community and evaluate SAPD’s programs, policies and call response to align with best practices.”

This June Chief McManus suspended the use of “no knock” warrants for both search and arrest warrants. In June, District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews Sullivan issued a Council Consideration Request (CCR) seeking to discontinue the use of “no knock” warrants.

“I’d like to thank Chief McManus, City staff and my council colleagues for working to keep our community safer. Thank you to the community for making their voices known and truly asking us to review policies in full detail,” said District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews Sullivan. “By discontinuing “no knock” warrants we are saving lives of both the public and our officers.”   

Updates to the policies were shared with today’s meeting of the City Council Public Safety Committee Meeting, which is chaired by District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda. Councilmembers Jada Andrews Sullivan, Ana Sandoval, Clayton Perry and Rebecca Viagran also sit on the committee. 

“Today we made tangible steps towards making our city a safer place for the public, police officers, and our community as a whole. I have spent hours listening to and reading public comments and meeting with community groups. Thanks to Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan, Chief William McManus, Deputy City Manager Maria Villagomez, the Baptist Ministers Union, the San Antonio Police Officer’s Association, individual police officers, COPS Metro, Community Churches for Social Action, organizers Pharaoh Clark and Josie Garcia, and countless others for their dedication to making substantive changes to city policy. I remain committed to fostering meaningful dialogue, thoughtful questioning and a genuine desire to foster progress rather than division. Today is a win for our city,” said District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda. 

The updated procedures are detailed below.

Procedures 503, entitled Obtaining and Executing Arrest Warrants and Procedures 504, entitled Execution of Search Warrants have been revised as follows:

  • Prohibits officers from applying for or participating in the service of “no knock” search warrant entries
  • Prohibits officers from applying for or participating in the service of “no knock” arrest warrants.
  • Prohibits entry into premises when serving high-risk warrants and requires the use of alternative strategies to include setting up a perimeter and encouraging the individual being sought to surrender.

The Escalated Mental Health Crisis Call Protocol will be used for mental health crisis calls involving violent acts or the presence of weapons. The protocol includes the following provisions:

  • The Communications Unit will try to determine if a service call is a mental health crisis involving weapons or violence. If an Escalated Mental Health Crisis Call exists, the dispatcher will dispatch a supervisor to the scene.
  • The responding officer will coordinate with the assigned supervisor and will try to contact the complainant to gather as much information as possible prior to the supervisor’s arrival. If an Escalated Mental Health Crisis Call exists, then the SAPD Mental Health Unit Supervisor will dispatch the SAPD Mental Health team to respond to the location.
  • Responding officers will not approach the person in crisis, unless the person initiates contact or there is a life-threatening situation. Officers are instructed to evaluate the situation and to be prepared to take appropriate measures to protect themselves and others. Officers are also instructed to conduct interviews of relatives, friends, neighbors or others that can provide useful information.

For more information about the San Antonio Police Department’s policies and procedures visit SanAntonio.gov/SAPD

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Diversity and Inclusion at Alamo Colleges

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By: Jose Macias Jr., D2, ACCD,

When people say things like the “system is broken” or “everything is fixed” – what they are really saying is that they have little faith or trust in the system. Instances of corruption, oppression, and a lack of accountability over the decades, have done little to restore confidence in government. Government seems to benefit those “who have” verse those “who have not.”

I have been addressing this issue for over ten years as an elected official. I won my first election in 2010 due to the climate of distrust in Judson ISD over a bond package that was mismanaged. A stadium renovation project that voters approved for 4 million dollars ballooned to over 10 million dollars. The construction company said that operational cost had increased since the bid as justification for the increase. It is something I never believed.

Anger in the community was off the charts, and as I began my work in trying to understand the process, I began to understand how the “system” was built. I also understood how linked bond and construction projects were directly tied to the classroom and to student success. Poor facilities meant that our students were not getting the very best environment to learn, and taxpayers were not getting what they paid for. As a school board member, I had to be diligent about understanding our construction strategies just as much as I had to be about our curriculum, teacher retention, and support programs.

In my role serving District 2, I can apply that experience to helping Alamo Colleges grow even stronger. Since it is all about student success, it is imperative we build an efficient system. During my first 100 days in office, I met with many minority business owners in D2 and asked them about their experiences in doing work for Alamo Colleges. Many of the responses were not kind. There was an overwhelming sentiment that we were not being inclusive of small minority businesses.

I recognized immediately the significance of this disconnect, and I committed then to help my district. I reached out to the Alamo Black Chamber of Commerce, The Hispanic Contracting Coalition, and the Fair Contracting Coalition (FCC) and began significant dialogue about creating inroads to greater inclusion of small minority businesses at Alamo Colleges.

Many hours and countless conversations have taken place across District 2 in preparing to take next steps to increase diversity and inclusion practices at Alamo Colleges. It is critical that our business partners reflect our community, and just as important that our tax dollars benefit businesses operating in our community as well.

Our data does reflect a strong record of utilizing minority businesses at Alamo Colleges, but our current course has not bridged the disconnect felt by a large group of minority business owners. With some modifications in our strategies and policies, we can bridge that disconnect.

The issue of diversity and inclusion is something that I know is important to my constituency, and if it is important to those I represent, then it is important to me. After all, the core of representative governance strongly implies that you must “Represent” and “Fight” for the community you serve. That is what I call “Truth.”

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