I reported on the SA2020 forum on Nov. 20, but I also wanted to share what it was like for me, a citizen, to immerse myself in one of the most energizing civic events happening today in the city of San Antonio.
An enthusiastic crowd of nearly 700 people attended the third SA2020 forum at Theodore Roosevelt High School. The audience, made up of city leaders and residents from all corners of the city, packed inside the school’s cafeteria to discuss the future of San Antonio. There was standing room only, so I made my way to the first available seat and dove right in to learn about Mayor Castro’s ambitious plan to develop a long-range plan that includes specific, achievable goals to make San Antonio one of America`s great cities by 2020.
The meeting was significant because it was the half-way point of the SA 2020 community initiative. It was my first time to attend an SA 2020 forum, and I was intrigued at just how San Antonio would come together to plan such a lofty set of goals.
SA2020 is a community-wide effort to chart San Antonio’s course for the next decade. Education. Transportation. Quality of life. We’ve been encouraged to to realize all of these issues are interconnected and set priorities to improve the city, not one issue at a time, but comprehensively. Through the process of coming together as a city and speaking up, we’ll be able to map our priorities and decide what kind of community we want to be in 2020.
I sat with a group that was focused on family well-being. Our table was led by Paulette Owen-Holmes, 46, of San Antonio. Our group’s main goal was education. I was startled to learn that in San Antonio the high school graduation rate is 27.5%, which is slightly above the state level, and slightly below the national level.
Our group’s other goals focused on domestic violence, crime rate, drug abuse, and family support. I agreed with my group that we had a really great agenda. However, we differed enormously on how we would achieve that goal and how we measure its progress. I was surprised by the number of women who believed our city is in more need in the city for social services.
I sat there sort of out spoken and a bit shy, but then something came over me and I decided to speak. We are too dependent on the government to offer all of the solutions, I said. I brought forward the notion that our goal should be an overall decrease in social services.
Although some agreed, they balked over whether the goal was attainable. A few of the women even giggled at the concept. One leaned over and told me the goal was a good one, but there is actually a greater need for social services. Which made me wonder if we continue at this pace, and people continue to argue from their own stance, just how will San Antonio look in 2020?
At the very least, we’re listening. And those of us who recognize that we have a place at the table, are being heard more than ever before.