An overflow crowd and a who’s who list of civic leaders gathered Nov. 20 on the campus of Theodore Roosevelt High School for the third SA2020 forum. Designed and spearheaded by the Mayor Castro’s office, SA2020 is a six month community-based strategy initiative to determine where San Antonio wants to be in the next ten years in the areas of education, economic competitiveness, family well-being, government accountability, and many other sectors where San Antonio is perceived as either growing or lagging behind.
Introductions and welcomes were given by Northeast Independent School District Superintendent Richard Middleton and SA 2020 Tri-Chair and Rackspace Chairman Graham Weston. Founded in 1988, and now one of the world’s leading web hosting companies, Rackspace relocated from the Southside of San Antonio and is now Roosevelt High School’s next door neighbor.
“[Roosevelt] is a beautiful place and a beautiful campus. Rackspace is delighted to be represented here today,” Weston said.
Mayor Julian Castro followed by delivering remarks on how he hoped SA2020 would contribute to the community.
“What’s spectacular is at a time when other communities are divided and people are at each other’s throats, here in San Antonio you have over 3,000 people now who have come together in a productive, positive way to dream about the city’s future,” he said.
Castro’s vision has been labeled in part as a response to former Mayor Henry Cisneros’ 1980s project Target ’90, which most believe helped set the stage for the building of the Alamodome, a biosciences research park and a downtown University of Texas at San Antonio campus.
After formal remarks, participants gathered at tables to discuss their visions. That is the very essence behind SA2020, organizers say. Participants bring their ideas and experience to the table and hone vision statements specific to the issue being discussed. But, rather than have an open-ended discussion that goes nowhere, participants are also pressed to figure out how their issues interrelate, as well as how progress can be measured.
“This event is a wonderful opportunity for people to actively engage with government and city leaders in the way they want San Antonio to look in 10 years. It’s really very nice when you arrive at the event and can feel the enthusiasm as soon as you walk in. I enjoy facilitating these meetings because I’m very much interested to see what the city of San Antonio can become by 2020,” said Veronica Guevara, director of construction services for the San Antonio Housing Authority.
Throughout the expansive cafeteria, conversation flowed. Arts and Culture. Community. Safety. Economic Competitiveness. Family Well-Being. Government Accountability. Civic Engagement. Health and Fitness. Natural Resources. Environmental Sustainability. Neighborhood and Growth Management. Transportation. And last, but not least: the topic of education seemed to be on the minds of many, no matter where their conversations started.
Forum leaders spoke of the meaningful ways they felt they could participate and be heard.
San Antonio resident Richard Miller, 67, said he believed the most important thing we can do today is educate tomorrow’s youth.
“I spent my time lobbying for education in our schools about the importance of conservation of both water and natural resources. If we don’t teach the children how to conserve how can they be expected to learn?” Miller said.
After residents hammered out their goals and their measures for progress, they selected a representative from each table to vocalize their agendas. Arts and Culture panel participants embraced their opportunity to speak.They responded with a standing ovation and loud cheers when their representative took his place at the microphone. One by one they shared their ideology on how San Antonio should look like in 2020, and how the city would get there.
After a short break, residents then rotated and worked with other individuals on other topics and once again brought visions of just what San Antonio will look like in the year 2020.
“I came here to represent the San Antonio Fire Department and acquire information from the public about how safe they feel in their neighborhoods. Although most of the topics discussed were about Law Enforcement issues, I felt this was an excellent opportunity for citizens to get involved with city leadership and to provide input that can make a difference for everyone,” said Wesley West, San Antonio Fire Department district chief of Battalion 7.
The next SA 2020 public forum will take place on Wednesday Dec. 8 at St. Mary’s University. Registration will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will include a dinner. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.. To register visit www.SA2020.org or call (210) 207-9372.
Mark Jamison contributed to this report.