By Jason B. Hogan
Updated Wednesday, May 1, 12:39 p.m.
View the forum in its entirety.
Updated Wednesday, April 24, 2:17 p.m.
All candidates have confirmed attendance.
Updated Monday, April 8, 5:20 p.m.
Rebecca Viagran, one of three candidates running for the District 3 city council seat May 11, confirmed her attendance for The Mesquite-sponsored District 3 city council candidate forum at 6 p.m. April 30 in Brooks Large Auditorium at Brooks City-Base Campus, 2601 Louis Bauer Dr.
Viagran provided The Mesquite an unscheduled interview Sunday, when a reporter spotted her campaign signs during the Holy Name Church Spring Festival at Comanche Park, 2600 Rigsby Avenue.
The candidate confirmed her intention to attend the student-led forum. As of Sunday, she was the only candidate who had not confirmed.
Viagran said her platform is centralized on civic engagement, and attending public events such as Sunday’s festival are integral to understanding the community’s needs.
“Voting is just one step,” she said, in terms of increasing civic engagement and imperatives to achieving a higher level of student engagement.
“It’s about building relationships,” she said. Accountability matters when choosing to run for a city official position, she continued, and establishing relationships and attending forums are part of building that accountability.
The Mesquite, the university’s student-produced news site and online forum, will host a District 3 City Council Candidate Forum at 6 p.m. April 30 in Brooks Large Auditorium at Brooks City-Base Campus, 2601 Louis Bauer Dr.
The educational forum will be a training ground for journalism and political science students to moderate a political forum. Undergraduate students are partnering with faculty and Texas Public Radio who have nominated high-achieving students to offer additional training and experience. The forum will be student-run with professional advising from Texas Public Radio’s Eileen Pace and Ryan Loyd.
Communications senior Jacob Beltran, The Mesquite’s forum director, said the event provides an opportunity for a media outlet to educate community members on candidates’ platforms.
“It’s great research practice for both majors because it’s important to know who is running in these races,” Beltran said. “A political forum, in specific, is good because it’s any newspaper’s responsibility to bring to light all candidates in an election and their plans to represent constituents.”
In preparation for the forum, students are studying the history of San Antonio’s district politics as far back as the 1970s when the city changed its political representation to create 10 single-member districts. Students are also studying the candidates who are running for the District 3 council position.
District 3 incumbent Leticia Ozuna is seeking re-election against candidates Rebecca Viagran, an adjunct political science professor at St. Mary’s University and former District 1 representative for the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women.
Gabriel Quintero Velasquez, longtime civil rights activist on the South Side and former member of the city’s Cultural Arts Board.
Ozuna and Velasquez have a long, publicized history. Velasquez was removed from his position on the Cultural Arts Board last year by Ozuna, only two months after she took the council seat. Her reasoning was that Velasquez did not understand the direction the council was proceeding. Now, they will be pitted against each other in May when they vie for the same position in this year’s election.
Other District 3 forums are well underway.
Grace Hernandez, a representative of the San Antonio Democratic Party and co-chair of the events and fundraising committee, said Tuesday that during the most recent candidate forum held Monday at Highland Hills Elementary School, candidates arrived with their own tailor-made questions, and said they were taking none from the audience in attendance.
Hernandez said that is unacceptable, she reasoned, because it gave the candidates time to prepare their responses.
“Let them draw a question out of a jar or a fish bowl. Put them on the spot,” Hernandez said. “If they have an interest in representing their district, they should already have an answer (to audience’s questions)” Hernandez continued.
She said South Side residents are concerned with problems stemming from stray dogs to job placement and availability, and the ability to meet requirements of higher-paying jobs.
But Hernandez said she believes each candidate has their own agenda and platform issues.
The forum is free and open to the public. Early arrival is recommended for limited seating. For more information, call The Mesquite newsroom at (210) 784-1051.