Standing on a stage inside Ballroom A of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center downtown, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro began his annual State of the City address by joking that people should pick up a copy of Vogue.
The mayor and his brother, Congressman Joaquín Castro, are featured in the March edition of the trendy fashion magazine.
Before long Castro was into a list of items he and the city council have taken up over the last year:
- The passage of the city’s biggest bond project by voters in May
- Approval of Pre-K 4 SA in November
- The progress of Café College to help high school students fill out financial aid for college
- Rise in graduation rates while teen pregnancy is on the decline.
Castro did not deliver hard numbers, and pointed to SA2020 CEO Darryl Byrd to spell out the success in numbers. Byrd has not been available for comment.
"What kind of city do we want to be in 2020?" Castro asked.
He said he wants to increase education for employees so that businesses in the city don’t have to look further than San Antonio to hire a workforce. He also introduced an idea called Café Commerce, which would help people with an idea for a business to get it off the ground.
"This summer we'll have the opportunity at the council to approve something that we're calling Cafe Commerce, one place in San Antonio at our downtown public library where any small business owner, any entrepreneur, or any person with a dream of starting a business can go and get the information and the resources, the market data, and the assistance that they need," he said.
A group of people under the banner of the International Woman’s Day March gathered outside city hall later to express concerns over the mayor’s message.
Hospitality and tourism
While the city is focused on improving conditions for businesses, Perla Terrazas with Unite Here, the hotel workers’ union, said she wants conditions to get better for employees.
"In a city where hospitality is the third largest industry, it needs to be worker friendly," she said.
Terrazas interviewed workers, especially those at hotels downtown, to ask what big issues face them, and she said the majority responded that their tips were being stolen.
Unite Here is proposing a Tip Integrity Act, but Terrazas said even after the issue has been brought up, so far only four council members have signed on to the idea.
This why she believes many council members, while working on worthwhile projects, are out of touch with the real issues facing San Antonians.
The bigger picture
Meanwhile, Castro and his colleagues on the dais face a May election. But he says he’s pushing forward.
"A lot of times, and I say this as a native San Antonian, that we don't believe in our own success. But you can see that success now in the city and if we continue to invest in ourselves, we can make San Antonio even more prosperous in the future," Castro said.