Residents in San Antonio City Council District 8 on the Northwest Side gathered Saturday evening to hear their councilman, Ron Nirenberg, outline his vision for the future.
It was Nirenberg's first State of District 8 address. But residents in attendance didn't just listen. Every table full of involved citizens got the chance to put their heads together to come up with ideas for their district. They collaborated on various topics and they shared their ideas with others. One table thought about how to make downtown attractive.
"Taking old buildings and putting them and making it into a more savvy area, and hopefully that will draw new people, because we need to draw people from the college graduates, just keep them here in San Antonio," said one woman.
Following his speech, Nirenberg said the State of District 8 is about the residents:
"I didn't want to just be talking to people," he said. "I really wanted to hear what are the concerns of the neighbors, and that's got to be part of what drives our agenda, is how can we improve people's quality of life? We assume a lot of times the things that we can do to help, but no one can tell you about what they're concerned about better than the actual resident themselves."
But he also came prepared to talk about his ideas, too. He outlined road projects, making the park system safe, and he brought up police and fire benefits.
While he said public safety officers deserve to be treated with respect and paid a fair wage with benefits to match, he also noted the importance of managing that cost.
"As the public safety operations and benefits are collectively bargained again this year, it will be important to note our fiscal reality," he said. "There is a structural budget deficit caused by rising costs that must be addressed. Temperance and realism in those negotiations are vital for everyone."
He noted the best way to keep first responders safe is to make sure public safety departments are fully staffed and equipped. But he also wants to make sure expenditures in any department don't get out of balance with other important services that make San Antonio livable, like libraries, streets and parks.
Another big part of Nirenberg's speech echoed what nearly everyone, including Klaus Schonfeld and Barbara Clark, thinks is important.
"Really, manage traffic better. The city's just got to get ahead of traffic and stay ahead of traffic," Schonfeld said.
"I'm always for making the traffic go more smoothly," Clark reiterated.
Nirenberg also talked about his newest proposal to compile and study the city's policies on water sources and management. He concluded with a call to action to his constituents.
"Today I'm asking you to take part in these conversations beyond this room." He invited them to be a part of his office's effort to improve the district, and the city.