S.A. District 3 candidate Rebecca Viagran
OCCUPATION: Small business owner, located in District 3
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science from Texas State University, Master of Public Administration from St. Mary's University
FAMILY: My father, Willie Viagran, passed away over a year ago. He was survived by my mother, Rebecca, and my older sister, Phyllis.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR CITY COUNCIL? It is all about accountability. As a lifelong resident of District 3, I believe it is time to give back what my family and community have invested in me. What's more, in this last year I have seen the need for accessible, accountable and responsive leadership, and that is what I intend to restore. I know that I can serve in capacity that truly understands needs of the community, because I'm from here. And, I am one who is willing to talk with everyone, listen to the concerns, and unite the district. My life experience has led me to fight for seniors, veterans, women, children, the underserved, and those that need a voice.
HAVE YOU RUN FOR CITY COUNCIL BEFORE? No
WHAT PREVIOUS LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE? I have had the great honor of serving as a volunteer with the American Red Cross at Ground Zero in New York City in November 2001, and I've served on the Board of Directors, Voices for Children-San Antonio.
In 2007, worked in community service and leadership development with St. Mary's University immersion trip to rebuild New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, and I was the recipient of the St. Mary's University Presidential Award.
I've been an Advocate for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas. Served Panel Director for Hispanic Leadership Summit, Texas Diversity Council, 2009 – 2010. In 2006, I was selected as a delegate for the Archdiocese of San Antonio to the National Encuentro for Hispanic Young Adults at the University of Notre Dame.
I have worked as an Adjunct Professor at St. Mary's University, as a the Director of Community Affairswith the non-profit organization Mexicans & Americans Thinking Together (MATT), and as Director with the Leadership Development and External Affairs at the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
I'm also a proud graduate of the inaugural class of Las Comadres Para Las Americas Texas Public Policy & Civic Engagement Training Program, LBJ School of Public Affairs.
I advocate for women and girls through my activities such as volunteering with Girls on the Run on Bexar County, Inc., and Board of Directors, Hispanas Unidas, 2012.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH IF ELECTED TO THE CITY COUNCIL? I envision a city that is less economically segregated in both communication and in the exchange of information with their elected councilperson. I hope for a District 3 that has many opportunities to live, work, play and worship close to where residents live; a District 3 that is a leader, not a follower, on the City Council; a place where residents who live in their communities without the fear of stray dogs chasing after them, of their homes flooding after a rain; and, a community that has good communication with the Police and neighbors.
WHAT ARE THE MOST DIFFICULT CHALLENGES FACING THE CITY OF SAN ANTONIO? The primary challenge in District 3 is our need for basic services: repair and maintenance of our streets, drainage, sidewalks and infrastructure. It is difficult to address loftier issues, when meeting our basic needs has been stalled. I would fight for the allocation of monies in the budget amendment process on issues identified by the residents, and communicate with them on the process and how we make city departments and budget work for District 3.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES FACING ECONOMIC GROWTH IN SAN ANTONIO? The lack of a leader who understands and can advocate for the community. Second, absence of opportunity and good paying jobs – especially in District 3. The City needs to serve as the example to other companies on how to pay their employees. Lastly, good infrastructure that will attract an influx of investors and new residents who want to move in the area.
WHAT CAN THE CITY COUNCIL DO TO HELP SPUR ECONOMIC GROWTH? The City council can work hand in hand with the community and highlight our assets. Plus, offer responsible incentives that do not sell out certain parts of town. Promote our small business assistance programs through area banks and lending institutions, and localize home based incentives all in an effort to create a local circulation of money.
ARE THERE ANY DECISIONS THE CURRENT CITY COUNCIL HAS MADE THAT YOU STRONGLY DISAGREE WITH? PLEASE LIMIT ANSWER TO 3 ITEMS. It is all about accountability. Yes, many votes have taken place that I disagree with and that compel me to seek this seat. I do not agree with the appointee's vote on the zoning and decision for Pecan Valley Golf Course. At first the appointee sided with the residents and then changed her position. The residents and neighbors organized and gathered petitions, with over one thousand signatures from District 3 to save the golf course, only to be ignored and voted against. I would have fought for their request and not turned my back on the will of the residents. Second, I disagree with the closing of the Community Link Center on the Southside. This was the source that many of our residents depended on to stay connected with the City offices. The Center was convenient and accessible. Now, residents (especially those with limited mobility) are more disconnected than ever. I would have fought to keep it open. Next, I do not agree with the decision to give millions of dollars in tax abatements to financially unstable companies. What's more, the appointee voted to raise our water rates. I believe that was irresponsible and disrespectful to our District particularly our seniors who are on a fixed income. These are just a few decisions showcasing the disconnected and misguided nature of our current council appointee.
WHAT ITEMS/PROGRAMS WOULD YOU CUT FROM THE CURRENT CITY BUDGET? I would eliminate outsourcing City jobs and keep them in-house and running more efficiently. I would look to freeze and/or reduce executive teams salary so it better represents the entire city's median income or city workers median income.
DID YOU VOTE IN FAVOR OF OR AGAINST THE NEW PRE-K 4 S.A. PROGRAM? WHY? I believe that Pre-K needs to be an opportunity for all. Now that it was accepted by voters and our sales tax has gone up, the most critical components are accountability, parental engagement, and oversight of efficiency. We need to ensure that benchmarks and measurable standards are met and maintained.
WHAT MORE SHOULD THE CITY DO TO LOWER GANG ACTIVITY AND CRIME IN SAN ANTONIO? Work in coordination with the neighborhood, SAPD, local businesses and schools to be proactive to work on solutions and build a network to identify those who are in gang activity and those who are at risk in order to reach out to them before they fall.
ARE THERE ANY MAJOR INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE CITY UNDERTAKE? Yes, fixing drainage issues, especially in District 3. We experience flooding problems after both major and minor rain events, as the majority of the district is situated within two major watersheds, the San Antonio River and Salado Creek. Because of that fact of nature, flooding and drainage is a constant need, disproportionate to other council districts in San Antonio. And this is further aggravated by the fact that rainwater from other parts of our city flows south. We need to match current infrastructure with data and prioritize a comprehensive infrastructure inventory with the goal of creating a working project list for flood abatement.
As a complement to the drainage project list is a street improvement priority list. In this sense, we dedicate an agreed percentage of street improvements and preservation applications to proximate and contiguous drainage projects so the lifespan of drainage and street projects physically work together.