Mayor Ivy Taylor delivers State of the City address to record crowd

Taylor sends strong message to police, fire unions

SAN ANTONIO – In front of a record-breaking crowd on Tuesday, Mayor Ivy Taylor delivered her second annual United State of the City address.

Using an anecdote from an employee of her office, she wove throughout her speech the theme of “hay que trabajar,” which means "there is work to be done."

The saying was one used by the grandfather of one of her staffers, Taylor said.

Taylor pointed out several accomplishments of the last year, including the creation of downtown housing and jobs, the opening of a new HEB downtown and securing funding for the downtown federal courthouse.

Taylor also said the city is on track to accomplishment another big goal of ending veteran homelessness.

“We've successfully housed more than 1,000 veterans, and we're on pace to end veterans homelessness by the end of this month,” Taylor said.

RELATED: Six weeks to end veteran homelessness

Taylor addressed the importance of transportation as San Antonio continues to grow, but said the city is considering pulling its share of roughly half a million dollars in funding for the Lone Star Rail project after Union Pacific did the same.

The city could also begin considering changing the city’s current council-manager form of government.

“We've grown and changed so much that I think it makes sense for us to at least examine it,” she said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be an either/or proposition. There could be some sort of hybrid model that could make sense for San Antonio.”

When asked what form of government she thinks is best suited for the city, Taylor said she could not yet answer that question.

During her speech, Taylor also sent a strong message to the local police and fire unions.

“I have one message for the union leadership. 'Hay que trabajar.' Let’s get back to work,” Taylor said. “The unions have to be willing to put the city's final and best offer to a vote of their membership.”

A huge goal for Taylor in 2016 is to finally hammer out a contract between the city and police and fire unions.

RELATED: City offers concessions, police union says no deal

“We've spent a lot of time being nice,” Taylor said in a later one-on-one interview. “I just thought it was necessary with this audience to let them know my position, which is that I’m more than eager to resolve this issue and I don’t want to play games. And that’s directed specifically to the leadership at the union. We know our officers do a great job and we want to support them, and I think it puts them in an awkward position for us to continue to be at odds.”

In response to Taylor’s comments, Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association, said Tuesday that Taylor “ought to start by dismissing the lawsuit that she created.”

The city has filed suit against over the evergreen clause in the police union’s contract that allows officers to work under the terms of the now expired contract until 2024.

Click here to read a transcript of the full address.

The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association has not yet begun negotiations with the city.

“Our stance remains unchanged. The city needs to drop the lawsuit first,” said Mark Black, first vice president and chairman of the negotiations team for SAPFA.

Taylor also announced during her speech that Garney Construction is in final negotiations with Abengoa to take over controlling ownership of the Vista Ridge Pipeline project, which would pump water from Burleson County to Bexar County.

Earlier this year, Abengoa announced it did not have enough money to cover 80 percent of the project.

RELATED: Subsidiary of Vista Ridge company files for bankruptcy protection

SAWS said Tuesday that the talks with Garney are reaching the final stages and that if an agreement is reached, it would not impact the cost of the project.

Finally, Taylor addressed the hot-button issue of annexation citing her own reservations.

"I feel more strongly than ever that blanket annexation is a risky strategy when compared to focusing our efforts on building value in our existing community footprint,” Taylor said. 

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