Three candidates vying for District 8 City Council seat

Incumbent Manny Pelaez faces two challengers

By Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter, Josh Saunders - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Voters living on the city's Northwest Side will choose from among three candidates to represent them on the City Council when they cast their ballots in the city election on May 4.

District 8 includes the Medical Center and UTSA's main campus, and stretches along Interstate 10 out to Ralph Fair Road.

Incumbent Manny Pelaez touted the role he played the past two years, during his first term in office,
in increasing affordable housing and increasing the number of police officers and firefighters in rapidly growing District 8.

"The level of sophistication to the challenges that face us are going to require a level of sophistication and understanding of the solutions," said Pelaez, referring to the city's ongoing population boom.

Challenger Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe is running for public office for the first time. However, she has worked on over 50 candidate and ballot initiative campaigns dating back to the 1990s. If elected, she would make history in the process.

"I'm a very proud trans woman running for office in San Antonio," Gonzales-Wolfe said.

She said while the LGBTQIA community in San Antonio has allies on the City Council, it does not have a true representative.

"I think it's time that people recognize that we are more than a stigma. We are more than what people want to place on us," she said.

While Gonzales-Wolfe stopped short of outwardly criticizing Pelaez, she said constituents of District 8 are frustrated by the current state of the City Council.

"We need more action and less talk," Gonzales-Wolfe said.

Fellow challenger Tony Valdivia ran for this same seat two years ago and finished fourth out of six candidates.

Valdivia was more pointed in his critiques of Pelaez.

"I think he's been lackluster at best, which is what prompted me to run," Valdivia said.

When pressed for specific criticisms, Valdivia said Pelaez has failed to address District 8 issues in a timely manner.

"Anybody who tells you that we haven't been doing much is either not paying attention or trying to convince you of something that is not true," Pelaez said.

Chick-fil-A controversy

The City Council's decision last month to exclude Chick-fil-A from the airport concession contract has caused controversy that continues to build.

Pelaez, who voted "no" on including Chick-fil-A, now says the vote was rushed.

"If I were to change anything, I would have given us more time to talk amongst City Council members, talk with stakeholders," Pelaez said.

Pelaez was one of five council members last week to vote in favor of reopening discussions on Chick-fil-A. The motion ultimately failed by a vote of 6-5.

Gonzales-Wolfe said the council voted correctly the first time.

"I want to be able to find a way to promote small businesses in San Antonio," said Gonzales-Wolfe, who said her vote would have been based on rewarding local restaurant groups as well as on Chick-fil-A's donation history.

Valdivia said he would have voted to include Chick-fil-A from the beginning.

Traffic woes

Residents in District 8 have also expressed frustration about a multitude of road construction projects on the Northwest Side.

Pelaez pointed out that many of the projects are being carried out by the Texas Department of Transportation or the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization but acknowledged that residents want answers on when traffic congestion will lift.

"It's gonna get a little worse before it gets better," Pelaez said.

Valdivia said the area is in need of a better mass transit solution and said the answer could come in the form of advances in technology.

Gonzales-Wolfe said she is not sure what the answer to traffic snarls is but is certain that the path to find it is not currently being followed by the council.

"I know that there's resources out there, and I don't believe we're utilizing our resources correctly to enable ourselves to actually move forward," Gonzales-Wolfe said.

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