Editor’s note: This new segment is called “Leading SA” and will air on GMSA on Sunday mornings in the 8 a.m. hour. You will be able to watch the full, long-form interviews with the local leaders on KSAT.com and on KSAT’s streaming app.
I sat down with Mayor Ron Nirenberg and discussed his top initiatives for the new year, which include the possibility of adding high-tech public transit, lowering crime rates and delving into his overall vision of the Alamo City’s future.
“Well, first of all, San Antonio is not the next Austin. San Antonio is the next San Antonio. We are growing in a unique way and we’re protecting our culture, our heritage, and we are a unique city in the world. And, we will maintain that - that’s a focus of ours,” Nirenberg said.
San Antonio is growing at a rapid pace. Estimates show we could add another 1 million people by the year 2040, so one of the mayor’s top priorities is to make sure our public transportation system is prepared.
"The work that we’re doing right now is to basically bring [public transportation]. Connect us with a plan to the public and to the council and to the commissioners court to get approval and ultimately put the funding for that system on the ballot in November,” Nirenberg said.
The people of San Antonio will have a big decision to make on the 2020 ballot. The final vote could decide whether the city’s 1/8-cent sales tax could help fund the future of public transit.
“There’s a lot of activity and a lot of transportation happening and a lot of congestion. We’re trying to link up with a mass transit system in the city of San Antonio. So the ART, Advance Rapid Transit, is a system of transit transportation that would allow us to bring high-density mass transit to San Antonio in a cost-effective, fundable manner,” Mayor Nirenberg said.
Another one of the mayor’s top priorities for 2020 is the census and making sure everyone is accounted for. He said it’s important for local voices to be heard, as there could be huge implications.
“Everything that we do from a public standpoint, you and me riding on our streets or going to our schools, depends on making sure that that is relative to the other cities around the country. We know how many people are in San Antonio,” Mayor Nirenberg said.
We also had a lot of viewers inquire about the city’s homeless population. More specifically, how to address the problem going forward and how to avoid similar issues that we are seeing in Austin.
“Austin has dealt with its homelessness issues in different ways and we have the benefit of having an extraordinary community of services and organizations that [contribute] to that effort,” Nirenberg said.
Despite the new year, San Antonians are still concerned with crime rates and gang violence. The mayor said even in 2020, officials are still working together to combat criminal activity.
“We’ve been working in partnership with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and other entities, including intelligence agencies, to share information and to ensure that we’re getting a grip on gang activity. It’s called the 10th Texas Anti-Gang Initiative,” Mayor Nirenberg said. "We are on pace for rapid growth, there are big plans for education, and for more businesses here in the Alamo City.“
"Can we compete with Austin in the future with tech giants?” KSAT 12’s Max Massey asked.
“We’re getting there. You know, Austin, believe it or not, we have more college students than Austin does here in San Antonio. The question is, ‘Where will they be after they graduate?’ And so, we’re starting to see a lot, a lot of growth within our young tech community and the tech jobs are available,” Nirenberg said.
All in all, whether it’s schools, jobs, crime rates, or the local economy, there is a sense of optimism in San Antonio.
“And ultimately, that’s what the test will be is to ensure that our city continues to move on the right track, that we’re continuing to be a place that people can find their career, that they can feel safe, that they have an enjoyable experience and they’re able to raise a family,” Nirenberg said.
Let us know which questions you have for local officials below.