Resolution declaring racism a public health crisis to go before San Antonio City Council

The resolution cleared an initial hurdle Friday; no date for the vote has been set

SAN ANTONIO – The city council will vote on a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis in San Antonio and pledging the city’s commitment to advancing racial equity efforts.

The city council’s Community Health and Equity Committee on Friday unanimously approved sending the resolution to the full city council with some changes. The resolution had previously been reviewed by the Governance Committee in June, as well.

A date for a full council vote has not yet been set, but district 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval, the committee’s chairwoman, said she would like to see the council take up the resolution before it adopts a new budget.

The resolution, which includes a lengthy intro detailing historic examples of racism and statistics detailing economic disparities, states that the council “declares racism to be a public health crisis and acknowledges that the effects of systemic and structural racism are a public health crisis in San Antonio and commits to advocating for racial justice as a core element of all policies, programs,and procedures.”

The resolution also lists commitments such as: working with the community to find solutions to addressing “systemic and institutional racism,” providing bi-annual presentations about what policies and programs the city is implementing to improve racial equity, reviewing policies and procedures to get rid of racial bias, promoting racially equitable economic and workforce development programs and policies.

The idea has been pushed by District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan, and staff at both the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and the Office of Equity have had a hand in drafting the resolution, as have community members.

Andrews-Sullivan said the resolution is not about racism against just one community, but across the board.

That’s what this declaration is calling for. It’s not to exclude one, but to include all,” she said during the committee meeting. “And so we move forward because we know if a person is stressed, their health is going to decline. If a person doesn’t have adequate housing, their health is going to decline. If a person is not given access to health care, how can we speak to truly preserving and upgrading lives if we’re not speaking to the holistic features of a person’s lifestyle?

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The handful of community members who called in to the meeting expressed their support.

“I do appreciate the fact that I feel like we are currently being heard,” Jourdyn Parks told the committee.

However, they also made it clear they viewed the resolution as a first step, not the end point.

So I think what I would really like to see the most come from this is, in the same way that this was kind of codified and formalized, add that same standard of application of policy and funding to follow suit here,” Marlon Davis told the council members. “So that it’s not just a sort of like a feel good measure or a rallying cry, but that we’re seeing real and tangible steps taken towards resolving the effects of racism in ravaging our communities.”

Local activist Pharaoh Clark, who is with the group Reliable Revolutionaries, was also one of those who called in.

Clark told KSAT afterwards that if council members pass the resolution, which he urged them to do quickly, he and others will be making sure there’s follow-through.

“When you talk about reviewing policies and procedures, you know, that’s one thing. What are you gonna do to actually change and craft new policies and procedures?” Clark said.

Asked about the resolution during the nightly briefing on Friday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said it would provide a set of expectations from which the council to begin building policies and programs and allocate resources.

“Every resolution from the dawn of democracy is toothless unless you’re willing to act on it,” Nirenberg said. “I mean, the Declaration of Independence was just words on a paper before we decided to act on it.”

District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran asked for some changes, which were included in the committee’s vote, before the resolution goes to the full council.

Viagran suggested including city boards and commissions in the resolution as well as a commitment to education about the issue. She also asked that the introductory portion of the resolution reference lynchings by the Texas Rangers.

“I think that’s something that’s important to not shy away from,” Viagran said. “It’s your history. You can’t hide from that. Whether you like it or not, it was part of what happened.”

You can view the draft of the resolution the Community Health & Equity Committee considered here:

This is a breaking news update. Check back for more information soon in this article and on the 5 and 6 p.m. KSAT 12 newscasts.

About the Author

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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