On Thursday, as part of We’re All in This Together, SEIU Texas members, city workers and their neighbors, kicked off this year’s campaign to make sure San Antonio is a great place to live and work at the “Budget 101” community workshop. Participants learned how their voices can shape the San Antonio budget to reflect the priorities of working families and expand quality services for our most overlooked communities.
This year, community members voted to mobilize for the following budget priorities:
“The city budget should reflect the needs of people who are often ignored,” said Alma Arevalos, an SEIU Texas member. “When we speak up and take action, city leaders have to take us seriously. Our efforts make it possible for ordinary folks to have an extraordinary impact in our city budget.”
Throughout the Summer, We’re All In This Together members and community partners will put the lessons from “Budget 101” into practice by speaking out at City Council meetings and budget community input sessions throughout the city.
“Everyday, I work to provide the city services we all rely on. I’ve gotten to know our neighborhoods very well and there is some great need out there,” said Alfonso Avilez Jr, Equipment operator, transportation and capital improvements (TCI) with the city and SEIU Texas member. “We can make some smart decisions in our budget to ensure those neighborhood needs are met.”
This community approach to budget planning has already proven successful. In their second year mobilizing for a fair budget, campaign partners worked together to win $1 million for residential streetlights on the west side, $33 million for sidewalk maintenance and repairs and reached a minimum living wage of $13 an hour for city employees who provide essential services.
Follow SEIU Texas members and their campaign to make San Antonio work for everyone by searching #SATXTogether on Twitter and Facebook.
Yesterday, as the new city council and Mayor Ivy Taylor were inducted into office, San Antonio residents took over the steps leading to City Council Chambers to rally for fair wages, affordable housing and a budget that includes safety infrastructure like streetlights, speed bumps and sidewalks.
Members moved quickly to organize the rally after learning that the Citizens to Be Heard was canceled as it was their last chance to be heard publicly before the pre-proposed budget input session closed. Working families, city employees and seniors all gathered early to make signs highlighting their budget priorities and city concerns.
“We are excited to work with those who won re-election, as well as those new to the council,” said Buddy Villejo, San Antonio resident. “We just want to make sure that our voices are heard and that the 2016 budget works for ALL San Antonio residents. Citizens To Be Heard is one of the only ways we are able to do that publicly this year and they canceled it with little notification. “
SEIU Texas members were joined by members of Fuerza Unida, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and Texas Organizing Project. Together, residents and community organizations are making sure their priorities are part of the 2016 budget and that the new city council and Mayor Ivy Taylor push forward policies to promote affordable housing and fair pay for all city workers.
Need more photos?
Check out the news coverage from the rally.
Reciben con protestas a nueva alcaldesa Univision 41
Ivy Taylor juramenta su cargo como Alcaldesa Telemundo 60
In response to the San Antonio Runoff Election results, SEIU Texas has released the following statement:
“Congratulations to Mayor Ivy Taylor on her win.
While we are disappointed in the result, at the end of the day we are all San Antonians and we love our city. We are ready to work with Mayor Taylor to enhance quality city services, collaborate on fair city budget and encourage civic engagement from underrepresented communities.
Effective governance requires input from every day San Antonians. We will continue to rally our communities to lift up working family voices at City Hall.”
-Jerry Gonzalez, retired City of San Antonio employee and SEIU Texas member
For the last 40 some years, Ms. Gonzalez has lived on Queretaro Street on San Antonio’s west side. For most of those years her street has been very poorly lit. Last year, Maria decided to do something about it.
After SEIU TX members began taking action on the west side, Maria decided to create a petition of her own. She pulled out some paper, wrote up language asking the City of San Antonio to invest in streetlights on San Antonio’s west side. Then she went door-to-door asking her neighbors to sign it and stand with her. After Maria got almost everyone on her street to sign the petition, she took the petition to the SEIU TX office and asked members to stand with her in turning the petition in.
“I began collecting signatures on my own,” said Ms. Gonzalez. “It was good to have the support of not only my neighbors but SEIU Texas members as well.”
SEIU Texas members delivered the petition, along with other neighborhood comments, to District 5 City Councilwoman Shirley Gonzalez. Months later, the city adopted it’s 2015 Budget, which allocated $1 million for streetlights to San Antonio’s west side.
Since then, Ms. Gonzalez has filled out the form requesting a light on her street and is excited to see what her street looks like at night.
Join Maria this year as the We’re All In This Together team works together to make sure resident priorities are the foundation of the 2016 San Antonio Budget.
Last year, the City of San Antonio put it’s budget together. We made sure that our voice was heard and $1 million was put towards streetlights for the west side in District 5. So, how do you make sure your street is well lit? Here are some suggestions.
5 – Host a Bonfire Party
In reality, this won’t last very long and you may see more firemen than you do people coming to put in new lights. Hey, at least you can roast some marshmallows.
4 – Wear Glow in the Dark Clothing
Everyone looks good in neon, no?
3 – Hire Fire Throwers/Dancers
Unlike the bonfire, you won’t get bored watching someone spin fire, but it might be hard to focus if you need to get in your car and go somewhere.
2 – Line the Street with Glow Sticks
Glow sticks are great for fairs and dance clubs, not so great for making people feel safe on a dark street.
1 – Let City Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales know that your streetlight is out or that you don’t have one!
While some of the ideas above might be a lot of fun they don’t solve the lighting issue long term. You can call Councilwoman Gonzales at 210.207.7043 or email her at Shirley.Gonzales@sanantonio.gov and report a light that’s out or a street that needs more lighting.
The San Antonio City Budget is our budget. As San Antonio residents, we have a right to make sure our priorities are the foundation of our budget. In order to make that happens, SEIU Texas members and our We’re All In This Together partners are holding Mobile Meetings. Our goal at the Mobile Meetings is to make sure residents have the information they need to become engaged in the budget process and ensure all residents have access to quality public services. By taking a van full of information to the streets, people can easily find out how they can get involved and voice their priorities for the upcoming budget without having to leave their neighborhood. Yesterday was the first day of this year’s Mobile Meetings. What I learned was that people all care about the same things and the main thing standing in their way from taking part in the budget process is not knowing how to get involved. With We’re All In This Together, it’s easy to get involved.
Last year, we succeeded when the city included $1 million for streetlights on the west side, $3 million to repair and maintain sidewalks and other public services and strengthened our city workers to ensure residents receive quality public services. If you see a white van with our logo and photos, come say hello. We want to make sure all residents have access to the quality public services they deserve. Together, we have the power to create a better San Antonio!
SEIU Texas members and their neighbors show power of working together
Yesterday, San Antonio residents and SEIU Texas members could officially claim victory when the city council voted to appropriate $1 million in the 2014 – 2015 budget for streetlights on the city’s west side.
City Manager Cheryl Sculley proposed $300,000 for streetlights on the west side in her initial budget. However, City Council members upped the funding to $1 million after SEIU Texas members and our neighbors hosted community meetings, called our friends, and held press events to highlight the need for light on the cities west side. On streets like Salinas and Nueces, where only one light currently works, $1 million will go a long way to help create a safer neighborhood.
Juanita Elizondo was at the forefront at the fight. She worked with her neighbors, talked to the press and handed out flyers in order to make sure people understand the importance of working together to put resident priorities in to the city budget.
“We needed $3 million but we will start with $1 million to help light up our streets on the west side,” she said. “If we had not been involved in the city budget process, the west side would have seen $0 for streetlights and we’d have to continue to live in fear. Together, we have the power to make change to our budget and we did.”
In addition to $1 million for streetlights, the city also agreed to provide city workers with a 1% cost of living increase, increase funding for technology in schools, invest in new senior centers, and maintain neighborhood sidewalks. This all helps to create a better San Antonio where all people have access to quality public services.
SEIU Texas members and their neighbors have been working since the adoption of the 2013-2014 budget to make sure their priorities were included in this year’s budget.
Buddy Villejo, a SEIU Texas member and city employee for over 38 years has been working on the campaign since it began. “We really are ALL in this TOGETHER,” he said. “You may not win every time, but you can’t win if you don’t fight. We would not have gotten any more money to light up our west side and increase safety if we didn’t’ get involved.”
As a city employee, Villejo understands the importance that the budget has on city residents.
“I work hard to make sure San Antonio city residents have quality public services. The budget is essential to making sure I can do that. Not only by funding programs and services, but also by making sure employees are well compensated for the work they do.”
Though the fight to put resident priorities in the 2014-2015 is complete, the We’re All In This Together team continues to meet and plan for a better San Antonio. You can get involved too! Join us for our next event: Cafe Con Dulce on Tuesday, September 23 @ 5:30 pm.
Last night, SEIU Texas members and our neighbors, made a final plea for $3 million to be allocated in the 2014-2015 for streetlights on the west side. Residents from across the city stood together to call on city council to invest in lights so that our west side neighbors would gain some safety after the sun sets.
“All San Antonio residents should feel safe on their own street,” said Guadalupe Espinoza when she spoke to city council at the hearing. “The west side has been left behind. The children cannot even play. We need light.”
Over 25 people spoke to City officials yesterday. Some spoke individually, while others stood with SEIU or our partner, Texas Organizing Project, to emphasis the need for light, as well as the affordability of our ask. “
I know the money is there,” said Buddy Villejo, SEIU Texas member and city employee.
According to City records, over the last ten years, the City of San Antonio has underestimated revenues and overestimated expenses by an average of $52.6 million per year. Expenditures have been overestimated by an average of $21.5 million per year while revenue has been underestimated at an average of $31.1 million per year.
Villejo added: “While it is wise to budget cautiously –– the city should not act as if it does not have revenues it actually has. The residents of San Antonio deserve better. We should not have to live in fear because our streets don’t have working lights when the city is has an average over $50 million more than projected each year.”
The $3 million SEIU Texas and our neighbors are asking for would retrofit 6,000 lights based on an average cost of $500 per light. This number is based on what other cities across the nation have spent on similar projects. In Las Vegas, 42,000 new LED streetlights were installed in 2013, at a cost of $20.8 million. That’s roughly $495 per light. With reduced energy costs and longer lifespans, the city expects payback in seven to ten years. In 2010, Boston replaced 25,000 lights at $6.8 million, roughly $265 per light (and the city workers proved cheaper and faster than contractors).
In 2012, San Antonio spent $14 million on 25,000 new LED streetlights. This equaled about $560 per light, fully installed.
New installations, which would include poles and wiring from the street location to the power source would be more costly.
When the last speaker at the hearing made his way to the podium, he turned to face the crowd and pointed to everyone wearing purple and blue shirts and said that, while he was here for another issue, he too supported the call for more lighting on the west side. He turned to city council and said that the speakers at the hearing had grabbed his attention and he hoped that city council was paying attention too.
Miss last night? YOU can still take action. Call your city council member and tell them you support $3 million for streetlights on the west side.