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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.
When the citizens of San Antonio come together and demand quality services they deserve, change happen. When the city manager released the proposed budget just a couple weeks ago, there was a major shift in what was included compared to what they spoke about at the initial budget hearings. This proposed budget includes a plan to better our streets and sidewalks, maintain and improve district libraries and parks, and better compensate our public workers so they can provide quality public services.
So, when SEIU Texas members, community allies, and our neighbors met for our Monthly Café Con Pan Dulce we gave each other a pat on the back because our voices were being heard due to all our hard work. However, after the cheers, we sat down and talked about how we still have a lot of work ahead of us since the $300,000 the city allocated for west side streetlights isn’t going to go very far. Currently, the proposed budget calls for only one tenth of what it would take to put in approximately 45 blocks of lighting.
Members decided more action was necessary to win a budget that truly reflects the concerns of all residents. We continue to call for $3 million to be used for residential streetlights on the west side.
In addition, SEIU Texas was proud to officially recognize and welcome Mr. Pinguino’s Raspa’s as an official “We’re All In This Together” business partner. Jerry and Billy, the owner and manager, have been gracious hosts for the last 3 Cafe’s and support increased public services in the city budget for the west side. They understand the effects quality services have not only on their clients but on their business too.
You too can get involved:
We’re All In This Together!
Two nights ago, I joined 55 SEIU Texas members, their neighbors and community allies to Light Up The Night on San Antonio’s west side. With lit candles, we walked the dark streets to highlight the need for streetlights and other quality public services.
I’ve lived on South Nueces Street for over 40 years and for the majority of those years, my street has been dark. This is problematic. You see, not too long ago, my car was stolen from right in front of my house. I truly believe that if my street were better lit, this would not have happened. It isn’t just about the huge economical stress it put on me and my family; it’s also dealing with sense that your street is no longer safe. What would have happened, in the dark, if someone had tried to stop the thieves?
San Antonio residents deserve better than this. We deserve to live in safety. Those of us on the west side deserve the same quality services and infrastructure as those on the north side and those on the east side. This is why I joined the We’re All In This Together team.
As a united group, we have more power when we call on city council for the things that matter most to us. Together, we can see $3 million allocated toward new and improved lighting. That $3 million would light up about 45 blocks.
Together, along with our community allies, like the Caesar Chavez Education and Legacy Fund, Texas worker alliance, Fuerza Unida, Domesticas Unidas, and councilwoman Shirley Gonzales, who stood with us at the vigil, we can light up San Antonio’s west side with more than candles.
Learn more! Sign up for updates and attend our next event!
(previously posted at http://www.seiu.org/2014/01/mlk-85th-birthday.php)
On this day in 1929, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born.
No single person has made greater contributions toward the advancement of both the civil rights and labor movements than Dr. King—and his inspiring words about labor resonate just as fiercely today as they did half a century ago.
He saw strengthening unions and lifting up workers as critical to achieving long term justice for African Americans and helped motivate hundreds of thousands of activists, both black and white, through his speeches and the example he set.
As we celebrate the anniversary of Dr. King’s 85th birthday, listen to one of the last speeches he gave to 1199SEIU and other union members and supporters about continuing the fight for social and economic justice:
The San Antonio City Council proposed a number of budget cuts to vital public and community services in the last few weeks including cutting the staff of Crisis Response Teams (CRTs) that assist domestic violence victims and cutting back on hours and services at libraries, recreation centers, and pools.
SEIU members took these cuts as a call to action and joined neighborhood activist, community members, and co-workers to stand up against domestic violence and other cuts to community services – and they won.
The City Council received the message loud and clear, restoring cuts to CRT teams to continue providing services to domestic violence victims, parks, libraries and programs for children and seniors.
Live in San Antonio and want to help make it better for all of us? Sign up here!
Dangerous Understaffing inside Animal Control Services Threatens Public Safety
San Antonio Animal Care Services (ACS) employees are taking action to protect residents from the public health and safety threats posed by our city’s growing stray dog crisis. During a session of City Council’s Citizens to be Heard, Animal Care Officers (ACO’s) gave first hand accounts of the astounding understaffing endangering the public daily. Under current ACS mismanagement, thousands of calls for help go unanswered, bites are on the rise, and residents have resorted to trapping animals themselves.
“We are dangerously understaffed,” said Gabriel Rodriguez, Animal Care Officer with five years of service to San Antonio. “I am deeply concerned that ACS is failing in our mission to protect our citizens. We received 7,600 calls for help in April–the vast majority of which we could not respond to at all.”
With only 13* Animal Care Officers assigned to catch strays and respond to calls for all of San Antonio and Bexar County, the public is at-risk. Already in 2013, there have been 1,894* animal bites—the vast majority by dogs. By comparison, Houston had only 1,265 bites in all of 2012. At this rate, our city is on track to have three times the amount of animal bite victims than Houston, despite having 300,000 more residents.
“Every weekend in April there were only two Animal Care Officers deployed for the entire county with 100,000 strays on the streets. Current ACS management is absolutely not focused on the public safety aspect of our mission. We ask that this Council and the public please stand with us to treat stray dogs as a public safety crisis.” said Animal Control Officer Thomas Stowers.
This speak out at City Hall is part of a summer-long campaign to educate the public on the dangers posed by the stray dog crisis and bring about reform to ACS.
 Source: ACS Internal Tracking System
 Houston shares tips during dog prevention week, 2013 http://www.chron.com/communityblogs/atmosphere/article/Dog-Bite-Week-4539172.php
As the Senate closes in on its immigration reform proposal, SEIU members in Texas have joined tens of thousands of people across the country to support reform that will strengthen our families, our communities and our country.
As a huge rally in Washington, DC was lifting off, hundreds of Texans in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas marched, delivered petitions and spoke directly to elected officials in their home towns about how important this legislation is.