EngageSA series launches with talk on civic engagement, transparency in government

by Heron StaffApril 2, 2019
District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (from left); Cynthia Spielman of the Tier 1 Neighborhood Coalition; Jeff Coyle, government and public affairs director of the City of San Antonio. Courtesy photos

» What: EngageSA—Civic Engagement Government Transparency panel discussion
» When: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 3
» Where: Dorćol Distilling + Brewing Co., 1902 S. Flores St.
» Cost: Free
» Visit the Facebook event page

When city officials and the City Council craft and approve policy, respectfully, such as revisions to the downtown housing incentive program or the Alamo master plan, how well does it include its own people in the decision making process?

In January, the council adopted its public participation guiding principles. What are they, why are they needed and how can they be improved upon?

On Wednesday, we'll address these questions and others related to San Antonio's efforts to improve public participation and to make its government more transparent.

We've invited District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval, who authored the recently-approved principles; Cynthia Spielman, a member of the Tier 1 Neighborhood Coalition steering committee; and Jeff Coyle, government and public affairs director of the City of San Antonio. Heron editor Ben Olivo will moderate.

In a recent interview, Sandoval talked about repairing the lack of trust between many San Antonians and the city government.

"To have a better product in the end you have to really believe that the public has something that’s going to make this better," Sandoval said. "They have a unique ... insight that you as a policymaker may not have."

Spielman, who helped form the Tier 1 Neighborhood Coalition three years ago because some downtown neighborhoods felt they were being excluded from the SA Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan process, called the principles a great start, but still had some issues with them.

"It's particularly gratifying that there's recognition that we've been lagging in public participation," Spielman said. The set of principles "does not answer what they do with the info once they get it. And it doesn't talk to the problem ... neighborhood associations, coalitions and community groups have no seat at the actual decision making table—that wouldn't be horrible except developers do."

Coyle said there's been an evolution from the city in its outreach strategy—from hosting strictly town hall-type meetings to a mix of town halls and going to where people congregate in their everyday lives.

"We want to get the average San Antonian who never even thinks about going to a public meeting," Coyle said.

This is the first in the EngageSA series, three civically-minded public discussions hosted by the Heron and Dorćol Distilling + Brewing Co.

Here's the rest of the series; all events are 6-8 p.m. at Dorcol.


» Wednesday, April 10

Digital Inclusion—Internet connectivity in San Antonio has a long way to go

With Jordana Barton, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; DeAnne Cuellar, state director of Older Adults Technology Services; Munirih Jester, ConnectHome coordinator, San Antonio Housing Authority; Craig Hopkins, chief technology officer, City of San Antonio. Hosted by Maria Luisa Cesar, Greater Good Stories.

Facebook event page


» Wednesday, April 17

Property Appraisals—Why do property values continue to skyrocket in some downtown San Antonio neighborhoods?

With Michael Amezquita, Chief Appraiser, Bexar County Appraisal District; Olivo will moderate

Facebook event page.

People pack City Council chambers in October to voice their opposition and support for the Alamo master plan. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

Contact Ben Olivo: 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

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