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Get to know your May election candidates: District 7

Voting is a vital part of our democracy and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce encourages all residents to educate themselves and cast ballots for city council and mayoral candidates.

We sent out a questionnaire to all candidates running in municipal elections this year. In the questionnaire, we asked candidates about the city’s relationship with the business community, transportation, and the Climate Action and Adaption Plan.

For the District 7 seat, incumbent Ana Sandoval faces challenges from Will McLeod and Trevor Whitney, among others. Here’s what they had t say:

Ana Sandoval, Incumbent

  1. Please introduce yourself and share why you are seeking a seat on the San Antonio City Council, including why you feel you are the best candidate for the position.

I’ve always had a passion for public service. My family immigrated to the United States when I was one year old, moving into a predominantly Latino neighborhood in San Antonio’s westside. Despite working to help pay for family expenses, I graduated as Valedictorian from Thomas Jefferson High School and went on to earn degrees from MIT, Stanford, and Harvard. While I left San Antonio to pursue my education, I never
lost my desire to give back to the community that raised me. These experiences helped me appreciate my own opportunities and made me determined to ensure my community has access to similar opportunities.
San Antonio is growing faster than ever before, requiring leadership that preserves the best of our community while finding opportunities to improve our city. Having grown up in District 7, I know firsthand the challenges faced by many of our residents. As an immigrant, a first-generation college graduate, and a homeowner, I have lived through many of the same hurdles District 7 residents face when striving to achieve the American Dream. In fact, District 7 has some of the most complex infrastructure challenges in San Antonio. As the council district with the most structures in the floodplain, the lives of many residents are threatened from increasingly extreme weather. Similarly, worsening traffic along Bandera Road limits economic opportunity and negatively impacts our residents’ quality of life. Whether it’s living paycheck to paycheck, working to provide a safe home for their family, or keeping up with home
maintenance costs and rising property taxes, District 7 residents deserve a leader who understands their hardships, thoroughly studies the issues, and has experience implementing real solutions to our toughest challenges.
I also believe that with over ten years of higher education and thirteen years of public sector experience, I have the expertise needed to make informed policy decisions that affect the lives of District 7 residents. Since being elected, I’ve served as Chairwoman of the Community Health and Equity Committee and the Public Safety Committee; secured $3.5 million for drainage projects in District 7; secured an additional $1.6 million to address sidewalk gaps in District 7, secured funding for 78 more police
officer and firefighter positions for both budgets during my first term, attended over 200 Neighborhood Association and Home Owner Association Meetings, hosted four property tax workshops to teach residents how to protest their home appraisals, and led the adoption of the first ever principles of public participation for the San Antonio City Council.

As San Antonio grows, I want to ensure we all prosper with it. I’ve worked hard to keep my word and deliver on the promises I made to District 7 residents two years ago. I’m seeking reelection to continue improving the quality of life of my community and our entire city.

  1. What steps would you take as a city council member to strengthen the City’s business environment?

As Councilwoman, I strive to work collaboratively with established businesses, while also finding ways to help emerging and innovative companies and entrepreneurs, ranging from computer programmers to restaurant owners. Just as the creed of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce is to build and sustain a diverse and prosperous economy, my goal is to ensure that local jobs and opportunities are competitive, desirable, and provide our workforce with a path to prosperity.
I believe that the best way to strengthen the City’s business environment is through collaboration between the City and the business community. To do so, I will explore the possibility of holding a quarterly roundtable with City leaders and members of the chamber to talk about policy issues important to the business community. With robust dialogue, the City and the business community will be able to continue working together on major policy initiatives that can spur economic development while also supporting the working families of our community.
I will also work in collaboration with the business community to create economic development plans for the Bandera and Fredericksburg Road corridors – two major economic centers within District 7. As communities along these corridors continue to age, one of the biggest challenges is to ensure that small and locally-owned businesses continue to thrive. I will seek the input from members of the Chamber of Commerce to ensure our local businesses and their employees remain at the center of Council policy decisions.
I will also work with the business community to receive feedback on the adopted Paid Sick Leave ordinance. With polling from several organizations showing more than 70% of San Antonio residents supporting the policy, voters would have likely approved the paid sick leave policy through ballot proposition without Council having
the opportunity to shape it with input from the business community. However, because Council passed the policy through a Council vote, we have established the City’s ad-hoc Paid Sick Leave Commission to shape the continued development of the policy. I will fight to ensure that voices from the business community are at the table and are active members in improving the policy.
By working together with the business community to guide policy decisions, I believe that we will continue to move forward in achieving our shared vision of developing a diverse and strong economy within District 7 and the City of San Antonio.

  1. What are your thoughts on municipal government adopting policies to regulate employer operations regarding wages, compensation and scheduling?

I believe that municipal government has the responsibility to ensure hard working individuals can earn a living wage and receive basic benefits like earned paid sick time. Just as the creed of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce asserts that the quality of life of all of our citizens should be continuously improved, I believe that the City can and must implement policies that aim to reduce the existing 20-year life gap between the residents of our most and least affluent neighborhoods, including
implementing a paid sick time ordinance that maintains broad support among all community stakeholders.
I’m proud to have voted in favor of the Earned Paid Sick Leave Ordinance. Passing the ordinance has been one of the most direct actions that we, as a City, have taken to improve the quality of life of all San Antonio families. The Earned Paid Sick Leave Ordinance is a policy that can increase worker productivity by improving workplace health and safety while reducing business costs. Paid Sick Leave policies protect employees by ensuring that they do not have to come to work sick. I believe that through the Paid Sick Leave ordinance, we will continue to see improved community health outcomes.
I am also privileged to serve on the City’s ad-hoc Paid Sick Leave Commission, tasked with ensuring that the ordinance has proper public engagement so that all stakeholders have the opportunity to shape the ordinance. Had we not passed the ordinance, there would have been no opportunity for the City Council or the business community to shape its implementation had voters approved it through ballot proposition.

  1. How would you encourage the City of San Antonio to develop safe, effective and efficient multi-modal transportation systems that moves people throughout San Antonio and this region?

Over the past 20 years, the City has proposed several ideas for how we develop multi-modal transportation options within the San Antonio area, including a streetcar system and toll roads. While many understand the need to develop a safe, effective, and efficient multi-modal transportation system, the City of San Antonio has struggled to bring a transformative transportation system to our community. In order to have an efficient multi-modal transportation system, we must continue to strengthen our relationships with all community stakeholders, properly invest in our
infrastructure, and encourage businesses to incentivize efficient transportation practices.
Through my position with ConnectSA, I would encourage the development of a multi-modal transportation system by ensuring that the City and County are aligned in our goals for increasing mobility and decreasing congestion. In fact, I have already brought together the City, Leon Valley, TxDOT, and State Elected Officials to develop a plan for easing congestion on Bandera Road. I believe that through partnerships like this, we will be able to pursue innovative solutions that will contribute to a multimodal transportation system throughout the San Antonio area.
In order to increase mobility across the city, we must also ensure that our
infrastructure – streets, sidewalks and drainage – are in the best condition possible. Part of developing a transformative multi-modal plan means investing more funding into fixing our streets and filling sidewalk gaps. With increased investment to address our infrastructure challenges, the City will be able to develop a broad range of transportation options for residents to utilize. To assist with this process, I successfully advocated for a transportation demand management position with the City of San Antonio to provide strategies for maximizing travelers’ transportation
choices.
I also believe that the success of a multi-modal transportation system in San Antonio will rely on stakeholder buy-in, including from employers and the business community. Part of this plan would include encouraging employers to offer bus passes to workers and to promote carpooling for employees. Together, I believe these three strategies will assist the City as we develop a transformative multi-modal transportation system for the San Antonio area.

  1. In January the City of San Antonio unveiled its draft Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP). The Chamber is concerned with that the draft plan does not address how we – as a city – are going to pay for the plan. What are your thoughts on CAAP?

I believe that we have a responsibility to act in the face of our changing climate. The ability of our city to adapt to intensifying weather conditions will save lives, protect our economic investments, and safeguard our military bases. The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is about ensuring we can preserve our community through adaptation and mitigation; it is a draft roadmap toward emergency preparedness and environmental sustainability. I support continued feedback on the Climate Action and
Adaptation Plan as broad stakeholder engagement is needed to ensure the proposed adaptation and mitigation strategies are realistic and aligned with community priorities.
Doing nothing to prepare our city for increased flooding and surging temperatures would be irresponsible and an abdication of my duties as a councilmember. Without action on climate change, we put the lives of our most vulnerable populations at risk. The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan establishes a process for identifying and evaluating the impacts of climate change and climate change solutions on the city’s most vulnerable. Just as the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce believes that
responsible economic development and responsible local government is vital to the growth of our community and the well-being of our citizens, I recognize that the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is the first step in our exploration of policies that will prepare our city for growing environmental challenges.
At its core, the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan outlines opportunities for adaptation and mitigation strategies that the City can pursue when developing future policies. From increasing infrastructure resilience and strengthening public health systems to reducing transportation energy consumption, the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan develops a framework of strategies and corresponding actions that the City can implement to achieve our goals. Over the next few months, the Climate
Action and Adaptation Plan will continue to undergo revisions to address community concerns and potential future technology solutions. Because community members engage in city processes at different times, I believe that this period of revision is a distinct opportunity to engage a diverse set of stakeholders, including the business community. Our city must ensure that each resident and business have ample opportunity to provide feedback.
Ultimately, the plan does not outline a cost of implementation because each strategy will be vetted before any policy is formulated. While some are concerned about the cost of implementing sustainable policies, the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan identifies multiple cost-effective programs already in place in San Antonio that contribute to our adaptation and mitigation goals like CPS Energy’s STEP program
and SAWS water conservation programs. I believe that programs like these serve as successful examples for how we can successfully implement our adaptation and mitigation strategies while also remaining fiscally responsible.

  1. If elected, how will you work to strengthen the relationship between the city council and the business community?

I believe that the City Council and the business community are key partners in ensuring that as San Antonio grows, all of our residents prosper with it. This means maintaining open and continuous dialogue between city council members and the business community. As previously mentioned, I will explore the possibility of holding
a quarterly roundtable with City Councilmembers and members of the chamber to talk about policy issues important to the business community. With robust dialogue, the City Council and the business community will be able to continue working together on major policy initiatives that can spur economic development while also
supporting the working families of our community.

I also believe that City Council should utilize existing avenues to obtain feedback from the business community on proposed policies, like through the City of San Antonio’s Small Business Advocacy Committee. Having led the adoption of the firstever Principles of Public Participation for the City of San Antonio, I believe that City Council will have more opportunities to ensure every voice, including those of the business community, are included in providing feedback on policy issues across
council districts.

Will McLeod

  1. Please introduce yourself and share why you are seeking a seat on the San Antonio City Council, including why you feel you are the best candidate for the position.

My Name is Will McLeod, and I have lived here in San Antonio since 1986. I am seeking a seat on the San Antonio City Council because the citizens are currently being ignored, and are hungry for change. I am the best candidate for this position because I take public transit most of the time, and understand how the citizens are being ignored, I see problems with our infrastructure, crumbling roads, missing sidewalks, and burned out street lights along with scooter obstructions, and that is not acceptable nor is it the city that you deserve.

  1. What steps would you take as a city council member to strengthen the City’s business environment?

As your city council member, I would invite employers such as Publix, Fry’s Electronics and Microcenter to come to San Antonio and provide them incentives for doing so, which would create more jobs for our population. I would also overturn the ban on Chick Fil A from opening up at the airport.

  1. What are your thoughts on municipal government adopting policies to regulate employer operations regarding wages, compensation and scheduling?

Those policies are illegal, and invalid per state law. Furthermore, they are not in the purview of municipal government.

  1. How would you encourage the City of San Antonio to develop safe, effective and efficient multi-modal transportation systems that moves people throughout San Antonio and this region?

As your city councilman, I would reform VIA from the ground up with extensive citizen input which for the first time in San Antonio’s history, routes would be driven by citizens not “planners” that drive trucks and not use the services.

  1. In January the City of San Antonio unveiled its draft Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP). The Chamber is concerned with that the draft plan does not address how we – as a city – are going to pay for the plan. What are your thoughts on CAAP?

As your city councilman, I would repeal CAAP in its entirety, or offer amendments to weaken it. That being said we also need 5 others to join me on the dias in order to do so. That would require extensive negotiation and I will fight as hard as I possibly can to defeat CAAP because it is very very bad for business.

  1. If elected, how will you work to strengthen the relationship between the city council and the business community?

Lowering taxes, cutting regulations, repealing paid sick leave, and also repealing Tobacco 21.

Trevor Whitney

  1. Please introduce yourself and share why you are seeking a seat on the San Antonio City Council, including why you feel you are the best candidate for the position.

My name is Trevor Whitney and I am running to represent all of District 7 on San Antonio City Council. I am a San Antonio native, a Marine Corps veteran, a small business owner and a husband and a father. I intend to bring bold leadership to City Council and bridge the gap between neighborhoods and City leadership. Too many residents feel that City Council is pursuing its own agenda and not representing the people who live and work here.

  1. What steps would you take as a city council member to strengthen the City’s business environment?

This current Council has proven itself to be anti-development and anti-business. Too many times, decisions and regulations are enacted with little engagement with the business community, who are subject matter experts on the issues at hand. San Antonio has continued to add burdensome layers of regulation on businesses small and large, including the paid sick leave ordinance, Tobacco 21, and an assortment of
actions that will only make it more expensive to do business in San Antonio. As your Councilman, I will request that any regulation with an economic impact of over $1M to be considered be posted 4 weeks in advance, and each Councilmember hold townhall meetings in their district to get business/resident feedback. Too often, things are rushed
through with little notice. Additionally, I wish to require a 90% local hiring standard for any non-local company receiving any tax abatement/grants from the City of San Antonio.

  1. What are your thoughts on municipal government adopting policies to regulate employer operations regarding wages, compensation and scheduling?

The minimum ages and benefits under law are set by the Texas Legislature, full stop. Cities do not have the authority to pass such regulations, and the current Council admitted as much when it passed the paid sick leave ordinance. We must stop electing people who will expose the City to legal risk and who would handcuff small businesses
with overwhelming compliance and reporting requirements.

  1. How would you encourage the City of San Antonio to develop safe, effective and efficient multi-modal transportation systems that moves people throughout San Antonio and this region?

San Antonio is currently building the transportation infrastructure that was needed in 1990. We are so far behind the needs of the city, it is a disgrace. San Antonio must elect bold leaders who will represent our city in Austin to ensure that we get the proper funding that the 2nd largest city in Texas deserves. Specifically in District 7, we must build an elevated highway (no tolls) over Bandera Road from 410 to 1604 with limited
exits. Imagine a 281 for the northwest side. San Antonio has been held hostage by Leon Valley for too long, and our residents suffer. We must flex political muscle to get this done, and I do not believe the current Councilwoman has the tools or attitudes necessary to do it.

  1. In January the City of San Antonio unveiled its draft Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP). The Chamber is concerned with that the draft plan does not address how we – as a city – are going to pay for the plan. What are your thoughts on CAAP?

The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is a vapid package of meaningless catchphrases and lofty ambitions, with zero accounting for the cost of implementation. Every policy recommendation in CAAP will lead to higher energy and water bills, higher property taxes, and will not make one dent to climate change. As technology evolves, I am supportive of finding cost-effective ways to reduce emissions without passing plans
for a drastic takeover of much of the local economy and an enormous cost increase on all businesses and residents. The CAAP is based on the Paris Climate Accords, which already have been largely abandoned by signatories.

  1. If elected, how will you work to strengthen the relationship between the city council and the business community?

I think that most of the policies being created at the city are done so by unelected bureaucrats who have zero experience in owning or operating a business. We need to hire consultants or ask for industry input before writing new regulations. Often, the business community is briefed on these new plans just days before the Council will pass them. The City needs to be proactive and seek input from businesses large and small
before adding huge costs to operations.

We have to rebuild trust with the business community. Many times, plans are amended and rebuilt last-minute and the business community is left to guess as to how to stay in compliance. For example, when writing new and development requirements, I think that a 30-year veteran land developer and engineer has a vast amount of knowledge that a city staffer does not. We have to create a culture of cooperation between staff and industry experts. Currently, most city staff see industry as a speed bump, not a partner.

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