Yesterday, the Chamber held its September Board of Director’s meeting virtually with the Chamber’s President and CEO Richard Perez and Chair of the Board Adam Hamilton, President and CEO of Southwest Research Institute, providing opening remarks. After approval of minutes from the July Board of Directors meeting, the group jumped right into their dynamic agenda.
Tyler Lowe, the Chamber’s 2020 Public Policy Council Chair and Manager of Community and Government Relations for Vulcan Materials presented the Chamber’s position statement for redirecting the one-eighth-cent sales tax from the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program to the Advanced Transportation District for public transportation. The position calls for the organization’s support of allocating the one-eighth-cent sales tax to the Advanced Transportation District (ATD) to improve public transportation across San Antonio. The current one-eighth-cent sales tax is allocated to the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program (EAPP) and Parks Development & Expansion Venue Project. Both programs are set to expire in 2021. The Board voted to approve the position statement.
Next, the Chamber’s Education and Workforce Development Council Co-Chair and Manager of State and Local Government Operations for Boeing Tyler Schroeder presented the Chamber’s position statement in support of the 1/8 cent sales tax redirected to the Workforce Education initiative, which is projected to impact 40,000 individuals by assisting them in attaining educational credentials and/or degrees in high-demand, high-wage fields. The current 1/8 cent sales tax, which is allocated to the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program (EAPP) is set to expire in early 2021 after the City of San Antonio has collected the maximum approved amount ($100 million) for the EAPP. The 1/8 cent would then be redirected for a four-year period to the Workforce Development Program in September 2021, and once that period is over, it will be redirected to the ATD. The Board voted to approve the position statement.
The Chamber’s Vice President of Education and Workforce Development Lisa Marie Gomez then brought the Chamber’s position statement in support of Pre-K 4 SA forward to the Board, who voted to approve it. As a supporter of the initial Pre-K 4 SA initiative in 2012, the San Antonio Chamber recognizes the data-proven, positive impact of the program and understands the critical role Pre-K 4 SA has on better preparing students to succeed in school, developing San Antonio’s future talent pool, and securing a prosperous future for the city. At the end of its eighth year, the program has served 25,761 children, and through partnerships and its grant component, trained 21,000 teachers throughout San Antonio thereby increasing the city’s capacity in providing high-quality pre-kindergarten instruction. Additionally, in a recent study conducted by an independent third party, Pre-K 4 SA was shown to return $156 for every $100 invested.
Mario Barrera, Partner with Norton Rose Fulbright, and Co-Chair of the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) Bond Committee, informed the Board about the SAISD 2020 Bond Program and asked for their consideration of the Chamber’s Position Statement supporting the $1.3 billion bond program for SAISD. The District projects taxpayers will not see an increase in taxes from the bonds, which are divided into two propositions (prop A $1.21 billion; prop B $90 million) and address significant renovation and technology needs in District schools. Prop A will impact 36 campuses including 21 schools with main buildings that have not been fully renovated in more than 50 years and nearly half of the 43 schools with decades old infrastructure will be renovated. Funds will also be used to complete final phase renovations at 15 schools that have been partially renovated through the 2016 and/or 2010 Bonds. Additionally, the bonds will support safety and security upgrades in all District schools. Prop B will fund technology upgrades in every classroom including improvements to high-speed connectivity, individual devices, support tools, interactive smart boards and audio systems. These renovations and technology upgrades will enable the District to serve its more than 48,000 students with 21st-century learning, safety, and security systems. It will also ensure every school is equipped to provide learning environments to meet the needs of a diverse student population. The Board approved support of the Bond Program.
The Board also adopted two policy statements opposing the Recall CPS and The Saws Accountability Act petition initiatives. The Chamber believes the Recall CPS initiative currently underway by the Save Our Power Political Action Committee and the Sierra Club is a misguided effort to undermine CPS Energy’s administrative and appointed leadership and ultimately politicize operations which will ultimately lead to higher utility rates for residential and commercial customers alike. The Chamber believes The Saws Accountability Act petition initiative is unnecessary and will undermine the well run and efficient operations of the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) administration and appointed leadership, and the petition is a “solution” looking for a problem. Further, the onus for Board appointments and rate increases exists solely with the San Antonio City Council and not with SAWS.
Dave Petersen, EVP, presented the proposed names for this year’s Nominating Task Force for Board approval. Per the By-Laws, the Nominating Task Force serves three purposes, first to confirm the nomination of the Chair-Elect to become Chair in 2021, to nominate up to nine Chamber members for three-year Board positions, and to nominate a Chair-Elect for 2021. The members approved by the Board are:
- Paula Gold-Williams – CPS Energy – Chair
- Adam Hamilton – SouthWest Research Institute
- Hope Andrade – Andrade Van de Putte & Associates
- David McGee – Amegy Bank
- Laura Vaccaro – Valero
- Nathanael Tarwasokono – Firstmark Credit Union
- JD Salinas – AT&T
- Brent Given – Bank of San Antonio
- Katie Reynolds – Silver Eagle Distributors
During Richard Perez’s President’s Report, he covered a variety of topics, beginning with an invitation to a Chamber Townhall featuring a discussion with CPS President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams and SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente about our public utilities, their unique structures, and their plans for the future. Participants can register to participate by texting SA Chamber to 833-898-5483 or by watching it livestreamed at sachamber.org/live-events or on the Chamber’s Facebook page. Julie Ring, Vice President of Image and Communications, provided an update on the Chamber’s voting website yourvotesa.com, which is being updated and is scheduled to re-launch on October 1. Additionally, members are encouraged to share voting tools provided by the San Antonio League of Women Voters at vote411.org. Richard updated the Board on the Alamo Master Plan and the Texas Historic Commission’s vote on Tuesday that denied the request to move the Cenotaph. The Chamber will continue to be part of the conversations going forward and provide support where needed.
The Chamber was very involved in advocating for changes to the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), and now the Technical and Community Advisory Committee and the Climate Equity Advisory Committee members have been announced. We are working with the City to include a slot for the oil and gas industry and the automotive industry to make sure we have experts from areas affected by the CAAP. In an effort to be a welcoming place and to attract talent to the State, the Chamber is also working with Texas Competes to support a statewide non-discrimination ordinance in hiring for the LGBTQ Community. We are also working on hosting an event focusing on the economic impact of the LGBTQ Community in Texas.
Additionally, in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the San Antonio Chamber will host a small business-to-business roundtable discussion about second-chance hiring practices. The focus of the conversation will be to gain a better understanding of concerns, perceptions, and questions about hiring justice-involved individuals. The effort is part of a U.S. Chamber Foundation national strategy to develop recommendations for putting those who have been impacted by the justice system on a path to meaningful employment and contribution.
Finally, Richard wrapped up the meeting by providing an update on Chamber personnel. Amanda Keammerer, Vice President of Cybersecurity, recently left the Chamber to focus on a small business she founded prior to joining the Chamber, and Johnny Rodriguez, Operations Manager, is leaving the Chamber to pursue an opportunity in Austin.