To San Antonio City Council, Mayor Nirenberg, and City Manager:
The People’s Budget SA Coalition writes to you as the working people of San Antonio. Our name is new, but we are anything but—represented by over 15 organizations, our work grows from decades of building with thousands in the community.
Over the past months, we’ve been engaging in deep conversations with everyday San Antonians to learn how the budget affects their lives—across districts, demographics, and ages, from immigrants to mental health providers to unhoused communities, inside the city government and out.
Undoubtedly a vision shared by all of you and the vast majority of our city, they’ve all articulated the ways we ensure a safe, equitable, and thriving San Antonio—by engaging in a people-centered process that results in a budget that truly reflects the needs and values of those who live in this city.
Currently our budget falls short of that vision, but we can work together to get there.
A Broken Budget
Real safety is created when we take care of our people, including ensuring dignified jobs, stable housing, holistic healthcare, quality education, and vibrant public spaces. Yet for years, these human necessities have been continually disinvested from, instead in favor of inflating the “public safety” budget. Even though facts and history tell us that criminalization is not the solution.
While the “public safety” category fast approaches City Council’s 66% ceiling commitment from 2017, we see Health, Library, Neighborhood and Housing Services, and Parks and Recreation receive literal pennies for every dollar that policing gets. This is no real solution. In the words of Chief McManus, “Police do little to prevent crime, they respond to it.”
The reality is that San Antonio remains among one of the most economically segregated and poorest of all major metropolitan cities in the entire country. Our people are struggling. Our needs aren’t being met. People can’t afford rent, diapers, healthy food, or the ability to live in sustainable, affordable, and accessible housing. Yet the poorest San Antonio residents will continue to be overlooked and disinvested in this FY 2023 budget. This is shown, in part, by the defunding of public transportation, which thousands of people rely on to carry out daily activities; the expansion of policing, and the failed attempt to invest the $50 million earned in CPS revenue, back into those communities that could most benefit from this surplus. Many folks are still struggling with their electricity bill after both the pandemic and Winter Storm Uri.
We know that the structural disinvestments mentioned above create the exact conditions that only serve to help perpetuate instability and harm within our communities.
We also know that this is an issue of democracy and fair representation in San Antonio. The budget process is mostly conducted behind closed doors, leaving few opportunities each year for public opinion and direction. Further, we see the city engaging the same folks every year for budget input, instead of making a true effort to diversify and expand participants. For a truly fair participatory process, the city must focus engagement efforts for all individuals, across all educational attainment levels, language barriers, mental/physical abilities , and limited accessibility to technology.
San Antonio’s Solution
Fully funding our communities is the way to real safety in a thriving San Antonio. And, according to the many community members we have engaged, this is how we can get there together:
The organizations comprising our coalition exist for the purpose of empowering and fighting with our community. In August, before the city budget was unveiled, we gathered over sixty working San Antonians to hear their stories, what they need to feel safe, and how they wanted the city budget to reflect their lives. Community members from every district led us to the four goals above and we are committed to making them a reality through actionable policy items.
Though this budget cycle has already passed, our work is just getting started. We believe FY 2024 next year will be an incredible and historic opportunity to collaborate and begin transforming San Antonio to the liveable vision we share. We invite all of you to get in contact and work with us this coming year.
Each individual in San Antonio deserves a city they can feel safe and thrive in. Let’s work together to fund that future.
The People’s Budget SA Coalition
The People’s Budget SA Coalition aims to create a people-centered city budget and process that reflects the needs and wants of its community and promotes safety, health, well-being, and liberation for all, by working with and empowering those who are underrepresented, underserved, and unable to advocate for themselves through education, community outreach, grassroots action, and civic advocacy.