AP NEWS

No vote until city leaders step up

May 19, 2019

A friend asked if I was going to vote this year in the San Antonio elections for mayor and City Council. I said, “I don’t vote in the midterm elections unless it’s for a school bond.”

I told her I feel the overall leadership of local public offices is — and has been — the same for years and is not likely to change. I believe the mentality of most elected officials has been that of a second-rate vision of what San Antonio could be.

I believe San Antonio is a perpetual economy — as more people move to San Antonio, there is a need for more schools, restaurants, box stores, gas stations and so on. There hasn’t been a new large corporation move to the area, with exceptional pay, for years.

Many city leaders will argue that San Antonio is a great place to live and raise a family. And they are correct. I’m a product of San Antonio — I attended schools in the North East Independent School District and graduated from UTSA, and now I work in the city and my girls attend schools in NEISD.

But the fact is, San Antonio ranks among the lowest across the nation and state in per capita income and household income, and among the highest in credit card debt. All of this can be attributed to our city being service-orientated, which on average pays less than most fields.

The per capita income in San Antonio, according to 2017 Census Bureau statistics, was $24,325, which ranked 22nd among the largest 25 cities in the country. It also ranked behind Austin, Dallas, Houston and Forth Worth.

San Antonio has consistently ranked in the top five cities with the highest credit card debt and among the highest for credit card debt burden — meaning many in San Antonio rely on their credit card to help pay for basic necessities.

The city’s largest industry employers include tourism, school districts (teaching), USAA (insurance), H-E-B (retail), a large network of hospitals and biomedical research facilities (health care) and, of course, the military. While several industries offer mid- to high-paying jobs, the vast majority pay entry- or lower-level salaries.

With the acquisition of Andeavor by Marathon, there is only one company on the Fortune 100 located in San Antonio — Valero. With the acquisition of CST by Circle K, now only two other companies are found on the Fortune 500 — USAA and iHeartMedia. Compared to Dallas-Fort Worth, which has 21, and Houston with 26 Fortune 500 companies, San Antonio has to make some decisions to be seen as a first-class city with first-class vision.

To answer my friend’s question again: No. Until city leadership comes forward and can talk about something other than major league sports opportunities, record number of arrivals and departures at the airport, tax incentives for business, how San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the country or how many people are moving to San Antonio annually, I won’t be voting in midterm elections.

When there is a candidate who will discuss the importance of education across the entire city, holding parents equally accountable for their child’s success, thus ensuring a higher level of grades, graduation rates and economic opportunities, then I will vote in midterm elections.

Eric Mapes has been in the branding industry for more than 20 years and is the author of two publications, “Streets of San Antonio” and “The Journal Book.”

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