Digeo Bernal Gov & Politics May 2019 Election News profile Rey Saldaña South San Antonio ISD South San Kids First type:feature type:longform wc 1500-2000

Saldaña Looks Back on 8 Years on Council, Ahead to Education Advocacy

Children climb to the highest point of the newly installed playground. Photo by Scott Ball.

A number of months in the past, a resident of San Antonio’s South Aspect reached out by means of social media to Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) about an issue at Arnold Park.

“Can you help us?” he recalled the query. The nets for the soccer objectives positioned within the public park have been lacking.

About three months later, Saldaña’s workplace was in a position to buy new nets and have them put in.

Little issues matter, just like the resident who identified that they’ve been enjoying on soccer objectives with no nets. Sorry it took so lengthy. Take pleasure in! 🥅 ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/IyIRaAe7GG

— Rey A. Saldaña (@rey4sa) November 27, 2018

“Little things matter,” Saldaña stated in a late November tweet. “Sorry it took so long. Enjoy!”

A number of good Council members would do – and have carried out – comparable work for the group, he stated – that is the job. And the large legacy tasks or initiatives matter, too.

“I’d love to say that the proudest moment on the Council are things that you can see and touch – that you can throw a rock at,” he stated, citing Pearsall Park. He championed its $7.5 million transformation from landfill to 505-acre public park. He is pleased with the park, “but not in the way that people assume.”

For the South Aspect, a long-neglected a part of San Antonio, these little issues and large issues have a fair higher impression, he stated.

Children climb to the highest point of the newly installed playground. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

In 2016, youngsters climb to the very best level on the primary day of the playground opening at Pearsall Park, a former landfill.

“We have quietly – but maybe not so quietly – been diverting a lot of our attention and resources to an area that people [politicians] have forgotten about for 30-40 years simply because the formula was: there’s nobody out there that votes,” he stated.

“At the end of the day, folks will not remember what you did or won’t remember what you say – they’ll remember how you make them feel,” Saldaña stated.

Starting in January, Saldaña will begin his new position in a newly created place at Increase Your Hand Texas, an schooling advocacy nonprofit supported by H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt.

“I can’t tell you how enthusiastic I feel about getting to do something that makes my heart beat as much as getting to serve my community,” Saldaña stated. “That is one other sort of [community] service.

“They believe that a transformation of public education in Texas starts from the ground up. … We are organizing communities to put pressure on elected officials.”

Increase Your Hand Texas is enhancing its group outreach staff and Saldaña will stay in San Antonio to be a part of the founding staff of that effort.

“Rey’s story, ardour, and skills will assist deliver a lot wanted regional help from households, group leaders, and enterprise executives to advance public schooling points on the state degree,” stated Libby Cohen, director of advocacy and outreach for Increase Your Hand Texas.

Associated: Councilman Saldaña Suggests Utilizing New Lodge Charge to Fight Homelessness

Saldaña, 32, will depart his Council seat in lower than 5 months, however he says it is doubtless not the final Metropolis Corridor will see of him.

“I want to come back and run for mayor,” Saldaña stated. “The question for me has always been when.”

At a fundraiser Thursday night time, he advised a crowd of staffers, pals, and household that he won’t run for mayor subsequent yr. The cash he is raised thus far, about $140,000, and no matter raised that night time, he stated, will act as a type of financial savings account for when he returns to politics.

His spouse, Jessica, gave start to their son, Eli, in early November, which modified Saldaña’s priorities and circumstances.

Thursday additionally was the couple’s fourth wedding ceremony anniversary.

“With eight years on the Council, it didn’t matter if I was speaking to a CEO, leader of a nonprofit, chief of police, or neighborhood leaders, so many of our problems kept coming back to one thing – education,” Saldaña stated. “I’m thrilled to join the fight with an organization [that] understands public education in Texas is the only way we live up to the promise of the American dream and stem so many of the problems we have been so accustomed to dealing with on the back end.”

Education, he stated, “is why I’m sitting where I’m sitting.”

Saldaña’s father and grandfather got here to the States from Mexico within the Bracero Program within the 1940s, and his mother and father by no means entered highschool. 

He attended South San Antonio Excessive Faculty and was making use of solely to native universities earlier than he discovered an area anti-dropout group referred to as Communities in Faculties San Antonio. The group’s employees informed him to assume greater. He utilized for and acquired a full educational scholarship to Stanford College.

Saldaña in his Stanford baseball days. Photo courtesy of Rey Saldaña.

Courtesy / Rey Saldaña

Saldaña in his Stanford baseball days.

He performed on the college’s varsity baseball staff, he stated, “I didn’t truly play, as a result of catching bullpen doesn’t rely in Division I baseball. However you get to put on uniforms and also you get to journey.”

Visiting cities like Seattle, Washington D.C., and others made him take into consideration why San Antonians didn’t have comparable entry to issues comparable to dependable mass transportation.

So he returned house after graduating with a bachelor’s levels in political science and communication and a grasp’s diploma in coverage, group, and management research with the intent to run for workplace.

Saldaña additionally has taught at Trinity College and Palo Alto School, labored for College of Texas at San Antonio and KIPP San Antonio, and got here round full circle to function a board member for Communities in Faculties.

Whereas he spoke to the gang that gathered Thursday night time in Botika to have fun his profession and future, a video composed of clips from Saldaña’s first marketing campaign in 2011 performed behind him.

Individuals informed him he seemed the half, “but you have no shot,” the then-24-year-old candidate recalled on display. He was operating towards Leticia Cantu, the spouse of the outgoing District four consultant who was pegged because the rightful inheritor. He pulled forward with 52 % of the vote and have become the youngest member to serve on San Antonio’s Metropolis Council.

“I can now say that we did it,” a youthful Saldaña stated on display to applause from his crowd and the gang gathered in entrance of him eight years later.

In 2013, he gained with 84 % of the vote. In 2015, 65 %, and in 2017, 78 %.

Apart from his work within the instructional area, Saldaña made it some extent throughout his tenure to improve funding for VIA Metropolitan Transit. He led the cost, beginning in 2015, to draw consideration to the town’s insufficient mass transit system. He began driving the bus to see what it was like.

Associated: Rey Saldaña Drops His Keys and Boards the Bus

He led a minority of Council members who needed to see a rise in VIA funding by way of various Metropolis funds. Ultimately, that turned a majority and the Metropolis began allocating basic fund dollars to assist help elevated frequency alongside bus routes.

“It was a real challenge of ideas,” he said. “We had to shift the way that we thought about a city’s role in supporting people who don’t have a vehicle and that has never been a conversation at the Council level.”

Councilman Rey Saldaña removes his bicycle from the front rack of a VIA bus. Photo by Scott Ball.

Saldaña removes his bicycle from the entrance rack of a VIA bus.

He has had conversations with Mayor Ron Nirenberg about serving on the VIA board as chair.

Saldaña additionally labored with CentroMed to open up new well being clinics on the South Aspect, and that is one thing the group wanted however wasn’t essentially anticipating, he stated.

Education has been a centerpiece of his life, he stated, and so it was pure to prioritize it throughout his time on Metropolis Council.

Associated: South San Youngsters First Presents Faculty District Street Map

In 2016, he joined South San Youngsters First, an schooling advocacy group on the town’s South Aspect, to deal with issues with the troubled faculty district board of his alma mater. Monetary mismanagement and inappropriate conduct required a Texas Education Company (TEA) conservator to intervene in class board affairs.

After two years, TEA eliminated the oversight measure when the company stated the board was headed in the fitting path and its focus on scholar outcomes had improved.

Saldaña additionally was a robust advocate for the tax ratification election this yr that may have introduced a further $6.four million to the district. That measure was rejected in August by 57 % of South San voters.

Metropolis authorities has little authority when it comes to schooling, however Saldaña stated he and different Council members have realized that partaking with native faculty districts comes with the job.

“Where there was a culture of … ‘stay in your lane,'” he stated, “now people are stepping up and saying this needs to change.”

He is hoping for a aggressive race to exchange him subsequent yr, he stated, “because it makes the victory and holding the position that much more fulfilling.”

However Saldaña has no plans to depart his Council seat early, he stated.

One in every of a number of initiatives he needs to get rolling earlier than he departs is a grasp plan for the vacant Abraham Kazan Center Faculty close to Loop 1604 within the far-Southwest Aspect. Kazan closed final yr because of low enrollment and monetary considerations, and South San Antonio Unbiased Faculty District has plans to repurpose the varsity to serve college students in different methods.

The town – and the longer term District four consultant – might assist facilitate that change with bond cash and a community-driven grasp plan, Saldaña stated.

He hopes he can get that on monitor with the “escape velocity” it wants to be accomplished quickly – identical to with transportation and schooling.

The perfect piece of recommendation he acquired from a former elected official, he advised the gang Thursday night time, is that “the hardest part about being an elected official is not being an elected official.”

“You allow workplace and swiftly you get all of this braveness that you might have accomplished or ought to have finished,” he said. “With my workforce’s assist, I am very glad with the work that we have been in a position to do within the district.”

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