With much heaviness in our heart did we watch our City’s deciders struggle to outdo one another in thanking every single City department manager who presented at the first Council session since summer break. How much time would they save if they didn’t do this, wondered my colleague in the media box. Shh. The council ways are not for us to understand, only to deeply appreciate. The QueQue might even have squeezed out a little tear when Mary Alice Cisneros halted council business to tell everyone about taking her granddaughter to see Ramona and Beezus, and what a fine film it is, fine enough for her to recommend the book version to the San Antonio Library’s reading program.
Council did manage to discuss and effect something particularly important: an ordinance adopting the FY 2010-’11 Community Development Block Grant that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development doles out annually. The grants are meant to assist local governments in improving low-income housing and communities. This year, San Antonio received $16 million total for public-service, housing, and neighborhood-revitalization projects.
The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center received $337,000 for its Rinconcito de Esperanza, located in the old Ruben’s Ice House and an adjacent building on Colorado Street. Graciela Sanchez, executive director of the center and perpetual distruster of government, appeared at City Council just to make sure there wasn’t a last-minute reversals. She called the “little corner of hope” the gateway to the West Side and promised to improve and expand the Fotohistorias del Westside oral-history project, create an organic farmers market for the surrounding community, install solar panels and a water cistern, and build a storefront for the center’s Mujerartes pottery collective at their casita on Guadalupe and El Paso streets.
The other big CDBG winner was supposed to be the Eastside eye-care clinic operated by the UIW School of Optometry, but District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor told council she learned just the day before that the clinic had been delayed “a year or two.” So the $725,000 earmarked for that project was split between several Eastside needs, including $200,000 for sidewalks in Government Hill, $125,000 for the Myra Davis Resource Center, and $150,000 for the Ella Austin Community Center. Ten other projects throughout the City also received additional funding, but as District 3 Councilwoman Jennifer Ramos reminded everyone, “over $42-million worth of need in San Antonio was applied for.”