Good-bye bond proposal
The Alamo Community College District's bond proposal was given the boot last week by 53 percent of voters who rejected the proposed $450 million bond package that included a health careers campus on the Northwest Side.
If passed, the bonds would have been used to build a $100 million allied health campus on 15 acres near the Medical Center that would have cost the taxpayers $15 million - instead of constructing it on land owned by ACCD adjacent to St. Philip's College.
"There's no reason why we can't still be friends," ACCD Board Chairman Charlie Conner told East Side activist Nettie Hinton last month after the board refused to listen to citizens who urged ACCD to consider building the campus at St. Philip's or downtown.
"We can be friends, but I'm still going to lobby against the bond issue," she replied as Conner walked away.
The health careers campus was part of the bond package to improve four existing colleges, including Northwest Vista, Palo Alto, St. Philip's, San Antonio College, and a planned Northeast Side campus. The district cited a 41 percent enrollment increase over the past six years. Current enrollment exceeds 50,000 students and is projected to grow to 68,800 students by 2010.
If the bond issue had passed it would have increased the tax by approximately $30 per year on a $100,000 property valuation.
"I'll be working the campaign against the location of the health campus," said JoAnn Ramon, a local political consultant. "That's the only sticking point. It is not acceptable for the students."
"We're going to win this by sending a message that all of Bexar County counts," said County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, who opposed the proposal, at a February 4 rally held at Milam Park. The rally was not well-attended, except for TV news crews, bond opponents, and a dozen or so restaurant workers on break. "We are on the high road, and this community knows it, and, I believe, will show it."
Charlie Orozco pointed out that the University of Texas Health Science Center was built "where they had deer, not patients. I feel like we've been betrayed. Eighty percent of ACCD's students come from downtown, the South Side, the East Side and the West Side."
Orozco also pointed out that University Health System has already moved several of its health programs downtown. Family practice has moved to the Brady Green Clinic, pediatrics has moved to Christus Santa Rosa, and geriatrics has moved to the Nix Hospital.
University Health System board chairman Robert Jimenez chided ACCD board members for not communicating with the county's top publicly funded hospital district when it decided to push the Medical Center site for a health campus. "Real estate gambling is driving the health campus location at the Medical Center. Downtown has the largest array of health services in Bexar County, and it provides the easiest access to students in Bexar County. That campus (proposed for the Medical Center) is going to die. It is a horrible investment."
The entire package crashed and burned on election day. "It's wonderful," Hinton said of the bond issue defeat. "When San Antonians get the information that is important to their well-being, when they get the opportunity to vote, they're wise people. And they made the right decision on Saturday."
Hinton pointed out that should the ACCD propose building a health careers campus on the East Side, it would already have the infrastructure at St. Philip's. "A stand-alone campus would have to replicate what already is on the campus, including a cafeteria, health care for students, day care. Those are really important. When young, single moms are studying to be a certified nursing assistant, or LVN, many of them have children who are not in school yet, and they must get them into a day-care center. St. Philip's already has an early childhood program - none of that exists if they build a stand-alone campus."
Hinton, who served on a citizens' committee that made recommendations to the board concerning the bond, says ACCD should bring the proposal back when it finds a more appropriate location for the health careers campus. "We will work with them. If they did things logically, we would be celebrating a victory today. I'm hoping what they do is sit down and work with folks on the outside." •
By Michael Cary