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The Queque - September 29, 2010



What is this thing?
It seemed the world was holed up Saturday morning in the bright inner chambers of the Tri-Point YMCA “visioning” with SA Mayor Julían Castro, County Judge Nelson Wolff, City Manager Sheryl Scully, and guests, about a better world to come, a world that creative thinking matched by collective action can create. Color charts were circulated reminding us of our poverty, want of college degrees, wealth of pregnant teens, and low home ownership rates. Hundreds of attendees at the SA2020 broke out into small groups to share their wants and values; they were surveyed and encouraged to “DREAM IT. MAP IT. DO IT.” It was a well-packed opening salvo of the Mayor’s months-long social-construction project. And it was not lost on some as the gathering broke camp that decades after former Mayor Henry Cisneros’s Target ’90 we’re still hungering for the same things: a clean environment, better mass transit, college access, and increased opportunity. The encouraging part for those the QueQue spoke to was that these were new voices finding expression, unfamiliar faces saying what established activists have grown hoarse championing. Que2 must confess, however, we were not a SA2020 participant. Instead, we were driving about the city dealing with the ramifications of our collective failure to reach the last official deadline we issued ourselves. Remember No-Kill by 2012?

“Luz” had approached us from the shadows of Avenue B at Brackenridge Park the previous night, her pink skin glowing in the streetlight, accentuating her pit bull body wrinkles and fields of scabs. We were suckered into relationship when she matched our stride and refused to stray, only slowly realizing the next day (despite past reports on the subject, including “Stray Bullets,” June 30, 2010) that none of the non-profit no-kill shelters would take a mange-ravaged pit to clean up for adoption; Animal Care Services would certainly put the sick animal down. Even the vet we visited couldn’t board her until the infection subsided so her immune system could tolerate the stress of inoculations. Foster “parents” were full up. Her expensive condition the likely reason she was dumped at the park, the vet said; her breed another cruel paradox in San Antonio, a street-tough dually prized and feared. Politics stalled on the question of mandatory spy/neuter this summer thanks to the effective work of the breeder’s lobby. And 2012 is staring us in the face. Hopefully, in the fevering press for education reform (a repeated subject at SA2020) politicos will be evaluating our no-kill failures. As Castro expressed: “We have the material of greatness to work with and we also have nagging and enormous challenges.” We hope the balance will at least tip toward greatness.

A Que2 plant (see filed her impressions, writing in part:

I continually wondered, what tools, besides the bully pulpit, do the Mayor and other city leaders have to achieve significant educational reform? As the Mayor has advanced education through two initiatives, The Promise Grant for inner city school improvements and the Café College to support college-bound students, I am impressed but still concerned.

This much is certain: Reform is long overdue. San Antonio lags behind the rest of Texas by most educational yardsticks and has much work to do before it catches up to the rest of the United States.

Even if we led the nation, we’d still be trailing behind. Compared to 30 developed nations, the U.S. ranks 21 in science and 25 in math education. A recent Wall Street Journal/MSNBC poll found that more than 77 percent of respondents give the public school system a grade of C or lower; fully 58 percent believe that our schools need a complete overhaul.

Ed Whitacre, former CEO at both AT&T and GM, set the stage for SA 2020 when he declared, “We need a clear, concise vision that everyone can understand, believe in, and rally behind.” He’s right. We absolutely need for those designing the vision and implementing a plan to assess how we as a city can realistically and aggressively reform our schools. In the District of Columbia, education chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty bucked the system: they collaborated with private investors and fired teachers deemed ineffective to quickly transform education in our nation’s capital. Mayor Fenty was just voted out of a job; many expect Dr. Rhee to join him among the ranks of the unemployed. No one said that reform is easy.

Bexar County boasts 15 independent school districts within its boundaries; five more ISDs are partially located within Bexar, and numerous charter districts dot our landscape. How we as a city might impact all these political entities is an important first question. … For me, 10 years is too long to wait.

Web Extra!

CPS Energy CEO Milton Lee has finally found his way out of the building.

The eight-year implant’s final day is Thursday. Inspiring a lawsuit by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for his practice of aggravated attrition (some called race-, gender-, and age-discrimination), Lee led the City into its (so far) $386-million nuclear expansion failure, and helped launch an anti-cap-and-trade lobby to scuttle a national response to global warming.

Say your farewells at •

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