Sara Luna Ellis
Mayor Ivy Taylor looks forward to her first full term as San Antonio's top leader.
Aspiring young African-Americans in SA with political ambition, take note.
Follow in Ivy Taylor’s footsteps, and you just may get far.
Despite being labeled as an inexperienced underdog, proud East Sider Taylor just became the first elected black mayor in Alamo City history after defeating former State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in a heated runoff election.
Taylor sat down for an in-depth interview with the San Antonio Current in her office a week after her victory.
What is your vision going forward?
It’s kind of interesting because I’m coming in, and I’ve already been here for 10 months. We already have some things we started that are underway. I’m not a typical politician who will have some signature thing that’s going to have my name on it and go down in history. We have a strong economy. Jobs are growing. But all San Antonians don’t have the opportunity to capitalize on that momentum. So I want to find ways to invest in human infrastructure so more San Antonians have the education and skills to qualify for jobs. Similarly, I want to retain and attract young people.
How will you address aging infrastructure in San Antonio’s marginalized communities?
Well, that, to me, speaks more to our need to have more resources available for infrastructure improvements. Over the years, San Antonio hasn’t always had the infrastructure in all of our neighborhoods as the city sprawled. I have to work with my colleagues on that. It’s like being a councilmember, you have lots of neighborhoods asking for help, but you have limited resources. So I’m looking at how we could boost resources through bonds and attaining a resolution on union negotiations.
Are negotiations with the police and fire unions your most pressing matter?
It’s pretty urgent. And we need to get to a resolution. On Sunday, after the election dust settled, I called Mike Helle, who is the police union president and said I’d like to chat about a path forward. He agreed to that, and we’re meeting and want to get back to the table.
Is the lawsuit against the police and fire union’s “Evergreen Clause,” which keeps the current collective-bargaining agreement valid, still on the table?
The lawsuit is still a key component in our strategy. The "Evergreen Clause" is a deterrent to negotiations and litigation is ongoing.
Some of your colleagues on the council, including District 2’s Alan E. Warrick II, backed your opponent. Is it fair to say you may now have difficulty forging consensus?
Yeah, I think, really, that has been overstated. I don’t expect that in a democracy you find 11 people that would be lockstep and unanimous in their opinion every single time they meet, every single day of the week. If that’s the expectation from some parties, they’ll be disappointed. As mayor, I don’t expect to run over people to have them fall in line with whatever my assessment is. They have a constituency and come with their own unique perspectives and views. I expect to have conversations and debates and will be informed and guided by my staff on my options. Then we’ll work out the best solutions.
Initially, you were a streetcar advocate. Then you helped kill the plan. Now that the election is over, is streetcar on the table again?
Anything that the citizens want to see can be an option. In talking with San Antonians, especially folks who are more seasoned citizens, they remember when we had streetcar and describe it as inconvenient. Right now, we have a transportation plan we’re developing and need to think about what’s feasible from a cost perspective. Given our pattern of development, streetcars might not make sense because of our city’s density. We would love to be able to better connect the various nodes that we have around town and rail will be talked about in that discussion.
There’s still a demand for ride-share services in San Antonio. Will you sit down with Uber and Lyft in an attempt to bring them back?
Well, I just want to take a step back. After they decided to leave, they wanted to see if they could get a better deal from the state, which they didn’t. So the onus is on us. We are thinking and trying to reengage. I don’t know what would change or if their position has changed. After crafting the ordinance, it came down to fingerprints and background checks, which they agreed to do in other cities — granted, not the majority of cities. What I hoped is they would go ahead and do it and have a trial period and come back and give us data on whether it worked and how the system could be improved. We are starting some discussions behind the scenes. I recognize that this is a service that people here want and something out-of-towners are accustomed to having and expect San Antonio to have.
What is the status of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which you created to streamline the intake and processing of complaints filed under the Non-Discrimination Ordinance (NDO)?
So far everything is going well. As we come into budget season, I’ll be advocating to build that out more. I want the community to see it as a resource and the focus is on all protected classes and ensuring people understand the laws and helping local businesses navigate through any questions … the idea isn’t just about checking off boxes, but truly embracing everyone in our community.
Do you think police body-cameras are beneficial despite rapidly changing technology and potential high costs for video storage?
I say yes, cautiously. But at this point, I believe the public demands that accountability and we want to be proactive. We haven’t seen the kind of incidents that have occurred in other cities. I also think the body cameras provides accountability in a two-way fashion — for citizens and for police. So we’re going to have to wade through it as we go along. There are questions about storage of data, when it can be retrieved, accessibility for the public and how it all plays into the legal system.