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National League of Cities City Cultural Diversity Award

The City of San Antonio received the National League of Cities City Cultural Diversity Award at the 2016 Congressional City Conference on Monday.

Following the National Diversity Council’s DiversityFIRST award, this is the second recognition for achievement in diversity the City has received since launching the Diversity and Inclusion Office in May 2015.

Presented at the “Celebrate Diversity Breakfast,” the City Cultural Diversity Award honors cities that develop creative and effective programs designed to improve cultural diversity through a collaborative process with city officials, community leaders and residents.

Six cities were honored across four population categories. San Antonio received first place in the “over 400,000” population category as a result of the City’s Annual Diversity and Inclusion Stakeholder’s Summit.

The inaugural summit was organized by the Diversity and Inclusion Office in October 2015. The office convened multi-sector diversity and inclusion practitioners to share best practices, brainstorm solutions to shared challenges and identify partnership opportunities.

As the office progresses in its strategic planning process, we look forward to continued collaboration with stakeholders to find new and innovative ways to promote an environment of respect and inclusiveness in San Antonio. The summit exemplifies the power of inclusion, as well as the City’s commitment to innovation.

Fact-Checking Police Union President Mike Helle

In his response to last week’s offer by the City of San Antonio to resume contract negotiations, San Antonio Police Officers Association President Mike Helle made a number of misstatements that warrant correction:

CLAIM: “We are over 220 police officers short.”

FACT: As of last week, there were 153 vacancies in the 2,385-member San Antonio Police Department. There are currently two classes in training at the San Antonio Police Academy containing 57 cadets, and three more classes are planned for this year.

CLAIM: “The Mayor and City Manager are endangering public safety.”

FACT: Public safety is a top priority for the City, and the Mayor and City Council approved an FY 16 budget that spends $716 million on public safety, 66.5% of the entire General Fund Budget. San Antonio remains one of the safest big cities in America.

CLAIM: “City leadership has wasted over $2 million in taxpayer money on this pointless lawsuit.”

FACT: To date, the City has spent approximately $243,000 on the lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the evergreen clause in the expired police and fire contracts. The contracts cost taxpayers $550 million per year and will continue to grow until 2024. As long as the unions refuse to negotiate a contract that taxpayers can afford, the legal challenge is the City’s only alternative to containing rapidly increasing healthcare costs paid by taxpayers.

CLAIM: “We will not negotiate under the threat of any lawsuit.”

FACT: In fact, the police union did negotiate for nearly a year after the lawsuits were initially filed. It wasn’t until after the union balked on the City’s offer of 15.75% in pay increases and no healthcare premiums that they walked away from the bargaining table. Only then did the City advance the lawsuits in court. Yesterday’s offer from the City was to push back the filings of any briefs to allow for a window of opportunity to negotiate an agreement.

Health Department Update

Metro Health has confirmed three cases of the Zika virus in bexar county.   All cases stem from individuals who traveled abroad. Another three suspected cases are pending confirmation from the centers for disease control and prevention (CDC).

The virus, which is carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito, is mainly transmitted via the bite of this mosquito, however in rare cases, transmission has been found to occur through sex and blood transfusion.

Symptoms typically occur between 3-12 days after infection. The most common symptoms are rash, fever, conjunctivitis, and joint pains. Most people who become infected feel better within 4-7 days of exposure and are typically virus free within a week.

Metro Health staff is coordinating with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to collect and ship local samples for testing to the CDC and will continue to work with local physicians in the community to offer guidance and support.

Metro Health recommends individuals who are planning to travel to a zika affected country follow the usual precautions to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Use air conditioning or window/door screens.
  • Use mosquito repellent on skin and clothing.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Empty standing water from outdoor containers (even small containers).

In an effort to spread the word to the community, Metro Health has included a fact sheet on their website, as well as interviews with the local media to dispel myths about the disease. Social media is also being utilized by Metro Health so that the public can be informed about the virus.

Beginning March 8th, Metro Health will initiate a coordinated vector control plan along with the Transportation and Capital Improvements department and the Parks and Recreation department to assess and treat areas in the city that are known mosquito breeding sites.

Pay as You Throw

Pay As You Throw (PAYT) is one of the City’s initiatives from our City Council approved Recycling Plan, which includes the City’s goal to reach a 60% residential recycling rate by 2025. Today our recycling rate is 31%. As part of the pay as you throw program, San Antonio residents can choose between three brown garbage cart sizes: a small 48-gallon cart, a medium 64-gallon cart or a large 96-gallon cart.

In addition to being able to choose their brown cart size, all residents also are offered a green 96-gallon organics recycling cart. In the green cart, residents can recycle items such as grass clippings, leaves, and other yard trimmings, food scraps, shredded paper and soiled paper products. Residents have the option to keep or not keep the Green Cart. In addition, residents keep their current 96-gallon blue cart for non-organics recycling.

The monthly pricing is based on the brown cart size so that the smaller the brown cart the lower your bill. Today, depending on the cart size, the monthly bill can be as low as $20.43 per month and up to $22.18 per month for those customers who select a 96-gallon brown cart.

This past fall, the Solid Waste Management Department began the implementation of Pay As You Throw pilot program with a group of residents and successfully converted approximately 28,000 homes to the program. These homes were selected from each of the 10 Council Districts.

During the City’s development phase, 90% of our residents kept their green organics cart. We have seen an increase in the amount of organics material collected during the first quarter of FY 16. An additional 774 tons of material has been collected or an increase of 60% from last year.

Now that the initial phase is over, our solid waste staff will begin the roll out to all customers. A total of 190,000 residents will have the program by October, and the program will be completely rolled out to all San Antonio residents by spring of 2017.

Once again, staff will be continuing their comprehensive approach to educating residents about the PAYT program. We will host 70 community meetings as well as provide residents with educational materials. All of our educational material is provided in both English and Spanish.

For questions on the program, residents can call 207-6428 or visit sanantonio.gov/swmd.

City Manager’s Excellence Award

In 2015, a new initiative was formed to recognize employees for alignment of CORE Values in action. The initiative has three recognition phases:

  1. Employee to employee recognition cards
  2. Department recognition in the form of department recognition core value lapel pins
  3. The culmination of all awards – an annual, City-wide City Manager’s Excellence Award.

For this first award, there were 28 total nominations representing 20 city departments. i was pleased to have read so many stories of our employees stepping forward and demonstrating our core values are indeed being embraced in day-to-day activities and opportunities.

After much discussion and consideration, four recipients were chosen as best demonstrating our core values of teamwork, integrity, innovation, and professionalism.

Our first recipient is Haley Holmes, branch manager at the Parman library. Haley is recognized for her innovative approach to engaging the library team and the community.

Haley created and implemented an annual Halloween event, the “Spooky Walk” which draws about 2,000 people from the community. The event includes a nature walk and a carnival of games. Many, including teens, get involved and support the event. This is one of many year round activities that make the Parman library the busiest branch by measure of visitors each year.

Our second recipient is Moraima “Mo” Montenegro, Public Information Officer in the Government and Public Affairs department. Mo consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Recently she demonstrated just that in helping a deaf woman and her daughter when they mistakenly arrived at the Public Affairs office looking for Human Services support. She made contact with 8 various social services resources to help the family out. She assisted that family in securing housing and food and continues her contact with them.

Our next recipient is Marvin Lee, code enforcement officer in development services. He, too, is known for thinking outside of the box when it comes to serving the community.

Recently, while driving after a storm and high winds, Marvin noticed a fallen tree at the residence of an elderly couple. In investigating, he learned the couple was having difficulty having the tree removed and it had a damper on their plans to celebrate a 54th wedding anniversary. Marvin quickly took action and called for help. Within a couple of hours, City services arrived to cut and remove the fallen tree. The happy couple celebrated their anniversary and wrote to express their gratitude to Marvin.

Our final recipient is Robert Ybarra, side-loader equipment operator in the solid waste management department.

Robert joined the city in 1994. As a side-loader equipment operator, he has been accident-free across his entire city career, due in great part to his attitude and focus on safety. Additionally, Robert is a role model for excellent customer service. He is known to assist the elderly with their carts, trains new employees, volunteers to assist his team when truck breakdowns occur, and serves on the department’s accident review board. When new trucks are to be tested, he is the go-to person. His input is always highly sought and valued.

Animal Care Services Update

In December 2015, the City achieved a live release rate of 90% for the first time in the history of San Antonio with the help of our partners, volunteers, and the community. We recently celebrated this historic milestone at the Animal Care Services (ACS) facility on highway 90. With the support of the city council, ACS have made tremendous progress over the past ten years considering that the city’s live release rate was less than 10% in 2006.

In 2007, we embarked on an effort to improve ACS and developed a strategic plan. This plan was developed in conjunction between the City’s Animal Care Advisory Board as well as a consortium of local non-for profit partners. The goal of this plan was to achieve a 70% live release rate in five years; however by 2011 the city’s live release rate was only 31%.

In 2011, we asked the Office of Innovation to conduct a “best practice review” of Animal Care Services organizations across the country and come up with a strategy that would increase the live release rate and decrease the stray animal population. This new strategy called for stronger partnerships with the community and stakeholder groups, hiring the right leadership for the ACS, improving business processes, and measuring outcomes.

Achieving this highpoint is a result of the hard work of our committed Animal Care Services department led by Kathy Davis and the partnerships we have developed with great organizations like the Humane Society, the Animal Defense League, San Antonio pets alive!, Best Friends, and Petco and the other many rescue partners that work with the City.

We have also dramatically increased the number of spay/surgeries performed. In 2007 there were 21,000 surgeries completed, today with the assistance of our many partners, the community is performing nearly 60,000 surgeries per year.

Tremendous focus has been placed in proactive enforcement. Animal Care officers visit city neighborhoods to proactively address community issues, impound stray animals, sweep neighborhoods for loose and roaming dogs, return them to their owners and educate the community.

With the support of the City Council, we have modified many ordinances to improve enforcement and aid the return of pets to their owners. Through the microchip ordinance, more than 3600 pets were returned to their owners in 2015 – a 32% increase from the previous year.

The newly created education and outreach team is also walking our neighborhoods and talking to citizens about responsible pet ownership. Their mission is to help pet owners understand the laws and take advantage of the free services we offer.

The journey is not over. We continue to implement additional changes and improvements that will enhance the quality of life for San Antonio. We want to thank once again our animal care services department, our community partners, our volunteers and the San Antonio community for coming together to achieve this historical milestone.

Aviation Update

Retired Lieutenant General Tom Jones has been appointed to serve as the city’s aviation director on a temporary basis. In this role Tom will oversee the San Antonio Airport System, which includes San Antonio International Airport and Stinson municipal airport

This is not only a vital role within our organization, as the Aviation department has a $239 million operating and capital budget and 458 employees, but it also plays a crucial role within our community. The San Antonio Airport System generates over $3 billion in economic impact and is a major component of our community’s future economic growth

Tom is a 1980 graduate of the air force academy and joins the City following a number of leadership positions in the air force Most recently, Tom served as Vice Commander of all us Air Forces in Europe and, he oversaw the air force’s response to world events including the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi and the Russian invasion of the Crimean Peninsula

We are confident in Tom’s leadership and his ability to positively impact our airport system. Tom will focus on air service development, specifically attracting more nonstop flights, enhanced customer service, and managing major capital projects, like CONRAC.

Tom also graduated (1976) from John Marshall High School in San Antonio and his wife Deborah is a native of San Antonio. Tom and Deborah have two adult children, Tommy and Danielle. Please join us in welcoming tom to the city of San Antonio

Transportation Network Companies (TNC)

On August 13, 2015, City Council authorized the City to enter into a temporary operating agreement with Lyft and other TNCs for a period of nine months. Uber began operations on October 13, 2015 and Lyft began on December 3, 2015.

As part of the 9 month pilot program agreement, the TNC companies pay $18,750, proof of insurance and vehicle inspection, and $1 per trip from the airport. TNC drivers can also receive a free background check from SAPD. If they pass the background check, TNC drivers can upload their verification number to the rideshare app.

This program provides consumer choice: it allows riders to choose a driver that has passed the background check program. Riders can see right there on the rideshare app screen whether their driver has the SAPD verification.

We have developed a multi-pronged outreach strategy to educate the community about the TNC background check program, aimed at TNC riders and drivers. We developed a short video, designed to share on social media. We’ve also reached out to drivers on our website and through Facebook, to educate them about the free, optional background check as a way to set themselves apart from other drivers. Also, you may have seen billboards displayed throughout the city during the holiday season.

As we continue to see new companies enter the market, we will continue to conduct this outreach effort.

Currently, 118 drivers have applied for the background check. While only 54 have completed the process, we are hopeful that as more drivers join the TNC companies, they will see the benefit of taking this extra step to verify their credibility. The SAPD ground transportation unit monitors the TNC services through monthly “secret shopper rides.” no significant issues have been revealed through this process.

Get me, a new TNC, plans to begin on January 14, 2016. This is a TNC that will take people places and pick them up, similar to Lyft and Uber, but it can also pick up and deliver items as well. In addition, there has been interest expressed by another company, called “Bid my Ride.”

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL SAN ANTONIO MARATHON

This past weekend, San Antonio hosted its 8th consecutive Rock ’n’ Roll marathon. Congratulations to all who participated and thank you to our city staff and residents who volunteered along the route.

Throughout the last 8 years the San Antonio Rock ’n’ roll marathon has become an attraction for locals and visitors alike. This year approximately 25,000 people participated, an increase of 4,000 participants from last year; 50% of participants were from outside San Antonio; and 20% of participants not from san Antonio were not from Texas.

The event hosted 41 elite athletes, several of whom participated in our marathon or half marathon as training for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic qualifying trials.

As reported this weekend, the city of San Antonio and our local partners at San Antonio Sports and the Convention & Visitors Bureau have entered into a new agreement with Competitor Group, and will continue to produce the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon & Half Marathon in San Antonio for the next five years.

My gratitude and appreciation to all of the city staff and departments who ensured the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon went smoothly. The event was a tremendous success because of the teamwork and hard work they exhibited. We look forward to this continued partnership and to the continued opportunity to promote our world class city and community.

UNITED WAY UPDATE

One of the greatest things about living in San Antonio is this community’s strong desire to help others. I am proud that each year, City of San Antonio employees are generous with their contributions to the United Way Charitable Campaign. This is a great opportunity for us to show our support for our community.

The 2015 United Way “Changing Lives” Charitable Campaign began on August 14, 2015 and concluded at the end of September. The City of San Antonio is a United Way pacesetter organization which means we start earlier than other campaigns and we set the “pace” for the community.

The 2015 campaign marks four years in a row that our city organization raised over $1,000,000

The city campaign is the only public sector campaign to be a part of the million dollar club. Other million dollar campaigns include:

  • Valero energy
  • Nustar
  • HEB
  • USAA
  • Zachry Holdings

The charitable campaign raised $1,138,278.33 which exceeded our city goal by over $100k. In total, over 6,000 employees contributed to the campaign which represents 56% participation and includes both civilian and uniformed employees

Thank you to this year’s city chair, Debbie Sacca-Sittre, assistant director for TCI and, thank you to all of our department coordinators. We all know that the human care challenges in our community are varied and sometimes complex. But every day great progress is being made to help children, individuals and families in need. The dollars raised will certainly be a big help to our community and I’m proud of the record setting year we have had in 2015.