COVID-19 has moved the ground beneath our feet. It is changing our landscape, shifting our immediate needs, and exposing long-term problems that we too often have ignored.
The recent death of George Floyd, while in custody of the Minneapolis police, and the nationwide reaction further underscore the importance of equality for all in San Antonio and elsewhere.
Our economic situation -- as a city and as individuals – has suffered major blows that must be addressed. Unemployment is soaring. And thousands of our neighbors are unable to pay the rent, pay down their mortgage, or put food on the table.
The COVID crisis has shown us that San Antonio’s neighborhood boundaries often serve as barriers to opportunity. The ZIP codes that lack adequate internet infrastructure are the same ZIP codes that lack access to basic health care.
And let me be clear — your ZIP code shouldn't determine whether or not you wind up in handcuffs any more than it should determine your chances of being handed a diploma.
The pandemic has demonstrated that we cannot continue to function as a city where one in five lacks access to the Internet. Many students who were forced into distance learning by COVID -19 lack access to the basic utility.
We must create an economic infrastructure that ensures everyone has the opportunity to get a quality education, a good-paying job and affordable housing.
Slowing the spread of COVID-19 required slowing economic activity. The loss in tourism business has led to losses in leisure and hospitality, and fewer people are able to spend money at other local businesses. The damage ripples onward.
We are now in the early phase of reopening our businesses and reigniting our economy. This must be done carefully.
As we reopen, we also must act to prevent the damage caused by COVID-19 to further erode our economy.
But we cannot allow the virus-spawned wave of unemployment to evolve into more poverty and homelessness.
It is critical that we continue the successful PreK-4-SA program, which will be on your ballot this fall. After you voted to approve this program in 2012, thousands of San Antonio’s youngest residents are now on a path of educational success and economic mobility.
But long term action to ensure a sustained economic recovery requires us to build on both ends of the educational pipeline.
If we are to do more than just go back to the same normal in which a growing number of families – 20 percent as of September -- were stuck in intractable poverty, this is our key to economic mobility.
I am beginning an effort to determine how we can best free ourselves from the anchor of socioeconomic inequity. We will soon be having an intense community conversation on the topic.
As we rebuild, we will address our long-term problems. We must ensure that San Antonians will not be denied a quality education or face unfair treatment because of their economic conditions.
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Bad times can make you bitter or better.” Let’s choose better.
San Antonio will emerge as a stronger city with a population prepared to fully engage in a modern economy.
Ron Nirenberg is mayor of San Antonio.