Diego Bernal is San Antonio District 1 Councilman, and a musician.
This piece ws originally published in the San Antonio Report. The photo is by Al Rendon, the words are by Diego Bernal.
I know it sounds very political, but I think if you were to disappear for five years, take a snapshot, then disappear again for another five years, the changes in San Antonio will be inner city related: more neighbors, more neighborhoods, urban living.
The places that have grown out – 1604 and 281 – they’re in great shape, they have great infrastructure, great schools. But the price we have paid for that progress is that we have de-emphasized the inner city for a long time – decades. Now, we’re realizing how important it is to have a strong inner core. We need to see reinvestment, a renewed emphasis on infrastructure. I think SAISD in particular recognizes the synergy between good strong neighborhoods and good school districts, so we’re trying to play off each other that way.
There’s a way to do it gently. One of my favorite projects is San Pedro Park – I want to make that area more attractive for families to live in the neighborhood. So these developments raise property values, but there’s a way to do it gently, so that the people who are living there now, families who have lived in these neighborhoods for generations, are not crowded out by new development.
The way I see it, you’ve got the city staff, and the departments doing their thing, our job as council is to give them direction, to make sure they are spending our time and resources where we need it most, and to do the things that wouldn’t otherwise happen unless we were there.
That’s what council members are there for – to do the things, raise the issues that would not otherwise come up.
I have a very mixed district, and it is undergoing dramatic change. I have historical districts – King William, Monte Vista – that are figuring out how to accommodate growth without institutional creep. I have constituents that have very traditional values, and I have constituents for which social change can’t come fast enough. I feel like a DJ with 5 turntables, turning one way and then the other to make sure that the things we need to have happen in our district get done.