The San Antonio city council is preparing to send out a $1.2 billion municipal bond proposal to voters in May, but it’s not yet clear how much of that will be used for public art projects.
Two of the five Citizens Bond committees tasked with splitting bond proposals among hundreds of projects have asked the council to cut or cut completely the 1.5% allocated to public art. And $3.8 million was reallocated to other parks and drainage projects.
Many council members found themselves caught between the inclination To honor the recommendations of citizens’ committees and the desire to support public art and the broader artistic community.
“I’m hesitant to go back on a lot of the things that were in the recommendations [from] Councilman Mario Bravo (D1) said, “Citizens’ committees, because it’s not my government; it’s the people’s government. It’s not my money. It’s the people’s money.”
But investing in the arts is how “we can put San Antonio on the map,” he said, noting that the city begins to raise funding from its annual arts budget.
Councilwoman Felice Viagran (D3) suggested cutting projects to keep at least 1% of each proposal for public art.
Councilman Galen Mackie Rodriguez (D2) proposed restoring public art funding at 1.5% per view and using ARPA funding to complete other projects.
Several of his council colleagues seemed amenable to this solution and City Manager Eric Walsh said he would present several different options to the council when it meets in early February to review the ARPA’s spending plan.
“The timing is really well set because we’re going to be talking about ARPA again,” Walsh told reporters after the meeting. “And they will adopt that plan in the week before they adopt the bond.”
The board will finalize the voting language and project lists with the vote on February 10. Walsh said he does not plan to host another separate meeting with the board on the bonds before then.
San Antonio voters will see five different bond packages on their ballots for parks and streets ($477 million), sanitation ($165 million), utilities ($134 million) and housing ($150 million). Housing does not automatically include technical financing because there is no traditional project list. A draft list of projects and materials from previous meetings is available online here.
“We thought decrees were laws.”
Walsh noted that even if the reduction in public art funding were upheld, the 2022 bond would include $3.6 million more than the $8.2 million that was included in the 2017 bond.
This did not comfort the many artists and advocates who attended the council meeting and stayed behind to express their concerns.
“If we knew that public art was on [chopping] Local artist Kim Bishop said during a public comment session after the board meeting. “But we didn’t. We thought the decrees were law.”
An order approved by the board in 2011 requires a minimum funding level of 1% for bond packages.
But overall, proposal percentages are still on average 1.1%, Walsh said, adding that “the council changes ordinances all the time.”
He said that the general technical projects financed by the bonds are not linked to specific bond projects. “We don’t introduce a little bit of art into every project, it’s built into regional approaches. If the council doesn’t make any changes, and there is zero allocation with the exchange proposal, that doesn’t mean there won’t necessarily be any art near any exchange.”
Local artist and marketing consultant, Lionel Sousa, said investing in public art is what makes cities great.
“Public art is a natural way to express our happiness, joys, needs, fears, tragedies, and pride. Public art is a public good,” Sousa said. “For more than 25 years, publicly funded art has helped the city emerge as a national leader in understanding and cultural awareness.
Christopher Garcia, who co-chaired the exchange committee, defended the committee’s recommendation to cut funding earlier during his presentation to the board.
“It wasn’t done because we don’t support the arts,” he said. “We understand that a great city needs and deserves great arts. But… our need for spending is too great. We need [billions] The value of exchange projects. And they gave us $165 million to work with her.”
The total modifications are approximately $45 million
After eight weeks of meetings and bus tours, the five committees made changes worth nearly $45 million.
The Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces Commission increased the number of park projects by 15 to a total of 82. It also reduced Linear Green Trail funding from recommended staffing from $110 million to $106.5 million.
However, they only cut projects that were in the design phase or improvements, said John Bailey, who co-chaired that committee. “There are no new trail lines [were] Cuts.”
After the Texas Biomedical Research Institute withdrew his request for $10 million, Councilwoman Terry Castillo (D5) paid to divert that sum to build a new fire station in her area. This required an additional $2.5 million to be cut from a street project on South Brazos Street.
There was little discussion on Wednesday to remove two of the most controversial projects; The $5 million renovation of Sunken Garden Theater and the University of Texas in San Antonio’s $5 million request to help build a new basketball and volleyball training facility.
Councilman Bravo, whose district includes the Sunken Garden Theatre, said he will host a city council meeting on January 24 at 6 p.m. Details will be announced via social media.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the city is very close to “approving a bond that will change the course of our city in a very positive direction.”
“We could do it differently and put forward a bunch of projects and fund them, but we do it with the public, and the San Antonio Bond process is more than just a list of projects we need. It’s a process that involves our entire community.”