Thanks to one of our TX21Indivisible volunteers for this great write-up of last week’s San Antonio city council candidate forum!

SA town hall

Tuesday, April 11, San Antonio — Lamar Smith in a pussy hat. The Resistance Choir debut. A renowned civil/voting rights expert and advocate. Four progressive city council candidates. TX21’s very own Jason and Antoinette. And several dozen committed activists and concerned citizens. On Tuesday night, TX21 Indivisible held a town hall and candidate forum at Bigz Burger Joint on the north side of San Antonio, opened with a touching rendition of the Star Spangled Banner sung by Paula Jarvis. Lamar himself was there but in two dimensions, but wore a pink hat and a smirk, while those in flesh and blood attendance listened and engaged in thoughtful dialogue with Professor Al Kauffman and a panel of candidates running for a handful of open seats on the San Antonio city council. Bigz, which donated the space, proved an ideal venue for the agenda-full evening of democracy-in-action.

Professor Kaufman discussed the history and current state of civil and voting rights in Texas, including voting ID laws and redistricting. The recent judicial rebuke of the Texas voter ID act—which found that the law not only had a discriminatory effect against minority voters, but also held discriminatory intent—could put Texas back under Justice Department supervision, requiring the state to preclear any changes to its voting laws. Within the past week, a three judge panel also found that three of the state’s U.S. Congressional Districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to intentionally minimize the voting power of Latinos in the state. The court will compel the state to redraw these districts, which include two adjacent to TX21 (districts 23 and 35).  Such redrawing of these districts will by necessity entail changes to the borders of district 21; however, Professor Kaufman says the court will try to minimize, to the extent possible, the effect on districts not part of the ruling.

Before turning the floor over to the city council candidates, TX21 Indivisible founders, Jason Sugg and Antoinette Perez, discussed district-wide activities and successes and praised the efforts of the San Antonio core volunteer team, led by Trish Hastings Florence and Shannon Perez, in putting together Tuesday’s event and building energy and momentum for ongoing actions in the city. And, of course, no event in TX21 would be complete without some words for Lamar Smith, who as Jason expressed, considers his “partisan politics to be more important than your voice.” Trish delivered a special thank you to Lamar for bringing the group’s members together and inspiring such committed political activism, activism that has seen tangible results, including the shuttering of a local, anti-Muslim hate group. Finally, Shannon highlighted the attention the group has garnered from both the media and high profile activists and politicians, including San Antonio’s own Joaquin Castro, who will be headlining an event with TX21 Indivisible next week.

For the final part of the evening, Shannon MCed a Q&A with four candidates for city council running to fill three north side seats that represent portions of the TX21 congressional district—Manny Palaez in district 8, John Courage in district 9, and Diana Kenny and Ezra Johnson in district 10. In a dialogue that ranged from traffic to the “bathroom bill” to public safety, the candidates shared their positions on local issues, as well as their thoughts on how to get more San Antonio voters turning out to vote, starting at the local level. The candidates held largely similar positions on most issues, with differences in communication style and specific implementation details, consistent with the different backgrounds and professional expertise of each candidate.

To conclude the forum, Shannon asked the candidates how a city with such low voter turnout and shared civic commitment can get its “mojo back.” Manny called on the need for leaders to “show up” and to practice dignity and respect for all citizens. John said the city needs “thoughtful thinkers who ask hard questions” to understand and solve the city’s problems. Diana called for a renewed focus on the inequities of the city and how San Antonio can be one, with wealthier areas investing in lower income areas to the benefit of all. Ezra said increased civic engagement will happen “one block at a time, one neighborhood at a time” through engagement of groups like TX21 Indivisible and volunteering for local campaigns.

In a call to action earlier in the evening Jason urged to all in attendance, “These are the good guys. Help these candidates. Call bank for them. Block walk. Give them money.”

Learn more about the candidates and contact them via their campaign websites:

·       Manny Palaez: www.vote4manny.com/

·       John Courage: www.couragefor9.com/

·       Diana Kenny: dianakennydistrict10.com/

·       Ezra Johnson: www.ezra4sa.com/

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