Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

UTSA and San Antonio: what to expect for the future

D8 dialogue

Decisions that influence UTSA are often made off campus. San Antonio City Council, for example, has the authority to determine development, funding and policy that will have an impact on the lives of students.

Councilman Ron Nirenberg represents City Council District 8, which is the district for UTSA’s Main Campus. In the past semester, Nirenberg has been active in making policies that will affect the development of UTSA.

Even before he decided to run for office, Nirenberg was involved with youth engagement. His decision to run for council was influenced by his desire to create a better future. After his son Jonah was born, Nirenberg grew a concern for the future his son would inherit. “I want to be in a position to improve his quality of life when he’s my age…

“Politicians don’t pay attention to young people,” said the councilman. He attributes this oversight to a lack of voting in the youth population.

Civic engagement has not often been UTSA’s strongest characteristic. Voting rates for Texas, San Antonio and even UTSA’s Student Government election turnout has historically been in the single-digit percentile.

“When people don’t vote, it allows people in power positions to steer the agenda.” In an effort to combat this sense of apathy in youth populations, Nirenberg has attempted to reach out to students, specifically students at UTSA, through community engagement. Most notably, Nirenberg holds what he calls D8 Dialogues once a month. Styled as an open forum for discussion, these talks serve as a way for residents to voice concerns in an intimate setting.

However, voter turnout rates in municipal elections remain stagnant at five to seven percent on average. Nirenberg claimed that if even 30 percent of UTSA students turned out to vote, they would have a significant sway in elections.

As the UTSA student population grows, the surrounding area has consequently seen rapid rates of development. “The biggest problem in San Antonio right now is growth and how we deal with it,” claimed Nirenberg. Development for the UTSA area primarily includes road expansions and more housing developments. In the coming year, UTSA will see the expansions of UTSA Blvd. and Hausman Rd.

With an increased demand for infrastructure development, there remains a potential threat to the surrounding ecosystem. “We have to balance our economic needs with the fact that we don’t have any do overs with our environmental resources,” said Nirenberg. For this reason, the councilman’s district office will focus a lot of attention on policy that will affect the Edwards Aquifer.

“Unregulated development will have a detrimental effect on those resources,” believes Nirenberg. In order to maintain a sustainable balance, the councilman stressed maintaining a good relationship with the business community.

Another significant project being taken on by the councilman could result in a faster, more efficient, AirRowdy. By partnering with the San Antonio Area Broadband Network, UTSA could be the recipient of a better internet service. Such a project, however, requires extensive procedural steps and an agreement between UTSA, the City of San Antonio, City Public Service and the Texas Legislature.

Nirenberg’s influence at UTSA extends beyond infrastructure projects. In an effort to be more competitive for Tier One status, UTSA’s SGA passed a resolution asking the UT Board of Regents to end the CAP program. Nirenberg showed his support by writing an official letter to the Board, recommending they end the program.

“Achieving a Tier One status is good for San Antonio and good for students. The CAP program puts UTSA in a second tier position in the UT System and artificially deflates admissions levels.”

The CAP program, which allows UTSA students to transfer to UT after their first year, decreases graduation rate statistics, and makes UTSA less competitive for a Tier One status. Nirenberg’s letter to the UT Board of Regents officially recommended that they approve the end of CAP.

Nirenberg sees a mutually beneficial long-term relationship between San Antonio and UTSA. Past reports have indicated that San Antonio was once a victim of “brain drain,” in which educated post-college graduates moved outside of the city— taking their skills and expertise with them. Nirenberg, however, believes this is changing for the better.

“Cultural opportunity, great music, culinary arts, cultural centers, you want that in a place that has quality low-cost living,” said Nirenberg. “San Antonio is where it’s at.”

Nirenberg will deliver a “State of the District” address on Feb. 15 at 4:00 p.m. in Phil Hardberger Park Urban Ecology Center to discuss his plans for District 8 with the community.

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