In November, five visitors from South Africa arrived in San Antonio in order to learn about our city’s infrastructure and development. Their trip explored themes including urban planning and design, environmentally sound development, water resource management, and government transparency & accountability. The delegation met with employees of various departments of the City of San Antonio including the Center City Development & Operations Department, the Office of Municipal Integrity, and the Department of Planning & Community Development. Before embarking on their meetings however, the delegation was invited into the home of Janet and Sam Scott for dinner and true southern hospitality.
During their meeting with Richard Hernandez, the Human Resources Administrator at San Antonio’s Office of Municipal Integrity, the delegation learned about the tools implemented to effectively govern the conduct of all City employees and maintain professionalism. Similarly, they also reviewed how to handle misconduct in the workplace as well as ways to prevent, detect, and correct such behavior.
Shifting the focus away from transparency and accountability, the visitors met with Mr. Pedro Analis and Ms. Sarah Esserlieur from the Center City Development and Operations Department, responsible for the development and redevelopment of neighborhoods, business, and cultural & public resources such as the Riverwalk. In correlation, representatives from the Department of Planning & Community Development Department shared how they tackle challenges of urbanization, pollution, and infrastructure problems in order to improve the quality of life and safety of San Antonio neighborhoods. For example, B-Cycle is a recent bicycle sharing project that San Antonio adopted, aimed at promoting clean and affordable transportation. One current challenges expressed by these employees was the struggle attract service-providing businesses (salons, auto-repair, etc.) to the downtown San Antonio area as it is primarily dominated by restaurants and bars.
Meetings with Port San Antonio and the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) gave our visitors a glimpse into two very specific and successful contributors to San Antonio’s economic development. Port San Antonio’s multi-purpose facility is certainly an industrial hub with two railroads, three interstate highways, and an international airport. Housing more than 70 companies with facilities, Port San Antonio has accumulated a great amount of economic activity, translating into revenue for infrastructure improvement and development. The guests seemed particularly intrigued with SAWS for their water conservation practices and expressed interest in adapting similar practices back in South Africa. The delegation was warmly welcomed to SAWS by several staff members of various departments and treated to fajitas during the presentation. This made for a very engaging and memorable meeting.