5 things we learned in Mayor Nirenberg’s State of the City address

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg detailed a “painful, but necessary” decision leaders made as they sketch an economic path forward from coronavirus pandemic.

The mayor will abandon a ballot measure that would have redirected sales taxes to expand public transit.

Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff intended to bring the measure — which would have rerouted $40 million in sales taxes that buys land to protect the Edwards Aquifer and instead funded more bus service and other transportation initiatives — to voters in November.

In his State of the City address Tuesday night, Nirenberg noted that the city’s economy had suffered major blows amid the pandemic, which exposed existing fault lines within the community.

He vowed San Antonio would “emerge from this crisis as a community that doesn’t accept widespread poverty as a fact of life.”

Here’s what we learned from the mayor’s address:

1. Nirenberg labeled the evacuation of cruise ship passengers, the first of which arrived at JBSA-Lackland on Feb. 7, as a “blessing in disguise” because they allowed officials to coordinate their response early.

He pointed to a a study by the Big Cities Health Coalition and Drexel University that found social distancing measures saved thousands of lives in San Antonio. The mayor said the city is “prepared for a second wave.”

2. Nirenberg said the coronavirus has been an “unwelcomed stress test” that exposed disparities in educational attainment, life expectancy and access to the Internet.

Funds available for recovery will be targeted at housing security, workforce development, universal Internet access, and small business support, the mayor said.

3. Nirenberg pointed to the city’s $25 million Emergency Assistance Fund for people who lost their jobs because of the virus. The City Council is set to vote Thursday on spending plans for the $270 million San Antonio received through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

4. The city will have a $200 million budget shortfall because of the pandemic, the mayor said. Officials have already suspended more than $80 million in budgeted spending, Nirenberg noted, and the next budget will include “the most difficult cuts in memory.”

5. In a short-term effort to stimulate the economy, Nirenberg asked city officials to accelerate all scheduled construction and infrastructure projects. The mayor said he will convene a panel of community leaders to chart a long-term plan to “improve economic opportunity for all.”

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