Thank You, Go Forth!

Thank You, Go Forth!

Originally published to Facebook on June 22, 2017.

Yesterday, a new Mayor and City Council were inaugurated at the Arneson River Theater. In high school, I played that venue with the Central Catholic jazz band, but I was not onstage last night. So this morning feels like the appropriate time to say thank you to all of the friends, family, and supporters who saw me through the last few months, and to urge you to continue your own work for a more responsive, innovative, and inclusive District 1.

Your efforts to elect me were monumental, and my gratitude is of equal measure. I will forever be grateful to all those who stuck out their necks for me, to all those who donated to my campaign, and to all those who spent countless hours canvassing and calling their neighbors. From the bottom of my heart and with all of my being—thank you.

This was a remarkable campaign, built entirely outside the traditional power structures of San Antonio and outside the architectures of exclusion upon which they rely. We did not ask permission, we do not wait our turn, we did not kowtow. Instead we worked, marching through District 1 day after day, listening to voters and talking about public policy. Piercing heat, torrential rain, slanderous opposition—nothing stopped us, nothing deterred us, nothing compelled us to yield. And nothing ever will.

Even though we came up a little short on election day, the movement you and I built over the last few months has permanently changed District 1 politics by showing that everyday folks can make a difference if only they will band together. As has been said, ‘there is a considerable difference between a mass of people and a mass of people determined to act together.’ Achieving the promise of our local democracy depends entirely on us continuing to act together.

Going forward, my hopes are threefold: first, that the people and the powers-that-be now have a shared perception of the situation in District 1 and of the proper relations between our government and its rightful owners—you, the residents; second, that the newly re-elected councilman will change his behavior to demonstrate his understanding that nearly half of the voters preferred a very different approach to leadership—leadership as you and I view it, leadership that begins with listening; third, and most important, that the people of District 1 themselves continue to assert their own power, accepting the promise of self-organization and their right to a real say in how our neighborhoods evolve.

By contrast, my fear is singular: that this moment slips away and that we fall back into the comfortable despair Emerson touched upon when he said that “we but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.” This campaign was not about me. This campaign was about you. So while I say thank you to everyone who gave of themselves for this cause, I leave you with a question: what are you going to do next?

If you share my vision for responsive, innovative, and inclusive government, do not be ashamed of the righteous indignation you feel when you are ignored, let down, or mistreated by your government and most especially by your elected officials. Instead, take action. Turn off your computer, go out and knock on your neighbors’ doors, pick a cause, then march down to City Hall and demand change together. Or pick whatever tactics you think will be most effective.

But one thing is certain—as Audrey Lorde said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master's house.” So as you go about your mission—whether it’s responsible development, open data, senior nutrition, civil rights, or something as simple as fixing a sidewalk so your grandma isn't endangered every time she leaves her house—think beyond the status quo, think beyond what others tell you is possible, and remember that you have within you a divine idea. It is the reason you deserve a voice and you must speak up.

I had hoped to be your megaphone. One hundred and seventy-four voters produced a different result. Nonetheless, I thank you. I thank you for raising your voice. I thank you for joining me on the road to a more democratic District 1 and a smarter San Antonio. And I invite you to keep putting one foot in front of the other. This is a path we only make by walking. So let's stay in touch. The journey has only just begun.

Memorial Day Reflection

Memorial Day Reflection

I come from a military family. My grandfather served in World War II, fighting in Northern Africa and Italy under General Patton. My father served in the Vietnam War, a member of the 1st (Air) Cavalry Division. And my uncle and cousin served in the first and second Gulf Wars, respectively. All were soldiers in the Army. Two earned Purple Hearts. But all came home.

Today is about honoring those who didn’t make it back. Today is about reflecting on their sacrifices and, for me, on the sacrifices of the families they left behind. For every act, the universe unfurls innumerable consequences, some large and some small, some acknowledged and some overlooked. But when that consequence is the death of a service member we do well to pause our political conversations about military action and instead respect the simple yet final human sacrifice so many have made in the fulfillment of duty to country.

 
Between the idea
And the reality
...
Falls the Shadow
— T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
 

I am heartened that my country observes Memorial Day. For if, to re-appropriate Eliot, the idea is a military objective and the reality is its pursuit, the Shadow—the specter of the fallen—must never be forgotten lest we succumb to the fallacy that it can ever be escaped.

Reflections on Firefighter Deem's Memorial

Reflections on Firefighter Deem's Memorial

On Thursday, I joined the many others who gathered at Porter Loring mortuary to mourn the death of San Antonio firefighter Scott Deem. As I sat quietly in a pew, reflecting on Scott’s sacrifice and the hard choices made on May 18, I caught bits and pieces of the conversations happening all around me. I heard sadness. I heard pain. But I also heard a celebration of life and of the courage of all those who don a uniform to protect us. Few can imagine a job whose core requirement is the fortitude to stare death in the face over and over again. Yet that’s exactly what first responders do. When others are running from danger, these brave men and women race towards it. 

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Over the course of my campaign, I have come to know many firefighters and police officers, and I have been honored to win the support of their unions. But as San Antonians, we are all honored, each and every day, by their service. In return, we should honor them.

 

Firefighter Deem leaves behind a young family, and two other firefighters, Brad Phipps and Robert Vasquez, were injured in the blaze. All need our support. If you can, please contribute to the Scott Deem Memorial Account and the Brad Phipps and Robert Vasquez Benefit Account (links), the firefighters’ recommended support funds.

Sacrifice, Service, and Lessons Learned

I have lived a very blessed life. My parents worked long hours and sacrificed a lot to give me the best opportunities possible. I went from the Southside of San Antonio to Central Catholic, Yale, and Stanford. When you’re blessed like that, you give back at every available opportunity because, as Central Catholic taught me, it is always one’s duty to put service before self.

When I was a college student at Yale, I gave back by volunteering on a local campaign. One day, I turned in some vote-by-mail applications the campaign had collected. The city clerk who accepted them instructed me to sign the applications as a witness even though I was not present when they were completed. I did so. Later, I found myself standing before a judge, accused of making a “false statement” for signing the applications. Thankfully, my error was recognized for what it was—a young person, eager to help people vote, following the orders of a public official—and the judge dismissed the charges.                                            

As embarrassing as the incident was, it taught me some important lessons—principally, to be diligent about the details. This has made me a better lawyer and entrepreneur, and it will make me a better councilperson. Moreover, I never let the incident dissuade me from public service. I graduated from Yale, promoted economic empowerment through non-profit work, founded a voting rights group at Stanford Law School, helped my hometown pass Pre-K 4 SA, and built a career in technology and law. When you make a mistake, you learn from it and move on. After all, public service is about others—not oneself.

A Few Thoughts on My Recently Deceased Dog and Animal Care

A Few Thoughts on My Recently Deceased Dog and Animal Care

On Monday, my dog of nearly fourteen years passed away. He went in peace. A handsome chocolate lab who remained a puppy until his last days, Professor Rivera—we often just called him Bubba—was the kindest and most warm-hearted animal I’ve ever known. Professor had a perfect block head, an otter tail, and loved to swim, fetch, and perform the various tricks he learned as a pup. He had the most communicative, human-like eyes I’ve ever seen in an animal—he often seemed to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders—and demonstrated an emotional complexity usually reserved for other species. He constantly wanted to be by my side and knew that I wanted him there, too.

I got Professor the year I graduated from college, and I trained him myself. My favorite thing was that he knew the difference between words that started with “com-“. So if you said “come,” he would come, but if you said “comedy,” “comeuppance,” “comprehension,” “composer,” or some such, he would stay. Smart puppy. I don’t know that I’ll ever have a furry companion like Professor again, and I can see that his “girlfriend,” Cabbage, a black lab I rescued and gave to my parents, already misses him. I miss him, too.

Professor taking a break.

Professor taking a break.

I loved my dog. I was always raised around dogs. And I know the importance of treating our furry companions humanely. I also know we must keep our streets safe for every neighbor. Growing up in San Antonio I saw many, many stray dogs. Unfortunately, this problem still exists everywhere in our city, including in District 1. That’s why I support a responsible no-kill policy that fully funds ACS and associated non-profit shelters. What we shouldn’t do is play number games with residents by refusing to pick up or by re-releasing dangerous animals. Dignity for our four-legged friends and respect for our two-legged neighbors means saving as many animal lives as possible while also keeping District 1 families safe.

That’s what District 1 residents tell me they want, and it’s what I believe Professor would have understood.

As always, I invite anyone who has questions to call me on my personal cell phone at (210)-900-4269.

On Seeing and Believing

On Seeing and Believing

When I was growing up, one of the things I often heard adults say to express skepticism was, I'll believe it when I see it. That's a good way to do science, and a general skepticism is a healthy way to protect oneself from schemers.

But when it comes to innovative public policy, skepticism can become an excuse for complacency or, worse, nay-saying by people who simply lack the imagination to see that there could be a better way, the gumption to pursue it, or the energy to see it through.

Here's how one of my favorite authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald, put it:

In that spirit, I'd like to flip the old adage on its head. Instead of, I'll believe it when I see it, I say, You can't see it until you believe it. Whether it's starting a family, business, political campaign, or government reform effort—it's only after building faith in an idea that it can be realized.

Can you imagine a better San Antonio? Can you imagine a council member who is responsive to your needs? How about a city government that answers to the people and not the special interests? I can, too, and I'm right here with you, both dreamer and doer.

Getting Started

Getting Started

I designed and built this website myself because I knew it would help distill my perspective on the race for San Antonio City Council. (Plus, it's always fun to flex some creative muscle!) I hope you'll continue to join us here on the blog, where we'll take a closer look at the policy issues driving the campaign. Stay tuned!