Tigers for Liberty (TFL), Trinity Progressives (T-Prog), The Contemporary, and the off-campus organization MOVE San Antonio hosted #2MinuteCivics, a crash course in local issues, to prepare attendees for the upcoming March primary election. The groups brought a panel of five civic leaders to discuss local issues.
The event was formatted similar to a Q&A session. Sophomore T-Prog member Travis Boyd brought up local issues and the panelists would have two minutes to address and discuss their positions. Roughly 30 people attended the event, a group of both students and San Antonio community members.
MOVE brought in the first four speakers: Councilwoman Ana Sandoval, state Rep. Diego Bernal, the City Council District 2 chief of staff Brencia Berry and Maria Luisa Cesar, the senior policy adviser deputy and communications director for San Antonio mayor Ron Nirenberg. TFL brought George Rodriguez, a former member of the Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush administrations and current tea party activist.
The first issue brought to the panel was lack of funding for San Antonio’s education system. The first four speakers were in unilateral agreement that the city needed to address school funding in a reasonable and effective manner.
“A lot of frustration comes from spending more money while our schools aren’t getting better,” Bernal said. “So we’ve got two things to solve: One, we need property tax reform, and we have to make sure we keep up with the changing demographics of our schools and making sure everyone gets a fair shot.”
Rodriguez disagreed with his colleagues. He first highlighted the fact that he was the only conservative on the panel, claiming that college universities exclude conservative voices. Then he replied to the question by suggesting that public funding be shut down due to its large expenses.
“I am a single person. Why should I pay for public education?” Rodriguez asked. “To keep asking for more and more [money] than you already have is an education industry.”
Issues like transportation overflow, smoking restrictions and racial inequalities, as well as the question of who civil servants serve were all brought up. On every issue the progressive speakers agreed calling for support of government intervention and planning, while Rodriguez had the opposing view of complete disenfranchisement of the government in these issues.
Tensions rose a few times throughout the event, as when Rodriguez questioned the audience’s religious beliefs and commented on “how sad” many of the students’ reactions were whenever he challenged climate change.
At one point, Berry accused Rodriguez of being disrespectful after Rodriguez took the microphone from her hands immediately after she finished speaking. Three students who attended the event told the Trinitonian that Rodriguez’s behavior was inappropriate.
MOVE is dedicated to mobilizing young voters and involving them in politics on all levels, especially through events like this. The event was intended to highlight partisan differences and get students thinking about politics and civic responsibility.
“[MOVE] is very big in terms of their whole mission statement on just getting out the vote and registering people to vote and educating people about local politics. Naturally that’s something that is a pretty bipartisan commitment,” said Isaiah Mitchell, co-president of TFL.
According to Mitchell, this event is one of the first political collaborations of T-Prog and TFL.
“We figured it would be a good idea to do some sort of collaborative panel discussion, followed by a banner-making session where we’ll talk about the issues that young people care about and write them on a banner. We’ll then post it as a sort of get-out-the-vote reminder,” said Alyssa Pope, food organizer of MOVE.
The event was held on Feb. 15, early enough to remind students of the upcoming primary election in March.
“As you probably know, early voting starts next week for the primaries,” Pope said. “So we really wanted to highlight how important local issues are right now, and how you can make a change in your local community.”
Students supported both the push for bipartisan participation and the spotlight on political activism.
“I’m excited about [TFL and T-Prog’s collaboration]. I think its important for people to come together and discuss issues, even if they disagree on them,” said Carson Bolding, first-year and public relations officer of T-Prog.
Despite the differences between the two parties, the panel shared their sides of the political spectrum and encouraged students to become politically involved.
“It is so exciting that young people have these questions and are talking about these things, pondering these things, trying to figure these things out,” Berry said. “We’re happy to be a part of this conversation.”