For the past twelve years I have served as an elected Representative of the Poor on the Community Action Advisory Board in the city of San Antonio, Texas. The board, made up of fifteen members, five of whom are elected Representatives of the Poor, advise the city on poverty related issues and provides oversight of the Community Action Programs run by the city’s Department of Community Initiatives. The work is meaningful and as one Congressman once put it in regards to my rather obscure elected position, it is the most important political office in the city that no one has ever heard of.
This is true, I have been through several elections for this position and except for the first couple, my elections have been uncontested. Even in those early elections when there were opponent, very few people have voted. To be honest, I have been term limited from running again, but due to a current lack of interest, I am a holdover for the position.
During the last twelve years, a lot has happened and changes as Community Action in San Antonio and in our nation moves forward. As some may know, Community Action was the only agency targeted for cuts in President Obama’s recent State of the Union Address. This is unfortunate but this program, dating back to President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, has often been the target of cutbacks and elimination.
The role of Community Action is simple, helping low-income families help themselves out of poverty and into self-suffiency. This is done primarily through emergency and transitional assistance. For my part, I have tried to be an voice for the poor in a part of town that often forgets that poverty can and does affect everyone in both small and big ways. I live in and represent the north side of San Antonio, for the most part a part of town economically better off than the rest of town. This has caused my share of occasional frustration as I voice concerns over poverty and current and effective ways to address the issue and improve that quality of life for the entire community I call home. Poverty is not talked about where I live, for many neighbors it doesn’t exist. It in fact, does but that is getting harder to community, even in these tougher economic times as we push forward with our lives out of a deep recession.
This will likely be my last year on the Community Action Advisory Board. In my final year I have taken on the role of Vice-Chairman of the board and will now look for ways to communicate the work of Community Action where I live and in other neighborhoods and communities throughout San Antonio.