Ron Nirenberg is committed to retraining and training San Antonio workers for higher paying jobs. To that end, in November, voters can vote on an initiative creating a fund of $150,000,000 to do just that. The campaign manager for this initiative joins us to discuss this campaign and what it can do for the city.
Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenido San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonian, a keeper of chickens, and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you’ll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We’re glad that you’re here.
All right. Welcome to The Alamo Hour. Today’s guest is Jorge Urby of The Glider Group in San Antonio. Jorge and I have been friends for a while. We actually took a break on The Alamo Hour, so we’re getting back on. We’ve got Jorge on to talk about a few things. He’s been tapped by our mayor, Ron Nirenberg, to run a campaign that the Express-News call Build SA, but it’s actually been now changed and named to SA: Ready to Work. He is one of the most sought after political consultants and political communications guys in towns of San Antonio. Express called you a heavy hitter. Did you know that Jorge?
Jorge Urby: I heard that. Somebody told me that.
Justin: [laughs] You’ve worked on Beto O’Rourke’s campaign, Julian Castro’s presidential campaigns. You’re very involved in our city. Thank you for being here.
Jorge: Thank you, Justin. Thank you for doing what you’re doing. I think it’s a great thing for the community and I just appreciate you having me on your show.
Justin: Yes, it’s a new medium and San Antonio is just far behind on things, sometimes technologically. I wanted to be in the front end of this, and I get to interview interesting people. I had the mayor on as well.
Jorge: Nice. Nice.
Justin: I would start and just get a little bit of color commentary on who you are. Just a few questions, background, your thoughts on San Antonio. When and why did you move to San Antonio?
Jorge: Absolutely, man. I’m from Del Rio, Texas originally. My family goes back there many, many generations and loved it, man. I loved growing up in the small town and the small community feel, but as most people when you turn 18, you start to look into wanting to go to college and what that experience is going to be like. I went to school at Texas State and I was there for some years. I always had a kinship with San Antonio, man because I loved the Spurs. I grew up not too far away. We would come up for family vacations or gatherings or something like that. I always knew that I would end up here, but I did bounce around definitely, especially in my 20s and early 30s.
I got involved through the Castro brothers and other people in the community, and I just fell in love with it and the people, so I just thought, “I want to make my life here.” I really moved here, I guess it would be late ’04, maybe early ’05, something like that, and then I did a stint in the Dallas area, Fort Worth area. I lived in DC for a while, Austin and then I came back here.
Justin: What was the DFW run for?
Jorge: When I moved up there the first time, I was working for the mayor of Forth Worth actually. I worked at city hall there and really came to love that city as well, but then I got an opportunity to move to Washington to pursue my master’s degree. I got a master’s in public administration from American, then I worked at USDA and I worked at HHS.
Justin: Okay. I didn’t know that. Your big city was San Antonio. My growing up, big city was Fort Worth. I grew up two hours from Fort Worth. That’s where we’d go if we wanted to go to the big malls or one of those things.
Jorge: There’s a lot of similarities actually between the two cities that I found. I like that city a lot. I go visit when I can. My dad used to live up there for a while. I would go up and see him. He lives in Illinois now.
Justin: Del Rio reminds me a lot of where I grew up, which is Wichita Falls because they’re both real heavy Air Force bases and a regional big town with a lot of agricultural-type country living people around. They’ve always reminded me very similar of one another. I asked Ron, favorite hidden gem in San Antonio and he said the Denman Estate Park, I think, was the one he said and I’d never heard of it. Do you have any hidden off the path places in San Antonio that you think are these great hidden gems that you tell people, “Hey, you’ve got to go check this place out if you haven’t been.”
Jorge: Yes, for sure. The Botanical Gardens. I know they’re popular, but I don’t know if a lot of people have been there, but that’s a great place to check out if you haven’t checked it out. You know what I love about San Antonio? Is obviously the hidden gems. There’s great restaurants, for example. One in Southtown called QPV. I know a lot of friends of mine haven’t checked it out and I’m always like, “That’s a great place if you haven’t seen it.” What I love about San Antonio is there’s a lot to do in a lot of different places. [inaudible 00:05:03]whether it’s the North, the West, the South, the East, of course, downtown in Parole. Then it’s also the small cities surrounding it like Gruene, Fredericksburg, and Blanco. You also get to experience that and I think it adds to it.
Justin: I hear those towns brought up and I had a guy on my show who has the Texas State Trooper program. It’s a PBS program where he goes to Texas cities all over. He’s done hundreds of episodes, and he swears by Seguin, and I thought, “I don’t know.” [chuckles] He thinks it’s great.
Jorge: You know what? I’ve been there maybe once or twice. They have a nice little downtown, but I don’t know it well.
Justin: They’ve got the river that runs through it and all that. Who are your political heroes?
Jorge: That’s a great question. I would say I admired Obama a lot. I thought some of the stuff he did was really good. I will caveat and say that there’s never been a perfect person or somebody who served that I could say, “Oh, I loved everything they did with either side.” I just admire the guy because, number one, he broke barriers. Number two, such an eloquent speaker and his character was unbelievable. The way he carried himself, the way he was a family man, all of that because I think that stuff matters, especially at that level. I admired him a lot.
One of the guys who helped me grow and maybe understand the way politics was, was Congressman Joaquin Castro, who I think the world of. I know him personally and I can really say that his heart’s in the right place. His brother, same way. Mike Moncrief, man. The mayor of Fort Worth. I learned a lot from him, working for him for a little over a year. Very gregarious person, got a lot done. Bill White in Houston; honorable man, super smart.
All these people that I’ve been blessed to work with and count as mentors. When I have a big decision to make in my life, I’m able to call them and they walk me through it. Those would be some of the people. On the national level, probably Obama and LBJ in some ways just because, again, not perfect, did some things probably I didn’t agree with, but I thought he got a lot done. He’s a fellow Texan so I have to add him in there.
Justin: His ability to influence people is just– They said there was never somebody that ran the senate as effectively as he did.
Jorge: Oh, unbelievable. If you read the books by Robert Carroll, which I don’t know if you have or not, but, man, you’re just in awe of the skill that he had to really get legislation passed. You know what I mean? I don’t know if we had somebody that effective ever.
Justin: The Johnson treatment, they called it.
Jorge: Yes, yes.
Justin: I was just reading about this the other day. I watched his last interview he did which I guess was with 60 minutes. He was 67 when he died, I think. He was pretty young.
Jorge: Yes. He was young.
Justin: You’ve been involved on the political side in this city, which means you hear and see the issues and they are brought up day to day because politicians run on issues for the most part. What do you think, personally, are some of the biggest issues facing our city that keep eluding us?
Jorge: Absolutely, man. Look, I have my business which is The Glider Group. I do communications. I used to manage campaigns and I’ve been involved in politics in government and stuff like that. The reason I got involved with what I’m doing now is because of what you just asked. I’ve always felt and I’ve heard other people say this as well. That San Antonio was missing that knowledge-based economy. The jobs that pay higher wages. When companies look at the cities in Texas, we might get looked at, but they may go to Austin or Houston or Dallas or even Fort Worth.
We’re the second-largest city in Texas. We absolutely should be getting looked at and also landing those types of businesses. For me, I think that’s the main thing in San Antonio. Our literacy rate is not that high. I think investing in that. Also, what they did with the Pre-K 4 SA, which is investing early because the studies show that it’ll help in the long run. Homelessness, I think, is another big issue that needs to be dealt with in the city and of course, COVID showed us that we are absolutely in need of helping folks break that generational poverty and elevate themselves so they can create a better quality of life for them in terms of economics. For me, that’s why I took a step away from the business, man, because this was important. I said, “You know what? I’m always talking about this. I got a chance to do it so I’m going to do it.”
Justin: Do you think our rising tide in the cybersecurity world is going to be that wave that gets us where we need to be because every city that has ended up with this high education, knowledge base workforce, has had some industry that has brought them there, it seems like. Rackspace didn’t really do it for us, even though we had this cloud computing thing pop up for a little bit, but it seems like maybe cybersecurity will be that impetus to get us where it needs to be. Do you think that’s a likelihood? Do you think that’s going to be a small part of our industry? What’s your thoughts on that?
Jorge: I think that’s one of them. For sure, man. We’re doing a lot of work in that sector, but I think tech in general. If you look at all these tech entrepreneurs that are moving to San Antonio, some of it’s because they’re getting priced out of Austin. They’re coming here and you’re seeing these bubbles pop up and these folks are really investing in the community, creating this energy downtown that I’ve never seen before and I used to live downtown. I think tech is going to help us get there, but there’s other opportunities besides that that we need to build upon.
Justin: I want to talk to you a little bit because it sounds like SA: Ready to Work is exactly what we’re talking about here. Talk to me a little bit about about The Glider Group and your past. I spent some time working on campaigns. It’s funny I worked on Alex Sanders senate campaign in ’02 against Lindsey Graham, the first time he ran and did some fieldwork in Missouri and South Carolina. I was familiar with it. I thought about maybe working in politics and I decided to go this route. Sounds like you’re in communications. What got you to that and because in the politics side, there’s field, there’s direct mail, there’s communications, there’s polling? What brought you to the communication side?
Jorge: Yes, sure, man. I’ve done all of that. I’ve worked enough in it that I got to see every department division, every aspect of the political campaign. Honestly, I was going to go to law school. I had moved up to Dallas. I was working in health care. I was working at Parkland Health and Hospital System and I really loved that job. I’m doing it, I’m really loving it, but I’m thinking, “I might just go back to law school because I’ve been doing this for a while.” I moved back to my hometown because we had a family tragedy and I wanted to be home with my family. This was about four years ago. I moved back home. I hadn’t been home in 17 years.
Jorge: That was a long time. I’m getting acclimated to my community again and I just thought about it and I said, “What do you really love? What do you want to do?” I think for me, it wasn’t the legal aspect. I just said, “You know what? That’s just not really what I want to do.” I just really love communications. I started thinking about what I was good at and what I thought I could put together. That’s why I started the company. As you start anything, it’s like you start thinking it one way, and then as you go, you start shaping it based of what it is that you can do.
Justin: What does communications mean at The Glider Group? What type of services do you provide to clients?
Jorge: Absolutely. Strategy work, we do production, commercials, documentaries, that kind of stuff. We do design, creative. We do digital. It’s like an all in one because I had studied the market and I felt like there wasn’t that many places that you could go to one place and say, “I need all this stuff.” That’s why I was like, “You know what? Let me go ahead and see if I can get this off the ground.” I started with one client and then it was two and then it was three and then it just took off.
It’s funny, man, because when I was younger, I worked really hard throughout my 20s and my early 30s. I was just really, really, really working hard and that paid dividends without me even knowing because you’re not thinking that. I wasn’t thinking this grand plan of I’m going to start a business and all these people I’m helping, I’m going to be able– It’s just like people remember me and they remember that I was a hard worker so they gave me a chance. I’m almost five years in, man. It’s been a blessing.
Justin: Is there any lobbying or more communication side?
Jorge: No, no, no. Not a lobby. I do public affairs sometimes. Education, letting people know how to attack something or who may be to talk to and stuff like that, but I don’t lobby per se. I’m not even trying to get votes for people or anything like that. There’s a lot of good ones in town, but she’s not something we do.
Justin: What are campaigns have you worked on in a major role?
Jorge: [crosstalk] I’m not even sure.
Jorge: I’m not even sure.
Justin: That our San Antonio listeners would know about.
Jorge: Sure, sure. I was involved when Jessica Rodriguez ran for state rep and then when you ran for commissioner. Phil Cortez in the Southside. I helped [unintelligible 00:16:08] Donya a little bit. Julian, for sure. Joaquin. Not that it not sounds very specific, but when Bill White ran for governor, I was in charge of Bexar County for him. I’ve done big county races.
Tommy Calvert is another one that I’ve helped. Now the mayor, of course, through this initiative. Honestly, one of the things that I wanted to do when I knew I was going to go into this, was I wanted to know all of it from the grassroots all the way to the top in both sectors; in government and in politics. I’ve worked school board races, for example, in Edgewood. I’ve worked on presidential races. All the way from school board to presidential. On the government side, I’ve worked at the local county state, and national level. I did that on purpose because I really wanted to know everything. That’s how I did it for myself.
Justin: All people campaigns or have you done bond campaigns and initiatives or is this your first foray into the initiatives?
Jorge: No, I’ve done some initiatives. I did one recently for water, for example. There was a campaign to provide water infrastructure for communities that were lacking that throughout Texas. It was called Turn the Tap Texas. I did that recently and then, of course, this one that we’re doing now, SA: Ready to Work, Pre-K 4 SA a few years back in some ways.
I’ve been involved in both. Actually, I enjoy the initiatives or the propositions a lot, especially if I believe in them because that’s the thing. If you ask anybody who moves [unintelligible 00:18:01]. I’m involved, but I’m involved in the things that I would like to do. If I think it’s important and something that I really care about, I get involved and I go 110%.
I’m not one of these guys, honestly, that’s jumping from campaign to campaign to campaign and just trying to help everybody. I want to meet the person. I want to know what they’re about. Are they really in it for the right reasons? Then maybe, “Okay, let’s go,” or something like SA: Ready to Work, I just think it’s a game-changer for the community and I didn’t want to not be involved.
Justin: You’ve been named the campaign manager by Ron Nurnberg for the SA: Ready to Work campaign. Talk to me a little bit about how the mayor is involved in this initiative that has its own campaign and we’ll talk about it, but seemingly it’s own financing for the campaign. What is SA: Ready to Work, to begin with?
Jorge: SA: Ready to Work is a program that’s going to help people get training and education to get higher-wage jobs. Here’s what happened. The mayor, COVID hits, and he’s trying to help as many people as possible, keep them safe first. Let’s save lives, let’s make sure everybody’s good and then I don’t know if you remember that photo for the food bank that went viral?
Justin: The long lines? [crosstalk]
Jorge: Basically what happened was, the food line went from 60,000 to 120,000 like that. [snaps fingers] All of us are looking at each other like, “This is messed up. That’s our city.” Everybody in the country– If you probably think of one thing that encapsulated that time, it’s probably that photo.
Justin: Yes, I think that’s fair.
Jorge: It’s like, “You know what? Enough. We got to do something about this.” The mayor sat back because if you remember before that, he was really pushing something called SA Connect, which was the transportation initiative that he [unintelligible 00:20:15]. Priorities had to shift. It was like, “Okay, how do we not let that happen again?” That’s why he came up with SA: Ready to Work and he’s like, “Okay, here’s what we can do. We can take money because there’s a 1/8 cent sales tax that right now is allocated for Aquifer Protection.”
I was like, “Okay. What if we take that money, put it into jobs and training, and then take care of Aquifer Protection through the city, basically, for the next 10 years?” In other words, we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that. It’s just a reallocation of funds. Imagine just taking money from one bank account and putting it in a different one.
Justin: But it has to be voter-approved to reallocate the money?
Jorge: Yes, exactly.
Justin: How much money are we talking about?
Jorge: We’re talking about $150 million.
Justin: Is that in a single year, is that over 10 years? What’s the time span here?
Jorge: That’s over four years. It’s about $38 million a year.
Justin: The idea is we’re going to take part of the Aquifer Protection money and before even all of this, there was discussion about using some of that money to do the transportation piece that he’s advocating, right?
Jorge: Yes. Right now, it’s an interesting time in San Antonio. You don’t see this too much but you have literally three things that are game-changers for the city. You got Pre-K 4 SA, which if you looked at the data, has proven to be successful. You got SA: Ready to Work, which is like, “Let’s train our people and get them in higher-paying jobs that exists right now.” People have told us, “We’re ready to hire. We can hire within San Antonio.” We bring in people that aren’t from here, right?
Jorge: Then the third thing is transportation. As you know, there’s things that we need to do to make our transportation system be elevated. Whether it’s technological advances or more bus routes or whatever it is. Here’s the way it’s going to work if it passes. Pre-K 4 SA is on its own. You pass it, they’re going to get the money and they’re going to keep funding the program.
Justin: That’s no new money. That’s the same allocation that’s been going on for the last four or six years or [crosstalk].
Jorge: We’re just renewing it. We’re just renewing it, that’s it. Then on SA: Ready to Work, the deal is we’re going to reallocate the money and then that’s going to be spent over four years. Then after that, that money will then switch to transportation stuff.
Justin: That was the big compromise.
Jorge: That was the compromise. Then the city has said, “We’ll always fund the Aquifer Protection program.” If you look at it, look, no new taxes. All you’re doing is moving money from one place to another and everything is taken care of. I was talking to Secretary Cisneros the other day, and he said, “I don’t know–” Think about it, that guy did a lot for this city, right?
Jorge: He’s like, “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this though. Something so comprehensive that’s really going to push us to the next level.”
Justin: From the environmentalist standpoint, does this mean the Aquifer Protection fund loses $150 million over four years?
Justin: The city is going to make up for that?
Jorge: The city is going to pick up the funding. By the way, that was negotiated with them. They’re on board. The environmentalists and the environment groups are supportive because they’re like, “Well, shoot. We’re going to get funded all the time. We don’t have to go up for approval anymore.” We’re asking the voters is like, “Look, we got hit really hard by COVID. We already knew that we had a problem in our city with poverty and low-wage jobs and all that.” COVID exacerbates that. Really puts a spotlight on it. We’re saying, “Let’s do something about it.” This is a way to do something about it. Everything gets taken care of, nobody gets their taxes raised.
Justin: You and your position as campaign manager, your job is to get the message out and try to get votes for yes on the Election Day, right?
Jorge: That’s right.
Justin: That’s in May?
Jorge: It’s actually in November. November the third.
Justin: They got moved. They were originally supposed to be May and got moved, did I read that?
Jorge: Yes. Pre-K 4 SA was going to be in May. Connect SA was going to be in November. Then because of COVID, they all got moved to November. SA: Ready to Work has been really, honestly moving since mid-August because the city council had to pass it to make sure that we did what we needed to do through the council in order to put it on the ballot.
Justin: Is SA: Ready to Work currently funded with any money or is it in a fundraising mode? What is the existence of SA: Ready to Work right now?
Jorge: We’re definitely in fundraising mode. We’ve raised about $200,000. We’re trying to raise about $500,000 because as you know, there’s a lot of communication going out there from a lot of different people. We got to try to break through the clutter and the noise just to let people know what we’re doing. What is it about? We’re fundraising mode/education mode.
Justin: The fundraising is to get the message out?
Justin: Is SA: Ready to Work a 501(c)(3)? Is it an advocacy group? What is it in its actual existence?
Jorge: It’s actually a committee. Honestly, I didn’t even know about this. I was talking to a campaign finance lawyer the other day and he’s like, “You’re technically not even a PAC. It’s really just like a committee.” I think it’s called a special purpose committee. Anybody can donate. Actually like corporations or– That’s what it technically is.
Justin: No CARES money is involved with SA: Ready to Work?
Jorge: No. What happened was the CARES money was used to start this program. It’s going to help about 10,000 families. It’s happening. What we’re trying to do, we want to do a continuation of what the CARES money started. The CARES money is going to help 10,000 people and then this is a continuation of that and we’re open to help 40,000. It’s 50,000 total. If you look at the ROI on that– I just make a quick example. Let’s say the average that a person is making that does this, makes $22,000 a year. Double that to $42,000 and then multiply that by 25 years, let’s say, that lifespan of the rest of the job and then throw that back into the economy because they’re going to spend [unintelligible 00:27:35]— It’s going to lift the city up. The return on investment, this program pays for itself.
Justin: Because some of the CARES money was used, I think, with San Antonio College or Alamo Colleges to create a workforce training program, is that correct?
Jorge: Yes, it’s through there but it’s also through Project QUEST and other places like that. What they’re doing is they’re using that money to help people who were displaced by COVID and helping them get retrained because a lot of jobs went away. A ton of jobs, just COVID hits, gone. They’re not coming back. It’s like, “Let’s retrain people and put them in careers that will ultimately pay them more money, and hopefully, give them the ability to create a better quality of life for themselves,” in addition to, “Hey, maybe you want to go back to college.”
This is going to give you an opportunity to do a two-year or a four-year program. It also includes money for wrap-around services. If something happens where you’re like, “My car doesn’t work,” or “I can’t pay this month’s bills,” you can apply for them to take care of you so you don’t stop getting trained. There’s also apprenticeships. You get trained on the job so you’ll be making money day one and you’re going to be learning on the job. It’s really a comprehensive approach. We didn’t want to leave anybody out. We wanted to make sure everybody felt included. That’s the way we built it.
Justin: That was getting me to my next question. Say, this passes. This is a new program in San Antonio. I’ve lost my job. How does the process work? Do I go meet with a counselor first or some administrator and tell them what my plans or needs are and they help me find what fits or how does that process go?
Jorge: Yes. There’ll be an application and then the city, Economic Development Department, will be running it. The process is basically, you apply, you let people know what happened. Then if you’re deemed like you should be a part of this program, then you’ll be a part of the program in whichever capacity that you fit in. The beautiful part is that the companies like HEB, USAA, Rackspace, those companies have agreed that they’ll prioritize folks that were displaced by COVID and are running through these programs to give them jobs. That doesn’t mean that people are excluded. It’s just that people will be helped if they’re going through this program. You’re not going to go through a program and then not land anywhere. There’s opportunity out there right now.
Justin: Will you have to be COVID displaced to get into the program?
Justin: Then once you get into it, is there 5 or 10 or 20 areas in which the retraining is limited to or is it anything and everything is involved? What sort of the pockets of training that’s being provided?
Jorge: Yes, sure. It’s the things that you were talking about earlier, the emerging fields. The fields that need to help. Construction, trades, manufacturing, cybersecurity, technology. It’s not everything, but it’s the stuff that we are building upon in this community and where we’ve heard that people need the help.
Justin: Even welding and some of these trades are going to be part of this?
Justin: I didn’t know that.
Jorge: Local operators, things like that.
Justin: That’s great. Who is it within the system or who is it within the city that is managing this and determining what areas are needed?
Jorge: María Villagómez, I think is a part of it. I know they’re looking to add to that. She’s overlooking it right now but what I was talking to the mayor about just recently is that they’re going to make that part very robust. They’re going to put more people in there so they make sure that the program is run efficiently and effectively. Right now, it’s a lady by the name of María Villagómez, and they’re doing it through the Department of Economic Development.
Justin: How many people are currently in the program that’s being administered under the CARES Act?
Jorge: What they’re trying to do is help 10,000 people. I honestly don’t know the exact number of how many they’re starting to retrain right now but I know that by the end of it, they’re going to do 10,000 people. I believe it just started just three weeks ago.
Justin: When you say retraining, who’s actually providing the training? Is it Alamo Colleges and some of these other schools? Is it a really broad array? Who’s the major partners within the city that are going to actually do the work to retrain these people?
Jorge: Yes, sure. You’ve got the major universities, which is UTSA and Texas A&M San Antonio. You’ve got a nationally renowned program and Project Quest, who’s going to help out. You’ve got the ACC or Alamo Community Colleges. Those are some of the partners and I know, for example, the unions are going to be involved with the apprenticeships. It’s like a whole list. We want to bring everybody to the table to say, number one, what is needed? Number two, who can help us? They’ve been great partners, very willing.
Justin: How many of the big corporations in San Antonio have gotten involved or is it public who’s involved from the corporate side?
Jorge: Yes, some people. Definitely USAA, HEB, Rackspace, Toyota, Valero, New Star. Honestly, Justin, I’ve been shocked how much support there is out there. When we talk to people, they get it. They get what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to lift the city and move forward. They’ve been not only helpful with their public endorsement, right to say, “We’re all for this.” There was even a letter written by the major CEOs in town that said, “We’re about this and we’re going to help the people that go through these programs,” but also putting financial resources behind it. HEB, for example, committed $100,000 day one.
Justin: That’s great.
Jorge: It was like, “We’re going to start this thing,” and they were like, “We’re in for $100,000.” All right. When that happens, you got to take a look at that and say, “Where they’re coming in for that, we need to help out as well.” This is going to help everybody. This will help small businesses. This will help in the education sector. This will help the big corporations. That’s the other thing. I really want people to understand that. Yes, it’s going to definitely help certain industries and certain of these big companies, but it’ll also help small businesses. You’re talking about pumping billions of dollars over time into our community.
Justin: I’ve always wondered why we don’t have some– I know we have Codeup now, here where people can go get– I don’t know how quick it is but it’s quick. You can get certified in a lot of different coding languages. Is coding going to be part of this program? Is there a partnership with Codeup or Rackspace or one of these tech companies? Because that’s a simple fix for a lot of people that should be offered in high schools is what I think. Is that going to be part of this?
Jorge: Absolutely, man. I am totally in agreement with you. Actually, my cousin’s a coder, and I had dinner with him the other night. He said the exact same thing. He is like, “Coding should be taught the way math is,” because that’s a skill that not only can you use for yourself, but you can monetize it if you want to do stuff for somebody.
Justin: I’m not going monetize math. You know what I mean? [laughs] I’m not leaving and getting a job because I’m really good at addition. That’s a very, very, very small percentage of people that can monetize that but coding could be monetized and I’ve never really understood it.
Jorge: Absolutely, think about it like this. You’re a business owner, I’m a business owner. What’s the first thing we want to do is put up a website.
Jorge: Learn how to do that. That’s a skill you’re going to need.
Justin: And it’s not cheap.
Jorge: Yes, and it’s not cheap.
Justin: To have it done well.
Jorge: Yes, yes, you’re right, you’re right. Also, I’ve been a big proponent of financial planning. Teaching people how to– when you make money, how to do your taxes, all this. It’s the stuff that you have to learn almost on your own. You don’t learn it in school. It’s just [unintelligible 00:36:54] to add to the curriculum. Absolutely. Coding is one of those. Technology, in particular, is one of those things that if people want to do it, there’ll be an opportunity to do that.
Justin: You apply to the program, you get into the program, are you given an allowance to get educated or there are partners that say, “If you’re in the program, we’re going to educate 10 people a year.” How is that broke down?
Jorge: It’s not stipends. It’s more like what you just said right now. There’s partners, and they’ll have the money to be able to train people. What will happen is, when you apply, basically, what that tells people is, “Okay, this person is really in need, ready to go and they want to be retrained in X.” Then there’s a pipeline to that, “Okay, well then you’re going to go to the Alamo Community Colleges because you want to do– I don’t know welding or whatever you pick or technology or whatever it is that you’re trying to do.” Then they’ll have the program that you then do.
If you don’t have– For example, something happens, that your car breaks down or something like that then you reapply for funds to take care of that so you’re never stopping. Some of these programs, we’re talking two to four weeks, and you’re going to increase your hourly amount by $10 an hour. Things like a CDL. HEB told me that they were looking for forklift operators and it pays good money. You just got to go and get trained, and get that license and then go get that job. They’re there for people to take up right now.
Justin: You talked about all the partners, and this is going to be an initiative on the ballot that people are going to have to vote for. Are there people that have come out and planned to advocate against this? Who were the opposition forces on this?
Jorge: You know what? The main thing was the aquifer piece. I thought there would be some opposition there because I’m the first to say, “We got to protect our water.” Number one, water, and then let’s talk about everything else but they took care of that last week through the city council and guaranteed the funding. I think that people now are– I imagine that because we brought people to the table, it seems people are happy with the result. I don’t see a lot of opposition out there. There was, I think. With the aquifer, there could have been, but that piece was resolved. I think we have a broad-based coalition of community people that are pushing this forward.
Justin: You talked about CDL. I’m glad to hear that because in our industry– I’m a lawyer. I do lawsuits, and sometimes they’re against CDL drivers. One thing I’ve heard a lot from companies, when you’re off the record and they’re talking is, “We are having to employ people that we probably would not have because the oil booms have taken many CDL drivers and sent them into the oil field.” It’s just that, the ebb and flow of the job market. That was not a great paying job at one point and it is a much better paying job now because the demand is so high.
Justin: I’m sure HEB, with all their trucks, needs a bunch of them.
Jorge: They do, man, and they’re ready to hire. Craig Boyan, the president, literally is like, “I have all these jobs that I need to fill and I can’t fill.” That’s why they’re committed to this.
Justin: No, I think it’s great. When Ron was on the show, he really made a good point to say, “This has accentuated the problem that has been here for a long time, but it has also given us an opportunity to try to approach it overnight.” There is no ability to sit and wait when this is thrown in your lap. It’s not a silver lining to a pandemic, but if there was some way to appropriately address some of the issues that were brought out from this, it sounds like he’s trying his best to do it.
Jorge: Absolutely, man. The guy has really just shown up to be a great leader. He’s been bold, he’s been out there having to call out people if he has to. He’s been helping the residents, whether it’s with housing assistance, or paying their bills, or with health care, or– He’s really stepped up. I really think he’s been steady and he’s been bold. This is one of those things where he’s been bold. He said, “Look, enough. This cannot be the way we move forward any longer. We have to elevate our city and elevate our residents, and here’s the way we’re going to do it.”
Honestly, what they’re trying to do is I’m 100% on board. I think it’s a good way forward. I think it’s much like 10 years ago when Julian said, “We’re going to make this the decade of downtown,” and everybody was like, “Okay.” If you remember downtown back then, it was a great downtown, but it was very [unintelligible 00:42:14].
Justin: I worked downtown then.
Jorge: Yes, you know what I’m saying?
Jorge: You has that vision. Like, “In 10 years, we’re going to be this. In 10 years, we’re going to be this.” That’s what this is. It’s saying, “Let’s invest now and then let’s watch what happens in five years, watch what happens in 10 years, and then our city will change for the better.”
Justin: How do you build on this? If this is some great success is four years from now that we put a bond out before our citizens and say, “Look, this has been such a success. Let’s expand it.” Is that the way these initiatives or issue type advocacy campaigns work?
Jorge: It’s very different, man. Everything is different. That could happen. I personally believe that it’d be great to do this all the time. Let’s retrain and get people better jobs and always elevate people, but you just never know because when the aquifer thing happened, you could have never predicted that the city would say, “Hey, that’s great. We’re going to keep doing it because we want to keep doing it and we’re going to do this other stuff.”
Honestly, those conversations haven’t been had. Right now, it’s about getting this past and taking the next four years to set up a great, great program for people. Then maybe if it works in a great way, yes, maybe going back to the voters and saying, “We got things, should we double down?”
Justin: Who gets to vote on this? City or county?
Justin: Just the city?
Justin: I know that you’re not involved in Pre-K 4 SA in a real public way, but talk to me a little bit about some of those successes. That’s going to be on the ballot again. I’m going to feign ignorance because I just know it’s a good program. I went to preschool and I’d look around at the kids that went to preschool with me, and you just started school a little out ahead than everybody else.
Jorge: It is true, man. It is very, very true.
Justin: What is the data shown in San Antonio with regards to Pre-K 4 SA?
Jorge: Basically, man– Look, honestly, I would let them speak to it in a much more robust way than I ever could, but what I will say is this. When they thought about doing this, they went out to the community, and they did SA 2020. They said to the community, “What’s the number one priority? Let’s build a community we want. Let’s prioritize what y’all want and let’s go do that.”
The number one thing was education. Then they looked into, “Okay, we’re going to invest in education and that’s what people are telling us they want to invest in. What’s the best way to do that?” All the studies that they looked at, it was Pre-K. If you started Pre-K, you start people on a path to success because you’re starting them at that age, you’re able to teach them young, and then it’ll hopefully get them going in the right direction. Everything that I’ve seen, and everything that I’ve read is that it’s been a success. It’s been a well-managed program. They’ve ran a bunch of kids through there and those kids are succeeding.
When that happens, you got to just look at it and say, “Why would we stop?” I would encourage you to invite the people from that initiative to talk about it in a really robust way because they can give you numbers and things like that.
Justin: Yes, I’d love to. You’re out advocating for the campaign, you’re trying to get votes, but what about small business owners like me? Are there ways for small business owners or even big business owners who don’t know, to get involved in the SA: Ready for Work program? Does small businesses have a role to play in training?
Jorge: Absolutely, man. The thing is, it depends on the small business. If you’re in the construction sector, for example, or you’re in the welding sector, or maybe you’re a locksmith, and that’s a way we can help people. Everybody’s involved. It’s like, “What is it that the need is and then let’s retrain those people to do that.” On top of that, that’s the retraining aspect of it but also think about the economic aspect of it. If people have more money in their pocket, they’re going to spend in the small businesses, which will then help them grow and help our economy grow. It’s exponential is what I’m saying. At the end of the day, it’ll have a ripple effect.
Justin: Jorge, how do people get more information about the program? Do you have a website?
Jorge: Absolutely. sareadytowork.com. You can find us on Facebook. I know the mayor often post things on his stuff on social media, but definitely phone number, email, information, frequently asked questions, how to contact us, everything is on sareadytowork.com.
Justin: This is on the ballot in November? What is it? Initiative Prop 12? What’s it called?
Jorge: Yes, yes. Look, as you know, straight-party ticket voting is gone. What’s going to happen is, me and you are going to walk in there, and we’re going to have to literally go item by item. Now, we’re going to be there for a little bit, but these propositions are at the bottom. Towards the bottom, you’re going to see something that says, “City proposition A&B.” A is Pre-K, and then Ready to Work is proposition B. Right below it. Yes, you got to go down. We’re number 53, actually, on the ballot. I think I heard somewhere it’s 11 pages long or something like that.
Justin: Gosh. [chuckles] Do you not want people to vote yes or is it a yes vote?
Jorge: We want people to vote four. The word is four.
Justin: All right. Jorge, you’re going to be doing this stuff in San Antonio for a long time. I wanted to get down here and talk about this because this is coming up in 50 days, right?
Jorge: Yes. Actually, about 44 days.
Justin: Yes. [chuckles] All we’re going to hear about until then is a Supreme Court judge. Hopefully, people get the story. I think it’s great. I think something I’ve run into as an employer trying to hire people is a workforce that doesn’t have a lot of relevant experience, I think would be the best way to put it, and I’m a law firm. I’m not a technical job. I think what y’all are doing is great. I think it would be great for the city. Thank you for coming on. If there’s anything we can do in the future, I’m here to help. I’ll get somebody from Pre-K 4 SA as well.
Jorge: Yes, yes, and let me know if you need me to help you out with that and-
Justin: You know I’m going to ask.
Jorge: -thank you very much for the time, and just thank you. I appreciate it.
Justin: I’m going to post information about it on our social media and stuff like this. I’ll post this up, tomorrow is going to be live, but thank you so much, man. I appreciate it very much.
Jorge: Thank you. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s great.
Justin: We’ll talk to you soon.
Jorge: Thank you.
Justin: All right. Bye-bye.
All right, that’s going to do it for this episode of The Alamo Hour. Thanks again to Jorge for coming on. He’s been a longtime friend. He’s involved in seemingly everything that happens in San Antonio’s political scene. Our guest wishlist continues. I think I need to get somebody from Pre-K 4 SA to come on and talk about what they’re doing. Everybody wants our children to be fully and well educated. It’s good for everybody. It’s good for our city. I’d love to get Molly Cox from SA2020 on because it sounds like her data drives a lot of these decisions, and they always wishlist [unintelligible 00:49:55]. Thanks for joining us and we will see y’all next time.
Thanks for joining us on this episode of The Alamo Hour. You are what make the city so great. We hope you join us next week. In the meantime, subscribe to our podcast. Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/alamohour or our website alamohour.com. Until next time, viva San Antonio.
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