The Case for a Nonpartisan Public Policy Development Organization for San Antonio

By Rolando Pablos, May 29, 2024

The City of San Antonio is at a defining moment. As our community grows, our Mayor and City Council are confronted with increasingly significant and complex challenges. From managing the demands of rapid urbanization to addressing economic inequality and environmental sustainability, the issues they face require nuanced and innovative solutions.

Traditionally, our Mayor and City Council have relied heavily on City Management for guidance when making policy decisions. While this has served us well in many respects, there is a compelling need to expand our leadership’s sources of independent insight and expertise. This is where a nonpartisan public policy development organization, or think tank, can play a transformative role moving forward.

An independent organization focused exclusively on researching and developing municipal policy solutions would bring together impartial experts from various fields, including law enforcement, urban planning, economics, public health, and social policy. This outside expertise would prove essential for tackling the multifaceted challenges coming our way. For instance, traffic congestion and urban sprawl are pressing issues that impact daily life and long-term sustainability. A think tank would offer comprehensive, independent analyses and propose commonsense and unbiased solutions.

The objectivity of a think tank is crucial for providing unbiased analysis. Unlike City Management, which operates within the political and administrative framework of municipal government, an autonomous think tank can offer candid assessments and innovative solutions free from internal political pressures and institutional bias. This objectivity would be invaluable to the Mayor and City Council, providing them an added layer of insight and the enhanced discernment needed to make well-informed decisions based on a balanced view of the facts.

Long-term strategic city planning is another area where a think tank could significantly benefit San Antonio. For instance, it can highlight the need to eliminate regulatory barriers that hinder the development of sufficient affordable housing, commercial real estate, and industrial facilities. It can also underscore the advantages of important infrastructure issues such as energy, water, and public transportation.

A think tank will improve public awareness and engagement, which are essential for effective governance. By conducting surveys, organizing public forums, and using other engagement tools, a think tank can gather essential feedback from residents. This process dignifies their concerns and ensures that policies reflect the community’s needs and aspirations, promoting a more inclusive and participatory approach to decision-making. This will thereby allow the Mayor and City Council to garner wider support for important initiatives.

A think tank can also help enhance the delivery of critical city services. For example, rising crime rates pose a significant challenge, with potential impacts on human safety, community well-being, and our local economy. A think tank could help develop and implement targeted strategies for crime reduction and enhanced community policing, ensuring that San Antonio remains safe and prosperous.

Practical implementation is often where many well-intentioned policies fall short. A think tank could design and oversee pilot programs to test new ideas on a smaller scale before full implementation. This approach allows for real-world experimentation and refinement, reducing the risk of failure and increasing the likelihood of success. For instance, a pilot program for a new community policing initiative could be tested in select neighborhoods, with lessons learned used to refine and expand the program citywide.

Moreover, think tanks often have expertise in securing grants and other funding sources, which can be crucial for implementing ambitious projects without straining a city’s budget. This would be particularly beneficial for initiatives like expanding green spaces or enhancing public health infrastructure, which require significant investment.

As you can gather, the establishment of a nonpartisan municipal think tank in San Antonio is not just a beneficial addition to city governance—it is a necessity. By providing a breadth of expertise, objective analysis, strategic foresight, public engagement, and practical implementation support, a think tank can help our city leaders address its most pressing challenges effectively and equitably.

As we look to the future, integrating a think tank into our city leadership’s decision-making process will enable San Antonio to better serve its residents and ensure a thriving, sustainable community for generations to come. And this is why we have founded FutureFirst SA, a dedicated nonpartisan public policy development organization for San Antonio. FutureFirst SA not only aims to identify the best leadership qualities in a Mayor, but also aims to provide our city leaders with the tools and insights necessary to navigate our City’s complex challenges effectively.

By supporting FutureFirst SA, you will be part of a vital effort to foster a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous San Antonio. We encourage all concerned citizens and stakeholders to engage with us, contributing to a future where thoughtful policy and community involvement go hand in hand to create lasting positive impacts in our community.