San Antonio, Texas — We recently had the privilege of sitting down with San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and chatting about a few different things. Castro is one of President Barack Obama’s campaign co-chairs, and has been very active in working to bring prosperity to San Antonio, a city that is 63% Latino. We spoke to him about his role with the campaign, thoughts on the 2012 election and Latino vote, the work he’s done in San Antonio to bring prosperity to this largely Latino city, and his future plans.
JC: I know, particularly with Republicans, there’s been a big push of this narrative that President Obama somehow the failed Latino community by not passing comprehensive immigration reform. Comprehensive immigration reform has not passed, but I do believe that the president has pushed the agenda to try to get it passed — particularly with the DREAM Act, which did get through one chamber of Congress.
I believe that it makes sense for Latinos to be supportive of the president because you have to look at the entirety of the issues. You have to look at probably the most important issue, which is investment in education. You have a Republican Party that would just as soon do away with the federal Department of Education that has helped ensure a certain quality level of education, that has invested in minority and low income minorities, that has helped colleges and universities offer opportunities to low-income students.
So to the people I wonder, why would you support the president over a Republican? First and foremost, when you look at the entirety of issues, there is no doubt in my mind that, not just based on history of what he and the Democrats have already done, but what they are working on and what they are proposing, if their worldview, if their investments were to pass, that is much better for the Latino community.
And then secondly, it is clever, but it is not accurate for the Republican Party to suggest that President Obama has not tried on immigration, or that he is somehow betrayed Latino community. The fact is that, in the Democratic Party had basically 80 or 90% of the Democratic representatives willing to support comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act, and on the Republican side you have probably 97% of the representatives or maybe 100%, unwilling to support even the DREAM Act, much less comprehensive immigration reform.
JC: I believe that immigration will play a role — especially in states like Arizona and Nevada — we’ve already seen it in the 2010 cycle, fueled more activity within the Latino community. And I’m confident that’ll be the case again.
I also believe that just generally that, if Latinos, if our community, does not see the necessity of coming out to vote after the few year that we’ve had — what’s happened in Arizona, what’s happened here in Texas, what’s happened in Nevada — how much bad legislation, how many insults, how many conversations about electrified fences and books that you can’t read is it going to take before you are motivated to go vote?
And at some level, with our community, it is coming to the point where — perhaps it’s best described if that it is already — we already have it within our power to change these numbers, to elect more people to Congress and all along the line. And socioeconomics of course play a role, but our performance at the polls is not what it should be, even by those standards.
So, my hope is that, with everything that has happened in the last couple of years, that Latinos will come to the polls in 2012 at unprecedented levels and be motivated by President Obama, but also by congressional candidates, by mayoral candidates, by school board candidates, to get out and vote.
My fear is that if our community does not, if you go through this 2012 election cycle and it is just a blip on the radar screen, what does that say to folks that are running next time? Basically you can insult people, you can put in place policies that try and disenfranchise like voter ID, you can call for study of community history “dangerous to the Republic” and it’s not going to matter, because people aren’t going to come out to vote. That would be the worst position to be in by 2013, 2014.
JC: I do think that San Antonio can become, just because of its history, its demographics, a lot like Atlanta — in terms of the large segment of African American professionals and a very successful middle class. Whether it’s in the tech field, or in the legal field, or in advertising — whatever is is — we can have that here. You have that in Miami, to a great extent.
Some of the things that we are doing to help make that possible are that we are taking a look at our small business incentives and our contracting ordinances to see how we can better incentives the big companies to work with smaller companies and help them grow. And also, in an appropriate way, where the city can extend opportunities to small businesses, minority businesses, so that they can grow and so this can be a city of 21st century entrepreneurialism the way that it was in the 20th century.
That’s been the insufficiency. A community like San Francisco or Austin, in the 21st century sectors — whether it’s in media or cyber or anything else — they had more of the startups, more of the entrepreneurialism whereas San Antonio, a lot of its wealth and businesses, were centered around 20th century industries, like real estate, oil and gas. One exception is in the biosciences and healthcare, where we do see that ecosystem. We want to create that ecosystem in these other sectors as well so we’ve been working on sustainability, renewable energy, cybersecurity, as well as aerospace and many others.
But Latinos, absolutely, have to be a part of that equation because they are 63% of the city. We want folks to have an opportunity to do well here and to stay here and to be entrepreneurial.
JC: I’ll be here if the voters will have me through 2017. And hopefully the state will change from something that is blood-red to something that is, at least, a majestic purple.[Photo By City of San Antonio]