Mayoral forum answers community concerns, but leaves students with questions unanswered
By Gloria Petit/@gloripetit
Student Government Association (SGA) held a mayoral forum April 1, drawing nine of the 14 mayoral candidates together to the A&M-San Antonio auditorium in Central Academic Building.
SGA said earlier in the week all candidates confirmed attendance, though several were absent, including mayoral hopeful Leticia Van de Putte. District Director Alexis Fonseca confirmed in a Feb. 3 e-mail to SGA President Andres Holliday that Van de Putte would attend the forum, but reached by phone April 2, press contact Desi Canela said Van de Putte was scheduled to attend a campaign fundraiser a month in advance.
Addressing panelists’ questions for two hours, mayoral candidates talked about paying more attention to low-income districts.
Candidates addressed improving bus routes and flight routes for the San Antonio airport. The conversation also shifted to education.
With five weeks to go before the May 9 mayoral elections, candidates accepted invitations from local colleges and universities to reach the city’s younger electorate.
The University of Texas at San Antonio was the setting for a March 24 forum coordinated by UTSA, the San Antonio Express-News and Time Warner Cable News San Antonio.
A mayoral forum, hosted by AARP, is scheduled 11 a.m. April 14 at Palo Alto College.
Administrators, panelists and university president Cynthia Matson said the forum was a success, allowing attendees the opportunity to hear from nine of the 14 candidates.
But others interviewed, namely area students, say they were disappointed by a tightly-controlled format that did not allow for audience members’ questions.
“I feel as a student, we see everything firsthand and if we were able to ask some questions or at least hear input on education, specifically, then I think our voices would be heard as students,” said Bobby Boone, Fox Tech High School student.
Last week, SGA said they welcomed student questions and input. Questions from online users, the audience and panelists were intended to help guide those conversations with the mayoral candidates, said SGA president Andres Holliday.
Holliday said after the forum the main reason why questions from the audience weren’t taken was because of a time constraint.
“This was a decision we made prior,” Holliday said. “Students did have their input and did have an opportunity to voice any kind of questions they had. We collected questions from Facebook and we had asked students on campus. We knew that since we were recorded, we didn’t want to take too much time.”
Following the forum was a meet-and-greet, which Holliday said was the opportunity for students to ask their questions to candidates. Only five candidates stayed at the meet-and-greet event.
Ten students from Fox Tech High School’s law and health magnet program were represented in the audience. After prepping questions and not having them answered at the forum, students said they wished for a different setup.
“Having the meet-and-greet is also good, because they are able to go up to each of the candidates but I noticed that not all of them stayed,” said Jennifer Casanova, Fox Tech High School law teacher.
Casanova, A&M-San Antonio alumna, also wished for more “audience-like” questions at the forum.
Despite students wanting a different setup, Holliday agrees that having all nine candidates at the forum was a success and was “exactly what we [SGA] wanted.”
“We wanted the students to meet the candidates one-on-one, but also hear their opinions and where they are coming from,” he said after the forum.