Former state legislator seeks to bring leadership to mayor’s office.
By V.L. Roberson
Women’s History Month events kicked off Monday with mayoral candidate Leticia Van de Putte who encouraged women to pursue careers of their choosing.
”We have to be there for each other for ‘that-a-girls,’ to tell the stories of the ones that came before us and to encourage this generation,” she said.
Van de Putte resigned her position as a state senator to run for mayor of San Antonio in the May 9 city election. She is one of nine candidates, including Mayor Ivy Taylor, former state Rep. Mike Villarreal and Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson.
Summing up the challenges she and other females faced in the late 1960s, Van de Putte said the high school curriculum for girls did not include algebra or calculus.
“It was systemic discrimination,” she said. “Girls got their math in home economics; we got fractions.”
This prevented acceptance in certain fields at higher learning institutions, she said.
In her first experience at political organizing, she said she rode motorcycles and got other bikers together to establish motorcycle parking at this college.
She said she wasn’t interested in politics at the time.
“I was the first female pharmacist at my grandfather’s pharmacy,” she said. “My mom told me and my sisters we would be the first generation to be defined by our character, the first to have no excuses.”
“Dads out there, the power of your words to your daughters is amazing,” Van de Putte said to the men in the audience.
“‘She is the smartest girl in her class,’ my dad would say, when complimented about my appearance,” she said. “I wasn’t but because my father said I was, I thought I might be, and because I thought I might be, I studied.”
In a question-and-answer session after her speech, Van de Putte described the San Antonio City Council as new and the mayor’s office as lacking in leadership.
As examples of the lack of leadership, she cited the disagreement on the contract for police and firefighters.
The city and police and firefighters unions are at odds over payment of health benefits. The city has sued the unions charging that a 10-year “evergreen clause” prohibiting changes in the contract violates the Texas Constitution.
Without new contracts in place, the city will begin spending $1.6 million more per month for health care than budgeted.
Van de Putte also accused the mayor’s office of a lack of leadership concerning the controversy over contaminated soil.
Soil removed from the site of the convention center expansion was moved to land the city owns across from the San Antonio Food Bank on the West Side.
The city authorized dumping of the soil while negotiating with San Antonio Water System to swap the land for SAWS-owned property. An environmental report for the $325 million expansion of the convention center indicated contamination of the soil, according to local news reports.
Van de Putte said another issue that showed lack of leadership are charter amendments on the ballot May 9. City Council voted to place the Charter Review Commission’s proposed amendments on the May ballot.
These amendments require voter approval before contributing to funding of a rail project or allowing a project to use the city’s rights of way. The amendment also prohibits the city from packaging streetcar or light rail with other transportation proposals.
Another amendment lets voters decide whether to pay salaries to council members.
“I want to come back here and bring that leadership to the mayor’s office,” Van de Putte said of running mayor after 24 years as a state legislator.
She ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 2014.
“What you see right now is issue after issue not being taken care of ahead of time,” she said. “I believe in solving challenges before they become crises.”
In response to her comments regarding the leadership in city government, Van de Putte said, “I have the greatest respect for Sheryl Sculley (city manager). We’ve had a great working relationship over the years.”
Former Mayors Phil Hardberger, Howard Peak and Ed Garza are among those Van de Putte counts as supporters in her bid for mayor.
“People I admire and respect asked me to run,” she said. “I would cherish the opportunity to be mayor and finish my public service career here.”