Commentary: In District 5, COVID magnifies poverty
During the San Antonio District 5 City Council race in 2019, more than 61,000 residents were registered voters. Unfortunately, only 5,100 people voted. The 2020 general election drew a higher percentage of voters from District 5 — but for the 2019 City Council race, which affects them more, the majority stay stayed home.
District 5 is the poorest and most underserved of all 10 districts in San Antonio. Besides high crime, homelessness and bad infrastructure, District 5 has the lowest income average in the city and the highest dropout rate. Less than 34 percent of the district’s residents have a high school diploma and only 10 percent have a college degree, according to statistics from SA2020.
Data also show wide disparities across various needs within the district, such as the digital divide. During the pandemic, students were forced to study via the internet at home, putting those in District 5 at a disadvantage.
An analysis conducted by Jordana Barton, at the time a senior adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, indicates many students in District 5 experience a “homework gap” due to lack of internet services.
San Antonio Independent School District reported that at Lanier High School, 75 percent of the student body lives in households with no internet access. This affects the entire household. Senior Planet, an organization that helps older adults with technology service training, reports only 17 percent of seniors are comfortable working with technology.
In these crucial times, resources primarily have been accessed online. As a candidate for City Council District 5, I will work to assure that technology training and internet access go hand in hand.
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My family’s community involvement goes back to the 1980s, starting with my dad, Charlie Mata, who organized many anti-poverty events, including the federal cheese surplus distribution. The food distributions helped thousands of San Antonians. He also worked with the city of San Antonio to develop other comprehensive programs, including family stabilization programs that provided aid for medical expenses. It was through his work that I learned many valuable lessons.
I have more than 20 years experience in working with youth and families. Through the nonprofit sector and on my own initiatives, I have worked with low-income families and at-risk youth in the areas of housing, family stabilization, juvenile delinquency, physical and mental wellness, and mentoring.
Other urgent matters, such as child abuse, bullying, and adequate police presence in high crime areas throughout District 5, have been addressed by organized awareness events.
The global pandemic has dominated our daily lives, but we shouldn’t ignore local epidemics like diabetes and childhood obesity. If elected, I would diligently address these problems.
By working together, finding common ground and staying engaged, we can resolve many of the needs of the district.
Accountability at City Hall needs improvement. I will ensure there is transparency and information available to the District 5 constituency.
Most will agree education is the key to ending generational poverty. I will support ongoing youth and academic programs and work closely with the San Antonio and Edgewood school districts.
In these perilous times when COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be slowing, proven and experienced leadership is needed at City Hall.
I ask that you participate in the voting process and let your voice be heard. Together we can revive District 5.
By: Jason Mata
For the Express-News
Jan. 25, 2021Updated: Jan. 25, 2021 1 p.m.