Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Attn: Until further notice I will be placing my site “Community At Large: Revisiting Culture in the 21st Century” on hold. As I strive to lead a balanced, fulfilling, and examined life, I’ve come to the unfortunate realization that I am unable to devote as much time as I would like in maintaining the site. I will leave the site open and available to anyone who wishes to read past entries. Thank you all for your support and I will definitely keep you posted on any future endeavors.

As always, stay tuned and spread the word!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

LARGECOMM x RR: Urban Affairs Conference

2014 Urban Affairs Association Conference - San Antonio

March proved to be a busy month as I ended with a recent trip to New Orleans, Louisiana - will be writing a post about lessons to be learned from the Crescent City. Representing UTSA College of Public Policy I attended the 44th Annual Urban Affairs Association Conference. With the momentum of revitalizing the inner city, it seemed appropriate for the conference to be held this year in San Antonio.

I discussed all things urban with students, scholars, PhD candidates, and professors alike. My extracurricular research of the history of politics, policy, economics, and culture of San Antonio has paid off as I was able to provide information from a local perspective to conference-goers from Sydney, Chicago, Munich, and other communities from around the globe. In collaboration with the Rivard Report I published a recap of the event:

San Antonio Hosts Urbanists and Focus on the City

Christine Drennon, Director of Urban Studies at Trinity University, presented as this year’s recipient of the 2014 UAA Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award, honored by Juan A. Garcia, President of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association, and Beverly Watts-Davis of the United Way of San Antonio & Bexar County.
Drennon has led her efforts with Trinity to become the distinguished partnered researcher for the Promise and Choice Neighborhood plans on San Antonio’s Eastside. Her research for thenewly designated EastPoint neighborhood stands out with statistics from the unconventional aspects of city planning by looking at middle school dropout rates, using digital photography for community members to visually demonstrate neighborhood blight, and other non-traditional means of giving residents a voice in the planning process.
Christine Drennon of Trinity University presenting as recipient of Urban Affairs Association Activist-Scholar Award photo via Instagram
Christine Drennon of Trinity University presenting as recipient of Urban Affairs Association Activist-Scholar Award. Photo by Rene Jaime Gonzalez’ Instagram (@largecomm).

She emphasized the relevance of the impact in hosting community conversations with parents and students to mitigate the often-heated relationship between school districts and the community.
“It’s the voices that make the data come alive,” she said.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Addressing Democracy in the United States: A Brief Reflection

Towards the end of a UTSA College of Architecture "Dialogue in Urban Planning" session, president and founder of imagine San Antonio Bob Wise called for more citizen-oriented democracy in the planning process for the benefit of the future of San Antonio.

After taking an evening and a workday of harnessing creative momentum in exercising my writing skills, I drafted a poem on the lines of yellow legal pad and soon committed it to memory. The rest is as follows...

I write this as a concerned American citizen, concerned with the existing implementation of democratic practices - or lack thereof - in our institutions such as the classroom, the workplace, electoral politics, and so on. Though our nation portrays itself as an outstanding model of democracy on the world stage, I feel there remains a need to examine representative vs. direct democracy pertaining to the development of these environments, specifically in determining policy and economics.

Enamored with the eloquence of poetry and the liability of the social contract, the poem I've written is a reflection – a reflection expressing my perspective of the current state of democracy in the U.S.

Addressing Democracy
O democracy
O democracy
how my heart bleeds for thee
O democracy
O democracy
how you cradle the cry of liberty

They slander your name at every step, every twist, every turn

My ears cringe, my heart aches
but for your promise I still yearn

O democracy

O democracy
harboring equality in a day's work
O democracy
O democracy
in the face of your doubters I smirk

In the town halls, in the courtrooms

In the streets, on the block
"They all shall have a voice," you say,
your utter profoundness leaving many in shock

O democracy

O democracy
with no pecuniary motives to be found
O democracy
O democracy
your simple grace perseveres to astound

With each passing insurrection
your potential increases tenfold
I revel in the rapture of your ethos,
a truly glorious site to behold

O democracy

O democracy
how my weary heart bleeds for thee
O democracy
O democracy
your self-evident truths shall set us free

Recommended reading:

Social Contract Theory from the International Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Democracy in Corporate America by John C. Bogle
Capitalist Democracy: Elective Affinity or Beguiling Illusion? by John Dunn
Public Policy and Community: Activism and Governance in Texas by Robert H. Wilson, et al.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

LARGECOMM x RR: East Point Promise

EastPoint logo-courtesy photo

This past Tuesday I had the privilege of attending the San Antonio Growth for the Eastside (SAGE) quarterly business briefing “Breakfast with the Mayor” event, reporting for the Rivard Report. SAGE announced their Grow Eastside Fund – a 3-to-1 match grant endowed by the National Development Council Grow America fund - in which they will be doing their part in raising $500k with the GAF supplying the additional $1.5 million.

Also, Mayor Julian Castro unveiled the EastPoint neighborhood through the Promise Zone program enacted by the Obama administration in an effort to revitalize 5 communities throughout the U.S. I had the chance to interview Christine Drennon, director of Urban Studies at Trinity University, as she and her team at Trinity are responsible for demographic research and area statistics.

This year I plan to be a more regular contributor for the RR with new segments and ideas in the works. As always, stay tuned and spread the word!

Read an excerpt from my report below:

A majority of Eastside residents surveyed were discontent with the deteriorating conditions of their parks and playgrounds, homes and office spaces. The community also grapples with about double the unemployment rate – 15 percent – and half the median household annual income – $25,000 – compared with the City of San Antonio, seven percent and $53,000 respectively.
EastPoint Promise Zone Initiative Map. Click here to download full-size PDF.
EastPoint and Promise Zone Initiative Map. Click here to download full-size PDF.
The neighborhood program boundaries stretch east from I-37 along the intersection of Loop 410 and I-35 north.
Although the Eastside has maintained its cultural status as predominantly African-American, demographic studies identify Mexican-Americans as an emerging ethnic population with 68 percent as of 2010.
The City of San Antonio 2014 Fiscal Year Budget will delegate $3.6 million dollars in infrastructure funds for the Eastside, said Mayor Castro. SAHA is working with the University Health System to locate a healthcare center in the EastPoint area.
Castro was candid about the unfavorable public image associated with Eastside San Antonio. As the neighborhood “on the other side of the tracks … on the other side of the highway,” he acknowledged that Eastside schools, streets, and parks have a long history of neglect.
He called for residents of San Antonio to overcome social barriers that perpetuate superficial discrimination and told the audience that he is determined to turn that image around to develop the Eastside as a viable consideration for future business and community investors.
 The $2 Million Promise to East Point Business Owners

Monday, February 3, 2014

LARGECOMM x Puro Pinche: The Art of Street Design

Puro Pinche-courtesy graphic

Puro Pinche, founded in 2010 by Stephanie Guerra, is your one-stop spot for the latest updates on local arts and music events in San Antonio.

From VIP passes to sold out concert tickets, be sure to keep up with her site for an interactive community experience.

I contributed a quick recap of UTSA's College of Architecture Art of Street Design Lecture. Authors John Massengale and Victor Dover presented their new book Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns:

Art of Street Design
Street Design Lecture - Victor Dover
Victor Dover, AICP

Q & A

I approached the authors with an inquiry concerning public transportation in San Antonio. Though plans are in motion for a multimodal transit center on San Antonio’s West Side, our current bus system is the singular option for public transit.
Funding for a light rail has been down-voted on a number of occasions, but would the development of an alternative system, such as a rail, be seen as inevitable in pushing us towards a multimodal transit city?
In Dover’s reply he emphasized that the first order of business should be defining precise parameters for the terms rapid transit, streetcar, light rail, and bus, with a clear distinction of each mode’s function. Ultimately agreeing that we should seek to expand transportation to as many modes as possible, residents can begin to envision a new city.

Stay tuned to your puro pinche guide to San Antonio music, arts and cultural events!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

LARGECOMM x RR: January 2014

2014 is off to a great start!

Quick MLK March recap:
  • Organizers estimated 175,000 at the MLK March on Monday, January 20th. I've attended consecutively since 2012 and this year I brought my father out for the first time.

Now onto the two articles published on the Rivard Report this month..

The first article touches on the disconcerting subject of  poverty in San Antonio, published as a response to the original: San Antonio, Let's Have a Conversation About Poverty. Rivard hits the nail on the head in sending the message that as a city on the rise, "we should be secure enough to have that conversation, even as we measure progress on so many long-term fronts."

My response comes as a reflection; reflecting on the "war on poverty", the community conversation on the issue, and steps taken by local officials in combating poverty:

A Deeper Definition of Poverty in San Antonio

Here’s A Closer Look

In 1967 President Lyndon Baines Johnson commissioned an 11-member committee, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders a/k/a the Kerner Commission, to investigate the causes of turbulent social protests of the 1960s. Origins of social unrest, the committee concluded, were in part due to the “concentration on ‘national’ and international problems at the expense of ‘local’ and domestic concerns,” leaving the U.S. with an “enormous deficit of unmet social needs and deeply felt social injustices.” The findings of the report were ultimately disregarded, a great disappointment to the future of American communities, with Johnson instead shifting focus to the Vietnam War. Such neglect of determinant hardships is still felt in our nation’s communities today.
The pernicious stereotype of “welfare queens” abusing the system, propaganda perpetuated by the Reagan Administration in order to gain popular support to dismantle the welfare state, deviously misconstrues our view of working class communities, depicting those in poverty as “lazy” or reluctant to work hard in achieving the American Dream.
Researching economics and public policy in San Antonio. Photo by Rene Jaime Gonzalez.
Researching economics and public policy in San Antonio. Photo by Rene Jaime Gonzalez.
Anyone who has seen “The American Ruling Class” (2005) or read “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich can understand the difficulty in maintaining a family – let alone going back to night school at a local community college – on a minimum wage salary. Many of these jobs are service industry entry-level positions, which may or may not provide full-time hours, health benefits, and the right to organize/collectively bargain.

The next article is a recollection of personal nostalgia - my experience at the Blue Star Art Silos. The Silos were an extension of the Blue Star Arts Complex, old grain silos converted into mini-galleries where striving artists were able to showcase their work in a unique setting. Though the site has since been closed and slated for redevelopment, the spirit of the underground arts scene in San Antonio is alive and well at the corner of South Flores and Lone Star:

First Friday to Second Saturday: Remembering Silos, Discovering Lone Star

At the front of the complex, a tall, chain-link fence served as the gateway to a cultural hub for young adults, newcomers, and long-time residents alike. And though the Mission Reach was not yet a part of the scenery, the night breeze from the river provided relief on sweltering summer nights.
To the left stood the silos, stacked neatly side by side along the barricade, 17 in all. Standing erect at nearly 15 ft. tall, the cool, grey steel seemed uninviting upon first glance. But a passing entry into these artist-run galleries and you were instantly amazed.
Once maintaining grains for the Big Tex Grain Co. production site, these vessels now held a different kind of potential. An artistic capital was on display for all to take in.
Present-day state of the silos. Photo taken by Rene Jaime Gonzalez

Since 2012 The Report continues to engage the community in conversation and dialogue. Feel free to drop them a line. San Antonio would love to read your story.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Updates for LARGECOMM

Happy New Year to all! 2014 looks to be another promising breakthrough year for San Antonio. Here are some quick updates:
  • New segments coming in early 2014: - The Stage Speaks, highlighting San Antonio's theatre community - More interviews scheduled for The New Vanguard and Gastronomy:Revisited
  • LARGECOMM x Rivard Report - featured articles hosted on The Rivard Report

Spread the word and stay tuned!

Featured photos:

  •  Featured artwork of the Serie x Gravelmouth Collaboration on Second Saturday, showcased at 1906 South Flores in the South Flores Arts District