The Texas A&M University System released new drawings Thursday of its planned campus on the South Side, and it's breaking ground today on the gateway and main boulevard leading there.
The sketches, by Marmon Mok Architecture, depict residence halls, academic buildings and courtyards that reflect San Antonio's Spanish colonial heritage — a vision that will take 20 years or more to achieve.
“Folks around here used to have to drive 200 miles to get a dose of the Aggie spirit,” said Gov. Rick Perry, who spoke at a rollout event Thursday night at the Toyota manufacturing plant. “But ... they can do it here now,” Perry said.
Toyota officials, state lawmakers and community advocates also turned out to cheer progress on the future Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
“Tonight is a defining moment for Bexar County and the City of San Antonio,” said Texas State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. “It brings it all together and the message is very clear: Texas A&M is coming and everybody wins from this.”
Though construction begins today on University Way, officials can't break ground on the first academic building until later this year at the earliest, or in 2010.
To begin construction on the permanent university, the seed campus needs to enroll 1,500 full-time students by 2010, which would trigger the issuing of $40 million in state tuition revenue bonds. The seed campus is a system center run by Texas A&M University-Kingsville, located in a refurbished elementary school near Palo Alto College.
This semester, full-time enrollment hit 1,052, an 85 percent increase since 2007. Because the seed campus is limited to juniors and seniors, most students transfer from one of five Alamo Community Colleges.
Local movers and shakers have set a goal of raising $3 million for scholarships to attract more full-time students. But with only a few months left to hit the mark, lawmakers have filed bills to either lower the enrollment threshold to 1,000 or suspend the 2010 deadline.
Perry supports the campus, but has previously vetoed a bill to lower the threshold. Through a spokeswoman, he declined to comment on pending legislation.
Lou Agnese, president of the University of the Incarnate Word and a vocal opponent of the Texas A&M campus, said the groundbreaking was premature because the school has not met its enrollment goals. The campus would compete with the University of Texas at San Antonio for state money, hurting UTSA's goal to become a premier research university, Agnese said.
“More and more, this reeks of being a fait accompli by politicians and developers at the expense of the taxpayers,” Agnese said.
One of those developers, Verano Land Group, donated the land for the campus and plans to build a 2,700-acre mixed-use community around the university, touted as a Harvard University-style urban village with wide promenades and tree-lined streets.
Uresti defended the development, saying it will bring jobs, people and economic activity to the South Side.
“We are conspiring to bring opportunities to the students of San Antonio,” Uresti said. “That's our big conspiracy and Agnese revealed it.”
Frank Madla III, son of the late Sen. Frank Madla, said Texas A&M's presence will not harm UTSA. At the seed campus, most students are local Hispanic women with families who are going back to school to boost their earning potential. UTSA serves an increasingly younger, more traditional population, with a growing contingent from outside Bexar County.
Sen. Madla pushed to bring Texas A&M to the South Side for more than a decade, and died before the dream became a reality.
“This university was part of my father's vision to bring equal opportunity and progress to a part of town that was underserved for too long,” Madla said. “Lou (Agnese) is welcome to come down and talk to students here ... and tell them they don't deserve a university on this side of town.”
Senator Uresti Visits Reeves County Detention Facility
Pecos, TX -- Senator Carlos Uresti visited the Reeves County Detention Facility, Friday, February 5, 2009, to tour the facility after recent reports of rioting at the privately-run, federally-controlled facility. The 2,400 bed facility holds undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes and whom are awaiting extradition to their home countries.
"I was concerned about the safety of the staff given the recent reports. I felt it my responsibility to see for myself the impact the rioting had done to the conditions of the facility."
The tour also allowed Senator Uresti to visit with the Federal of Bureau of Prison officials and management of the GEO group that runs the operations of the prison. The Senator had previously visited the Prison last year and continues to carefully monitor the activities there.
"Given its location near the Mexican border, this facility is well positioned to fulfill this demanding purpose; however, we as a state need to ensure that we support the federal government's mission by giving the county government in Reeves the tools they need to support the facility. The recent riots damaged part of the facility and we need to make sure those responsible are held accountable," stated Senator Uresti.
Senator Uresti will continue to dialogue with elected officials in the area and with federal officials concerning the facility. Uresti stated that, "I have been diligent in monitoring the operations of the prison and will continue to do what I can as a state official to ensure the facility and those who staff it are given what is needed to operate the facility in an efficient yet safe manner."
Senator Uresti Celebrates Senior Day at the Capitol
On February 10th, hundreds of senior citizens came to Austin to ensure their voices were heard. Along with members of the silver-haired legislature and over 50 non-profit organizations, the group discussed with members of the legislature their concerns. Members of this coalition work hard to put the interests of our seniors first.
From Alzheimer’s research and care, to providing an avenue for seniors to identify and enter a new profession, I have worked with this coalition in the past and will continue to do so in order to improve the conditions of our seniors in Texas. While the Texas Area Agencies on Aging remains a model of service coordination and response for aging seniors across the state, Texas is next to last in the country in nursing home funding and ranks 49th in Medicaid for seniors. According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the state has underfunded Medicaid by approximately $1 billion; this has a tremendous impact on our seniors who as a result are forced to choose between housing, food, and paying medical bills. We cannot allow this to continue.
Last session, I sponsored the "silver alert" program modeled after the amber alert to notify the public when seniors have gone missing. Senate Bill 1315 required the Department of Public Safety (TDPS) to issue Silver Alert by contacting designated media outlets, such as television and radio stations, when a senior citizen goes missing. Only the disappearance of an adult, age 65 or older, with a documented history of dementia would trigger a Silver Alert.
This session I am proposing a set of bills to protect our seniors. SB 1053, 1055, 1056 and 1057 will strengthen the guardianship process by allowing the Guardianship Certification Board to obtain a criminal history background check before guardianship is provided. The other bills will require reporting of the number of wards and will require accountability on the use of all funds in the guardianship process. This will ensure Seniors when they are most vulnerable are not mistreated.
In addition, this session HB 610 has been introduced to create a Joint Legislative Committee on Aging which will study issues relating to the aging population of Texas, including issues related to the health care, transportation, and housing. I plan to file the companion bill in the Senate. This is a good first step but Texas deserves better. We need to address key issues facing senior Texans including access to healthcare and having reliable and safe transportation. I applaud the seniors that made the trek to Austin and hope that all Seniors continue to call and voice their concerns on all issues that affect our state.
Click here for more news releases from Senator Uresti.
Child Abuse Prevention Month "Kick Off" Event
Blue Ribbon Task Force Legislative Day at the Capitol
Kids Day in the Park
San Antonio District Office
Eagle Pass District Office
Pecos District Office
©2008 Carlos Uresti Campaign • A.M. Hernandez, Treasurer • P.O. Box 240431 • San Antonio, Texas • 78224