San Antonio Virtual Town Hall: Our Power, Our Water

A screengrab of a conversation mong housing activists in San Antonio through deceleration's broadcast 

The COVID-19 emergency leaves us with many questions but few answers. How will we know when the world is ready to reopen? What will happen once it does? But many of those living in tough situations--inability to pay rent or utility bills, job loss or insecurity, medical bills or the fear thereof, ensuring that their kids are fed and educated--know what they need to alleviate the burdens that have been thrust upon them. They need security. They need reliable social programs. They need affordable healthcare. They need debt relief.

These are some of the topics Greg Harman, our San Antonio organizer, has been exploring in a regular online broadcast and progressive online publication, deceleration. Greg and his partner Marisol Cortez facilitate wide-ranging and deep-diving conversations with community leaders about the difficult but critical issues facing residents of San Antonio. 

There have been four episodes so far, featuring public servants, activists, and poets, artists, and musicians--representing a wide array of San Antonioans who want to unify the city to bring about an equitable recovery from COVID-19. Already, deceleration speakers have discussed housing rights and landlord bailouts; healing and Indigenous identity amidst this public health emergency; the preexisting conditions of inequality that are being horrifically exposed as this virus spreads. In Episode Five, interviews focused on the immediate reality of utility shutoffs and potential strategies to realize a resilient future on the other side of this current crisis.

The episode asks what comes after the pandemic in terms of our City-owned utilities as summer heat--and paused utility bills and rent--set in. A virtual town this Thursday entitled, “Our Power, Our Water,” promises to unpack and expand upon the outlet’s fifth broadcast about utility justice.

While shut-off suspensions are a good thing, what happens when the bills come due? Working families already pay more than their share for ill-advised utility investments like the Vista Ridge water pipeline coming online in a few days. How can we change that? And how can San Antonio use clean energy to kickstart our economy while reducing the threat of urban heat island on our most vulnerable? Guests include Meredith McGuire, volunteer leader with the Sierra Club; Bill Barker, sustainability and transportation expert; Public Citizen’s DeeDee Belmares; and community advocate Nikki Johnson.

As McGuire says in Episode 5:

“Before COVID-19, most of these low-wage workers were already struggling to pay for rent, utilities, food and medicine, even if they had steady, full-time jobs. Many have now been furloughed or let go. Even if they find work again in two months, there is no way they will be able to pay the utility bills that CPS and SAWS have merely deferred, not canceled.”

Join the conversation, register for:

Our Water, Our Power Town Hall

6:30 PM – 7:30 PM CDT

Thu, Apr 16, 2020

Register Here

Future guests on the broadcast will include advocates dedicated to stopping domestic violence, ramping up in the midst of our crisis, accomplished meditators sharing their skills, DIY health tonics with experienced herbalists, and more… “In this period of great upheaval, deceleration is striving to do our small part to hold community space, to recognize the need for physical distancing but rejecting the call to social distancing,” Harman said. “In such moments as this we can’t let our relationships drift. For our own wellbeing, we must dig deeper in love for our families, friends, neighbors, while continuing to hold power accountable.”