Reporting

TAKE ACTION: Community Voices Sorely Needed In Winter Storm Uri Investigation

TVSA screengrab from the first meeting of the new Committee on Emergency Preparedness (AKA for a second as the Select Committee on the 2021 Winter Storm Preparedness and Response).
Click Play: Deceleration boiled down the two-hour meeting to 25 critical minutes to bring you up to speed quick.

The Committee on Emergency Preparedness is tasked with getting to the bottom of WTF broke in San Antonio, sending nearly 400,000 residents into days of freezing dark—on top of that they’ve got to come up with a plan to fix it.

These folks could use some serious community guidance, like, now.

Greg Harman

They are mostly current and former elected leaders. However, the members of the now-titled Committee on Emergency Preparedness have agreed to hang up their council hats and work as citizens for this investigation into the community-wide (though utility-centric) disaster, according to Reed Williams, committee chair, former city councilmember, and former oil and gas industry exec.

In spite of the number of power-wielding electeds on board, the committee is limited to an advisory capacity. Williams made that clear in his opening remarks at the group’s first meeting on Friday, March 5, 2021.

“We don’t have a budget. We have no money. We have no authority,” Williams said. “But we have good help, OK?”

The inaugural meeting last Friday had a very Council B Session vibe, folding in the presence of Ben Gorzell, COSA’s chief financial officer who checks CPS Energy’s books year by year.

Deceleration boiled down the committee’s two-hour meeting into 25 minutes of cold takes to help prepare you for the group’s 10 a.m. meeting this Friday (a standing time and date going forward). The broadcast opens with a quote from D7’s Ana Sandoval before moving to Reed Williams and into member introductions. Hopefully this will help folks pose the questions we all need answered. Of course, if you want the full virtual immersion, you can settle in for the full March 5 meeting here.

This committee will be posting their findings weekly as they move forward and ultimately making policy recommendations in response, we’re told, to the comments and questions brought by the community at large.

Here are the very limited tools we have been given to get our message across. I suggest we make the most of them and hit this one home.


Residents are asked to contact the committee with their comments and questions as follows:


The committee is … not so heavy* on community voices, let’s say … making yours all the more critical in pushing policymakers to pose the right questions and develop the critical analysis needed to drive the appropriate resources into our neighborhoods. For instance, while CPS Energy’s CEO Paula Gold-Williams’s early disaster reaction was to suggest the utility would slow the rollout of renewables and invest more in gas, none other than the U.S. Department of Energy knows that when the power goes out, is is well-insulated homes that mean the difference between life and death. Square one.

 

For a full presentation on the subject of housing and weatherization, demand-side management, and all the real things we can do in San Antonio to keep people from needless suffering and death, I’m going to shamelessly plug a panel I hosted this Monday night: “Winter Storm Uri was a Housing Disaster.” (If you are in a rush, you can fast forward to Adam Jacob’s presentation here.)

Just as it is critical for this committee to hear the voices of San Antonio and challenge those at the heart of both this disaster’s response and deadly non-response, it is critical those final recommendations are grounded in the reality of climate crisis as lived by those who have been most impacted by this disaster and who are projected, through a combination of poverty, high energy burden, and little-to-no home insulation, to bear the brunt of the climate disasters to come.

Community access was discussed at the committee’s first meeting. However,  just as CPS Energy failed to provide any Spanish-language social-media alerts until the killer storm had already punched through, there isn’t any translation services here either. The meeting didn’t even stream to the City of San Antoni’s Facebook page as do the daily COVID-19 briefings.

So, barring a last-minute change, we fear you may need to dig around in the City’s website when the group’s second meeting tees up. This means to find the meeting you will need to go to SanAntonio.gov ➔ scroll down and click the “Select Committee” box ➔ scroll down and click TVSA ➔ scroll down (again) and click “City Council and Public Meetings” ➔ select “Council Committees” to the right of “City Council,” and then …

Oh, shoot. Here:

 

If you are able to log on at 10 a.m. to watch live, you’ll only have to run through the first three or four steps above.

Hopefully, this gets more user friendly.

Notice of Friday’s meeting just went up on Thursday. You can also find their initial report  on the categories they expect to be exploring, including “review and documentation of entity performance” (ie. before the chaos), “coordination/communications (ie. during the chaos), and “disaster outcome and impact” (ie. the remaining chaos). In a sign of progress, this report is also available in Spanish.

In case you have some inside pull, Committee on Disaster Response members include:

  • Reed Williams, former City Councilmember (Chair)
  • Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia, City Council District 4
  • Ana Sandoval, City Council District 7
  • Manny Pelaez, City Council District 8
  • Clayton Perry, City Council District 10
  • Lisa Tatum, former assistant criminal district attorney and president of Texas Bar Association
  • General Edward A. Rice Jr. (RET)

Here’s the Mayor’s memo activating the group with a more intentionally prescriptive title: “The Select Committee on the 2021 Winter Storm Preparedness and Response.”

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*Defined as, not at all.


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