When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and San Antonians needed its health department the most, Metro Health was a hot mess. Beginning March 2019, the department saw numerous leadership changes. Most of the turmoil happened during the critical periods of the pandemic. For two years COVID raged, Metro Health was rudderless; for the biggest poor city in the country facing its biggest health crisis, San Antonio leaders couldn’t have failed the community more.
This is why it’s no surprise city leaders are asleep at the wheel again as parents in the Alamo city are struggling the most in the U.S. to get the formula their infants need. This emergency has only been 5 months in the making for the city to get ahead, but instead San Antonio is in the national headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Only after a world-wide pandemic, snowmageddon and the longest food-bank lines in the country could city officials no longer hide the extent of San Antonio’s poverty. Even City Manager Mini-Sculley admitted “We’re reinvesting in our public health,” in the city budget which means we’ve been spending money developing downtown for the last decade. He said that “people may notice more of a renewed investment in public health,” which means we’re clueless because it’s been nada for the thousands of mothers panicking to find baby formula. The situation begs the question, how can a city with a record $3.1 billion budget be so unobservant, far-removed, ill-prepared and incapable of providing a smidgeon of relief to this current situation?
It’s likely the city selected the wrong health director, again. For a city that purports to be a leader in the medical sector, it’s a travesty San Antonio could not produce a home grown candidate. This inability speaks volumes about our city government’s hiring prejudices. There are many positions within the City of San Antonio that should be headed by leaders who are born and reared in Bexar County, and a city’s health director is probably among the most important. It’s called community health for a reason and San Antonio’s newest can’t even speak Spanish if we are going to be woke about qualifications that matter for a city with more than half a million and more arriving everyday.
But this is what happens when you have the wrong leaders – mammoth-sized ice-bergs fall through cracks even when they’ve been approaching for months at a time; not to mention you won’t be finding a Mexican-American heading up Fulton County’s (Atlanta) Board of Health if we are to be mega-woke and honest about the current city agenda.
San Antonio also prefers to invest in its own inept bureaucracy than push investment into the plethora of community organizations who are actually on the front lines doing the work. It’s probably easier for the city to dole out a developer enticement package than get an emergency crisis response grant to Any Baby Can for example. Perhaps one day the city will appreciate and understand the assistance these organizations provide to the #1 big poor city. Meanwhile, the City Hall b-team believes it can do it all and do it better.
We know San Antonio cannot take care of its current population. The situation is getting worse with an even bigger population and the city’s answer is to build more housing. This is exactly why a $3.1 billion city budget can’t get a bone to the poorest mothers in the country during this crisis and probably the next; and that’s what’s most scary about the City’s renewed investment in public health. What we can see already, it’s going to be a mega hot mess.
Noe H. Chingues is a satire and comedy writer focusing on the lame decision-making in San Antonio that is predictable, obvious and comes with no surprises.