Newsworthy

Mayor Julián Castro’s Pre-K 4 SA initiative to offer high-quality pre-kindergarten to thousands of San Antonio children won a clear victory Tuesday night. After a close early vote, the measure won going away during balloting Tuesday, setting the stage for a small sales tax increase starting next year to fund new pre-kindergarten centers.

San Antonio has made tremendous strides in recent years by focusing on long-term issues that are fundamental to the city`s progress. Abundant and affordable water and electricity, an emphasis on attracting higher wage jobs and building a diverse economy have allowed San Antonio to weather the economic downturn better than just about every other American city.

With strong public backing, the City Council unanimously agreed Thursday to let voters decide whether to increase San Antonio`s sales tax by 1/8 cent to fund improved education for 4-year-olds.

Castro and others expect the Pre-K 4 SA program would better prepare children for learning throughout their school years and eventually produce a more highly educated workforce that would create and attract jobs that pay more. The program targets children who meet certain financial, language and family guidelines.

“I hope to make clear the choice that folks have in front of them in this election,” Castro said, “between continuing to move in the right direction and investing in what it takes to create opportunity for all Americans versus what I see as going backward to what got us these problems in the first place.”

There was plenty in Castro’s Texas convention keynote about the American Dream, but rather than making his story solely about his own drive, determination, and individual responsibility, he laid out what government needs to do to help pave the way of fairness, including on education, infrastructure, and new technology.

To show off the work being done, Mayor Julián Castro boarded a bus with reporters at the Cevallos Lofts, where 98 percent of the units are already occupied. Heading toward Broadway, Deputy City Manager Pat DiGiovanni said that very little general fund money from the city is being poured into these projects.

The national recognition as a 2012 All-America City could help bolster Mayor Julián Castro`s Brainpower Initiative, a plan to use a 1/8-cent sales tax to help fund full-day pre-kindergarten for about 4,000 4-year-olds.

San Antonio is growing — quickly. Between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census, the Alamo City had the largest numeric increase and the largest percentage increase in population among the 10 largest cities in the United States. Updated census figures indicate the growth boom is continuing into this decade.

San Antonio residents Saturday overwhelmingly approved all five propositions of the $596 million bond program, sending a vote of confidence to City Hall in an era when taxpayers are generally wary of major spending initiatives.

The Milken Institute has ranked San Antonio as the nation`s best-performing city for 2011 in its annual ranking of 200 metropolitan areas.

To bolster efforts of high school counselors and college outreach specialists, Café College staff will offer area residents free assistance in selecting, preparing for and applying for post-secondary education opportunities. Staff at the center, who will begin serving students Tuesday, also will work to demystify the process of accruing financial aid.

Back home, evidently immune to jet lag, Mayor Julián Castro has to be greeting the summer with a smile on his face. His first year in office has to be judged a remarkable success.

In early December, Julián Castro, the newly elected mayor of San Antonio, visited the White House to attend President Obama’s national jobs-and-economic-growth forum. Castro was one of only five mayors in attendance and, at 35, the youngest. When his turn came to speak — the subject was the creation of green jobs — the president looked at him, midway down the long conference table, and said: “I thought he was on our staff. I thought he was an intern. This guy’s a mayor?” The other participants — world-famous economists, environmentalists and politicians — burst into laughter.

While San Antonio has weathered the recession better than most other major cities, Mayor Julián Castro noted during a jobs summit Wednesday that thousands of residents have suffered nonetheless.

"The number of folks who are able-bodied and looking for work in San Antonio is greater than the entire population of Alamo Heights, Balcones Heights and Windcrest," said Castro, whose office arranged the summit at the behest of the Obama administration.