Henry Cisneros, former mayor of San Antonio (1981-89), was the first Latino to serve as mayor of a major U.S. city in the 20th-century. During his four terms as mayor, he helped rebuild the city’s economic base and spurred the creation of jobs through massive infrastructure and downtown improvements.
From 1993 to 1997, Cisneros served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton. In that capacity, he worked for fair housing and against mortgage discrimination. As the President’s chief representative to the nation’s cities, Cisneros worked in more than 200 U.S. cities from all 50 states.
Today, Cisneros is a principal of Siebert Cisneros Shank and the founder and chairman of Cityview companies. He remains active in San Antonio’s leadership, where he is the former Chairman of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and BioMed SA. He is a former member of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
During this Kinder Institute Forum, Cisneros discussed strategies for building equitable cities. Issues like poverty, homelessness, a widening income gap and access to opportunity will not be solved by the federal or state government, but instead by local policies, argued Cisneros. With a federal government that is “too bogged down,” Cisneros pointed to cities taking on a larger role, such as Atlanta rebuilding and modernizing their public housing and San Antonio funding pre-K education for all children. For Houston, Cisneros advocates that creating an equitable city would entail investing more in education, supporting small businesses (the Ion development in Houston holds incredible potential), building affordable housing connected to a reliable transportation system, and creating multimodal transit for all users. “Imagine if a city put all the equity pieces together and said, ‘This is our purpose. This is why we exist as a community,’ ” said Cisneros. “This is the next evolution of city governments in our society.”
About Henry Cisneros
After serving three terms as a city councilmember, in 1981, Cisneros became the first Hispanic American mayor of a major U.S. city, San Antonio, Texas. In 1984, Cisneros was interviewed by the Democratic Presidential nominee as a possible candidate for vice president of the United States.
In 1992, President Clinton appointed Cisneros to be Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Cisneros has been credited with initiating the revitalization of many public housing developments and with formulating policies which contributed to achieving the nation’s highest ever homeownership rate.
After leaving HUD in 1997, Mr. Cisneros was president and chief operating officer of the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications. He has served as president of the National League of Cities, as deputy chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and as vice-chairman of Habitat for Humanity International.
Cisneros holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Texas A&M University. He earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Harvard University and a Doctorate in Public Administration from George Washington University. He served as an infantry officer in the United States Army. Cisneros is married to Mary Alice P. Cisneros, who from 2007 – 2011 served on San Antonio’s City Council. They have three children and four grandchildren.
About the Kinder Institute Forum
The Kinder Institute Forum lecture series brings thought leaders from around the world to Houston to share ideas about the most pressing urban issues facing us today. Previous KI Forum speakers have included Pulitzer Prize-winning author Matthew Desmond, global urbanist Richard Florida, Kresge Foundation senior fellow Carol Coletta and Detroit city planner Maurice Cox.
CenterPoint Energy is the title sponsor of the Kinder Institute Forum series. This program is eligible for 1.5 CM credits from the American Planning Association.