An abnormally crowded electoral field in one of Texas’ largest cities is presenting residents with a unique opportunity to impact real change at City Hall – as well as a risk of going even deeper into debt.
With all 10 council seats as well as the mayoral race up for election, San Antonio’s municipal elections are much more contested than they have been in recent memory. Currently, the city lists 9 official candidates for the Mayor’s office alone – including some familiar names as well as a few newcomers.
Among those, the biggest names to watch are incumbent Mayor Ivy Taylor, former District 8 councilman Ron Nirenberg, and Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina.
Taylor was originally appointed to the Mayor’s office to serve in the interim after Mayor Julian Castro left the job in 2014 to serve as Obama’s HUD secretary, and was re-elected in 2015. Taylor’s stewardship has left much to be desired for conservatives – although that seems more attributable to a general disconnect with, rather than an outright hostility to much needed reforms.
Nirenberg, on the other hand, is dangerous – so much so that Watchdog.org named him the “Scariest Person in San Antonio,” ranking number 4 on their 10-part national series. Out of the heavyweight candidates, the former councilman is easily the least taxpayer friendly on the list – unapologetically opposed to any efforts to mitigate residents’ ever-increasing property tax burdens.
While Nirenberg has been an obstacle in negotiating a fairer police contract – citing fiscal objections – he’s also been unabashedly in favor of the expensive and counterproductive light-rail boondoggle that voters have strongly rejected twice. It was also under his purview that Planned Parenthood was allowed to cash in their political capital with the city and construct an illegally zoned, massive abortion facility in his district. It should go without saying that cities should not selectively enforce their own rules based on political preferences – although naturally, political elites believe differently.
By contrast, the Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina seems receptive to residents’ concerns about rising costs. So far, Medina is the only candidate in the Mayoral race who has advocated for reducing property tax burdens and slowing their increase, recently voicing support for Republican-backed Senate Bill 2, which would require cities wanting to raise taxes above 4 percent to seek voter approval.
“That’s fiscally responsible. We have too many six-figure salaries at City Hall and too many pet projects,” Medina said, acknowledging the administrative bloat at city hall. The Democrat Party Chairman also signed on to support a revenue cap – a reform popular with conservatives, and despised by bureaucrats, especially in the Alamo city. When Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) introduced similar legislation last session, he openly argued with outraged officials from San Antonio on the subject of giving voters more control over their tax bills.
“They were the worst of anyone at those hearings,” Bettencourt told Watchdog.org. “They openly fought the whole concept of rising tax bills.” Medina, at least rhetorically, offers a refreshing alternative to that perspective.
The council body itself also is poised to improve, should conservatives stay engaged and rally. Although all the races are too numerous to detail here, there are several key races that taxpayers should keep an eye on.
District 8, being vacated by Ron Nirenberg, has four officially listed candidates vying for the seat – including Cynthia Brehm, who ran unsuccessfully for Mayor in 2015 on a conservative platform.
In District 6, at least three candidates are challenging incumbent Rick Treviño, including Greg Brockhouse – a republican political consultant who helped renegotiate San Antonio’s police and fire contracts.
District 9 also has a crowded field – with two conservatives vying for the seat. Patrick Von Dohlen, a stalwart pro-life conservative, whose work with the San Antonio Family Association has made him a familiar name in city hall, is working to take the seat. Patty Gibbons, a longtime republican activist, also offers to bring a conservative grassroots perspective to city dealings.
The list of candidates will continue to increase until the filing deadline on February 17. In addition to the council races, San Antonio residents are also expected to vote on six different bond initiatives, totaling $850 million, excluding interest expense. The current City Council is scheduled to approve those projects for the May ballot during Thursday’s session this week.
As candidates continue filing and the campaign trails heat up, conservatives would be remiss to squander the opportunity to positively affect change in their city with complacency. With such an opportunity before them, they have a duty to their neighbors to not only show up in May, but to keep themselves and their friends informed and engaged past the election.