First things first
San Antonio voters are heading to the polls at near record numbers this month. Many voters may find themselves confused by the number of boxes left to check after selecting their option for senate. Unfortunately many San Antonians are voting on a set of propositions without understanding their context. I am writing today in an attempt to provide some context to propositions A, B, and C on the ballot and to, hopefully, dissuade anyone reading this from supporting them. I will try to be concise because much ink has already been spilt on this issue. (I will link to articles on the propositions at the end of this post.) However, I will gladly elaborate with anyone who has questions.
The first point I would like to make is perhaps the most important. The propositions on our ballot were placed there by the San Antonio Professional Fire Fighters Association, which amounts to a union. They do not, however, affect San Antonio firefighters in any way. When you read the propositions below ask yourself, “what does this have to do with fire fighters?” If you are honest with yourself, you’ll come to understand this point easily.
The propositions you will see at the polls are a power grab stolen straight from the playbook of special interest groups in places like California. For all of the joking Texans do about keeping California out of Texas, it is shocking how willing some, especially conservatives, are to accept the tactics employed by this union.
Shall the City Charter be amended to expand the types of ordinances that may be subject to referendum including appropriation of money, levying a tax, granting a franchise, fixing public utility rates, zoning and rezoning of property; and to increase the number of days within which a petition may be filed seeking a referendum on an ordinance passed by Council from forty to one hundred eighty days after passage of the ordinance; and to provide that no more than twenty thousand signatures of registered voters are required for a referendum petition instead of ten percent of those electors qualified to vote at the last regular municipal election?
The city charter currently requires ten percent of eligible voters to sign a petition in order for a referendum to be placed on a ballot. Prop A limits that number to 20,000, which is less than three percent of the eligible voting population in San Antonio. As the city grows, that percentage will become smaller and smaller. The new number proposed by prop A is not only arbitrary, it is dangerous. This change threatens the decades of work that went into creating a more equitable municipal government for San Antonio. An unreasonably small minority, small enough to be influenced or coordinated by special interests, can control policy for the city without appealing to representatives elected to speak on behalf of San Antonio’s diverse population.
When the union submitted signatures to the city clerk to get their propositions on the ballot, 37,000 were rejected because the individuals who signed were not citizens of San Antonio or not eligible to vote. That’s a third of the signatures submitted. By paying a firm over $500,000 the union was able to forge 37,000 signatures for a ballot initiative. That’s 17,000 more signatures than they would need for future referendums if prop A passes. Proposition A exists to make it easier for unions and special interests to circumvent San Antonio voters by ballot initiative. It’s as easy as writing a check.
Shall the City Charter be amended to limit the term the City Manager may serve to no longer than eight years, and to limit the compensation of the City Manager to no more than ten times the annual salary furnished to the lowest paid full-time city employee, and to require a supermajority vote of City Council to appoint the City Manager?
Look. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to vote in favor of this proposition. I started the fall thinking I would do the same. The city manager position is dangerous. A real job outline doesn’t exist for that position. Leaving a large share of the municipal government in the hands of an unelected individual diminishes the voter’s voice in government. I get it. I would like to see more accountability and less work for the city manager. However, I can’t get over the reasoning behind prop B or the reasons why it is on the ballot.
Prop B is a “middle finger” from union president Chris Steele to city manager Sheryl Sculley, who was the first city manager to challenge the union. Capping Sculley’s pay and issuing a term limit is meant to drive her, specifically, out of office. It also damages the reputation of the office for future city managers. The idea is to attract less effective candidates to the position. People who will be more pliable for a union.
Even if I have my issues with the city manager position, I won’t lend my vote to the Steele movement. His intention is to use San Antonians for his ends. I refuse to give him what he wants.
Shall the City Charter be amended to provide the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 624 with unilateral authority to require the City to participate in binding arbitration of all issues in dispute with the Association within forty-five days of the City’s receipt of the Association’s written arbitration request?
Maybe you like the firefighter union. Maybe you like Chris Steele or hate Mayor Nirenberg. Consider any other organization issuing a demand for unilateral authority in the city charter to force city council into arbitration at their will. San Antonio, this is insane. They aren’t even trying to appear populist here. This proposition is asking the voters of San Antonio to give up their voice in elected government, not for unions in general or even for first responders, but for Chris Steele himself. For his union specifically.
If a course of action would be unthinkable for someone who isn’t on your “side,” then it isn’t acceptable for anyone. This is the most blatantly pro special interest initiative I’ve ever seen. We cannot accept that we must hand over our voice for Steele and his interests. Passing this proposition would make him among one of the most powerful men in the city. I have to finish by repeating myself. This is insane.
I’ll be brief here because I’ve already asked a lot of you above. Simply, these propositions are not meant to benefit San Antonio as a municipality, San Antonians as tax payers, or San Antonians as voters. They aren’t even meant to benefit firefighters. These propositions are meant to benefit one specific special interest group.
Chris Steele was caught red-handed admitting his intentions with this campaign. In a leaked recording he states their intent to force the city into giving the union the contract it wants and to help councilman Greg Brockhouse, who worked for the union prior to winning his seat in district 6, become mayor.
“The tactical objective is get the city to drop the lawsuit…” “…The third thing is set it up to where May of 2019, we can put our own guy in the mayor’s office, which would be Greg Brockhouse in the mayor’s office.”
Anyone who has ever opposed crooked politicians and their schemes must refuse to be complicit with this scheme. This is corruption in its most simple form. I will urge you one more time to join me in voting against Chris Steele and his attempted take over of your representation in our city government. I encourage you to share this post with anyone who considers supporting this wannabe tyrant. If needed, I will personally speak with anyone who wants to discuss this further.
This fight isn’t over. Go vote no.