South Side voters on May 1 will consider a full slate of mayoral and City Council candidates, and two proposed City Charter changes.
Two-term Mayor Ron Nirenberg and former District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse, whom Nirenberg beat in a 2019 runoff election, headline a 14-contender field for the top spot.
Nirenberg’s priorities include affordable housing and workforce development, plus ensuring that the community’s COVID-19 response and recovery is equitable.
As national leaders call for unity, in San Antonio we’re looking out for one another, lifting each other up, and working together to come back stronger than ever,” he said.
Brockhouse, a mortgage banker, is focusing on job creation, post-pandemic economic recovery, and strengthening police and other first responders.
“We’re bringing new energy, bold ideas and real urgency to make San Antonio the jobs capital of Texas for all of our families,” he said.
Other hopefuls are Gary Allen, Tim Atwood, Ray Basaldua, Antonio “Tony” Diaz, Joshua James Galvan, Denise Gutierrez-Homer, Michael “Commander” Idrogo, Justin Macaluso, Dan Martinez, Jacq’ue Laurel “J.” Miller, Frank Adam Muniz and John Velasquez.
A previous council District 2 candidate, Gutierrez-Homer describe herself a conservative businesswoman for whom pandemic recovery, economic development, responsible growth management, a strong police force, and improving digital connectivity are priorities.
Term limits prohibit District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran from seeking reelection, but her sister Phyllis Viagran hopes to keep the council seat in the family.
Phyllis Viagran, a community outreach coordinator with the organization Older Adults Technology Services, previously worked with the San Antonio Police Department to help domestic-violence victims.
Viagran’s key issues are bridging the digital divide, addressing domestic violence, caring for senior citizens, and creating post-pandemic jobs.
“My life experiences and knowledge of the district have prepared me to be your next councilwoman,” she said.
Another notable District 3 office seeker is Tomas Uresti, formerly a state legislator and Harlandale Independent School District trustee. His brother is one-time state Sen. Carlos Uresti.
The candidate’s campaign priorities include further pandemic relief for residents and small businesses, addressing homelessness, property-tax relief, expanding parks and recreation, and what he called “economic development without gentrification.”
“With the experience and dedication I have for our community, I will work hard in representing all of San Antonio,” he added.
Ten other fellow South Siders are also vying for the position, including business-development representative Katherine Herrera Garza, architect Marcello Martinez, and Mark Vargas Jr., former counselor at Brooks Academy of Science and Engineering.
Vargas advocates for more pandemic relief for small businesses, unemployed and furloughed workers, and vulnerable residents, plus free citywide Wi-Fi access to help close the digital divide. He also supports balancing new South Side development with neighborhood preservation.
“We need to work to ensure that every resident is being lifted up and able to take advantage of every opportunity,” he added.
Herrera Garza is looking at homelessness, crime, improving roads and greater City Hall accountability.
“I want to empower this great district to realize its strengths and potential, and to let you know that the power resides in you,” she said.
A former Planning Commission chairman, Martinez’s priority issues are improving infrastructure and senior citizen services, economic recovery from the pandemic, addressing gentrification, and supporting affordable housing. He also backs educating residents about the appraisal process, strengthening emergency first responders. He also pledges to “hold unethical public servants accountable.”
“Through my service in District 3, I aspire to continue the legacy of creating a resilient, diverse and thriving San Antonio,” Martinez added.
Other District 3 contenders include Stephen “Steve” Valdez, Rafael C. Vela, Diana Flores Uriegas, Rodolfo “Rudy” Lopez, sales manager Ted Gonzalez, business owner Walter Murray; and Angela Cardona, an official with the nonprofit Avance.
Term limits also exclude District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales from running again.
Eleven residents want to succeed her: real estate agent and Lone Star resident Marie Crabb, immigration attorney David Yañez, nonprofit executive Jason Mata, operations executive Norberto “Geremy” Landin, teacher Teri Castillo, retirees Ray Garza, Rudy Lopez and Jesse J. Alaniz, Harlandale Independent School District trustee Ricardo Moreno, and business owners Anthony Gres and Irma G. Barron.
Crabb supports affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, reducing recidivism in crime-control efforts, and more collaboration among area colleges, schools and private sector.
“We should be training our future leaders,” Crabb said.
Regarding the proposed charter amendments. One -Proposition B – would repeal police officers’ collective bargaining rights, a goal for policing reformers.
Chapter 174 of state law allows cities the option to negotiate with unions through collective bargaining.
Prop B approval means San Antonio, presently the lone largest Texas city that uses Chapter 174, could move to a meet-and-confer system where contract negotiation is rendered optional for the city.
Resident Marie Naranjo helped the group Fix SAPD to collect the required 20,000-plus signatures to place collective bargaining on the ballot.
Advocates of Prop B say collective bargaining enables the police union and the department to protect officers accused of or investigated for misconduct.
“This is about all of us focusing on focusing on safety and accountability for our officers, but also for our community and the best possible future for San Antonio,” Naranjo stated.
San Antonio Police Officers Association President Danny Diaz said losing collective bargaining rights could hurt the Police Department’s pay and benefits packages, and risk cutting morale among personnel.
Diaz also said collective bargaining is important for “recruiting top-notch police officers who will keep our neighborhoods safe and to ensuring the police chief and the city continue to have flexibility in hiring, promotions, discipline, and boosting diversity within the department.”
The second charter proposal would let the city issue bonds for permanent public improvements, such as developing affordable housing, or others not prohibited by the Texas Constitution.
Councilwoman Ana Sandoval acknowledged her colleagues’ desire to see more specificity in the ballot proposal language. But she also expressed interest in giving the city more flexibility to address affordable housing issues.
“I know that this was one of the tremendous limitations, so I fully support us exploring this,” she added.
Councilman Clayton Perry criticized the proposal, saying it could siphon funding from core responsibilities, such as road upkeep.
“Ultimately, we must make sure that we do not limit the funding capabilities of our already failing infrastructure,” Perry said.
The board of directors at Brooks mixed-use community passed a resolution in support of the proposed city bond measure.
“The proposed amendment aligns with Brooks’ priorities to support the housing needs of our surrounding community,” stated Board Chairman Jim Campbell.
“With more than 3,200 jobs on the Brooks campus today and nearly 2,000 additional jobs promised over the next five years, revitalizing, diversifying and developing new housing options on and around campus is a critical need. The passing of this resolution is intended to help our community to understand the importance of this proposed amendment and its potential impact on the Brooks region.
Early voting is 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 19-23 and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 24 and 26-27. Locations include Mission Branch Library, 3134 Roosevelt Ave.; Southside ISD Central Office, 1460 Martinez Losoya Road; Palo Alto College Performing Arts Center, 1400 W. Villaret Blvd.; and McCreless Branch Library, 1023 Ada St.