Brockhouse: City Council’s Voice of Dissent With Greater Ambitions

Print Share on LinkedIn Comments More
Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) (center) stands with Anwar Tahir, President of the Association of Convenience Store Retailers, (left) and Paul Hardin, President of the Texas Food & Fuel Association, to protest the Tobacco 21 Ordinance in front of City Hall.Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) (center) stands with Anwar Tahir, President of the Association of Convenience Store Retailers, (left) and Paul Hardin, President of the Texas Food & Fuel Association, to protest the Tobacco 21 Ordinance in front of City Hall.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) (center) stands with Anwar Tahir, President of the Association of Convenience Store Retailers, (left) and Paul Hardin, President of the Texas Food & Fuel Association, to protest the Tobacco 21 Ordinance in front of City Hall on January 10.

Greg Brockhouse is a City Hall veteran, even if he is still in the first year of his first term as the elected council representative of District 6, which he describes as the city’s fastest growing district receiving the least money out of the 2017 $850 million bond.

We are still fact-checking that claim, but it’s worth repeating to give you a sense of his growing profile as an outspoken challenger of City Manager Sheryl Sculley, and a dissenting voice and vote on many issues coming before City Council.

The former John Jay High School and Southwest Texas University (now Texas State University) grad and Air Force veteran might be a rookie elected official, but he’s a familiar name and face to the public. He served several terms as chief of staff for different former City Council members, and until his election, he was a high-profile consultant for the public safety unions.

Perhaps that explains his political restlessness and his bold, or brash, declarations of intent to run against Mayor Ron Nirenberg in the coming years. It takes some guts, if not hubris, to take on a popular incumbent mayor who continues to enjoy public support since defeating former Mayor Ivy Taylor in a June runoff last year.

I base that latter statement on considerable community feedback rather than empirical data since San Antonio, regrettably, lacks independent and reliable polling data on such public issues.

Brockhouse and I shared a stage at the San Antonio Food Bank Tuesday evening, where I moderated the latest in the Rivard Report‘s Conversations with the Council. These are district-level events, free and open to the public, that we are presenting in the first 12 months of Nirenberg and the new council’s first year in office together. Most who attended the District 6 event were enthusiastic supporters of Brockhouse who cheered when he confirmed his intent to challenge Nirenberg.

One who didn’t cheer was his wife, Annalisa, who sat at the back of the room, wagging her finger to communicate a decided “NO!” when Beth Frerking, the Rivard Report editor-in-chief, posed the question. The couple’s young son, also in attendance, was a reminder that public service and family obligations are often hard to balance.

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) reacts during the Rivard Report Conversations with the Council series.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) reacts during the Rivard Report Conversations with the Council series.

Brockhouse and I disagree on a number of issues, but I like him. He’s personable, youthful, served his country, and he now serves his constituents with a decided passion. I do not doubt his sincerity or convictions. That doesn’t necessarily make him an effective city councilman eight months after taking office.

City Council reps have to perform two essential duties to succeed, especially if they harbor greater political ambitions. The first challenge is to meet constituents’ most basic needs: filling potholes, serving neighborhoods, solving city service issues, and winning a fair share of the budget. That’s a full-time job.

The second challenge is to become part of a greater whole by working with the mayor and other council members to tackle difficult, often long-range challenges. To do so a council member must work well with others, compromise, and help build consensus. That doesn’t seem to be part of Brockhouse’s plan as an outlier.

No district representative can win every battle, and learning to lose quietly and bide one’s time is an acquired skill. In some instances, an officeholder with one vote is better off not starting a battle that can’t be won, or that makes one appear always ready for a fight.

Brockhouse, at this juncture, seems to offer up a weekly dose of opposition to the mayor and city manager, jumping from one issue to another almost reflexively. The most effective elected leaders I’ve seen have a fixed agenda and stick to it, not allowing distractions to derail them.

Voters re-elect officeholders who accomplish things. It’s harder to move up on a record of loud dissent. Its takes a few singular accomplishments to inspire voters to deliver a promotion.

Brockhouse supporters defend his often lonely votes of opposition and the positions he takes on principle, and say he isn’t unlike a former District 8 councilman named Nirenberg. That might seem to be true at first glance, but upon closer examination there are key differences. Nirenberg spent two terms in office developing a near-encyclopedic command of every important public policy issue. He also chaired the SA Tomorrow planning process, – even as he and Taylor grew farther apart, – showing a sure grasp of the city’s long-term growth challenges.

Outgoing Mayor Ivy Taylor gives Mayor-elect Ron Nirenberg the certificate of election, marking the beginning of his term in office.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Outgoing Mayor Ivy Taylor gives Mayor-elect Ron Nirenberg the certificate of election, marking the beginning of his term in office.

Nirenberg often cast a lone vote against Taylor, but in doing so, he often spoke not only in opposition to her but also ahead of her in his thinking. Of course, his upset victory over Taylor without the support of his council colleagues or the backing of the establishment business community shows that a lone ranger can galvanize the community with a vision and a message and prevail. It’s a rare occurrence.

That’s where Nirenberg presents an formidable obstacle to Brockhouse’s political ambitions today. A serious challenge to Nirenberg from the current council seems unlikely. That’s especially true of anyone who declares prematurely for higher office rather than taking the time to first build a record of accomplishment.

Editor’s Note: There are four more “Conversations With the Council” remaining in the Rivard Report series. All events are free and open to the public and include audience Q&A with elected officials and opportunities to visit informally with them and staff members.

  • Rivard will moderate a Conversation with District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval at St. Mary’s University, Conference Room A, on Jan. 29, 6-7:30 p.m.
  • Frerking will moderate a Conversation with District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Main Campus, Retama Auditorium, on Feb.6, 6-7:30 p.m.
  • A Conversation with District 9 Councilman John Courage, originally scheduled for Jan. 16, will be held at Weathered Souls Brewery in February. The date has not yet been determined.
  • Rivard will moderate a Conversation with District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño at Trinity University, Ruth Taylor Recital Hall, on March 6, 6-7:30 pm. 

10 thoughts on “Brockhouse: City Council’s Voice of Dissent With Greater Ambitions

  1. Gosh Bob, you and Ron make such a cute couple.

    I’m not a fan of Brockhouse, since he is as you describe, apparently reflexively opposed to just about everything but can be a bit more objective about the Mayor?

    He does not lead, but follows public opinion. He may be popular within the circles you run in, but as you state, there is no reliable data to support claims of broad popularity. But in San Antonio’s disinterested political climate that could be enough to be re-elected.

    I voted for him, and must say I’m very disappointed. His default solution is “form an apolitical, data-directed task force of insiders to make recommendations to the Council.” Using public money to pay for the consultants, of course. If he has “encyclopedic knowledge” then why is everything delegated to some other group? He is like a certain other surprise victor, playing to his base – of which you’re a member.

    Nirenberg’s knowledge of the issues and experience couldn’t get the Council to “yes” on SAWS without delaying the vote, and effectively paying off the dissenting members with taxpayer money – actually reducing the claimed impact of the rate increase.

    That isn’t leadership and vision, that’s raw power-politics using the position of the Mayor to control the agenda. It’s effective, but really just more of the same that the City saw under Mayor Taylor.

    Hopefully the choice isn’t between Nirenberg and Brockhouse.

    • Since you’re clearly opposed to the current mayor . . . would you share with us your solution for the issue of “who should be San Antonio’s next mayor?”

      Bonus points for presenting a detailed proposal.

  2. “The second challenge is to become part of a greater whole by working with the mayor and other council members to tackle difficult, often long-range challenges. To do so a council member must work well with others, compromise, and help build consensus. That doesn’t seem to be part of Brockhouse’s plan as an outlier.”
    WOW!! Robert Rivard. This paragraph from this editorial sound like you are trying to institute POLITICAL CORRECTNESS with your liberal reporting. This is the BIG PROBLEM here locally. (Hence, in the macro scheme this is why Trump won the position of US President). I must say I am disappointed in Brockhouse talking the game, but prostrating to the vote of other CC , in an effort to work well with others. If it is a lie, walk away, don’t work well with others! If others jump in the fire, are you going to???
    Go Brockhouse Go, speak your mind, and speak it with HONESTY and INTEGRITY and do as you talk

  3. As you reported Brockhouse is not that much different than Nirenberg in political style. What I like about both are they are mavericks willing to call out city BS when they see it. Hopefully the two can create a working relationship that allows both to meet your two essential duties of success. The city needs more leadership like that demonstrated by both Brockhouse and Nirenberg.

    • I haven’t seen Nirenberg call out city bs. He, if not the creator, fully supports it. This was demonstrated just last week with the tobacco ordinance. Any progressive idea that comes down the pike, he’s all in.

  4. Definitely a biased view here. As a fairly new person in SA it seems the new city council are like lemmings. The exception to this is Brockhouse and Perry. Both have won my respect and admiration.
    I always thought I leaned to the left but SA political environment has me upright.

  5. Brockhouse is fully aware of the sleazy under-handed Tricentennial Committee/city’s media contract with KSAT. It was arranged secretly beforehand, then a fake RFP submissions call was made to make it seem like a competition. When this didpicable act was leaked, two two Tricentennial Committee heads were fired, but Sculley kept the contract intact. This is outrageous. If Brockhouse is real, he will act. If not, it’s more of the same “good old boy” style that’s kept our city behind the times.

  6. The under-handed deal between the city and Phil Lane at KSAT is a disgrace. It keeps being ignored. KSAT got over a million dollars from Frost bank, Ancira and the Children’s Hospital. But this was never an honest contract. It was rigged, and our city lost the coverage by all media outlets, severely limiting our national exposure. The only winners here were Phil Lane at KSAT and City Manager Scully, who continue to ignore demands to cancel the unscrupulous contract. The outrage will continue as long as this shady, shameful secret arrangement continues. Why aren’t politicians like Brockhouse acting on it?

  7. The under-handed deal between the city and Phil Lane at KSAT is a disgrace. It keeps being ignored. KSAT got over a million dollars from Frost bank, Ancira and the Children’s Hospital. Please step in and do something about this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *