Brockhouse’s ‘Action Plan SA’ Agenda Silent on the Firefighters Contract

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Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) released daily policy promises called "Action Plan SA" if he is elected Mayor in June.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The campaign of Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) sent daily lists of policy promises called "Action Plan SA" last week.

The perfect politician is the one who promises to cut taxes and expand services. Unfortunately, such promises suggest the politician isn’t going to be a good leader willing to tell citizens the truth: We can’t have it both ways.

It’s with that caveat that I read last week’s email blasts from the political campaign of Councilman Greg Brockhouse as each day his Austin campaign consultant, Matt Mackowiak, who also worked for then-Mayor Ivy Taylor, sent out new policy planks in Brockhouse’s “Action Plan SA” platform.

Haven’t heard of Mackowiak? You must not live on Twitter. This early Texas Tribune article captures him pretty well. Readers should get to know the out-of-town man behind all of Brockhouse’s sweeping campaign promises. Give him credit: He did help Republican State Sen. Pete Flores get elected in District 19, a longtime Democratic stronghold. It’s just odd reading a daily blast of what’s best for San Antonio coming down Interstate 35 from Austin.

Mack engineered a five-day PR blitz on behalf of Brockhouse designed to capture media attention, and it worked. Day One promised voters a cut in property taxes and a new homestead exemption. Day Two called for a “pro business” climate change policy highlighted by more tree plantings. Day Three was a promise to restore transparency and ethics to City Hall. Day Four was Brockhouse’s answer to the city’s transportation challenges. Day Five promised to reduce crime and improve public safety, including hiring more police officers.

That’s a lot of policy for a councilman who has spent the last two years opposing almost every initiative put forth at City Council and offering few concrete, well-argued alternatives. Suddenly Brockhouse is generating more policy paper than a Washington think tank.

It was actually smart politics, generating substantial coverage here at the Rivard Report and in other local media. Early voting in the June 8 runoff does not start until May 28, but any objective observer would say Brockhouse definitely stole the spotlight from Mayor Ron Nirenberg this past week.

All those policy initiatives put Brockhouse as would-be mayor under the microscope. For a candidate who has consistently derided efforts by Nirenberg and a City Council majority to engage in real long-term planning on affordable housing, transportation, climate change, and population growth, Brockhouse has suddenly promised to put city government into overdrive in his first 90 days.

That’s bad news for City Manager Erik Walsh and team. They’ll have to work around the clock to get everything done while watching general budget revenues shrink by millions, thanks to those tax cuts and homestead exemption.

As the days ticked by and Mackowiak’s Austin emails fixing San Antonio city government kept coming, I found myself eagerly awaiting the Brockhouse plank on how he plans to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the firefighters union. That challenge, above all others, is key to the city’s future solvency and the stability of its general operating budget. Without a deal with the union, we simply do not know how much money will be left over to address streets, sidewalks, parks, libraries, and all those new trees we are going to plant.

Negotiations between the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Professional Firefighter's Association are still ongoing.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Negotiations between the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association are still ongoing.

Alas, Mackowiak ran out of days last week and there was no plank on the firefighters contract. Brockhouse, even as he promises a new era of transparency, is not showing voters his cards on the long standoff with the union that he once worked for, the union whose president calls Brockhouse “our guy.”

Until Brockhouse shares his plan, if he has one, with voters, don’t believe a word of “Action Plan SA.” It’s better seen for what it is: Mackowiak’s Austin PR Plan.

For readers and voters who are angered by my position on the mayor’s race and the City’s negotiations with the fire union, I have questions: Why can’t firefighters follow their brothers and sisters in the police union and agree to terms after five years? What specifically is wrong with what most regard as a very generous contract the City has given the police union? What more do the firefighters want?

I thought Taylor capitulated to police union President Mike Helle when a deal was struck and approved way back in September 2016. Going by Helle’s facial expression in this photograph after City Council approved a new five-year deal on a 9-2 vote, Helle felt the same. Taylor and those who voted to approve the contract did so with little enthusiasm and certainly no celebration. With good reason.

Nirenberg, then the District 8 councilman, and Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) were the only two elected officials to stand their ground and not capitulate.

To refresh memories, the police union agreed to a five-year deal that included 3 percent bonuses for its members and a 14 percent increase in pay over the life of the contract, while union members agreed to pay minimal health care premiums for their dependents.

Then-City Manager Sheryl Scully held the position that the firefighters’ refusal to come to the bargaining table forfeited that union’s right to the same generous terms, but it’s my guess the City would agree tomorrow to something equivalent to keep the two public safety union in sync and end the long standoff.

Voters deserve to know what Brockhouse would do as mayor, and until he is honest and transparent about the issue of the firefighters contract there is little reason to pay much attention to what a headline-hunting Austin campaign operative is churning out.

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20 thoughts on “Brockhouse’s ‘Action Plan SA’ Agenda Silent on the Firefighters Contract

  1. The first thing I see when I see Brockhouse are his orange shoes. He seems to wear them with everything. If he is elected, we will see an arrogance, ineptitude and loss of people of integrity we’ve never seen before. We are the 7th largest city in the USA and we will become the biggest joke in the USA. He will do so much damage it will take decades to recover.

    • You nailed it. Add that to the fact that he’s a wife beater & didn’t pay child support for years, and you get a guy that’s completely unqualified to run this city—& if he wins, watch him run this city into the ground.

    • Yeah, but what about the chicken sandwich? You’re focusing on the wrong thing. Nothing supersedes a chicken sandwich. Please adjust your priorities.

  2. Didn’t SAPD go three years before getting a contract? That makes a 14% pay increase, 3% as a one-time bonus, not a raise, over 8 years? That’s far less than the Dept of Labor cost of living increase of 18% over the same time frame. Add in the increased cost of healthcare and it sounds like SAPD got a BAD deal, taking a pay-cut. It’s not surprising they have to add a $7,500 sign-on bonus to attract enough applicants and still can’t hire enough officers. Police are a core service and shouldget raises for inflation automatically. Please fact-check this post as it worth discussion.

    • The City’s five-year collective bargaining agreements with the police and fire unions expired on Sept. 30, 2014. The new contract with the police union was signed two years later in September 2016 and included a bonus that negated any lost wages in the interim. –RR

        • Go ask any cop anywhere in the US if they like their collective bargaining agreement. You won’t find one. That’s because collective bargaining contracts are the product of negotiations. And negotiations are the product of mutual concessions. The only good contract is one where both parties walk away a little unhappy.

          Also, a city’s function isn’t to make a union happy. Its function is to deliver effective services to the public at reasonable costs. Contrast that with a union’s function: To maximize the financial benefits for its members. Nowhere in a union’s mission will you ever find, “to serve the public” as one of its principles.

          If you think any union has your interests at heart, then I have a union arbitration clause to sell you.

      • It appears to me that Mr Brockhouse’s team is following the Trump example. Say something daily. Promises are only maybe’s. Say a lot – the money is unimportant- refuse to acknowledge any negatives and promise the world.

  3. Since he “doesn’t want to talk about” the official criminal complaints caused by his violence towards his multiple women and/or wives, are we jumping on the bandwagon of Brockhouse enablers?

    His disdain for women has not been given the high profile it must have to inform politically disengaged women and men of integrity to reject this self-seeking union lackey. Their votes for our honorable, tried and true, highly effective mayor will ensure our fair city’s future success.

    • Not sure he has a disdain for all women, he just want relationships on his own terms, as most abusive men do. His wife’s denial of the incident that she reported to police is typical when an abuser “asks” his spouse to give a statement.

  4. I am voting for Nirenberg in the special election.

    At the same time, I understand where the fire union is coming from. The firefighters’ fear is that if they give in now to the City’s demands, they would eventually lose their pensions and move into a lump-sum type of 401K plan. Also, they probably fear that their health care coverage will be drastically cut, so that they will find themselves on a managed care plan with exorbitant deductibles and high co-pays.

    In other words, police and firefighters would join the rest of us lucky enough to have retirement and health care coverage of some sort.

    Mind you, these changes would not happen immediately, but with the elimination of the evergreen clause protection, the City would continue to press for further cuts. Even if the City reaches a contract deal with the firefighters this year, the overall costs of covering our safety unions’ pensions and health care are still too high (66%+ of the general fund). In the coming years, the City would claim that they cannot continue to pay for these generous benefits and still provide basic services for streets, sidewalks, and trees. Brockhouse knows this; that is why he is avoiding the issue.

    This pattern has played itself out in bankrupt cities across this country, with city workers losing many of the benefits they had expected when they first signed their contracts.

  5. I wonder. What rules govern petitioning for a referendum to decertify the firefighters union? They do not have a contract, do they?

  6. NOW WATCH THE NON-UNIFORMED EMPLOEE’S START THEIR OWN UNION AND WANT THE SAME BENIFITS AS THE SAFD & SAPD HAS ON THEIR CONTRACTS. AND CAN YOU ALL IMAGINE IF THEY DO NOT GET WHAT THEY WANT THAT THERE WOULD BE NO GARBAGE PICKUP NO STREET REPAIRS AND ALSO NO PARK OR TRAIL CLEAN UP.

    • The city should treat all it’s employees well, uniform and non-uniform, not just fund special projects. Both SAPD and SAFD have no-lockout/no-strike agreements. It is actually illegal for for them to strike.

  7. The relentless drum beat of this ‘news’ site for Nirenberg! It is exhausting to witness, and I can’t wait for this election cycle to end.

    Poor San Antonio, having to live through this cynical, grotesque trench warfare. Both candidates are awful, in their various ways. But the Rivard Report sure is working overtime for Ron.

  8. Its sad that both candidates are not ideal. Its been that way for every election I have voted in and I ‘m no spring chicken. So I vote for lesser of two evils regarding most important issues for me and city/country. In last presidential election most impt issue was the Supremes. For the rest of my life there will be an imbalance that cant be rectified.

  9. Wow after reading this so called commentary from RR it paints a picture of animosity towards Greg Brockhouse. Maybe its just me, but it almost sounds like you are upset that the alleged domestic violence reports are not gaining any traction, and now everyone is going nuts! How many more of these disgusting stories are we going to have to continue to read? RR move on, and let RN fight for his political life instead of you all doing his work! Your true colors are coming out, I so glad I did not and will not ever donated to this liberal publication! WE NEED TO DRAIN THE SWAMP HERE IN SAN ANTONIO! GET OUT AND VOTE FOR CHANGE SAN ANTONIO

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