Commentary: Why I Voted Mike for Mayor

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Mayoral candidate Mike Villarreal speaks during Pints and Politics at The Pearl Brewery. Photo by Scott Ball.

Mayoral candidate Mike Villarreal (right) speaks during Pints & Politics II at the Pearl Stable. Photo by Scott Ball.

Early voting for the May 9 City Election opened Monday, April 27, and that’s the morning I cast my vote at Lion’s Field on Broadway, an election season ritual for me.  That same morning my overview of the mayor’s race, Vote Early, Help Make History, was published. The article set off a week-long exchange of emails with readers who challenged me to reveal my vote, even if the Rivard Report would not issue endorsements.

One reader chastised me: “Your own article states, ‘the best people can hope for from the media is an honest presentation…'” So who was my pick for mayor, she wanted to know? What I actually wrote was, “Every person’s vote matters as much as the next, and the best people can hope for from the media is an honest presentation of the candidates, thus providing citizens with the information they need to make up their own minds.”

We’ve tried to do that this campaign season by covering many of the nearly 50 mayoral forums, two of which we organized and I moderated. Two of the candidates, Mike Villarreal and Leticia Van de Putte and their supporters, accepted our invitation to write op-eds asking for your vote. It’s not too late for Mayor Ivy Taylor and Tommy Adkisson to write.

I voted for Mike Villarreal to be our next mayor, and in District 1 where my wife and I live, I voted to keep Councilmember Roberto Treviño in office. I also support paying the next mayor and City Council. I voted yes to continue protecting the aquifer recharge zone and extending the trailway system, and I voted against holding popular elections to decide light rail and streetcar projects. I believe in electing strong leaders and then letting them lead.

Mike Villarreal. Image courtesy of Mike Villarreal for Mayor of San Antonio's Facebook page.

Mike Villarreal. Courtesy photo.

I like and respect all four people at the top of the mayoral ballot and each has a long record of public service. I have friends working in each camp. But this election is about one thing and one thing only: the future of San Antonio.

Mike Villarreal is the only candidate who set out methodically to run for mayor, to develop an in-depth urban agenda, and to give up a secure career in the Texas Legislature to do so. He’s all in, and has been since last July. As I have listened to all four candidates, it’s evident to me that Mike is the best prepared.

Our city has lost ground in the nationwide competition for recruiting and retaining talented young professionals. San Antonio needs a mayor who not only admits we have lost momentum, but has a plan to quickly regain it. The city needs a mayor who understands we don’t need another city manager. We need a strong leader. Anything less and we will fail to transform San Antonio into a city where our children want to live and work and where others want to make their careers and homes.

When I think about our next mayor traveling to Washington to meet with national leaders, I see Mike projecting the intelligent leadership that will win the city respect and positive national news coverage. We need a Geekdom for cybersecurity. I see Mike letting go of his traditional Democratic party ties and crossing over to ask people like U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) and Rackspace Co-Founder and Chairman Graham Weston, who founded Geekdom, to help him duplicate the model for cybersecurity.

Mayoral candidate Mike Villarreal talks with guests during the 2nd annual Webhead Cascarón Bash at Alamo Beer Company. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Mayoral candidate Mike Villarreal talks with guests during the second annual Webhead Cascarón Bash at Alamo Beer Company. Photo by Scott Ball.

I see Mike meeting with Michael Girdley of CodeUp and Cristal Glangchai of VentureLab, two of the city’s young tech innovators, and asking how we can take their coding and tech programs and expand them tenfold in the city. I see Mike asking former Rackspace President Lew Moorman, former USAA CEO Joe Robles, former Valero CEO Bill Klesse, and Dr. William Henrich, president of the UT-Health Sciences Center, what he can do to create thousands more good-paying jobs just like the many thousands of good jobs they have created.

I see Mike and I see the 21st century. I mean no offense, but when I see Leticia, Ivy and Tommy, I see the 20th century, the San Antonio that’s okay, but a city that’s complacent and too satisfied with itself. I have heard former Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation Chairman Madison Smith, a principal at Overland Partners, say on several occasions, “Okay is not okay anymore in San Antonio.” Excellence must be the new okay. We live in an era of cities vigorously competing for talent. Cities that settle for okay are the cities that will lose.

I like Leticia and admire her work and service in the Texas Legislature, but she is in the mayor’s race because she lost the race for lieutenant governor and did not want to return to the Texas Senate under the leadership of her adversary and victor, former Sen. Dan Patrick. Her end-of-year entry into the race did not give her the time Mike had to develop an urban agenda, to travel the city’s neighborhoods, or establish strategies for uniting a city divided between its urban core and suburbs and badly needing a strong leader who can unite us and move us forward.

Leticia Van de Putte accepts the endorsement for her mayoral campaign from the police union on the steps of City Hall. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Leticia Van de Putte accepts the endorsement for her mayoral campaign from the police union on the steps of City Hall. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Leticia had said during her statewide campaign that she would not run for mayor, yet she did. And accepting the endorsement of the police union in mid-campaign derailed collective bargaining talks and undercut the negotiating leverage of City Manager Sheryl Sculley and her team. The police union does not give away its endorsement for nothing. I’d prefer to see union officials left standing outside, unable to collect on that endorsement. We pay our police and firefighters well, and we respect and honor their public safety record and service, but it’s time for them to compromise.

Mayor Ivy Taylor was thrust into her job by an awkward vote of her colleagues, several of whom would have preferred to see themselves in the job, thank you. She had no chance to prepare for the job. The outdated City Charter forced such a selection process, and I voted Monday to amend the charter and let voters decide the next time a mayor or council member skips out mid-term.

I have a lot of respect for Ivy. She has been a strong advocate for the long-neglected Eastside, and there is an important place for her in our city leadership. I hope she becomes the next CEO of the San Antonio Housing Authority. It would allow her to preside over the biggest urban renewal project in the city’s contemporary history. She would operate with strong relationships at City Hall and Commissioners Court, and with a direct line to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington. Taylor, a planner by training, could make a lasting impact on the city – and be paid well for her work.

Mayor Ivy Taylor smiles during the 2015 Battle of Flowers Parade in downtown San Antonio. Photo by Scott Ball.

Mayor Ivy Taylor smiles during the 2015 Battle of Flowers Parade in downtown San Antonio. Photo by Scott Ball.

Ivy, too, said she wasn’t going to run, and it breeds cynicism when voters see elected officials reverse themselves. The rideshare issue was badly bungled, and I wish she could have put aside her personal beliefs on the non-discrimination ordinance. What ministers say from the pulpit shouldn’t drive public policy outcomes. People of the same sex have been loving and supporting one another since the beginning of time and only now as a society are we codifying their legitimacy. It’s long past time to put the debate to rest and recognize everyone’s equal rights under the law. I do wish those in the LGBT community would not vilify Ivy. She’s wrong on this important issue, but she is a good and decent person.

Tommy, too, is in the mayor’s race primarily because he lost another election, his failed challenge of incumbent Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. He does have an urban agenda, but it isn’t one that will propel the city forward or make it more competitive. Basic services are important, but we need to reach far higher as a city if we are going to thrive in the coming decades.

Mayoral candidate Tommy Adkisson gives his opening remarks during the Pints & Politics mayoral forum at the Alamo Beer brewery. Photo by Scott Ball.

Mayoral candidate Tommy Adkisson gives his opening remarks during the Pints & Politics mayoral forum at the Alamo Beer brewery. Photo by Scott Ball.

Mike lives in Southtown, one of San Antonio’s most diverse and walkable neighborhoods, so he understands that safe neighborhoods, good sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and streets clear of stray dogs are important. But he also knows from his own background in public finance that San Antonio needs to fund basic services while also funding innovation. The next mayor has to do both, period.

I am all for the next mayor flying to Stockholm to meet with the Volvo leadership to pitch San Antonio as a great place for their first North American manufacturing plant, or to Japan to lobby Toyota for another assembly line. But Mike knows more jobs will be created in the long run by incubating and supporting entrepreneurship and the creative class and finding ways to recruit and retain talented young professionals here. Small businesses set the deepest roots in the community, and that’s why nurturing startups can yield such a bountiful payoff for San Antonio.

We all know our city’s core weaknesses: persistent poverty, low education outcomes, unchecked sprawl, and a public health profile defined by obesity and preventable diseases such as Type II diabetes. Mike has the brains and the work habits to tackle these big challenges. His own commitment to leading a healthy lifestyle sets an example for the city that only he among the four candidates can claim.

While cycling with some teammates along the Mission Reach near Mission Concepción on Sunday morning, I had a chance encounter with Jeanne Russell, Mike’s wife. I hired Jeanne as a young education reporter at the Express-News 18 years ago.  She was a former school teacher with graduate degrees in education, Latin American Studies and journalism, exactly the kind of brain gain we seek in the city today. It was a golden era for the fast-expanding newspaper and Jeanne soon rose to become education editor, presiding over a staff of four full-time education reporters and a weekly education section. It’s almost all gone now, but Jeanne went on to serve as education policy advisor to Mayors Phil Hardberger and Julián Castro and then joined the leadership team at SA2020.

Jeanne Russell (right) looks on as Molly Cox addresses the crowd gathered for the SA2020 Progress Report in 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Jeanne Russell (right) looks on as Molly Cox addresses the crowd gathered for SA2020’s 2014 Progress Report. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

If we elect Mike, we get Jeanne, too. The next mayor has to pick up the standard carried by Castro to make improved public education and higher education outcomes a citywide cause for every public officeholder and not just school boards and universities. The kind of policies and private sector partnerships that gave us Teach for America, Cafe College, and Pre-K 4 SA must be renewed and expanded. We simply can’t import enough college-educated and technically trained people. We need to grow our own. Our inner city kids deserve the same opportunities as our suburban kids. It’s a problem that can’t be fixed without help in Austin. I am confident Mike can shed his partisan skin and, as he has done before, work with the state ‘s Republican leadership to make progress.

We aren’t driven by the polls at the Rivard Report. Plenty of people in the political arena have spoken to us about this poll or that poll, but no one has handed us, or others in the media who have written about the polls, the actual results and underlying data. It’s difficult and its expensive to conduct an accurate poll of people likely to vote in this city election, and control those results, district by district, in the age of cell phones when fewer people have land lines. We see a tight race where every vote counts.

Follow your conscience and elect a mayor who can lead us into the future rather than someone for what they’ve accomplished in the past.  That’s how I made my decision. We will work to make San Antonio a better city with our next mayor, whoever wins. But Mike won my vote and I hope he gets yours. Most of all, I hope you vote.

Early voting continues Monday and Tuesday, May 4-5. Then it is on to Election Day on Saturday, May 9. We’ll be right here, reporting the results, starting with the 7 p.m. release of the early voting results.


*Featured/top image: Mayoral candidate Mike Villarreal speaks during  Pints & Politics II at the Pearl Stable. Photo by Scott Ball. 

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88 thoughts on “Commentary: Why I Voted Mike for Mayor

  1. Thank you, Robert, for your clear-headed, insightful analysis of this extremely important race. My 91-year-old Mom and I voted for Mike on Friday, also at Lions Field. In light of the revelation that prominent NDO-opposing ministers are urging to vote for Ivy as the “righteous” candidate (implying that any official who supported the NDO is succumbing to Satan), I wondered if Mom & I should vote for Leticia purely as a vote against Ivy. But we decided to do the right thing and vote for the person we felt best for the job: Mike. Your article makes me feel very good about my vote for Mike.

  2. I voted yesterday and came to the same conclusion. While I felt that Van De Putte would do a good job, I felt that I wanted more for San Antonio. I decided to vote my conscience and not worry about splitting the vote. I have also been encouraging those around me to vote and get informed. After attending two forums and reading as much news as I could helped me to decide that Mike is the person to lead San Antonio. Many of the young people, like myself, believe in Mike, his ideas, his leadership, and his authenticity. I hope that all of The Report’s reader will get informed and vote their conscience.

  3. Unfortunately Mike has too strong of ties to SA2020 and we should know by now that that has been a huge failure. I like Mike but I don’t like that he would continue with the SA2020 goals. The goals are great but where’s the action? We need something different.

  4. I had been leaning towards voting for Mike, but was not 100% sure. I only knew that I did NOT want Ivy Taylor as mayor. Your article convinced me that Mike Villarreal is the best choice. The part about him being a 21st century candidate while the others are still 20th century spoke volumes.

  5. Seems to me like the real problem is Mike was the only one dedicated to being the Mayor, the others were just acting on a fall back plan. Talk about a brain gain is great, but until there are multiple people at the top setting expectations, there will not be any significant flow of human capital here. It may sound counter intuitive but rather than focussing on how to help SA, the next mayor must focus on making their job appealing. Then you will get opinion leader talent wanting to be involved with the city, the predecessor to a larger flow of brains to SA.

  6. Inner city, Neighborhood Associations are supporting 21st Century critical thinking, since we know well those failed regertutated promises of career politicians, just look at our Eastside struggling still with the divisive politicals of 20th century!

    Therefore, as an Independent and as Jefferson Heights Neighborhood President I’ m excited to support an innovative thinker as our next Mayor, Mayor Mike Villarreal for our Alamo City!

    Thanks, Robert Rivard for an sincere, and thought provoking story, whereas I agree with 90% of why you voted for…

  7. I always appreciate your opinions, Bob, because I know that they are informed and that you care passionately about our city and our future. Thanks for sharing your perspective on this mayoral race.

  8. The Rivard Report is a joke just like the local media and the Express News. All of you.are a big problem with our City government just like the career politicians. There is so.much City Hall and all of cover-up. You.guys are do afraid if New candidates are elected that the corruption exposed and it won’t be business as usual at City Hall and career politicians willot brbe able to waste taxpayer money on Pet Projects.anymore.

    • A blanket indictment of all media and the City government without examples is unlikely to sway anyone’s opinion, Ismael Garcia. Neither is slopping writing and grammatical errors.

  9. I trust Mr. Villarreal is a worthy contender for Mayor however, having ideas as opposed to having ideas that translate into action requires transformational leadership. LVP can put ideas into action and that is why I voted for her. I understand many have differing viewpoints regarding candidate capabilities however the Mayor of San Antonio should be for the entire city and so far I have primarily heard of Southtown and Eastside proposals. The growth of San Antonio extends beyond those geographies and should be equally considered. I grew up on the Southside and attended SAISD schools and Mr. Villarreal’s message has not inspired me nor motivated me to support him.

  10. Great write up, Bob. You say that the ride share issue was bungled under Ivy’s leadership. After studying the issue, it seems to me that Uber played San Antonio. The council came back and offered the same regulations as Houston where Uber is already operational, and the only real difference was the fingerprinting. Uber claims these regulations are not favorable to their business model. Really? That seems unlikely. The council mandated the fingerprints and background checks because one of their primary concerns is public safety. Now Uber has some 17 lobbyists in Austin and has hired one of the former Obama camp’s PR person who is very aggressive. Uber wants what’s best for Uber….period. I like Uber and I use the service, but we got played.

    • Ryan
      I don’t disagree, but the taxi lobby might as well have written the first draft of the ordinance and it was that debacle that fueled so much public discontent that Uber was given too strong a hand to play in the second round and we were stuck making significant concessions and still losing the service. You had officeholders making decisions that had never even experienced the service. It’s like asking people that can’t ride a bike to make all the decisions about bike lanes. –RR

  11. Mike filed an ethics complaint against the democrat whose seat he took in the house. Dirty play for “mr transparent.”

    I think he shows his true colors when he’s willing to file a bogus complaint where he was basically laughed out of the room as a result.
    I want a mayor who doesn’t make obvious mistakes and knows how to handle situations BEFORE they become a problem. I want someone who actually answers with real solutions not just abstract platitude statements.

    And Bob, this is an endorsement. It is a direct effort to counteract the endorsement of the EN.

    Bottom line is mike is not making the runoff. Anyone in touch with politics knows that, so I hope you will pivot in a week and help rally the voters so the best candidate Leticia Van De Putte wins.

  12. I still think it is weird to see a political endorsement article promoted with money from rivard report to gain attention to said politician.

    Using FB promotions to promote political ads just doesn’t seem objective.

  13. And one more thing- if Leticia had been a man, no one would have asked her in July if she was going to run for mayor, months before her campaign for lt governor was complete. No one.

    How can you ask donors for money for a campaign she’s hustling to try and win if they read in the paper that she might run for mayor?

    Mike was not tapped for a statewide campaign for a reason. He also (despite his proclamations that the only reason he is running is for the good of San Antonio) could look down the pipe and see he couldn’t win a senate seat either.

  14. Fortunately, like Mike, lots of qualified Mayoral Candidates in the running. Regarding VIA’s and our former Mayor’s vision to run streetcar over Alamo Plaza and through HemisFair Park (both National Treasures) , I saw lots of gaming the public, catering to special interests and down right racketeering going on.

  15. Carolyn Gonzales we the citizens are indeed BETTER connected to Almighty God! Mike Villarreal is connected to the people, and we are the people which matter too!

    Mike Villarreal have always supported our neighborhoods through the Neighborhood Resources Center teaching us and giving us hope to continue caring, especially in inner city SA!

    Point, sighting connectivity is one thing, but Mike4Mayor got my vote for connecting to the VOTERS! Now we’re turned on for sure! <3

  16. Very thoughtful piece as is your norm, Bob. I am out of town and have not voted as yet but I have been on the fence and you are very helpful for fence sitters. This will be a very interesting election….not just on the mayoral issue but on the others that you ticked off that will have long term implications for our city.
    Thanks for the energy and passion that the RR has expended creating a portal into so many facets of our community’s life.

    • Mike committed to run for mayor long before Leticia stepped down from her Senate seat. When Julian Castro left, Mike recognized that the city was in a need of a leader who was committed to the city, to its growth, who could improve upon the positive programs started and develop new programs. So he committed to running for mayor. He didn’t “decide not to run” for Senate, he committed to the city while she was still campaigning for Lt. Gov.

  17. Leticia said she would never run for Mayor even if she lost the governor’s race but here we are. San Antonio needs a strong Mayor since Julian Castro left and I would imagine there is some reasoning there, especially after experiencing Ivy Taylor in the interim. Cast my vote this past Saturday, good luck, Mike!

  18. I feel like the mayor position is just becoming a stepping stone for politicians careers now. They will spend money like crazy building thing we don’t need, not direct the money to the neighborhoods that need it most, nor to assist in the developing a well educated workforce in San Antonio. They keep wages low and make unions adversaries. Worst of all they will create even more debt without allowing citizens to vote on it.

    • I live in District 1, very well served by SAISD Trustee Steve Lecholop. If I did live in District 6, my choice would be easy: I’d vote for change and Scott Meltzer.

  19. I have attended five of the almost fifty mayoral forums. Throughout each event I listened for a proposed plan, identification of the possible remedies, signs of practical hope for San Antonio’s future. I found this again and again in Mike Villarreal’s responses to questions and his understanding of current issues.

    Gregg Jefferson’s piece defines exactly the reasons why I voted for Mike.
    Joan Cook Carabin

  20. Robert Rivard, will you answer a question for me with all honesty if that is possible ? How is it that Mike never mentioned the current issues and concerns of the residents of San Antonio ( smart meters, pay increase, street cars, summer jobs for the youth, state HB 961 that will increase storm fees to school districts by 262%) just to mention a few of many items. Obviously you do have a right to choose your favorite candidate, because this is America.

    • Raymond, I would put that question directly to Mike, and in fact, will do so on your behalf, and invite him to either answer you here or in another venue.. How’s that? –RR

    • Raymond, I admire your efforts along with the other 12 candidates running for mayor. But, I do want to set the record straight. I have in fact spoke to all the current issues facing our city. I’ve even written policy commentaries about them. You can find them at

      I’ve also spoken on these issues at nearly 50 different mayoral debates.

  21. Well written article. I personally am still debating although it is a matter of can I muster a reason not to vote to for one or the other. The matter is to vote. A city of over a million, only turns out 10’s of thousands to vote. Of any election, this one is of the most importance. There are countless offices up for election and possibly more important, charter amendments that will shape the city’s immediate future. Please encourage everyone you know to vote, support our elected leaders to lead, and pray that they do so in a manner befitting a great city. Long live San Antonio!

  22. Three questions to the candidates:
    1. What is your plan to deal with the overwhelming poverty in San Antonio?
    2. What is your plan to revitalize all the declining neighborhoods within Loop 410?
    3. What is your plan to build a modern rapid transit system that will alleviate the rush hour traffic for residents traveling into and out of the city for work everyday?

  23. I voted for Mike Villarreal because he has demonstrated leadership, integrity, a strong position on important issues, vision for the city and he would be the one candidate that can bring about unity with all groups and all sectors of the city. He listens and will be responsive.. But most importantly, he has publicly stated that he would pursue ethics reform at City Hall ….which is greatly needed!

  24. Basically this article is an endorsement of big government. Let’s keep funding stupid projects that raise taxes higher and higher.

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