McCombs, Montford Among Business Leaders Urging City to Bid on National GOP Convention

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(From left) International Bank of Commerce corporate CEO and Board Chairman Dennis Nixon, Red McCombs, and Eddie Aldrete, IBC’s senior vice president, along with John Montford (pictured below) asked Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Council to bid on the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

(From left) Dennis Nixon, International Bank of Commerce corporate CEO and board chairman; billionaire philanthropist Red McCombs; and Eddie Aldrete, IBC senior vice president, along with former State Sen. John Montford (pictured below) asked Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Council to bid on the 2020 Republican National Convention.

A bipartisan quartet of San Antonio business leaders, including billionaire philanthropist Red McCombs and former Democratic State Sen. John Montford, on Tuesday asked Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Council to put politics aside and bid on the 2020 Republican National Convention.

John Montford

Former State Sen. John Montford

In a three-page letter delivered to the mayor late Tuesday afternoon, McCombs and Montford, along with International Bank of Commerce CEO and Board Chairman Dennis Nixon, and IBC Senior Vice President Eddie Aldrete, pledged to help raise from private and corporate sources the $60 million to $65 million the Republican National Committee will require from the host city.

The group also called for a bipartisan host committee to help plan and oversee San Antonio’s participation should the City submit and secure a bid to host the Republicans’ national gathering.

“We are committed to helping raise the necessary funds for this convention, along with a bipartisan host committee – and we urge the City Council to move forward in submitting a bid for this national convention,” the four businessmen wrote.

Flickr / WebSummit

Brad Parscale

Nirenberg and the City Council have come under increasing pressure from San Antonio’s business community to bid on the GOP convention. President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, former San Antonio businessman and digital media specialist Brad Parscale, sparked public knowledge of the issue when he launched a tweet storm against Nirenberg for not immediately supporting a bid, calling him “weak-kneed Ron.”

The letter by the four businessmen outlined a timeline of the RNC’s outreach to San Antonio officials. It noted the initial letter to Nirenberg by the Republican National Committee dated Dec. 8, 2017; discussions between RNC and Visit San Antonio officials in February; and two March meetings between RNC representatives and local leaders, one on March 7 with business leaders (which sources said Nirenberg could not attend because he was away for another event); and a previously reported lunch meeting on March 23, which the mayor and numerous business and civic leaders attended, including former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger.

Republican National Committeeman Ron Kaufman, who heads the RNC’s site selection committee, said Monday it wasn’t unusual for cities receiving the December letters to wait until after the holidays to respond. He said the RNC has allowed the bid submission timeline to slip so it can receive the best possible bids. (He declined to say which cities have submitted or will submit hosting bids, except for Charlotte, North Carolina, which has been named publicly.)

Sources close to Nirenberg reject suggestions made by local business leaders that he deliberately sat on RNC interest by delaying any response. Rather, they say, local Republicans signaled after the March 23 meeting they had little taste for bringing the convention to town – especially given San Antonio’s strong business ties with Mexico – until Parscale launched his tweet tirade against Nirenberg. But business leaders flatly reject that characterization.

Nirenberg was unavailable for comment Tuesday night. However, his spokesman, Bruce Davidson, said the mayor has asked City and Visit San Antonio staff to brief the Council during executive session Thursday on potential costs and economic gains of hosting a convention. The briefing also will focus on whether security costs – likely high given Trump’s sometimes polarizing presence – would be adequately covered by the federal government’s expected share of $50 million.

If the Council decides to take any action on the issue, it will do so in open session, Davidson said.

In addition to the letter by McCombs, Montford, Nixon, and Aldrete, a dozen other business and industry organizations are filing letters encouraging the City to make a play for the convention. Those include, among others, the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the South San Antonio Chamber, the San Antonio Hotel & Lodging Association, and the San Antonio Restaurant Association.

Businesses and industry lobbying efforts come at a time when many local political leaders, including former Mayor Phil Hardberger, have made impassioned arguments against welcoming the GOP convention. They say Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Mexico rhetoric renders any financial gains paltry alongside how deeply offensive hosting the convention would be to area Latinos, who represent more than two-thirds of the city’s population.

However, McCombs, Montford, Nixon, and Aldrete flipped that argument on its head in pushing for the convention. The very act of hosting the Republican convention in a majority-minority city, they wrote, would demonstrate the city’s inclusiveness, open-mindedness, and diversity.

“This is not a political decision, but an economic one,” they wrote. “We ask the City Council to stay the course on what is best – and right – for the City of San Antonio and be reminded of what makes our city so beloved – a welcoming city with open arms and a community of diverse backgrounds that serves as a haven where all ideologies and backgrounds have an opportunity to be voiced and heard.

“We cannot let politics get in the way of our city’s growth and economic opportunity. Leadership Matters!”

Montford, who served in the Texas Senate from 1983-1996 before eventually becoming a top executive at AT&T in San Antonio and, later, an advisor to General Motors, said in an interview with the Rivard Report on Tuesday night that he similarly would advise that the City bid to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

“I told them that I would sign it [the letter] as long as they would invite both parties,” Montford said. “It’s really, I guess, up to the mayor and council. I didn’t sign it to put pressure on anyone. I told them I’d expect us to issue the same invitation for the Democratic convention. To me it’s just a business opportunity.

“My own personal feeling is that it’s incumbent on the business community to raise the money. I would not want to spend any taxpayer dollars on this thing.”

And, he added, “my preference would be to extend identical invitations to both parties.”

Along with their general appeals, the four business leaders went through a lengthy list of considerations, as well as the bid invitation timeline. They also emphasized a new talking point, that in addition to possibly bringing $200 million in economic gains to the city, it will attract “C-suite” corporate executives who may otherwise be unfamiliar with San Antonio.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Mayor Ron Nirenberg

They also emphasized federal support for coverage of security costs. That point is one that especially concerns City officials, who worry that the federal government’s share of $50 million may not be enough, especially when any large gathering that is Trump-related likely will attract passionate protesters from around the country.

Davidson said those are the kinds of issues that the City Council will be briefed about in closed session on Thursday.

“The briefing will be conducted in executive session because that is standard operating procedure for the consideration of competitive economic development matters. Also, potentially sensitive security matters may be part of the discussion,” he said.

“In addition to the tens of millions of dollars that the local organizing committee would be required to raise, the city will incur security costs that possibly could exceed the amount covered by federal assistance,” Davidson said.

“Council will weigh all of those factors. If there is any action to be taken by Council, it will do so in open session,” which would take place next week at the earliest because of public notice requirements, he said.


31 thoughts on “McCombs, Montford Among Business Leaders Urging City to Bid on National GOP Convention

  1. It would be an attack and insult to San Antonio’s Hispanic and Tejano community for the city to host the Republican Party convention It’s support and alignment with Trump’s racist, anti-poor, anti-Hispanic agenda, has totally undermined it’s traditional conservative values of fairness, liberty and opportunity for all American citizens. This is no longer your grandmither’s Republican Party.

    It is a ridiculous statement to say that this issue is not a political one but rather an economic one. It’s all politics and it’s all economics. We are talking about a political party convention not a peace and justice conference. If this is not politics then what exactly is?

    We are talking about a political party whose agenda today is very much anti-poor, anti- immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-gay.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the Republican Party stood for and advocated for the same stance of openness, diversity “where all ideologies and backgrounds have an opportunity to be voiced and heard” that city officials are now being encouraged to take. This is a cynical and hypocritical argument at best.

    The city of San Antonio needs to do what is best for it’s local community and not be swept up by false promises of economic rewards. The damage and racial tensions that the convention will bring will totally negate any possible benefits.

  2. Totally bad idea. Not everything should be about making money.
    The Republican retoric at this time does not match with our city’s image. I, for one, don’t want San Antonio to be linked to their anti-people agendas

    • I understand where you are coming from, but I really do not believe that people in San Antonio, in Texas, or across the US would make any assumptions about our city just because we hosted the 2020 RNC. The county where Cleveland is located voted for Hillary Clinton 2 to 1 over Donald Trump in 2016, despite the fact that they hosted the RNC that year. Minneapolis voted heavily for Obama in 2008 after hosting the RNC. I doubt anyone would mistake those cities as having any connection to the Republicans or their candidates and positions because they hosted a Republican convention.

      I for one hope that San Antonio does make a bid. It would be a great opportunity to come out and protest. You don’t fight bad speech with censorship; you fight bad speech with more and better speech.

  3. I truly understand the economic implications that this convention could impact the city with. I wonder if we are also on the list for the Democratic convention as well. Being a Majority Minority in the heart of Texas I would think would be quite appealing in an age where Texas may be ready to flip as well. The nation will be watching the campaign of BEto as a pulse to follow. Why was Brad Parscale’s involvement with the Russia Probe not included as even a footnote in this article? My opinion is that unfortunately it is not the GOP that San Antonio is against, but Trump himself. I am a supporter of the Mayor, and recognize the difficulty of a decision like this I hope for our cities sake we do not get this convention. Trump will use the demogrphics of our beloved city as a stepping stone to show the world that he has “Latino Support ” (San Antonio did not vote Trump). His last election should prove unequivocally that we should not take such matters lightly, in the world we live un anything can happen unfortunately I think it also gives a signal that San Antonio is indeed for sale. With such a racially charged campaign I think it brings a stain to us as I even hear my 93 year old Grandmother speak up of her disdain for Mr. Trump.

  4. The desperate RNC should find a city that reflects their current values better than San Antonio. How about Moscow?

  5. No to either these conventions are nothing but a big headache, yes they do give some economic support but I feel its not worth all of the added cost to the community

  6. NOPE! Don’t let the bullies and money sway SA to host the RNC. Our 2020 vision can be a lot brighter without this BS.

  7. We can continue to be an open, welcoming city for all persons of all stripes and colors, by not hosting groups that charge the political spectrum. This also includes the Democratic Party, and any aspiring 3rd parties (Green, Libertarian, etc.)

    We can instead be the destination that continues to welcome sporting events, and religious gatherings. Let’s focus also on cultural tourism by ensuring fast fixes to vandalism (e.g. Confluence Park solar array) and smart build-up and improvements around the gems in that crown (UNESCO Missions, forthcoming Ruby City, Museum Reach institutions)
    Also, continue to accelerate push Tier 1 status for UTSA from the local gov’t end, and keep investing in Alamo Colleges to be at the bleeding-edge of technological pursuits (robotics, IT services), so that eventually we can host CES, and other major representative companies and groups.
    —> also, get that airport up to the next level already, with more direct flights to / from the power-centers of the world. And also a first-rate BaRT for this region, and a high-speed Lonestar statewide rail Japanese business-persons would be proud of.

    I want these “C-Level suite” people to see our worth those ways, not through raucous ramblings held loudly and drunkenly together so CNN, FoxNews, BreitBart, HuffPost and other johnny-come-and-go-latelys can say and print our city’s name a few dozen times while commenting on the loud, empty speeches and destructively stupid protests.

  8. Not being mentioned in the discussions of this matter is the stated fact by other cities passing on the bidding process is that the RNC will require approximately 12 weeks of convention center shutdown for build-up, convention, and tear-down. That’s three months with no other conventions to support hotels, restaurants, etc. Most conventions are here for only 3-4 days the RNC will be here for 4-5 days. So the potential money LOST by having 11 weeks of no other conventions should be subtracted from the potential money gained by hosting the national political convention. My reading indicates that a number of cities have started passing on bidding for the national political conventions during Presidential election years due to the fact that they will lose so much business for such a long period of time due to the required number of weeks their convention center must be closed to host them. This reasoning has been reported elsewhere as the given reason why both Dallas and Houston passed on bidding for the RNC for 2020. Has the reporter contacted either of those cities to investigate if this is true? Are our city officials aware of this required shutdown in terms of other conventions and, if so, have they determined the lost benefits it would mean?

    • A 12 week shutdown seems dubious.

      The actual convention floor, et al. would be likely be in the Alamodome anyway.

      • No, it actually does take 6 weeks to set up—-not sure about the break down but Cleveland was shuttered for a total of 3 months (set up and break down) and that means there could have been a LOT of other events that were missed out on….

  9. We live in a city where the median income was, in 2016, $56,105; $460 lower than the median Texas household income and $1,512 less than the US median household income and where we remain the most economically segregated cities in America.

    The GOP proposal, requires potential host cities provide a “fundraising plan” to pay for the estimated $70 million price tag. Yes, the federal government provides a $50 million grant traditionally given to the host city but that certainly won’t cover the entire costs of the convention to the city.

    Tampa, in 2012, spent over half a million dollars…/docu…/2070265/tampa-costs-web.pdf

    In 2016, Cleveland spent an additional 10.8 million. (…/city-of-cleveland-releases-off…)—-costs borne directly by taxpayers.

    To really help out the cities’ economies, the money spent at the conventions needs to circulate locally. We don’t have the FTE law enforcement to contain the chaos that will invariably arise—-where will these LEOs come from? That money will go back home with them—-Hotels (chains) and chain restaurants will do fine—-local businesses will likely not—the conventioneers will congregate downtown—-and yes, we will receive additional HOT revenue, but the lion’s share of the windfall will go to the national chains.

    One set of researchers hired by the RNC host committee found that 48,000 people visited, and $110 million was spent in Cleveland as a result of the GOP convention, held for four days in July 2016. Factoring in how that money was re-spent locally, the convention resulted in $188.4 million in total economic impact. (…/TE_Oxford-Economic_Impact_of_the_…) However, another study done by Cleveland State University for the RNC host committee found more muted effects. That study found $67.8 million was spent as a result of the convention, with $142.2 million in resulting total impact. They estimated just 44,000 people visited. (…)

    After studying the economic impact of political conventions for 30 years, one researcher found “….no discernable impact on employment, personal income, or personal income per capita in the cities where the events were held:

    Were this a ‘normal’ candidate and ‘normal’ political time, I absolutely agree that our city should consider submitting a proposal for hosting the event. However, these are not normal times….Violent protests are the typical event associated with Trump and the values and reflected in his speeches do not reflect OUR values. These protests have costs—-not only financial costs, but to the spirit of our city.

    • Yes, violent protests paid for by the democrat party at Trump rallies. Who was attacked at those rallies? Conservatives. Were there any violent attacks at Hilary’s rallies? No.
      Mainly because no one showed up. So many blind people of what is actually going on.

  10. I find it interesting that the entire notion of having a Republican party convention here hasn’t triggered any references to our fearless, or should I say fearful, state GOP officials. While I understand the difference between a state and national convention, won’t it surely give a platform for the (state) host party that wanted to poison our convention business with their homophobic bathroom bill?

  11. Moscow is a better fit for Republicans. Or possibly at the Bear Creek Arsenal where they manufacture AR-15’s. Someplace warm and fuzzy.

  12. It isn’t about politics; it’s about human decency. Why would ANY city want to host a convention that brings in hateful bigots?

  13. To be real clear I don’t want to support any Trump like minded individuals here in San Antonio. I look to people who inspire me as my 40+ employees and customers look to me. I look away from people who compulsively lie, bully, insult, cheats contractors, who appears blatantly racist, lacks respect and does not recognize his biases. People like that cannot give me the straight answers and the cooperation I need. Assure us Trump is not on the ballot then great I am for it. Trumps lies have cost us Americans too much money, energy and waste of time going in nonsensical circles just like these tariffs. The truth is so much quicker.

      • Guillermo’s – Where we serve everyone who look to us for great food, and service. I, like all Americans have dear friends that voted for Trump. I get it. My business is in downtown San Antonio so we would benefit financially however I also place economics in trying to do what is right not only for my family, staff, & customers, but for everyone we come across. Lies, insults, racism – I have to stand against it.

  14. No one in this thread seems to think the Republican convention could be contested with another candidate winning. That is certainly a strong possibility. Wouldn’t those who are claiming that all Republicans agree with this president, (I don’t…I held my nose and voted for Clinton), like our city to be the location where the party repudiated this candidate?

    We built a new convention center and own the Alamo dome specifically to attract this type of activity. Furthermore, we all as Americans should support the electoral process that upholds our ideals as a democracy.

    Make a bid for both conventions, and reap the benefits and support the process for whichever party, if it happens, chooses to party in our fair city.

  15. A “bipartisan quartet?” You must be Frerking kidding? Three Trump chumps and a retired blue dog called “Maximum John” all slurp from the same fetid trough! The Rivard Report’s “reporting” on Brad “Grab-em-by-the” Parscale’s desperate troll job has been abysmal. Why so shy about informing your readers that not even Dallas or Houston will get near the gilded pile of excrement known as RNC 2020?

  16. In a city that cannot even support or moderately fund a symphony orchestra, I simply don’t get it when the McCombeses, Montforts, Nixons and Aldretes names do not appear as major donors to our orchestra, but contend that they can raise all the money necessary for the convention. I’ll take that back…I think Montfort was in there somewhere a while ago. Since the community will have to raise much of the ancillary funds, I don’t quite “get it.” However, you can tell where I am coming from. A more successful way of funding our cultural opportunities, which go across all ethnicities, is the economic impact I wish something or someone could guarantee for this wonderful city.

  17. It’s definitely money that could be well spent in other needed areas. If the business community can raise that amount of money … let it be spent making our future what it can be. After the GOP leaves, more than a few people will be wondering why we spent all that money. He should have it in New York City at Trump Plaza where he can make even more money for his family.

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