Most City Council Members Fail North SA Chamber’s City Council Scorecard

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A scorecard released by the San Antonio North Chamber rates the City Council on key votes in the business community.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A scorecard released by the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce rates City Council members' votes on key issues affecting the business community.

The North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce issued a scorecard ahead of next week’s election rating the mayor and City Council members on how they voted on key issues of interest to the business community.

Overall, only two Council members – Clayton Perry (D10) and Art Hall (D2) – received passing grades, while the bulk of those evaluated performed below average, according to the chamber’s requisites.

With early voting underway for the May 4 municipal election in which all 11 seats are up for grabs, the timing of the scorecard’s release was no coincidence.

Although the chamber does not endorse candidates in local elections, it rated City Council members and the mayor on nine issues the chamber deemed important to business interests. Cristina Aldrete, president and CEO of the North SA Chamber, said her group hopes Council will “use this as a benchmark.”

“You have to understand that the business community … has strong priorities,” she said.

Hall, an interim Council member appointed in January, participated in only two votes deemed relevant by the chamber, so Perry was effectively the lone Council member to meet the chamber’s threshold for approval.

North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce's City Council scorecard was distributed to its membership on Thursday, April 18.

Courtesy / North San Antonio Chamber

North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce’s City Council scorecard was distributed to its membership on Thursday, April 18. Click image to enlarge or download here.

Perry voted along with the chamber’s preference eight of nine times, receiving an 89 percent score. Aldrete said 70 percent would be considered “passing.”

“I was very proud of that,” Perry said. “Unfortunately my colleagues don’t get it. … We are becoming a business-unfriendly city.”

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6), who is challenging Mayor Ron Nirenberg, ranked the next highest at 67 percent.

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) and Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) received the lowest scores, each with 25 percent, just below Nirenberg’s 33 percent. Nirenberg and Brockhouse often are on the opposite side of issues brought before Council, with Brockhouse criticizing him and other members for sending “anti-business” messages with votes and policy formation.

The North San Antonio Chamber’s executive committee selected the votes on which it rated based on the chamber’s membership interest, Aldrete said. That included issues chamber officials received phone calls, letters, and emails about and followed through the legislative process.

Although the scorecard does not capture the nuance behind Council members’ decision-making process and political compromises, Aldrete said the voting records, which were obtained from the City Clerk, were the cleanest and fairest tool.

“We worked with former Council members to formulate the tool,” she said, and based some of its methodologies on the state legislator scorecard released by Texas Association of Businesses.

“We’re not using it to say, ‘You’re good’ [and] ‘You’re bad,'” she said. “It just kinda is what it is.”

North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Cristina Aldrete.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Cristina Aldrete

Aldrete and many in the broader business community feel they are not being included in key conversations surrounding policy development and economic opportunities. That came to a head in discussions leading to Council’s decision not to pursue a bid for the 2020 Republican National Convention. Others involved a decision not to bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, approval of a paid sick-leave ordinance, and the recent decision to remove Chick-fil-A from the airport concessions contract.

Aldrete wants Council members to consider all the facts before voting, she said. “If you don’t feel ready to vote on something, you have to say, ‘I don’t have enough information.’”

In the case of Chick-fil-A, a motion to delay the vote was unsuccessful.

The North SA Chamber joined other local chambers of commerce in opposing three city charter amendments – two of which passed – backed by the firefighters union that were put to San Antonio voters in November last year. The scorecard includes a point for all elected Council members who voted in favor of placing those on the ballot, although it was a procedural move and not a vote on the merits of the propositions.

There is another section that was not included in the overall score, which includes issues that were not directly voted on or weren’t brought up by a substantial number of chamber members, Aldrete said. Since the decision not to pursue the Republican National Convention was a consensus reached during a closed-door executive session, it is included in that section.

While Brockhouse and Perry said after the meeting that they disagreed with the final outcome, “when you go into executive session, you come out with a consensus” and that’s the final decision, Aldrete said.

Likewise, no vote occurred on the decision not to pursue Amazon by offering a robust incentive package, so it was not included on the scorecard, Aldrete said. That was a decision Nirenberg made in partnership with the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation and Bexar County officials.

According to Aldrete’s research, North SA is the first chamber in a large city to have a scorecard, although she said groups use them in smaller cities such as Lubbock. She would like to see it become a standard practice in cities statewide.

“All big cities across the state are having the same issues with City Council members that don’t understand how they impact the business community,” she said. 

Aaron Cox, senior vice president of membership development with the Texas Association of Businesses, which is the statewide chamber, said the North SA Chamber scorecard is a good start.

But scorecards aren’t for every chamber, he said. “Some chambers aren’t engaged in policy side. … Some are concerned about relationships, quite frankly, with mayors and Councils and are trying to maintain those relationships.”

Such scorecards can be seen as an adversarial judgment of elected officials, he said, “but I think if done properly, it’s a reference point. It’s a source of information.

“This is tool, not a weapon.”

14 thoughts on “Most City Council Members Fail North SA Chamber’s City Council Scorecard

  1. I’d like to see our environmental, educational and cultural organizations come out with their own “scorecards.” Should we be following just this one metric mentioned in the article? Other priorities and interests are also legitimate and should be counted.

  2. The business community has been getting more than their share of preferential treatment in this city for decades. They aren’t the only constituency that deserves consideration by the elected officials who lead this city.

    Some of these quotes sound like they came from an old relic of the gilded age. And yes, I mean relic as in some cigar smoking old coot wearing a monocle. Go have a cigar at the Plaza Club.

  3. The city and country are becoming more and more hostile toward business. Individuals go into business to make money not to have it confiscated by the government. Once it becomes more rewarding to stop working, stop owning, and starting businesses, it won’t end well.

    • What do you mean by hostile toward business? We have the most pro-business President and Congress at the federal level and the most pro-business governor and legislature here in Texas since probably the Reagan era. Environmental regulations are being rolled back at an alarming rate. Business leaders regularly sit down with legislators to discuss business community priorities. Tax rates paid by businesses of all sizes are the lowest they have been in decades.

      Individuals who go into business are only able to do so BECAUSE of the government. Business owners do not pay for the roads their employees and delivery vehicles drive on; they don’t have to establish their own electrical grid to allow their business to operate; the courts are in place to enforce contracts that businesses enter into with suppliers and employees. Unless you were referring to the increased tariffs having a negative impact on our GDP, then perhaps business owners will suffer because of the government.

      The number of business start-ups has been increasing for the past 20 years, even when you take into account the Bush-induced economic recession. If the US, Texas, and San Antonio were truly “hostile to business”, I sincerely doubt you would see that. https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/2018-Small-Business-Profiles-US.pdf (check the graph at the bottom of page 2)

      • Just so glad you responded with such clarity.

        Could not agree more. The only thing this article gets me asking, is why is the Chamber the only metric that should be used for council members. Surely a metric on support for teachers and public education could be appropriate, or even an environment and green business rating . . .

        • Elizabeth Warren would be proud….except you forget businesses also pay taxes that pay for public roads and electrical grids. They also provide goods/services that are taxed…and they pay employees who, guess what? Pay taxes on income, property and purchases.

          The U.S. Is not currently hostile to business, unlike the previous regulation heavy, high tax administration. Keep government small and businessses will grow. Keep people out of government who have no experience in business or no job experience other than government.

          Texas is a very business friendly state, but after CFA debacle and self-inflicted wound, SA is not seen as business friendly…as has been reported in national news. Also, we don’t have an educated workforce which limits what businesses are attracted.

          The CC had no jurisdiction over education…those would be school board and state rep elections that control education. Although I think CC could help improve education through policies.

  4. There was a time, when city-council management began, business interests was the ruling interest. Developers and business leaders were the only groups who could afford to have representatives on the City Council at $20.00 per week. Then, a change occurred which mandated the city be divided into 10 areas according to population among other things. Individuals were required to live in the area of the city where they ran for office. They had to drive on the same streets of the residents they represented.
    Perhaps it is time for the Chamber to understand the need for changing the “picture of San Antonio” we present, having one of the widest differences in income in the United States. Perhaps understanding why candidates are elected who promise their area that this is something that will benefit them as well as the city where they live.
    Raising the educational level of our city is what the Chamber needs to focus on. When Apple decides to add 1000 jobs to the company in Austin, it’s about the education of its population, not what the Chamber of Commerce thinks is best.

  5. Wow, shocker! The City is under moral and legal obligation to serve the interests of its constituents. The Chamber of Commerce exists to lobby the City to put the interests of businesses above those same citizens. Maybe I should be glad they don’t like most of our councilmembers?

  6. The developers for sure run this city -and are tied closely to ‘old guard’ leaders who really run the show—including the current mayor. Look at how many ‘non profit’ city groups there are and task forces, etc. -then look who is on them! You can’t even keep up with all the acronym groups city council has formed…and therefore you don’t really know what they are doing!

    SA is getting a reputation as a very business unfriendly city because of policies and lack of an educated/skilled workforce. The growth of tech seems to stop at New Braunfels—-the longer we wait to address the core issues, the further we fall behind and will never catch up!!

    The equity lens sounds good-and infrastructure no matter what district you live in should be maintained…but pouring millions s of tax dollars into an area that doesn’t provide a return instead of investing in things that make companies want to be here is not going to improve life for anyone over the course of time.

    The CFA decision, which the mayor says we need to move on from, has done more damage to the city than what it seems and could have been avoided if theyhadsimplydone their job instead and gotten more info. The standard is set that owners of businesses must comply with personal beliefs that fit those of council members.

    • I am sorry you have a such a poor view of this city and its progress. San Antonio has attracted many business such as Toyota and its sub manufacturers and continues to build on it strong ties to the military and defense community with the expansion of jobs at Lackland (cyber) and continued contractor growth on the Kelly (Port SA) side of the runway.

      As a San Antonian, we don’t get to pick winners and losers when it comes to our fellow San Antonian’s, therefore your comment “The equity lens sounds good-and infrastructure no matter what district you live in should be maintained…but pouring millions s of tax dollars into an area that doesn’t provide a return” just sounds un-American and un-San Antonian. Many people choose an area of town based on economic pressures, as do business, “these neighborhoods” as you say, deserve to be a better version of themselves and the demands the council’s attention not to mention the states. Running the government is not like running a business, sure parts of it are, but you don’t make a profit defending yourself but it sure as hell is important. You don’t make a profit in the short term pouring down road for houses and businesses but over-time with the additional tax revenue you do. But sometimes you spend money not because it will make you money but because it is important in some other way. Education comes to mind.

      CFA was fine before this and will be fine after this. I like local stores, and although it is the airport, I like airports to be unique, not just something you can get anywhere, this is one of the continuing issues that effects areas like the riverwalk. If you want san antonio to be business friendly then why would you not support local businesses winning at the airport over out of state businesses?

  7. I am retired and lived most of my life in San Antonio.
    Elected officials have always catered to business interests. That’s why wages are low, social services are erratic at best, landlords have gouged tenants, and we have 16 separate and unequal school districts with the inner city districts experiencing economic issues.
    No, Ms. Aldrete the Chamber of Commerce does not represent the interests of MOST San Antonio working people or their families!

    • I agree with you Pancho. Council members should represent the people who live in their district. We don’t have private representatives to push our company agendas, that’s the council members responsibility. My councilman is more concerned with what his companies want, than what his residents need.

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