Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) officially announced his bid to become mayor of San Antonio Saturday morning.
"I am running for mayor because I want to make San Antonio the city you deserve," Nirenberg told hundreds of supporters gathered at his campaign headquarters on Broadway Street.
"The city has stopped rising," under Mayor Ivy Taylor's leadership, he said. "You deserve a city with visionary leadership that rises to meet the future so that we become the most successful city we can be ... not more studies and more delayed decisions that shift a tougher burden onto the next council or the next generation."
Nirenberg is the first viable challenger to enter the race against incumbent Mayor Ivy Taylor. But voters will likely have a suite of options to choose from on the May 2017 ballot. Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) and Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina have both entertained the idea.
Nirenberg's wife, Erika Prosper Nirenberg, said her husband is always looking for ways to better the city and for ways he can improve as a leader.
"He wants to make the most responsible, compassionate, ethical decisions that he can," she said, adding that even though Nirenberg is not Latino, like her and the majority of San Antonio, he is more than capable of leading the city and has embraced the Latino culture.
Nirenberg found himself quoting former Mayor Phil Hardberger during an interview with the Rivard Report on Friday when asked about his vision for the city's future.
"We need to stop planning and start digging," Nirenberg said, borrowing a phrase from Hardberger.
The momentum built by mayors Hardberger and Julián Castro to address long-term transportation, development, and growth challenges and increase high-wage jobs, viable career pathways, and affordable housing has come to "a screeching halt," he said. As mayor, he aims to recapture that momentum.
He also pledged to expand green space, achieve long-term water security, and create "a new standard of government transparency, accountability, responsibility and accessibility."
Former District 8 Councilwoman Bonnie Conner was one of several civic figures who came to show support for Nirenberg and speak on his behalf. Local artist and retired advertising and marketing executive Lionel Sosa and local attorney Jorge Herrera also backed Nirenberg's campaign with remarks.
"We have a candidate that is a man of principle," Conner said, "a man who believes in good governance, and has a genuine interest in our district and our city."
As a Council member, Nirenberg clashed with Taylor on several issues including the handling of the Vista Ridge water pipeline contract, funding mass transit improvements, and development and implementation of the SA Tomorrow comprehensive plan.
Nirenberg supported a measure in November led by Saldaña that would have boosted VIA Metropolitan Transit operations. Taylor and a majority of the Council decided to table the issue until the 2017 legislative session.
"We can’t afford more delay on transportation … that’s what’s causing the economy to lose high-wage, 21st century jobs to other cities," Nirenberg said.
That same week, he blamed Taylor for what he called a lack of communication and transparency when San Antonio Water System officials adjusted its contract with developers of the 142-mile Vista Ridge pipeline.
SA Tomorrow, the three-pronged comprehensive plan Taylor initiated in 2014 after she was appointed as mayor, has been "stripped" of provisions and that would allow the city to "deliver smart development and growth policies of the city," he said.
Nirenberg was a tri-chair of the planning initiative and chaired the Council's Comprehensive Plan Committee. Taylor dissolved the committee soon after the plan was approved by City Council.
Without oversight and teeth, Nirenberg fears the plan will collect dust on a shelf.
Elected to the District 8 seat in 2013, Nirenberg is a small business owner and previously worked for the Annenberg Public Policy Center and was general manager of Trinity University’s KRTU-FM.
Taylor announced her re-election campaign on Nov. 13 expecting competition.
“San Antonians deserve a vigorous, civil contest of ideas and a chance to examine the candidates’ ability to deliver solutions and not just sound bites,” Taylor said last week.
On Wednesday, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff endorsed Taylor on the steps of City Hall to "make sure that she is elected again" he said, "to continue this great work that we’re all doing to make San Antonio a better place to live.”