Just 12 hours after losing two of three contentious proposition battles Tuesday night, Mayor Ron Nirenberg walked into a room filled with reporters and cameras Wednesday afternoon with a smile on his face.
“I’m proud of our city,” he said. “I’m proud and thankful for the voters of San Antonio who turned out in record numbers to make their voices heard at the polls.”
On that, Nirenberg and the firefighters union agree.
Stephen Moody, the union’s sergeant-at-arms and member of its board, told the Rivard Report earlier in the day that “the most important thing was the people go to vote.”
Nearly 40 percent of Bexar County registered voters went to the polls this year. San Antonian voters saw three propositions to change the city charter at the end of their ballots: Proposition A (referenda rules) was rejected by 54 percent of voters; Proposition B (caps on city manager pay and tenure) was approved by 59 percent; Proposition C (unilateral impasse procedure for fire union) was approved by less than 51 percent.
City Council will approve a canvass of the votes next week on Nov. 15, and later will officially adopt the city charter amendments, he said.
The results were a clear victory for the union-launched San Antonio First campaign, Moody said, but he was “disappointed” Prop A failed. The coalition of groups that joined San Antonio First, he said, “felt like that was going to be a slam dunk.”
Props B and C are directly related to the union’s struggles with City management and stalled negotiation of its collective bargaining agreement.
“At the end of the day [Prop B] was important to the people, that showed at the ballot box,” Moody said, referencing a union campaign message that City Manager Sheryl Sculley has amassed too much power and compensation.
Proposition B will limit the tenure of future city managers to eight years and cap their compensation to 10 times the amount of the lowest paid, full-time city employee. Proposition C will allow the firefighters union to unilaterally call for an impasse in its stalled contract negotiations with the City and enter binding arbitration.
Prop C, he said, sends a clear message that the people want the union and city to “get to the table and get [a contract] done.”
On that point, Nirenberg said, he also agrees.
“The public has demanded an end to the conflict,” Nirenberg said.
During the more than four-year collective bargaining process, the two sides have yet to meet across a negotiation table outside of a court-ordered mediation.
“[Prop C] gives us a way to get through contract negotiations if it goes south,” Moody said. After the vitriolic campaign, “right now it’s really hard for my guys to feel like we can even trust the City.”
Nirenberg didn’t yet want to speculate on the long-term outcomes of props B and C, stating the City still had to examine the legal ramifications of the voter’s decision. But he did note that it’s time to move forward.
“But the path forward will always be mindful of the fact that we are trying to build a city that is prosperous and equitable for every San Antonian.”