Nirenberg Restructures City Council Policy Committees

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Mayor Ron Nirenberg

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Mayor Ron Nirenberg at the Governance Committee meeting in January 2018.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg made substantial changes to City Council committees and their makeup Wednesday, dissolving the Arts, Culture, and Heritage Committee and replacing members of the Governance Committee.

“[The Arts, Culture, and Heritage Committee’s] primary focus was our Tricentennial celebration,” Nirenberg wrote in a memo to City Manager Erik Walsh and other city executives. “Its remaining functions will be absorbed by the Planning and Community Development Committee,” formerly the Comprehensive Planning Committee.

After each municipal election, it’s common for mayors to restructure Council committees, which discuss and vote on most policy issues and new ordinances before they reach a full City Council vote. After he was first elected mayor two years ago, Nirenberg created committees for transportation; community health and equity; comprehensive planning; and arts, culture, and heritage committees.

Council committees generally have five members. It’s rare that a Council member does not serve on at least one or two.

Combining arts with planning was a strategic move, Nirenberg said, because “we cannot make planning and development decisions divorced from the consideration of how they affect and are affected by the cultural and historic qualities of our city. This is about making sure that we grow with grace and protect the uniquely San Antonio heritage along the way.”

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) and Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) will no longer serve on the Governance Committee. Replacing them and Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4), who reached his term limit, will be his successor, Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia, Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), and Councilman John Courage (D9). Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) will continue to serve on that committee.

The Governance Committee is often the first step for a proposed policy or ordinance. When Council members file council consideration requests (CCRs), which must have support from at least four of their colleagues, they are often first considered by this committee.

As the committee’s chair, Nirenberg can select which CCRs are considered. The committee then votes on whether to forward requests for further study by City staff, consideration by another committee, or the full City Council.

“The changes added some needed perspectives on the Governance Committee,” Nirenberg told the Rivard Report. “Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia is a former Chair of the Ethics Review Board, has presented to the Governance Committee and is familiar with the city’s processes. Councilman John Courage’s appointment to the panel gives the North Side representation which it lacked last term. And after her three impactful terms, I am excited to bring Councilwoman Gonzalez’s energy to the governance committee.”

The other committees take up topic-specific issues and receive briefings from City staff on possible policy adjustments.

Viagran remains the chair of the Economic and Workforce Development Committee and a member of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee. She was added to the new Transporation and Mobility Committee.

Related: Councilmen Hall, Saldaña’s Last Consideration Request: Free Parking for Former Council Members

Treviño remains on the Planning and Community Development Committee and the Audit and Accountability Committee. He was added to the Community Health and Equity Committee as well as the Transportation and Mobility Committee, which has been called the Transportation Committee for the last two years.

It will be chaired by Gonzales, who is an avid cyclist and bike infrastructure advocate.

That committee was renamed because, Nirenberg wrote, Council has “set our sights on a more comprehensive plan to shorten commutes, alleviate congestion, and provide greater options for residents and visitors alike to move about San Antonio.”

Related: Transportation Committee Gets Update on Air Quality Wish List

In addition to serving on Governance, Rocha Garcia, who is an assistant marketing professor at Our Lady of the Lake University, is replacing Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) on the Audit and Accountability committee and joining Health and Equity as well as Intergovernmental Relations.

New Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan (D2), a veteran and motivational speaker, will serve on Health and Equity, Planning and Community Planning, Public Safety, and Innovation and Technology.

The third new councilwoman on the majority-female body, attorney Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6) will serve on Transportation and Mobility, Public Safety, Economic and Workforce Development, Intergovernmental Relations, and Innovation and Technology.

The committee and assignments are listed below according to Nirenberg’s memo:

Governance Committee

“…shall be responsible for proposing, reviewing and referring new policy initiatives to staff or other city council committees for action.  Governance also considers policy recommendations from the Ethics Review Board.”

Chair: Mayor Ron Nirenberg
Adriana Rocha Garcia, District 4
Shirley Gonzales, District 5
Ana Sandoval, District 7
John Courage, District 9

Transportation and Mobility Committee

“…shall review plans and projects that are designed to enhance connectivity and mobility of all kinds, including multimodal transportation options, transit improvements, infrastructure maintenance, congestion reduction projects, and airport and air service enhancements.”

Chair: Shirley Gonzales, District 5
Roberto Treviño, District 1
Melissa Cabello Havrda, District 6
Ana Sandoval, District 7
Clayton Perry, District 10

Public Safety Committee

“…is responsible for establishing policies and programs related to fire protection, emergency management, EMS service delivery, police and law enforcement, and judicial procedures. This committee is also charged with developing community-focused initiatives—not only limited to emergency services—and crafting policy that strengthens the bonds among residents and public safety officials.”

Chair: Ana Sandoval, District 7
Jada Andrews-Sullivan, District 2
Rebecca Viagran, District 3
Melissa Cabello Havrda, District 6
Clayton Perry, District 10

Audit and Accountability Committee

“…shall provide guidance and oversight of the Office of the City Auditor in the performance of its responsibilities, including municipal audits.  Additionally, this committee shall review and provide policy recommendations that promote transparency, accountability and trust in City functions.  Included in their charge will be the review of high-profile contracts.  Per ordinance, two of the five members are citizens.”

Chair: John Courage, District 9
Roberto Treviño, District 1
Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia, District 4

Economic and Workforce Development Committee

“…oversees issues related to the vitality of the local economy, including the creation and retention of jobs, attraction of new businesses and private investments, incentive policies and growth of targeted industries.  In addition, the committee will review all aspects of the City’s investments in workforce development and job training.”

Chair: Rebecca Viagran, District 3
Shirley Gonzales, District 5
Melissa Cabello Havrda, District 6
Manny Pelaez, District 8
John Courage, District 9

Community Health and Equity Committee 

“…shall oversee policies, plans and programs that affect the quality of life of its residents.  Its responsibilities include the protection and enhancement of the natural environment, public health, education and the development of equitable social services.  The Committee shall consider policies regarding climate preparedness and resiliency, libraries, solid waste and recycling, parks, and other community-oriented services.”

Chair: Ana Sandoval, District 7
Roberto Treviño, District 1
Jada Andrews-Sullivan, District 2
Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia, District 4
Manny Pelaez, District 8

Planning and Community Development Committee

“…shall oversee the implementation of SA Tomorrow, including plans, programs and policies that promote orderly growth and development of the city while accounting for San Antonio’s unique artistic, cultural and historic heritage. Housing policies will also be considered by this committee, while ensuring that the development and maintenance of the community’s infrastructure and utility systems—including SAWS, CPS Energy and communication technology—support the comprehensive plan.”

Chair: Shirley Gonzales, District 5
Roberto Treviño, District 1
Jada Andrews-Sullivan, District 2
Rebecca Viagran, District 3
John Courage, District 9

Intergovernmental Relations

“…hall coordinate the City’s legislative policy development and lobbying activities, and consider policies and programs that promote interagency cooperation.”

Chair: Manny Peláez, District 8
Rebecca Viagran, District 3
Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia, District 4
Melissa Cabello Havrda, District 6
Ana Sandoval, District 7

Innovation and Technology Committee

“…will consider emerging trends and technologies and assess their potential impacts on the community. This committee will provide recommendations and policy guidance that further San Antonio’s “smart city” goals, such as enhancing cyber security, promoting digital inclusion, improving mobility, expanding municipal broadband, and pursuing economic opportunity.”

Chair: Manny Pelaez, District 8
Jada Andrews-Sullivan, District 2
Melissa Cabello Havrda, District 6
Clayton Perry, District 10

Correction: Treviño is no longer serving on the Innovation and Technology Committee.

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