Nirenberg Shows Confidence in Fire Union Defeat, Affordable Housing, and Trackless Travel

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San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg is “100 percent confident” that the fire union’s three proposed amendments to the City charter will fail on November’s ballot.

“We have a highly informed electorate when it comes to things in our city, and this is not something we can afford to lose,” he said.

Nirenberg sat down Tuesday at the Pearl Stable with Rivard Report Publisher and Editor Robert Rivard at the second annual “Conversation with the Mayor,” presented by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Rivard Report. The two discussed for an hour affordable housing, public transportation, and the ongoing battle between the City and the firefighters union.

If voters approve the fire union’s three ballot proposals, the new City charter language would limit future city managers’ salaries and tenures, force arbitration between the union and the City for a new contract, and make it easier for citizens to put proposed ordinances to a public vote.

Nirenberg accused the fire union of being a “small minority taking advantage of political turmoil” and polarizing the issue to further its cause. Though there is disagreement, Nirenberg said he’s confident it will all work out.

“There isn’t a challenge we haven’t been able to overcome if we work together,” Nirenberg said. “We get along here, despite our differences and sometimes because of them.”

Nirenberg also emphasized the importance of creating more affordable housing. Like other big cities, San Antonio is facing a housing crisis, he said. His Housing Policy Task Force released a report Monday on comprehensive housing reform, proposing a $3.9 billion funding plan over 10 years.

Nirenberg said his committee has discussed different ways to incentivize affordable housing development, such as land banking or offering by-right zoning in areas that haven’t already been developed.

“We do need to create housing of all types, such as market-rate housing,” he said. “The housing market is healthiest when it’s a mix of all types.”

Along the same vein of equity, the mayor said he supports expanding San Antonio’s public transportation options. He started the nonprofit ConnectSA with Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff in April to raise awareness of mass transit planning in San Antonio. He prefers trackless transportation to installing a light rail, he said, because it provides more flexibility.

Nirenberg acknowledged that voters would not need to approve a trackless plan, but said there’s “no better affirmation of the cultural change” than people voting in favor of better transportation.

“We need multimodal transportation,” he said. “And when we get to show 65 percent of voters said yes to a multimodal transportation future, it will put all those naysayers to rest.”

The conversation ended on the topic of the Alamo redevelopment plan. Nirenberg said he does not want to close off access to Alamo Plaza, but understands the need to respect burial grounds of indigenous people. He said the Alamo’s close link to Texas’ identity makes it a brand known around the world.

“We cannot remove the Alamo Plaza from the civic center,” he said. “It’s gotta remain a central part of civic life in San Antonio.”


4 thoughts on “Nirenberg Shows Confidence in Fire Union Defeat, Affordable Housing, and Trackless Travel

  1. Collective bargaining is meaningless if the union is prohibited from striking.
    Given the nature of firefighters work, arbitration is the fairest, least disruptive manner to resolve impasse in contract negotiations. Perhaps Nirenberg is scared of having to show an arbitrator as to why the City of San Antonio is so cheap with its proposals?
    As to limiting the City Manager’s salary, why not?
    She’s nothing but a mouthpiece for the local business interests.
    At present big business, the local capitalists have full control of city government.
    Those are the special interests that have made our community so unfair to working people.
    This is what scares Nirenberg and his big money masters!

    • There are dozens of articles documenting why our City Manager is worth her salary. Perhaps if you spent some time reading them you wouldn’t sound so incompetent.

  2. I am repeatedly astonished at the anger expressed over the city manager’s salary. Do you have any idea how many people she manages (hundreds of thousands.) And how big the budget she manages (billions.) The city manager’s job is huge and important. And if you checked around, you would find hundreds of senior leaders in companies in this town who make much much more than the city manager with many fewer employees and a much smaller budget. I can think of 30 people off the top of my head who get paid more for much less responsibility. Why do you want less, smaller, cheaper?

    And let’s talk about the bond rating. If bonds are downgraded, interest rates go up and the city has to pay more interest. So up to $40M more in interest per year has to come from somewhere. What are you willing to give up? Libraries? Pools? Police substations? More firefighters? If $40M goes out of the budget, YES votes did that. And it will be the poorest of SA who suffers. So you need to own their misery if you vote yes on any of these proposed amendments.

    NO to all three amendments.

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