Pelaez Points to First-Term Accomplishments as He Faces Two District 8 Challengers

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(from left) District 8 candidates Anthony Valdivia, Counciman Manny Pelaez, and Frankie Gonzalez - Wolfe

Courtesy / Candidates

(from left) District 8 candidates Anthony Valdivia, Counciman Manny Pelaez, and Frankie Gonzalez - Wolfe

As a candidate for the office two years ago, Manny Pelaez thought it would be “fun” to represent District 8 on City Council.

“We make it look fun,” Pelaez said of his Council colleagues. “It’s very rewarding … but there’s a lot of painful, horrible days.”

From helping the community deal with violence, death, animal cruelty, and even possible measles outbreaks – the job takes a toll.

That said, he looks forward to winning a second term to finish what he started in terms of reducing traffic jams, adding sidewalks, and focusing more on securing the city’s digital assets and preventing domestic violence.

“There’s still a lot of work to do and I’m going to need more than one term to get it done,” Pelaez, who is a practicing labor attorney, told the Rivard Report. “I always had dreams of being really helpful to people.”

But political consultant and banking executive Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe and financial analyst Anthony Valdivia each believe they’re ready to take over the position.

With the advantage of incumbency, Pelaez has raised nearly 10 times as much money as Gonzales-Wolfe and more than 11 times what Valdivia raised, according to campaign finance reports that cover Jan. 1 to March 25.

Voters might remember Valdivia from the 2017 Council election, when he ran against Pelaez for Ron Nirenberg’s former seat, when he ran as the Libertarian candidate for Senate District 19 last year to replace Carlos Uresti, and as a registered write-in candidate for president in 2016.

Pelaez welcomes the competition. “If I wasn’t on the ballot, I’d probably vote for Frankie,” Pelaez said.

Still, Pelaez believes he’s the most qualified to carry on constituent priorities. District 8 is the fastest-growing in the City of San Antonio, home to the South Texas Medical Center, University of Texas at San Antonio’s main campus, USAA, Ernest and Young, Hulu, and more. Northwest San Antonio also has the “best damn school districts in town,” he said, attracting families to the area. But that growth brings with it a string of challenges. Traffic congestion is high on each candidate’s list of District 8’s challenges.

District 8 is growing fast and is “changing most quickly also,” Pelaez said. City Council recently approved a study aimed at improving how the Bexar County Appraisal District puts values on homes. Pelaez authored the original plan to initiate the study.

“It’s brave of every single one of my council colleagues [to support the study],” Pelaez said. “It pits them against the taxing authorities who are quite comfortable leaving appraisals alone. It shakes the apple cart.”

Pelaez served as the general counsel for the Bexar County Battered Women and Children’s Shelter for a decade and also worked as an attorney for Toyota Motor Manufacturing. He’s the first to admit he likes having tough conversations, whether it’s advocating for better data to inform more effective domestic violence policies or pushing for the creation of Council’s Innovation and Technology Committee, which he chairs.

Next on his list of priorities is the City’s cybersecurity measures.

“If I get back up there [to City Hall], we’re going to be having a conversation about whether or not we are ready [for a cyberattack],” Pelaez said, referring to City operations, SAWS, and CPS Energy.

Cyber and physical disaster preparedness would be two of his top priorities if re-elected, he said. 

Gonzales-Wolfe’s seat at the table

Gonzales-Wolfe and Valdivia both cited the classic criticism of incumbents: There should be more constituent engagement.

To improve communication between the district office and the community, Gonzales-Wolfe wants to set up an ambitious community council with about 50 representatives from each of the 53 voting precincts in the district with a residential population. She also wants to establish a more interactive portal to allow voices to be heard within the City.

“I’d rather be known as a candidate that tried and failed than just talk,” she said. “I want to truly give the seat in District 8 back to the community.”

Her other top priorities include easing traffic congestion, fostering better transportation connectivity to downtown, and providing incentives to small, local businesses proportional to the incentives given to attract larger companies.

Gonzales-Wolfe grew up behind Mission San José from “extremely humble beginnings,” she said. She’s lived in District 8 for about 20 years and first got involved in politics by volunteering for the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1996, she said.

“I’ve helped other candidates for a long time in hopes that they represent my voice at the table,” she said. “I’m no longer patiently waiting. I’m now demanding a seat.”

The seat would come with difficult days, Gonzales-Wolfe said, noting that City Council’s recent controversial decision to remove Chick-fil-A from the airport concessionaire contract would have hit close to home for her if she had been on the Council dais.

As a “proud transgender woman,” she also understands the “delicate balance, because I’m a woman of faith myself.” 

Gonzales-Wolfe said she probably would have voted alongside the mayor and others to remove the business, but not for the same reasons Pelaez did. He cited Chick-fil-A’s reputation for supporting anti-LGBTQIA institutions and accusations of discrimination. Pelaez later said he regretted his vote and for citing inaccurate information about the company.

Gonzales-Wolfe said she would have approached the matter differently, noting that while she might make the personal choice to not eat at Chick-fil-A, as a Council member she would be representing an entire district. She also acknowledged that the fast food chain has taken measures to improve its corporate culture and hiring practices – and should not be discriminated against because of its religious beliefs.

Gonzales-Wolfe wants to see more local options at the airport and would have voted against it for that reason. “I want to promote small businesses and culture in our city,” she said.

Like anyone on City Council, she said, she can’t “check her identity at the door” before serving as a representative, but stressed that her gender identity is not her defining characteristic.

“I’m not running to be the transgender Council person, I’m running as Frankie who is trying to make a difference in the community,” she said.

Valdivia’s Libertarian values

Valdivia is well aware that his presidential bid may have turned off some voters. Some people might say “here’s a nut job,” he said, laughing, but “I wouldn’t change that experience for the world.”

The people he met, the things he learned, Valdivia said, “led me to a career in politics … and after volunteering at the District 8 office [under then-Councilman Nirenberg], it felt natural to run for City Government.”

In addition to addressing traffic congestion, Valdivia also advocates property tax relief and mitigating homelessness. By bringing Libertarian values to City Hall – smaller, more efficient government and the “right to live our lives as we see fit” – he said the City can stop spending money on Council member’s pet projects so it can instead afford tax relief for homeowners.

City Council is studying implementing a homestead exemption, but previous attempts at reducing the City property tax rate by two Council members stalled soon after they were proposed.

Valdivia, a Tuscon, Arizona, native who moved around a lot with his parents, would like to see San Antonio launch a homelessness program similar to that of Albuquerque.

He wants to see a more proactive approach to constituent engagement and have all of District 8’s discretionary budget be decided by participatory budgeting, in which residents could decide the priorities and projects. District 9 and District 8 have previously experimented with this tool, but at a smaller scale.

As for Chick-fil-A, “I don’t think I would have voted to kick them out.”

The controversy demonstrates that the City’s bidding and contracting process needs an overhaul, he said. “Council could have nipped this in the bud with transparent policies,” he said.

Valdivia was appointed to the City’s Neighborhood Improvements Advisory Committee by Pelaez, but left less than a year later to run for the Senate seat. Pelaez said that and his serial campaigns are examples of a “seriousness problem” on Valdivia’s part. “Running for office is his hobby,” Pelaez said.

Valdivia largely dismisses criticism of his political ambitions because he said his previous campaigns are his way of becoming “more than just a spectator.”

Early voting runs April 22 through April 30. Election day is May 4.

24 thoughts on “Pelaez Points to First-Term Accomplishments as He Faces Two District 8 Challengers

  1. Manny’s tenure as City Councilman has been highly problematic. He ran for City Council because he thought it would be “fun” – but then accuses Valdivia of lacking seriousness? I’ll be voting for anyone but Manny.

  2. That’s how the district should be approached: “painful, horrible days”.

    Wow. Stunned that someone would say that.

    • You don’t think there have been horrible days? Hurricane Harvey, the run on gas stations, police deaths, child abuse cases, etc? These council people get a lot of people’s problems and tragedies dumped at their doorsteps. I’d be shocked if they DIDN’T have some horrible days. I admire that he’s opening up about it. Glad to know my councilman is a human being.

      • Manny is a lazy councilman. He’s so unresponsive because he’s likely too busy complaining about how our legitimate needs make for “painful, horrible days”.

  3. I appreciated the approaches of the two challengers to the Chick-Fil-A. Mr. Pellez has a habit of sticking his foot in his mouth, and I have grown tired of it.

  4. From Pelaez: “If I wasn’t on the ballot, I’d probably vote for Frankie”.

    We may take your advice on May 4th, Councilman. These Democrats want representation.

  5. So underwhelmed by Pelaez’s performance this term. Everything is last-minute, except for how rude he is to constituents. Enough.

  6. Interesting article. Everyone I know is voting for Tony. Never heard of Frankie before this article, but, yeah, still for change, still for Tony.

  7. I have emailed several people in Pelaez’s council office and have never received a reply to my concerns. In fact, I didn’t even receive an email acknowledging I had sent an email. So I email Mr. Pelaez himself and got the same results…nothing. I’ve never had a District 8 council member or his staff provide that kind of service to me and other constituents.

    Also “best damn school districts in town”. Does he know so little about his district to not realize his district lies completely in only ONE school district and not plural as he stated? And he has played no part in that school district (as should be) to make it seem like he can take any credit for it’s successes or even for the fact that his district is within its boundary zone.

  8. Manny Palaez is as much of a joke as everyone knew he would be when he was elected the first time.

    I was so impressed with the response of Ms. Gonzales-Wolfe when she was asked about her stance on the CFA vote. She would have voted against them, but for exactly the same reason that so many others would have been denied them access to the airport. Personally, I never would’ve allowed a business into the airport that wasn’t open on Sundays…whether or not they’re not open for religious reasons. The airport isn’t responsible for meeting the needs of CFA or their religious supporters. CFA is responsible for fitting the needs of the airport and travelers passing through.

    I was afraid that Ms. Gonzales-Wolfe would’ve been too liberal for my comfort. But considering Mr. Valdivia isn’t a serious candidate…and that I wouldn’t vote for Mr. Palaez with a gun pointed to my head…I was prepared to bite the bullet and vote for her.

    Her comments in this article give me much more comfort in not only voting for her, but supporting her as well.

  9. The attack on someone running several times is childish. How many times is it ok to run for office? Isn’t that what people want a democracy for? Choice? Pelaez seems to make fun of that idea.

    Tony is easy to talk to and will listen to people. We all are not always going to agree with each other on how things should be, but its nice to have someone that can earnestly listen and communicate his own ideas instead of making fun of others.

    • Tony Valdivia is the Milton Fagin of District 8. After losing races over and over again, it isn’t unreasonable to wonder if he’s in it to win it or if he’s in it to see his name on the ballot for vanity reasons.

      • Oh, please, Gerry. I have been visited by Mr. Valdivia’s team at my house, and I was impressed by his volunteers. They explained his platform positions to my satisfaction. Not once have I been visited by Manny or Frankie. I was able to meet Mr. Valdivia personally at an event recently as well, and he certainly has my vote.

        • Valdivia is the Will McLeod of District 8. Failed Presidential candidate. Failed Senate candidate, Failed council candidate. He says his career is in politics? You have to actually win once to be taken seriously, dude. Bert Cecconi and Jack Finger are more serious candidates than this Valdivia milquetoast.

          • John Courage has run for office many more times than Valdivia. Courage’s tenacity is cheered on by many, so there is no reason why a replacement for Pelaez with a great platform shouldn’t be given that same opportunity. These double standards are so transparent.

  10. I’ve actually met Tony Valdivia, and heck he is running the most serious campaign I’ve seen for city council. He has a great plan with actual thought out steps and he is driven by conviction, not just saying what people want to hear or doing it because it seems “fun.” People who want to be taken seriously are voting for Tony.

  11. I’ll be voting for Tony. His website has the most detailed platform of all the candidates, and that is what I care about – details on the issues.

  12. Valdivia lists as his qualifications for this seat his service on the Neighborhood Improvements Commission and the MOVE board. He quit those boards to run for Carlos Uresti’s seat? Really? Hahahaha.

    Yeah, he’s a very serious guy. As serious as one of the Three Stooges. Gimme a break.

    • This is the kind of invective that Manny has created a home for in District 8. What a shame that this behavior is his trademark. Vote Pelaez OUT.

      • Today I got to meet Valdivia at the polls. He gave me a little card that lists those organizations. If he quit them to run for Uresti’s seat, then I consider his card to be a bit dishonest. Not good.

  13. None of the candidates have a workable position on transportation. Simple geometry tells us we need many more buses in District 8, but that is not mentioned by any candidate. Simple freedom tells us that we should have some choice, but that is not mentioned either. It is all about cars, cars, and more cars. You must have a car so the truly important people can have their profits. There are billions spent on cars by TxDOT, the City, and the County, so we can have the largest and most expensive traffic jams in District 8 history. I keep hoping for a City Council candidate with vision for a city, but all I get are car-park promoters.

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