Hannah Whisenant / Rivard Report
Five candidates in the June 10 mayoral and City Council runoff elections restated their support Monday for action on affordable housing, immigrants’ rights, and living wages.
The candidates appeared before a crowd of more than 200 people at Dominion Church of God in Christ, where COPS/Metro Alliance held a "get out the vote" rally. Runoff contestants from Council Districts 1, 2, and 6; and Mayor Ivy Taylor and her challenger, Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8), were invited to the event. Taylor, District 2 challenger William "Cruz" Shaw," and District 6 candidate Greg Brockhouse did not attend.
COPS/Metro Alliance officials described the rally as an informational event, where the remaining candidates could publicly address support for more money for owner-occupied home improvements, protections for undocumented immigrants, and economic security for wage-earning City workers.
These same issues were raised at an April accountability session, where COPS/Metro Alliance members sought "yes" or "no" pledges from 19 candidates ahead of the May 6 election.
This time around, COPS/Metro Alliance also asked candidates if they would keep working with their organization and support the City joining legal action against the state's ban on sanctuary cities. All attending candidates said "yes" to all questions posed by COPS/Metro Alliance on Monday, including Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) and Councilwoman-elect Ana Sandoval (D7), who already won their districts.
Shaw attended the April accountability session, where he pledged support for COPS/Metro Alliance's objectives. Neither Taylor nor Brockhouse attended the previous session.
Representatives from more than one dozen member churches of COPS/Metro Alliance said their teams of parishioners and congregationalists are committed to mobilizing more than 9,300 registered voters to the polls for the runoffs. Each runoff was triggered by less than 5,000 votes separating the two top candidates. Early voting begins May 30.
"This isn't a campaign rally. This is a get out the vote rally to create a more just City," church Superintendent Geoffrey Stirrup said Monday at the Eastside church. "Elections belong to the people. However, this is only true if we practice the essential right of voting."
Maria Tijerina, a COPS/Metro Alliance leader, said Taylor was invited many times to Monday's rally, adding that the mayor did not commit a response to any of the organization's questions.
"We're fiercely nonpartisan, but we do tell our constituencies who's in favor of the COPS/Metro Alliance agenda," Tijerina told the crowd.
Political consultant Colin Strother, who is running Taylor's campaign, stated in a text to the Rivard Report that a scheduling conflict prevented her attendance on Monday.
"[The] mayor met with them last week to hear about their priorities," Strother stated, "She's been very supportive of their initiatives. ... She looks forward to continuing to work with them to make San Antonio a great place for every family."
The June runoff will help determine the future of San Antonio and decide: "What kind of City do we want to be?" Nirenberg asked the crowd.
He would aggressively push the organization's goals, he said, including a call for an affordable housing plan that offers help with home rehabilitation, which would allow long-time residents to age in place.
He also advocated a living wage for City employees and contract workers, and fair treatment of all people, regardless of race, religion, citizenship status, gender identity or sexual preference. An overwhelming majority of LGBTQIA groups have endorsed Nirenberg over Taylor in the race.
"You will be treated with the respect and dignity that every San Antonian deserves," he added.
Both District 1 candidates, incumbent Roberto Treviño and challenger Michael Montaño, support the Alliance's agenda. Treviño finished with 4,408 votes on May 6, just less than 49% and not enough to win outright Montaño won 2,843 votes, or 31%. Four other candidates accounted for the other less than 20% of the district vote.
Treviño pledged to encourage greater community involvement on the issues of importance to COPS/Metro Alliance constituencies.
"We want to bring more voices together," he added.
Treviño also said the community will be united against actions that the state and federal governments have taken on immigration and sanctuary cities.
"Fear will not conquer us," he added.
Montaño pledged to organize neighborhoods across District 1 and citywide to act on COPS/Metro Alliance's issues. He said community organization could counter the influence that developers and special interests have exerted on City leaders.
"We're going to create change that will bring power to the people," he added.
From District 2, Councilman Alan Warrick endorsed COPS/Metro Alliance's idea of increasing the City's investment in owner-occupied rehabilitation to $4.9 million by reallocating money from community redevelopment funds and the San Antonio Housing Trust Fund.
Warrick pointed to the recent Rehabarama event that produced a day's worth of improvements for a handful of Denver Heights homes. It's not right for longtime homeowners, especially senior citizens, to live in deteriorating homes just because they cannot afford repairs on their own, he said.
Warrick won 2,410 votes, shy of 41% of the turnout in District 2, while Shaw finished second with 1,689 votes, 28.64%. Keith Toney, who was appointed to the council seat when Taylor was appointed mayor in July 2014 and then lost in the May 2015 election to Warrick, finished third with 1,380 votes, 23.4%. Toney has since endorsed Warrick amid accusations from Shaw's camp that the endorsement was for sale.
Melissa Cabello Havrda, Brockhouse's competitor in the District 6 race to succeed outgoing Councilman Ray Lopez, pledged to raise the level of civic engagement.
She talked of visiting longtime homeowners on the campaign trail, hearing from residents who long to share their experiences that reflect COPS/Metro Alliance's agenda.
"I want to bring community to City Hall," she added.
Cabello Havrda also agreed it is important for the City to have certain protections for undocumented immigrants.
"You shouldn't be afraid of going to work when you're undocumented," she said.
In the May 6 election, Brockhouse was the strongest of eight candidates. He finished with 3,064 votes, 36%, while all evening Cabello Havrda and Ricardo “Rick” Treviño were in a dead heat with 20% of the vote each. In the end, Cabello Havrda she won a runoff spot by a margin of 28 votes over Treviño.
Fr. Ramon Gonzales of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church told the crowd that COPS/Metro Alliance's agenda should help to shape a vision for what San Antonians want to see from their City government.
Mayor Taylor's absence at the rally and her non-committal on the organization's issues, are puzzling, he said, adding that her answers, at least, would help to inform the electorate.
"[But] we can't dwell on why [Taylor] isn't here," he added. "We need to get out the vote."