San Antonio Pauses Grant Request Amid FAA Investigation

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The City of San Antonio has put grant applications to the FAA on hold while an investigation from the administration is ongoing.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The San Antonio International Airport will be replacing a taxiway through a grant funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The City of San Antonio is waiting to submit its application for nearly $14 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration as the City complies with an investigation of City Council’s vote to remove Chick-fil-A from an airport concessions contract.

“In light of the FAA’s notification of a pending investigation we felt it was prudent to postpone FAA funding-related items until we have a better understanding of the scope of the investigation,” City Attorney Andy Segovia said in a statement Thursday.

The FAA’s Office of Civil Rights opened an investigation last week into complaints that the decision to remove the fast food restaurant violated a policy that prohibits discrimination based on religious creed. This came after State Attorney General Ken Paxton launched his own investigation into the decision, and the First Liberty Institute, a conservative nonprofit dedicated to preserving religious liberties, asked the federal government to investigate.

Airports or airport activities that receive funding are subject to the anti-discrimination policy, according to the letter from Michael Freilich, director of the office’s national external operations program.

On Thursday, Council was slated to approve a grant application for funds that would support two airfield improvement projects ($11.4 million) as well as funding for the development of strategic development plans ($2.5 million). Council also delayed consideration of a contract with another company to update a noise exposure map that involved FAA grants.

These are on pause until the City can identify impacts that the FAA investigation will have on current and future FAA grants, said Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras. “We are consulting with legal counsel,” he said. “We anticipate bringing those items back to Council for action soon.”

At a March City Council meeting, Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) introduced a motion to approve a concessions contract with the requirement that Chick-fil-A be excluded from a list of potential airport restaurants because, he stated, he could not support a company with “a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

The contract passed 6-4, but the decision has since become a political issue in the mayor’s race, with Nirenberg and Brockhouse on opposite sides. Brockhouse has used his vote against the contract and Nirenberg’s vote to approve it to paint the mayor as someone who doesn’t value religious freedom, a stance that has gained the councilman support from conservative groups.

Nirenberg has maintained he voted for the amended contract because Chick-fil-A restaurants close on Sundays and he wanted travelers to have all vendor options available every day of the week.

“This FAA grant is free money,” Brockhouse said in a campaign news release Wednesday. “Ron’s poor leadership and bad decisions have made it so that we can’t even accept millions in free money.”

Via text message, Nirenberg called Brockhouse’s statement “more theater without substance.”

“Religion had nothing to do with the decisions regarding the airport,” he said. “The [FAA] complaint was made strictly for political reasons, and we are confident it will be resolved in our favor.”

11 thoughts on “San Antonio Pauses Grant Request Amid FAA Investigation

  1. It doesn’t make sense to let Chick-fil-A to have a spot, Sunday is one of the busiest if not the busiest day for travelers. The airport needs services that can accommodate all travelers at all reasonable times.
    It doesn’t matter who donated to who, Chick-fil-A is making more than enough from brick and mortar stores as every one I go to is crowded!

    • Unless the original Request For Proposal sent to ALL bidders on the contract specifically stated the days and times vendors must be open, it is STILL discrimination. You can’t change the parameters of the RFP after bids are submitted unless you start all over and send the same RFP to all bidders. I spent 20 years on both sides of government contracts, that is as a government employee submitting RFPs and as a project manager in industry bidding on them. Ron and SA City Council were WAY, WAY, WAY off base with this. Bunch of idiots.

  2. Thanks a lot Brockhouse. San Antonio airport is already criminally underserved (5 nonstops a week out of Austin to Europe and we can barely get to Mexico City out of SAT). Now with your hot button, dog whistle to the drooling Fox New crowd that somehow a fast food chicken joint is their key to salvation – we’re screwed again! Vote for Nirenberg – not the “one trick pony!”

  3. First, CFA makes more mi eye in 6 days than other vendors make in 7…so it is in the financial interest of the city to go w revenue producers!

    Second, Nirenberg voted to ban CFA based on Trevinos motion which did not mention closing on Sunday. Nirenberg lies -blatantly-when he backtracks in his vote. He only came up w the closed on Sunday AFTER there was so much local and national blowback on the decision.

    Third, it’s not about CFA. It’s about the city not following the fair and legal process in selecting vendors. CFA was included as a vendor based on the RFP-which outlines city requirements for consideration. CFA met all city requirements, but was subjected to additional requirements based on one councilman’s politics. That was unfair and sets SA up as an unfair city to do business with. Nirenberg and CC should know the process for selecting vendors-the fact that they didn’t is inexcusable—especially from a mayor-who then had the opportunity to right the wrong-and didn’t!

    Lots of luck w the city lawsuit…

    • Anne,

      I agree with you 100%! What this Mayor did was inexcusable, and the CC as well. They all had a chance to make it right, and failed to do it. What a shame!

    • It’s shameful that SA is in a position now that has to wait for a much needed grant to modernize the airport because of the position taken by the CC and the mayors pandering. The airport needs an upgrade and needs to compete!

      Bad moves! Way to go Mayor!

    • Anne, if a prospective airport vendor was known to contribute to the KKK or antisemitic groups, would you want them making profits in our airport — profits that would benefit the KKK or antisemitic groups? CFA openly supports organizations opposed to civil rights for LGBTQ people. All this has nothing to do with the specific religion embraced by CFA executives; it is all to do with what discriminating organizations CFA chooses to support.

      • Those organizations are not “opposed to civil rights for LGBTQ people.” Religious beliefs are not civil rights. CFA does NOT discriminate in any way in their hiring or service. Learn what a civil right is.

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