Steele Talks of Scare Tactics in Newly Released Fire Union Recordings

Print Share on LinkedIn Comments More
San Antonio Fire Fighter Association President Chris Steele.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

San Antonio Fire Fighter Association President Chris Steele.

The Go Vote No campaign on Tuesday released six more audio clips of firefighters union President Chris Steele that further describe his political, social media, and contract negotiation strategies. Two previous recordings illuminated similar goals, but the new recordings outline Steele's perception of the union's power locally and statewide.

"There's no one stronger than us, politically," Steele said in one of the recordings. “So, [in] 2019, there’s going to be some legislation to take care of contracts, take care of insurance, and some other things that we’re going to pass for us."

In the 2017 recordings, Steele said the union could use San Antonio's crime rates to dissuade people from coming to Tricentennial celebrations and make Mayor Ron Nirenberg "bow down" during labor contract talks. Television and social media ads would make Nirenberg "cry uncle," Steele said, and Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6), who has worked for the police and fire unions, would "knock him out [as mayor] in May of 2019." Steele also implied that the union used social media to pressure Fire Chief Charles Hood while on a trip to Phoenix.

"The so-called 'secret recordings' are just another attempt by the No campaign to deflect discussion away from the issues," Steele stated in a news release Tuesday in response. "Don't be fooled, be focused on the choice at hand: reform City Hall and end corruption and backroom deals, or let the lobbyists and special interest silence your voice and stay in control."

The Go Vote No camp's release of the recordings, along with its press conference Monday with Nirenberg and four previous mayors, is part of the group's final push to connect with voters ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

The San Antonio First (or Vote Yes) campaign "is all about his [Chris Steele's] agenda," Go Vote No campaign manager Christian Archer told the Rivard Report. "It's not about the people or the city. It's all about Chris Steele's power."

In the recording, Steele is heard incorrectly saying that San Antonio has the highest crime rate in the nation. "We're No. 1."

“Don’t come to San Antonio for the 300 year because you’re not going to be safe,” Steele said.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus disputes that claim.

"People who live in San Antonio know that it is one of the safest big cities in America," McManus said in an email to the Rivard Report. "The numbers speak for themselves: violent and property crime is down 17 percent, and to say otherwise is an insult to the hardworking men and women in my department.”

The overall crime rate, according to SAPD and FBI data, has declined by 21 percent since 1995 despite spiking in 1996, 2001, and 2008.

Archer said following Hood and threatening to scare people about the City's tricentennial celebrations are "blatant attacks on the city."

"It speaks volumes about how Chris Steele could care less about anything but his own private agenda," Archer said.

But none of what is said in the recording is necessarily new or surprising information, Brockhouse said in an email to the Rivard Report.

"Everyone knows fire supports me and I support them," he said. "Every company, nonprofit, or business PAC in this town strategizes for political reasons. This slow drip of recordings is tired already. Let the voters decide on the merits of the propositions and enough already with the manufactured drama to help the Go Vote No campaign."

The San Antonio Express-News independently obtained the audio from a Fire Department source earlier this week. Archer said he could not identify the source that had recorded and shared the audio with his campaign, but that it was one of many on-duty firefighters who attended Steele's address believed to have occurred in a firehouse in November or December of last year.

“I’m not going to respond to Chris Steele’s union rhetoric," Hood said via email. "He’s got a political agenda; I’ve got a fire department to run."

The San Antonio First campaign for the petitions, which is also known as Approved By Citizens, publicly launched in February 2018. The warring sides have filed lawsuits, ethics complaints, and traded blows at public debates ever since.

Several individuals and businesses have been vocal about their positions on this matter, including Bexar County Democratic Party Chair Monica Alcántara, who released a statement Monday denouncing the propositions and clarifying her party's involvement with the fire union. Recent Approved By Citizen advertisements touted endorsements from both the Republican and Democratic parties of Bexar County.

"I believe the proposed amendments to our city charter are rooted in a fundamental distrust of our government. They seek to dupe the citizens of San Antonio into ceding even more power over to developers and other special interests by exploiting our natural inclination to make government more accountable to the people," Alcántara said. "It is my opinion that the proponents of these propositions are engaging in the same Trump-style populist tactics that Democrats are working so hard to fight against."

9 thoughts on “Steele Talks of Scare Tactics in Newly Released Fire Union Recordings

  1. Could you imagine the chaos that would ensue if every company/corporation that didn’t get its way in San Antonio knew all they had to do was hire a company in Buda to collect 20,000 signatures to get their initiative on a city ballot? There’s a lot of corporate money out there that can easily hire such a company an easily finance an ad campaign to blur the line and get the vote on their side. Same goes for any special interest groups. It’s not even about who’s right or who’s wrong. The divisiveness that these propositions have caused is proof enough that making it easier to challenge our elected officials creates chaos!

  2. Fire Chief Hood is supervisor ( can discipline ) of Fire Union Steele; why is that NO fire/para/emt skilled employee still on the Payroll? I am a tax paying COSA rate payer, I CAN NOT elect him as Fire Union President, only those (current?) fire personnel. Why would you want a Select Few ( Fire Personnel ) determine FUTURE of COSA? Let Evergreen run its course- ESTABLISH a Bexar County Fire Department- COSA encompasses most of the County!

  3. I like the idea of workers’ rights. But unions tend to eventually put their wants ahead of what is good for their job security. The US auto industry almost completely failed because the unions just never got enough and didn’t realize that they were killing the hand that fed them with their demands. Now it seems that fire and police unions are trying the same tactic without worrying about whether they have s future or not. Steele seems to think that there MUST be public firemen, but there are always alternatives which the automobile unions learned. I can tell you from having lived in Denmark for 20 years that fire and ambulance services can be privatized successfully! Vote no on these three propositions which are just another attempt to reach too far by the firemen’s union.

  4. The point that is clearly missing in all this debate is who ever heard of a bunch of city officials and big business owners promoting a VOTE NO campaign? I am from a big city, with no city manager, and I was explaining this phenomenon to a friend from that city at lunch yesterday. He was a stunned as I was. I told him to notice all the VOTE NO signs. Clearly, San Antonians are like lemmings. Just do what you’re told and everything will be just fine. Is that why the voter turn out here is so poor? Not to mention that people who should vote for things that should (immigration for one) matter to them are conflicted by what they are told in church? Same thing.

    • You were just wanting business and city leaders to play dead while Mr Steele’s disinformation campaign throws the city in a ditch?
      Thank goodness they began speaking up and out!

    • And you reside in SA, currently? What prompted you to relocate? Any way, us Lemmings do care about Future of COSA- will see what Ballot Box says.

    • Jfs –I’m also from a big city with no city manager and one that allows more citizen input and again and again I have felt the same thing you have said, that locals here in SA are very much used to being told what to do or feared into decisions. I dont’ want to make conclusions, but religion and military are much stronger bases here than where I came from, and I believe those institutions teach you to not question as much and to follow directions. However A good democracy or city involves more citizen involvement and isn’t a church or army…. I have seen not one single local article comparing other cities that do things different and why that’s also okay or could be really good for a growing city! San Antonio is more well known for ‘acting small town’ than being a global cosmopolitan outside the box thinker. I love San Antonio (and part of it is that small city charm — when it’s charming, and not eye rolling) but I don’t like how the city leaders are bullies or feeding worse case scenario stories as truth to the citizens. It’s been eye-opening with my ‘outside eyes’ to watch. I don’t get to vote on this as I live in one of the small towns within SA… and I’m not hear to say which way to vote. But I really think each person should do their own research and think for themselves and vote freely the way they would like not because someone told them to.

  5. Why doesn’t anyone talk about WHERE the millions of dollars the “No” people are coming from. Why is so much money being spent to keep citizens silent on how their city is run. This is so trumpian !
    Speaking of trump : chairman Alcantara is denying democratic process. We were way over quorum when we voted eighty something for the amendments and twenty something against. She consistently ignores the majority for her own agenda.
    She and her minority spend all their time spreading falsehoods and dissention. The majority of us are working 24/7 for our Democratic Candidates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *