Mayor Ron Nirenberg will join Rivard Report Editor and Publisher Robert Rivard at the Pearl Stable on Wednesday, Sept. 18, for an in-depth conversation about the mayor’s agenda as he settles into his second term in the seat.
Tickets are available online here, and discounts are available for students and Rivard Report members. Breakfast starts at 8 a.m. and the program starts at 8:30 a.m. A Q&A session with the audience will take place after the hourlong discussion.
After narrowly defeating former Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) in a divisive June runoff election, Nirenberg said he’s maintaining momentum on critical initiatives such as the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, affordable housing, and ConnectSA, which aims to produce a voter-approved comprehensive multimodal transportation plan.
“We’re transitioning in some ways from early planning, to community involvement and adoption, and quickly into implementation,” Nirenberg said of his second term. “You can see that most dramatically in the housing and climate work [City Council is part of].”
Putting those two issues as top priorities of the city, he said, has “allowed us to now get into serious conversations about allocating resources.”
Those funding priorities emerged during budget discussions Council and the community engaged in this summer. Council is poised to approve next year’s $2.9 billion budget on Sept. 12. The City’s fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.
The results of that process, too, will be a topic of discussion at breakfast the next week.
Some have criticized the climate action plan for watering down some of the specific goals and cost generalizations associated with reducing the City’s carbon footprint after others in the business community balked at the plan.
Nirenberg says the policy framework “doesn’t budge on its overall goal of carbon neutrality in 2050.”
A paid sick leave requirement, or the current lack thereof, has also been a difficult issue for the mayor and City Council to maneuver. A committee is expected to finalize its recommendations for a modified ordinance this week after the city attorney, at the direction of Council, delayed implementation of the original.
“Our goal should be to ensure that we maintain the spirit of the petitioners request and we prevent people who are simply taking their kids to the doctor from having their jobs be jeopardized,” he said.
City Council is slated to consider the modified ordinance in October.
The City’s labor contract with the firefighters union is now largely out of City Council’s hands as the union has triggered binding arbitration. A panel of three arbitrators will soon start meeting in December to decide the terms of the contract. It will no longer require a vote by Council.
“I’m hopeful it will be a fair contract to taxpayers and to our first responders. That’s all we’ve ever wanted,” he said. “We got sideways, politically, years ago and there’s been a lot of ill feelings and conflict brought into our community because of it, and I’m hoping that this is an opportunity for us all to press reset on those relationships and all work on the same team again.”
That conflict infiltrated the mayoral elections this year as Brockhouse, who used to work for the public safety unions, was the police and firefighters’ candidate of choice. They poured thousands of dollars into Brockhouse’s campaign.
A chief criticism Brockhouse had of Nirenberg’s first term was that there were more planning efforts than action.
“It’s the nature of fundamental change that it’s sometimes difficult to satisfy those who are interested in more instant gratification,” Nirenberg said. “These are all big boulders to move and we started moving them from day one in 2017.” Embedding equity and compassion has been a signature effort of the last two years, he said. And it’s only possible because of the support of City Council that he said is working well together.
“There will always be differences of opinion,” he said. “That’s what makes us stronger and that’s what allows us to hammer out policy that’s better than if it was just a bunch of people singing from the same hymnal.”