Union’s Chris Steele to Firefighters: Push Hard for Brockhouse in Mayor’s Race

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Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) embraces with San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association President Chris Steele.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) embraces San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association President Chris Steele in April 2018.

The firefighters union is putting its full force behind District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse’s bid for mayor, union President Chris Steele wrote in a letter to members, and will be staying out of other City Council races.

“Defeating an incumbent Mayor is a near impossibility,” Steele wrote. “Therefore: 1. We are not going to get involved in ANY [other] city council races. Our focus must be on the Mayor’s race on-line. 2. If we work this race similar to the charter VoteYES campaign, Greg will win hands down. 3. When Greg wins, we can rest knowing that our #1 city leader cares about the safety of the citizens.”

Two of the three union-backed propositions were approved in November that limited pay and tenure for city managers and granted the union unilateral impasse declaration rights with binding arbitration in labor contract negotiations. But Steele said the union faces a tougher battle getting voters to support Brockhouse.

“We will need ALL the firefighters to man the polls…,” wrote Steele. The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association union had firefighters and other representatives near most polling locations during early voting and on Election Day in November. “I am not going to ‘sugar coat’ this. The ask ‘To vote for Greg Brockhouse’ is much more difficult to win, than the ask [in support of the propositions].”

It’s more difficult, he told the Rivard Report Monday night, because politicians in general are a tougher sell than the issues that propositions A, B, and C addressed.

“When you poll any and every politician versus a firefighter — firefighters are number one in credibility …. and respect over any occupation,” Steele said. A voter might like Brockhouse, for instance, but “hate Chick-fil-A.”

The union has been aggressively advertising on Facebook on Brockhouse’s behalf. It’s not yet clear how much its political action committee will raise and spend on the mayoral campaign this season, but it would need to be a substantial amount to fill the gap between the roughly $152,000 that Nirenberg has raised compared to Brockhouse’s $51,000 – as reported in their most recent campaign finance reports.

Steele said the union PAC had not set a fundraising goal, and it remains to be seen if it will buy television and print advertising.

Nirenberg ousted an incumbent, first-term Mayor Ivy Taylor, two years ago after entering the last month of the race with roughly half the amount of funding Taylor had on hand. That race sent them into a runoff.

“There’s absolutely nothing surprising here,” Brockhouse said Monday evening. He had not seen the letter until the Rivard Report sent him an excerpt, he said. There are strict rules prohibiting contact between political action campaigns and candidates. “Firefighters support me and I support them. I don’t run from that. … Ron has a boatload of supporters and they’re going to rally, too.”

During a candidate debate last week, Nirenberg said Brockhouse’s support lies only with union “political hacks” and not with the general membership of the union. Both police and fire unions have endorsed Brockhouse.

But firefighters and police officers and their families who show up to poll sites, Brockhouse said, not just union officials.

“The union head’s latest statement proves yet again that Councilman Brockhouse doesn’t pull his own strings,” Kelton Morgan, Nirenberg’s campaign manager, said via text. “The union is doubling down on the $478,000 they put in Councilman Brockhouse’s pocket before he became a councilman by being the sole source of financial and political support of Councilman Brockhouse’s mayoral campaign.”

Firefighters, police, and pension unions paid Brockhouse through PACs for marketing and political consulting work he did over two years starting in 2014.

Brockhouse said he dropped the unions as clients before he announced he was running to represent District 6, and describing it as a payoff is a gross mischaracterization, he added.

“I have marketing and advertising fees, I put billboards up, I build websites for their public outreach,” Brockhouse said during a live mayoral debate on Texas Public Radio Monday afternoon. “[A small-business owner] would understand that you have income in and expenses out.”

Meanwhile, the union continues its negotiations with the City on a labor contract. The years-long wait for a new contract has been marked by political battles, lawsuits, and appeals. The union declined all invitations from City officials to negotiate until Brockhouse sent an open letter to the union calling for talks to begin after the November election and the City dropped a lawsuit against the current contracts 10-year evergreen clause.

“I’m the only person [the public safety unions] trust in City Hall,” Brockhouse said during the broadcast. “My commitment to the citizens of San Antonio is: They will be first in the conversation.”

Steele wrote in his letter that the City “has not been bargaining in good faith.” The two sides have met 10 times over the past few months and don’t seem any closer to a deal than before, but not for lack of effort.

“We are prepared to go the distance,” Steele wrote. “We are prepared to make sure our members have the best opportunity to receive the wages, benefits, and working conditions they deserve.”

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

19 thoughts on “Union’s Chris Steele to Firefighters: Push Hard for Brockhouse in Mayor’s Race

  1. Not voting for Brockhouse. Total joke, bought and paid for by the union. He doesn’t represent San Antonio’s interest he represents a unions interest in giving them the richest benefits of any
    Major city in the nation. We are not a wealthy city and can’t afford to give the firefighters and police officers free healthcare to themselves and dependents. We need to pay for things like street repairs and a real public transportation system. We will never get there if this corrupt Brockhouse gets elected.

  2. I think the city should allow its hard working pothole maintenance crews, in uniform, along with other city employees to also go to the polls to lend their support to the candidates who Chris Steele said have been leaving pot holes unfilled, despite the fact that potholes are being filled at a record pace by these hard working crews.

  3. I support our firefighters, they do a great job, that isn’t questionable, but their leadership (Union) seems to make all of their arguments, a case of good vs. evil. Perhaps that is what works best in negotiations. To demonize the mayor by implying that he doesn’t care about the safety of the citizens is very ugly. This pair (Steele and Brockhouse) know that this tactic is the easiest, simplest means of getting their way (cheapest). I know they’ll say that Nirenberg has taken shots at the union leadership (Brockhouse would frame it as “Mayor is going after your hard working, god loving firemen” or stating that the mayor doesn’t appreciate the hard working men and women of the fire department). The mayor doesn’t have a problem with firefighters, even those who are going to vote for his opponent.

    I hope that Greg Brockhouse will learn in life how to be cordial with those who “get in his way”, it is there in his DNA, he just has to find it. At this point in his life, he doesn’t know how to act, even after he wins, like after Props B & C passed, saying “Ron got his feelings hurt” no need for that kind of crap, very childish behavior. I actually agree with him on LOTS of things, RNC, Amazon, ChickFilA, and other issues. However, from the very first week in office, Brockhouse made it clear that he wasn’t going to work with anyone who disagreed with him, his childish posturing behavior is a big part of why I’m not voting for him. He’s like the polar opposite of the very respectful, (guy who’ll kindly disagree with you) Will Hurd.

    I can’t believe all of the firemen collecting money in boots that me and my family give money to, this past week and many dozens of times over dozens of years really actually approve of the nasty way Mr. Steele conducts his business. My family will always be supportive of the firemen, how could we not. But to see how their Union leadership has conducted its business makes me wonder if most firemen would conduct themselves the same way. When we put the money in the boot, there is a feeling of community, something special that gives you a warm feeling. Something tells me that most of those fire fighters would behave differently if in power, than the way Mr. Steele and Mr. Brockhouse behave, or don’t behave. I think that these two guys will eventually become more respectful and grow up, I just don’t expect it within three weeks.

    • I enjoy that Brockhouse doesn’t participate in backroom deals (executive sessions). Local government shouldn’t have anything to hide. That said, he hasn’t earned my vote.

      Niremberg’s negative campaign might push me over to the other side. I’d rather hear him talk about the issues.

  4. Brockhouse and Steele do more harm than good to the overall image of firefighters. All the money they’ve spent on them could’ve been used to mitigate their health care costs instead. Their FAIR health care costs that everyone else pays too.

  5. The mayor is a public image of a city BEYOND our city limits.
    No way do I see Mr. Brockhouse reflecting this city in a positive way.

  6. City council members are elected to represent their entire district NOT a union. The Mayor is elected to represent the entire city population NOT a union. Brockhouse needs to realize the voters want someone who can help San Antonio grow and prosper. He will be dealing with water, public works, transportation, etc and not just helping one union at expense of other city needs.

  7. Here’s the problem: Nirenberg is not a leader, but Brockhouse is a tool of the unions who will place this city in financial distress if they get what they want from “their” man. No good choices in this election cycle.

  8. I supported Nirenberg last time and have been bitterly disappointed. However, I find myself in the same position I was in during the last presidential election. I have to support the lesser of two evils. Brockhouse is even worse than Hillary, so Nirenberg would get my vote.

  9. As a family member of 4 firefighters, I really hate watching Brockhouse and Steele exploit residents’ admiration of firefighters for their own selfish gain.

  10. There is a difference between “safety of the citizens” and “firefighter benefits”. I’m not voting for any puppet, and Mr Brockhouse has too many strings attached to him.

  11. Once again I’ve been muzzled by the Rivard Report. If they don’t like what you say or agree with you they won’t print your comment. How’s that for balanced reporting?

    • I believe Bobby’s muzzling is a method of not saying anything about Mr. Brockhouse’s position while trying to denigrate the RR. SAFD needs new Union Leadership. Mr. Steele is overpaid and change is what will get the SAFD a fair deal. A new mayor doesn’t bode well for the city or its Fire Department.

  12. Brockhouse just seems corrupted and only looking out for his own and the the Citizens of San Antonio. If he is elected , he will be the most arrogant, manipulative Mayor dating back to to who knows when. Citizens of San Antonio do not vote for Brockhouse.

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