Mayoral Candidates' Visions Include Lower Taxes, Health Care For All ... And Creating A New State | Texas Public Radio

Mayoral Candidates' Visions Include Lower Taxes, Health Care For All ... And Creating A New State

May 2, 2019

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg seeks re-election against eight other challengers, including Councilman Greg Brockhouse. The two officeholders have received most of the public's attention. But the race has also attracted lesser-known candidates -- all men -- from a variety of backgrounds and professions, including veterans, teachers and scientists. And they all have their own visions for San Antonio's future.

Details on these lesser-known candidates came from interviews, campaign filings and the League of Women Voters of San Antonio. Some candidates did not respond to TPR's repeated requests for interviews. None are pictured because not all candidates provided photos.

Tim Atwood

Atwood described himself in his filing papers as a part-time middle school teacher. He said if elected his top objective would be to slow excessive spending by city government. He doesn't want the city’s AAA bond rating to fool voters because the city has racked up a lot of debt.

“According to the pie chart in the San Antonio 2019 budget, we are up to 24 percent of our general fund budget going for debt relief,” Atwood said.

He said his second priority would be to fight against rising home appraisals so a $150,000 house is not appraised at $200,000, forcing homeowners to pay more taxes than they should be liable for. He said a third priority would be a hold on what he calls the city’s “costly rapid transit plans” and consider other viable options.

Atwood said the city should focus on meeting EPA regulations and standards already in place on air and water pollution and carbon emissions. He said the regulations and standards are needed to mitigate climate change. He believed the climate is changing but perhaps not as rapidly as some reports and scientists believe.

Atwood said the best approach to meeting the city’s future transportation needs is to address present needs. He claimed the city wanted to spend $2 billion on a rapid transit system instead of addressing basic problems like potholes or city streets that have not been paved in 20 years.

Carlos Castanuela

Castaneda works as a quality inspector at Toyota. He said his top three priorities are street improvements, removing Police Chief William McManus from office and reducing domestic violence against women in San Antonio.

Castanuela said street improvements, including road widening, are needed to reduce traffic congestion. He also said McManus should be removed from office after the city racked up legal bills for court costs after police released a group of migrants without involving federal immigration officials. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed suit against the city over the action under the state’s new anti-sanctuary cities law.

He would also close drive-thru businesses on Sundays also to reduce pollution.

“Maybe pass an ordinance on like every Sunday have the auto drive-thrus close. That’s the first step ... San Antonio should do because I think it will eliminate 20 to 25 percent of emissions.” Castanuela said.

He said something must be done to address traffic congestion on Loop 1604. He favored building a double-deck highway on 1604’s most congested areas. He also said the city is not ready for a rapid transit system and the tax burden it will bring.

Bert Cecconi

Bert Cecconi is an Air Force veteran. He said his top priority, if elected, would be workforce preparation through free tuition at junior colleges without raising taxes. He also said something must be done now to keep traffic flowing and prevent more gridlock on roads and streets. He also opposed to city contracts with evergreen clauses. He said he would take action on those three priorities during his first three months in office if elected.

When it comes to climate change, he said the city should adopt clean air procedures that are within its control.

On transportation, Cecconi said a number of steps are possible to reduce the number of vehicles on city roads during peak rush hours. He said funding to implement them could be found. He said taxpayers need to look at transportation improvement costs as being in their best interests and an investment in themselves.

Antonio Diaz

Antonio Diaz is a community activist who believes SAWS, CPS Energy, and VIA Transit are operated more as corporate businesses than the public utilities they really are. He said all public services should benefit the ratepayers and citizens and not to profit from them. He also said affordable housing and public safety are priorities. Diaz believed the San Antonio Police Department Citizen Review Board needed more power to hold police accountable.

On climate change, Diaz said he was opposed to coal-burning power plants and supported a switch to solar power technology. He said more green areas, less concrete and more clean-burning vehicles should be used for public transportation. He said that, if elected, he would support the Paris climate accord.

Diaz said VIA receives revenue from a dedicated half-cent retail tax to supply San Antonio with 24-hour service, and he claimed it was not doing so. He said VIA is vital to public transportation needs and must expand to keep up with population growth. He said he supported the use of scooters and electric bikes to help meet inner-city transportation needs.

Michael Idrogo

Michael Idrogo is a Navy veteran. He said his top priority as mayor would be to increase airport traffic from 8 million to 29 million. He said his past business experience would help him accomplish that. He aspired to build a Riverwalk-like tourist attraction from San Antonio to the Gulf Coast. He said the coast is the biggest tourist destination. Idrogo said he would cut taxes to as low as zero to put more money in residents' pockets.

Idrogo said the city’s role in addressing climate change for one million residents was of vital importance. He said a major impact on climate change that is never discussed are air conditioners, which he claimed produce more heat.

Matt Pina

Matt Pina listed his occupation as political scientist. He said better access to health care, affordable housing and public safety would top his agenda if elected. He said he would make all city meetings available online with bookmarks on archived material to make information easier to find.

He said addressing climate change was more of a cultural problem than an institutional one. Pina said city officials must make San Antonio a zero-waste city.

He said people should be planning their own transportation needs. Pina said automated cars and new transportation inventions and innovations will change how people move from place to place. He said the city should look at a variety of transportation options and not put all of its “eggs in one basket.” He said those who could make San Antonio a smart city should be invited to discussions about how to accomplish that.

John Velasquez

John Velasquez listed his occupation as clinical psychologist. He said his top priorities are mental health access for all residents through a city-owned mental health clinic.

He said with a one-eighth of a cent sales tax increase, veterans and victims of teen bullying and domestic violence would have better access to the help they need.

“We need to reduce the delay in getting mental health, so that would be my top priority. [I would] petition for another increase in the sales tax for a city-owned, city-run mental health clinic.”

He also backs a training program for drivers to show how they could reduce pollution. He also favors directed social services where the top five-percent income owners will adopt poor, young families and pay off their debts.

Velasquez said the city should enact laws to protect the LGBTQ community that are enforced and prevent intrusion. He also backs the creation of a new state: “South Texas.”

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.