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Fire Union Petition Has Enough Signatures For November Ballot

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Fire Union President Chris Steele delivers petitons to City Clerk Leticia Vacek on April 11th 2017

San Antonio’s city clerk has officially certified the three petitions submitted by the San Antonio Professional Fire Fighters Association to amend the city charter.

The petitions had the 20,000 signatures required by the state to be placed on the November ballot. If passed by voters, the proposed amendments would alter the city’s governing power.

For example, one proposed charter amendment would cap the salary and tenure of the city manager, another would require fewer signatures to challenge city ordinances passed by the City Council, and a third would require binding arbitration in lieu of litigation during contract negotiations.

Each of the petitions received about 31,000 signatures, which were turned in April 11. In some cases, thousands of signatures were disqualified due to not being a registered voter or living outside of the city. Other signatures were tossed for being questionable. The city clerk did not have to verify all signatures, just enough to get passed the 20,000 requirement.

The certification was presented at the City Council’s regular Thursday meeting but no other actions on the petitions were taken.

District  6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse — who previously worked with both the police and fire unions — told council members the responsibility of the council was “purely ministerial.”

“This is going to go on the ballot, it should go on the ballot,” he said.

Brockhouse added, it should now be up to the voters.

“I think we have to be very cautious at what kind of campaigns we run against this, the language we use, and the people we characterize as having led this opposition, because at the end of the day it was ultimately residents that signed it regardless of who led it,” he said.

Other council members like John Courage of District 9 expressed concern that residents who signed the petition were mislead.

“I think it’s the responsibility of all of us on City Council to make sure all of the voters are adequately informed about the consequences — the results — of their vote on these issues,” he said. “Personally, I believe that many of the signers of these petitions were not informed about what they were signing.”

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg says he believes the fire union used deceptive tactics to gain signatures.

“I have no doubt that deception was involved because I’ve heard directly from constituents that they were lied to about what was on the petitions,” he said. “We can’t quarrel with that though, we have to deal with the issue as it stands which is the fact that these are very devastating proposals that may end up on a November ballot.”

Fire Union President Chris Steele was not at Thursday’s meeting. Reached by phone, he disputed the mayor’s claims.

“People are smart,” he said. “They know what they signed. I’m willing to debate (Nirenberg) at any time.”

The City Council has about three months to call for a special election and place the propositions on the November ballot.

Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules.



Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules