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San Antonio

Nirenberg, Brockhouse Evaluate Passage Of Props B, C

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, left, and District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse held seperate news conferences Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

With the passage of propositions B and C during the 2018 midterm elections, the City of San Antonio’s charter will be changing.

After election night, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse talked about how the amendments would impact San Antonio.

Prop A, which called for lowering signature threshold to challenge City Council decisions, was the only amendment to fail. It also called for extending the number of days required to gather enough signatures.

On Wednesday at his office near City Hall, Nirenberg talked about the two props that did pass.

Prop B restricts the pay and tenure of the city manager and Prop C allows the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association to declare impasse with the city and force binding arbitration in healthcare and wage contract negotiations.

Nirenberg said he’s not considering any immediate lawsuits against the amendments that did pass.

“I’m not inclined to challenge the will of the voters of the polls,” he said. “We heard their voices loud and clear. We will study the legal implications of each of the charter amendments.”

Prop B doesn’t affect the current city manager Sheryl Sculley, who has been with the city 13 years. She currently receives a base salary of $475,000 and received a performance bonus of $75,000 this year. Prop B limits the pay of future city managers to 10 times the lowest salaried city employee and caps the time in the position to eight years.

“It will take us to a position where we can’t compete for the best city management talent in the country and that’s certainly the reason why I didn’t believe proposition B was in the best interest of our community,” Nirenberg said.

Surrounded by firefighters at the union’s banquet hall Thursday, Brockhouse said the two approved charter amendments mean San Antonio voters want a different direction at city hall.

He added Sculley should resign.

“I think San Antonio is ripe for change. Sheryl has been successful but I think the power has become absolute. And I think it’s time to revert that back to the people,” Brockhouse said.

He says the city should change to a form of government where the mayor and council have more power instead of a city manager.

“That’s where we need to end up: Stronger council and stronger mayor position,” he said.

Brockhouse criticized Nirenberg’s approach against the amendments during the campaign. Fire union President Chris Steele said in secret recordings released last month the union’s goal is to help Brockhouse become mayor.

Brockhouse said, at the moment, he is running for re-election in District 6.  

As for Prop C, the city and fire union have been in a stalemate over their contract, which expired in 2014. Since then, the parties have operated under an evergreen clause that could last until 2024. The union has never come to the bargaining table during that time. The city sued over the constitutionality of the evergreen clause but lost in state district and appeals courts. The Texas Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Steel has maintained as long as the city had active lawsuits on the table, the fire union will not negotiate. With the passage of Prop C, Nirenberg said negotiations needed to resume.

“If the remnants of the old lawsuit are an issue, I have instructed our city attorney to take it up with the fire union today to court to drop everything so we can move in,” Nirenberg said.

That proposal didn’t sit well with Brockhouse.

“Drop the lawsuit, you were beaten, just like you were beaten on Tuesday night,” he said. “The citizens said arbitration and they said (there’s) too much power in the city manager’s hands. Drop the lawsuit.”

Asked if he expected Steele to come to the table after the passage of Prop C, Nirenberg said he was “hopeful.”

“I’m hopeful because the public has demanded an end to the conflict and more than anything we’ve heard over and over again they want everyone to work together and play fairly,” Nirenberg said.

Brockhouse added he doesn’t believe the union will immediately use Prop C to force binding arbitration.

The charter amendments take effect after the votes are officially canvassed and the council accepts the results, which is expected at its Nov. 15 meeting.

Joey Palacios can be reached at joey@tpr.org or on Twitter @joeycules