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San Antonio

San Antonio City Council District 1 Runoff Election 2021

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Note: Names are listed in order of appearance on the ballot according to the city clerks' office. Answers from candidates have not been edited or fact-checked.

For TPR's full Voter Guide, click here.

To listen to their candidate forum on TPR's "The Source":

District 1 will go to a runoff between longtime councilman Roberto Treviño and challenger Mario Bravo.


Mario Bravo

Q: What is your current occupation? How long have you worked in this profession?

A: Project Manager - Energy Team, Environmental Defense Fund

Q: How long have you lived in San Antonio and in your council district?

A: I moved to San Antonio in 1984 when I was in the third grade and grew up here. I've lived away from San Antonio while attending college and for a few jobs. I moved back to District 1 to take over my parents' home when they left the US almost 2 years ago. This is my second time to live in District 1.

Q: What experience do you have with the City of San Antonio? Boards, Commissions, Appointments?

A: I served on the Energy and Buildings Working Group for the development of the city's Climate Plan and served as Chair of the CPS Energy Environmental Stakeholders Group

Q: Do you have any other government experience? Previous offices held?

A: Alamo Area Council of Governments Air Improvement Resources Committee member

Q: Proposition B failed by an incredibly narrow margin. This seems to indicate a large share of voters do want to see change and reform in discipline for police officers. While the city negotiators and the San Antonio Police Officers Association will decide on contract terms, it will be the City Council and union membership that ultimately approves it. Do you believe there needs to be significant change in the San Antonio Police Department? What reforms do you want to see in the next contract?

A: Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community. We can do a better job of working toward that goal by rewarding model police officers to keep them on our police force and ensuring that our new police contract enables us to fire bad officers and keep them off the force. I am committed to holding all of our officers to the highest standards. I will not approve in any future contract that includes the following: 1. Erasing police disciplinary reports after two years 2. Allowing a fired police officer to have their job back because the police chief took over 180 days to prosecute the case (the infractions might not be reported until later). 3. Giving police officers who are being accused of a crime 48 hours notice, providing them with all evidence to be used against them and an opportunity to meet with their lawyers before they can be questioned by investigators. All of the above are in our current police contract that Councilman Trevino voted for.

Q: San Antonio has its Emergency Housing Assistance Program. While it has helped 33,000 households with an average of $2,700 each, it has limited funding and after September there is not a dedicated funding source for it. Should this program be continued after the pandemic as a lifeline for struggling residents?

A: Yes, we should continue to fund our emergency housing program. In addition to that we need to provide property tax relief to homeowners. During the pandemic property taxes were kept flat in Austin while our tax appraisal district, under the leadership of Roberto Trevino, increased our home value appraisals, driving our property taxes up.

Q: With eviction moratoriums ending, there could be a wave of evictions for people who fell behind during the pandemic even with assistance. What do you propose the city could do to get ahead of a potential eviction tsunami?

A: We need to be proactive about distributing the COVID vaccine so that we can achieve herd immunity sooner and allow more people to feel safe in returning to work, school, and engaging in activities that support our local economy. This will help support more jobs for those who are looking for work. In addition, we need to be more proactive about reaching out to residents who are behind in rent and assisting them with applying for relief funds.

Q: CPS Energy is owed more than $100 million from more than 170,000 accounts that are more than 30 days past due. CPS Energy plans to resume disconnections for non-payment in the coming months. Do you support CPS Energy resuming disconnections and what do believe should be done about the overdue accounts?

A: Every single utility in the state of Texas ceased electricity disconnections during the pandemic. It is disingenuous for any politician to take credit for CPS Energy having ceased disconnections for nonpayment. This is not a black and white issue. We should avoid disconnections during the hottest summer months and work to get everyone who is able to onto a payment plan. I believe we can find a compromise where we do not disconnect those who are still struggling as long as they are willing to pay something, while making sure that we are not allowing those who are able to pay from abusing the system.

Q: San Antonio’s City budget is expected to be balanced for 2022. However, the next four years after — from 2023 to 2026 — see a combined projected deficit of $147 million as cuts made during the pandemic are restored starting this October. The new city council will decide on the 2022 and 2023 budgets. There will be some help from the American Recovery Plan, but the impact it will have is not clear. What do you feel the city should do to address the potential deficits?

A: We need to cut exorbitant projects like the $40 million renovation of the city council offices and prioritize funding projects that improve public health and residents' quality of life at the neighborhood level.

Q: The City will ask voters to approve a new bond package in 2022. This bond could reach close to $1 billion. The current 2017-2022 bond is $850 million. The bonds in the past have typically focused on infrastructure and major projects that the city would not otherwise have funded in the general fund budget. What are some major projects that you believe need immediate attention in the upcoming bond? Please consider projects outside of the normal street repair and drainage issue unless you believe that there is a road or flood project that needs considerable updates that have gone ignored for too long.

A: I will survey the community to get their input on what they do and do not want to see in our next bond package. One top of mind issue for me is projects that support true affordable housing.

Q: What is an issue in your council district that you feel needs city intervention that other council districts may not experience. What would you propose to fix that issue?

A: District 1 is unique in that it contains the downtown area. We need to focus on how we can make our downtown more livable. That means making downtown more walkable and vibrant, and supporting the expansion and promotion of more unique culture and entertainment in the downtown area. This will increase local interest in living in and visiting downtown as well as attract more high income tourists.

Q: What do you appreciate most about your council district?

A: I appreciate how District 1 residents are more civically engaged than the residents of any other district. That offers us more opportunities to get the community involved in working together to solve our biggest challenges.


Roberto C. Treviño

Q: What is your current occupation? How long have you worked in this profession?

A: Full-time City Councilmember for District 1

Q: How long have you lived in San Antonio and in your council district?

A: 22 years and 10 months

Q: What experience do you have with the City of San Antonio? Boards, Commissions, Appointments?

A: Building Code & Fire Code Board of Review, Building Advisory Code Committee, Airport Advisory Commission, Precinct Chair for 2144

Q: Do you have any other government experience? Previous offices held?

A: Three terms on City Council

Q: Proposition B failed by an incredibly narrow margin. This seems to indicate a large share of voters do want to see change and reform in discipline for police officers. While the city negotiators and the San Antonio Police Officers Association will decide on contract terms, it will be the City Council and union membership that ultimately approves it. Do you believe there needs to be significant change in the San Antonio Police Department? What reforms do you want to see in the next contract?

A:
Proposition B was overwhelmingly supported by the voters of District 1 (61%). I am proud to say I am the only City Councilmember and only candidate in District 1 who supported the effort. FixSAPD requested very sensible requests from our City's and Community's negotiations with the San Antonio Police Officer's Association. I agree with the ten demands listed at fixsapd.org/about/10-problems.

The opponent in our race has shown an unwillingness to take a position vocally, but took part in forming the coalition to place Proposition B on the ballot. He stated to FixSAPD that he would lend campaign resources to their effort only days before stating to the media that he would remain "neutral." In demanding accountability and transparency from our public safety officers, we must also demand the same accountability and transparency from our public officials. Our community deserves to know that officers sworn to protect are able to do just that, and that officials elected to serve will not back down from their principles in the face of political pressure. 1 Eliminate the provision that permits a reversal of disciplinary actions through arbitration (CBA Art. 28.1, 28.5-11,15,18 ; Chapter 143.1016, 143.129) 2 Eliminate the provisions that provide the accused officer access to evidence before speaking to investigators (CBA Art. 29.2 (C) ; Chapter 143.312 (g)) 3 Eliminate time limitations on when investigators can conduct investigations into wrongdoing (CBA Art. 28.19, 28.22 ; Chapter 143.117 (d)) 4 Eliminate the statute of limitations that prevents the inclusion of officer’s disciplinary records during investigations (CBA Art. 28.19 (A-E)) 5 Eliminate the provisions that permit delayed interviews (48 hours) of accused officers (CBA Art. 29.2(C) 6 Eliminate the provisions that reveal the names of the accusers to the police officers charged with wrongdoing (CBA Art. 29.2 (C)) ; 143.312 (f)) 7 Prevent officers from using the discretionary time (holiday, vacation, or bonus days) to pay themselves while on unpaid suspension (CBA Art. 28.18) 8 Eliminate the restrictive personnel file and disciplinary records release provisions that limits civilian oversight (CBA Art. 29.3 (F-G) ; Chapter 143.1214, 143.089 (g)) 9 Eliminate the provisions that permit the city to be charged (taxpayer dollars) for certain costs following an officer’s misconduct (CBA Art. 28.18, 36) 10 Reduce the “Evergreen Clause” (which allows previous contract to be enacted for up to 8 years if SAPOA doesn’t want to negotiate) to 6 months (CBA Art.1)

Editor's note: Mario Bravo disagrees with the characterization of his opponent's claim.

Q: San Antonio has its Emergency Housing Assistance Program. While it has helped 33,000 households with an average of $2,700 each, it has limited funding and after September there is not a dedicated funding source for it. Should this program be continued after the pandemic as a lifeline for struggling residents?

A: My office worked with community housing advocates to form and pass the Risk Mitigation Fund to support families facing displacement and housing insecurity years before the pandemic. We must remember that in 2019, an average of 33 families per day were evicted from their homes. 47% of San Antonio residents are renters. Our office was proud to locate $10 million in available funds to increase our Risk Mitigation Fund to $25 million - the largest in the nation. We understand that an eviction crisis is looming as soon as the federal eviction moratorium expires. I believe it is critical that we not only continue EHAP, but we expand it. Our families deserve a social safety net against homelessness, and this is a primary vehicle to provide just that.

Q: With eviction moratoriums ending, there could be a wave of evictions for people who fell behind during the pandemic even with assistance. What do you propose the city could do to get ahead of a potential eviction tsunami?

A: My staff and I worked extremely hard to respond to the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. We requested a local eviction moratorium, made the direct ask to CPS and SAWS to pause disconnects for non-payment, passed a right to counsel to provide eviction support for renters, and much more. Now, more than ever, we must focus on housing support services and funding to avoid a tremendous increase in homelessness and housing insecurity. I believe we can re-visit options such as our Right to Cure policy to provide time for families to pay back debts. We can locate more funding options for our Emergency Housing Assistance Program to serve families who are displaced. We can expand my Food and Beverage Worker Relief Fund to support working families who need access to work to get by. With the winter storm, San Antonio was forced to respond because the cause of the issue was an outlier. In this case, we see the storm of evictions coming and it will take collective political will to focus on options that will support residents in need. I have a record of helping seniors, veterans, low-income families, and everyone in between access and protect their housing. I vow to continue that work when San Antonio needs it most.

Q: CPS Energy is owed more than $100 million from more than 170,000 accounts that are more than 30 days past due. CPS Energy plans to resume disconnections for non-payment in the coming months. Do you support CPS Energy resuming disconnections and what do believe should be done about the overdue accounts?

A: I was the Councilmember to call on CPS and SAWS to pause disconnections due to non-payment. "Utility leaders made the decision after District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño and Mayor Ron Nirenberg called on CPS and San Antonio Water System to hold off on disconnecting services at an emergency City Council meeting Wednesday." - ExpressNews 03/11/2021 My office was also the ones to successfully call for emergency federal housing funding to be extended to utility payment support. With the looming eviction crisis, City Hall has a responsibility to protect our residents from undue hardship in the face of our economic downturn. We are experiencing steady growth in the past months after the worst of the pandemic, and we can provide triage support to our residents as we all get back on our feet. The upcoming budget discussion should take into account the CPS shortfall, and I will lean on my experience in locating unused funds to cover the basic services and support our City provides. I have done it for the Risk Mitigation Fund, Food and Beverage Workers Relief Fund, and I believe I can help find means for CPS moving forward.

Q: San Antonio’s City budget is expected to be balanced for 2022. However, the next four years after — from 2023 to 2026 — see a combined projected deficit of $147 million as cuts made during the pandemic are restored starting this October. The new city council will decide on the 2022 and 2023 budgets. There will be some help from the American Recovery Plan, but the impact it will have is not clear. What do you feel the city should do to address the potential deficits?

A: Creativity is not typically a trait that is advertised during campaigns, but it is overwhelmingly useful when attacking problems. In short, our City has to place a focus on our basic services. At the same time, we must be creative with methods of investing in our residents to yield social ROI. For example, every dollar invested in Downtown yields at least $7 for San Antonio as a whole. Our responsibility is going to be locating smart investments that in turn provide day to day improvements in our residents' quality of life while also improving the City's financial standing. Although it sounds like having our cake and eating it too, it is possible. For example, the San Antonio Under 1 Roof program I created includes direct investments into the homes of residents to protect their housing and lower their utility bills. In turn, we are protecting our most affordable housing - the ones that already exist. This process lowers demolitions which are costlier than the replacement of a roof, and in turn serves the homeowners, residents seeking affordable housing, and our City budget.

Q: The City will ask voters to approve a new bond package in 2022. This bond could reach close to $1 billion. The current 2017-2022 bond is $850 million. The bonds in the past have typically focused on infrastructure and major projects that the city would not otherwise have funded in the general fund budget. What are some major projects that you believe need immediate attention in the upcoming bond? Please consider projects outside of the normal street repair and drainage issue unless you believe that there is a road or flood project that needs considerable updates that have gone ignored for too long.

A: In the face of our budget shortfall, it is difficult to focus on singular large-scale projects for bond dollars. I have demonstrated in the past year that sometimes the issue is not that there isn't funding available, but that the red tape is not visible. For example, we have unlocked the largest amount of funding for sidewalks San Antonio has ever seen by simply rephrasing Sidewalk Repair to Sidewalk Reconstruction. That simple change in wording has led to District 1 having more sidewalks built this fiscal year than the rest of the City combined. This is no accident, and shows that many of our day-to-day issues can be resolved if we dig deep enough into the barriers. I believe that Proposition A passing will lead to affordable housing projects being funded. The next item on our list is continued investments in infrastructure - streets, sidewalks, and drainage. District 1 is home to the oldest infrastructure in our City, and I will continue fighting for increased funding to improve the living conditions of our residents.

Q: What is an issue in your council district that you feel needs city intervention that other council districts may not experience. What would you propose to fix that issue?

A: One issue that the City must take action on is solving the homeless crisis - especially in the face of an impending eviction crisis. Months before the winter storm, I requested that the City locate and form warming centers for our homeless residents to protect them from the impending winter weather. I renewed my request days before the storm, but was met with inaction. It took four days for a warming center to be opened, but by then many of our residents were already days into freezing, hunger, and a lack of water. This was a lesson for all of us. If we had been ready to protect our most vulnerable residents, we would have been ready to protect ALL of our residents when the time came. I commend the City for expanding our District 1 outreach effort to a City-wide program where outreach specialists and social workers will take the lead in homeless outreach for all districts. But we must reduce the barriers for providing support to those who need it. Currently, there are only 28 detox beds available for the entire City. Locations like Haven for Hope require detox for entry, and this causes a severe barrier for helping get individuals off the streets and into permanent housing and employment. Recently, we have partnered with the Department of Human Services to provide support services twice a week including ID recovery, COVID-19 vaccines, testing, haircuts, housing support, and employment support to those who need it. Our stance is that we need to support homeless residents in order to get them off the streets and into housing and employment. So far, we have helped 75 people off the streets, and will continue that work. It is important for our neighborhoods to feel safe, be clean and not bear undue burdens. That is why we are working to tackle the root issue instead of simply displacing homeless residents from neighborhood to neighborhood. We would like to work with the City and private partners to lower these barriers to support and increase the number of homeless residents we are able to get off the streets and back into our social economy.

Q: What do you appreciate most about your council district?

A: District 1 is home to the most diverse community in San Antonio. It is rich in history and culture. But most of all, it is puro pasión. From attending neighborhood meetings throughout each of our 37 neighborhoods in the district, to one-on-one discussions with residents, it is clear that our neighbors care about the health and preservation of what makes San Antonio San Antonio. The passion with which residents fight for saving historic buildings, protecting their neighborhoods from incompatible developments, connecting our neighborhoods with sidewalks, increasing access to government, protecting our pets, and so much more shows me everyday why I love being in this role. Championing the wants and needs of District 1 residents is championing and protecting the heart of our City. Serving this community over the past 6 years has been a true honor, and I hope to continue our record of passing the most policies in service of our residents for the next two years.

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