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Tech Bloc Rallies Against Fire Union Charter Amendments

Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Jenna Saucedo-Herrera from the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation at Tech Bloc's "Rally To Save Our City"

Tech Bloc has regularly lobbied San Antonio government since its creation more than three years ago, beginning with its role in helping keep ride-hailing companies Lyft and Uber in the city. But this November will mark the first time the technology industry advocacy organization has weighed in on a ballot measure.

Thursday night’s “Rally To Save Our City” cemented the group’s opposition to amendments that would change the city’s charter. The marketing attached to the event on social media showed a Godzilla-like creature destroying a city. Despite the sarcastic image, tech leaders were serious about the issue as they railed against the amendments to a crowd that organizers said surpassed 1,100 people.

“For us, it's about economic development,” said David Heard, CEO of Tech Bloc. “The future prospects of our industry to lure good paying jobs to San Antonio and keep our smart people here all takes a hit if we let these amendments get through.”

The charter amendments listed as propositions A, B, and C were added to the ballot through a successful signature campaign led by the San Antonio Firefighters Association. They would lower the signature threshold for referendum petitions, limit the salary and tenure of future city managers, and force San Antonio into binding arbitration with the firefighters union.  

The city has attempted to negotiate with the firefighters union over health care and wages since the union’s contract ran out in 2014. The fight — which, at one time, included the San Antonio Police Officers Association before it struck a deal with the city — has regularly bled into public policy. SAFA played a major role in the signature campaign opposed to the now-defunct downtown streetcar project.

State Representative Diego Bernal and Mayor Ron Nirenberg gave speeches from the second floor of Southerleigh to the crowd below attacking the amendments. But some of the biggest audience reactions came from tech leaders.

“We have to go out and vote no,” shouted David Spencer, an organizer of the event and the CEO of Prymtime Medical.

He described SAFA President Chris Steele as a “faker,” referencing the unofficial firefighter’s uniform Steele has worn to events in violation of city rules.

“We have to vote no three times,” Spencer yelled. “It is no, it is no, and it is no. They are not going to ruin what we are building here.”

Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive