When people can’t defend their position on an issue, they make the debate personal (see Kavanaugh confirmation hearing), and that’s what happened on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. San Antonio mayor Ron Nirenberg refused to debate anyone except Firefighters union leader Chris Steele regarding the three proposed city charter amendments on the November ballot.
The debate was supposed to be about issues, and local conservative leader Reinette Alecozay was ready to step up. However, Nirenberg and the City Hall Establishment wanted to play only by their rules, and thus he refused to debate Alecozay.
Sadly, but as expected, the San Antonio Express-News and the rest of local media blamed Steele for not showing in their reports. The SA Express has played the role of the City Hall Establishment’s mouthpiece and supported the “NO Vote” campaign against the city charter amendments.
Citizens should ask if this debate and vote is about personalities or issues? Furthermore, can’t issues be discussed and debated by any knowledgeable persons?
One of the Firefighter leaders said, “We agreed to send someone from the “Vote Yes” to debate. They (Nirenberg and the City Hall Establishment) wanted Steele there to try to make this all about him. We had said from the start this wasn't about us, that it was a coalition. So we sent Reinette (Alecozay) because she has an economics degree and a background with Home Taxpayers’ Association. She was there ready to debate, but the Mayor refused. Nirenberg repeated his stand on KTSA’s Trey Ware show when he said if Steele is not there he will not be there.”
Alecosay agreed and added, “The "vote no" folks try to distract voters by making this about personalities. This matter is about issues voters care about very much. I was prepared to talk with the mayor, but he refused.”
The Nirenberg and the City Hall Establishment have organized a PAC to oppose the three proposed city charter amendments. They claim the proposed changes will harm the city’s economy.
However, the three amendments give power to the citizens by facilitating voter referendums, lowering and capping the city manager’s half-million-dollar salary, and requiring arbitration instead of costly litigation on collective bargain disputes. For some reason, the Nirenberg and the City Hall Establishment believe saving taxpayer money and giving citizens a greater voice will harm the city economy.
If Nirenberg and City Hall Establishment cannot argue against the proposed city charter amendments, then they have turned their campaign into one attacking Steel personally. The City Hall Establishment has lingering anger toward Steele and the Firefighters because they and local taxpayer groups defeated the streetcar project a few years ago.
Given that the City has acted aloof and arbitrarily on various issues in the recent past, shouldn't citizens want to have a greater voice at city hall and limit its power? For example, thanks to a stacked City Hall Establishment citizen advisory committee, there are plans to move the Alamo Cenotaph in spite of significant opposition from citizens.
Nirenberg should not worry about whom he debates, but rather the issues discussed and serving the will of the citizens.