The second edition of the Rivard Report’s Pints & Politics mayoral forum was held at the Pearl Stable last Tuesday, April 14. Tickets sold out a few hours before the commencement of the forum. Although the politics was the preeminent reason for the gathering, the “pints” did contribute to the audience energy and anticipation evident in the atmosphere. Almost everyone in the audience sat contentedly, a cup of Southerleigh beer in their hands, respectfully listening to what each of the mayoral candidates had to say.
The candidates in attendance included Mayor Ivy Taylor, former County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, former state Rep. Mike Villarreal, and former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.
The first topic at hand was the San Antonio Police Officers Association’s endorsement of Van de Putte, which essentially brought collective bargaining to a halt. In her own defense, Van de Putte said she proudly accepted the endorsement, and spoke about the close-knit relationship she has built with the police and firefighters over the past two decades.
Mayor Taylor quickly responded that she wasn’t concerned with the “decades of relationships she (Van de Putte) has had with these folks.” Mayor Taylor said Van de Putte did, in fact, accept the endorsement to stall bargaining, which led police union negotiators to say they would await the outcome of elections before returning to the bargaining table. Mayor Taylor said the contract is the city’s most urgent fiscal issue.
Adkisson jumped into the conversation, criticizing City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who he asserts over steps her authority. He said Sculley treats City Council like subordinates rather than her superiors. Villarreal expressed support for Sculley, but called for greater transparency at City Hall because he “wants citizens to feel listened to.” Mayor Taylor said she and the city manager have disagreed at times, but she praised Sculley for bringing a new level of professionalism to the job.
The next major point that was highlighted at this forum was urban improvement. As a 16-year-old who will be nearing the latter end of my college experience once this next mayor’s time is up, urban improvement is bound to be a key part of where I choose to live at that part of my life. Mayor Taylor believes that we should strive to grow smart workers instead of bringing them in from different cities. She also wants a call to action by entrepreneurs to ensure a great, urban downtown area, as well as urbanization in potential areas like the Medical Center, Brooks City Base, etc.
Adkisson believes that better neighborhoods are more urgent than “tech” and recruitment of young professionals from other cities. He also spoke that he thinks the city and county should work with the Environmental Defense Fund, San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, and tech savvy organizations to strive for a smarter city, which could eventually correlate with a more urban city. Villarreal jumped in and introduced his plan to bring back rideshare, which he think will send a signal that “San Antonio is ready for the 21st century.” Van de Putte believes that a smarter city depends on educating more skilled workers.
Before the floor opened up to audience questions, Mayor Taylor announced progress in evaluating the Weston urban/Frost Bank private-public proposal, which would add the first new office tower to the city’s skyline since 1989.
The audience then asked some questions of their own. There were many questions regarding air quality and ozone emissions, transportation alternatives, including the B-Cycle bikeshare program and the return of rideshare.
One question that really struck me was a question (or more of a statement/attack against Mayor Taylor) made by a woman sitting in the front row. She identified herself as the proud mother of a gay son. She then spoke about what she described as an “insensitive” remark made at a previous mayoral forum that the non-discrimination ordinance was “a political stunt.”
As someone who does not stand for LGBT discrimination and will speak openly about this stance, I was shocked when I heard such a remark. Mayor Taylor then went on to explain herself, saying that she attended a recent LGBT youth fundraising party because it was the “neighborly thing to do.” This is when things began to turn. Van de Putte said that there should be no discrimination. Van de Putte is open to the LGBT community, and believes that someone shouldn’t be denied a house, a job, or a meal just because they love someone. The other mayoral candidates agreed with Van de Putte but had little to say on the topic.
In their closing statements, the candidates briefly summarized what they had covered during the forum. Mayor Taylor briefly stated her plan to “move forward” with downtown urbanization. Adkisson emphasized the need “to go back to basics.” Villarreal spoke about his plans to bring back rideshare and support B-Cycle as well as downtown urbanization. And finally, Van De Putte called for greater citizen engagement.
Numerous people stayed afterwards to meet and take pictures with the candidates in a more informal setting at the Pearl Stable.
*Featured/top image: Mayoral candidates moderator Robert Rivard (left) on stage during Pints & Politics II at the Pearl Stable. Photo by Andres Garcia.