Mayoral candidate and District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg and incumbent Mayor Ivy Taylor (right) are heading for a runoff election to be decided on June 10th.
Mayoral candidate and District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg and incumbent Mayor Ivy Taylor (right) are heading for a runoff election to be decided on June 10th. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

You might still be experiencing election fatigue one month and a few days after the Nov. 8 presidential election, but the holidays will soon come and go, and then it will be a new year and time for the citizens of San Antonio to focus on the future of the city and the people we want as our elected leaders.

In many ways, the individuals we elect to represent us locally touch our lives directly in many more ways than the person in the White House. So take time now to register to vote before the May 6, 2017 City Election. Here are the key dates.

The biggest bond in city history at $850 million will be on the ballot, and at least three vacated City Council seats will feature new names and faces seeking a seat at the table. Some incumbent council members likely will draw opponents. And, as of Saturday, there is a now mayor’s race between Mayor Ivy Taylor and challenger, Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8).

Before long, there might be other mayoral candidates. It would be unprecedented in a majority Hispanic city to not have a Hispanic on the ballot, and while fewer and fewer people expect Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) to join the race, the Express-News has reported that Bexar County Democratic Party Chair Manuel Medina is mulling a run. He confirmed that fact last week in an interview with the Rivard Report‘s Rocío Guenther.

For now, at least, it’s a two-person race.

(left) City Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) applauds along with Mayor Ivy Taylor at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the completed Hausman Road project.
(left) City Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) applauds along with Mayor Ivy Taylor at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the completed Hausman Road project. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

We sent invitations Saturday to Mayor Ivy Taylor and Councilman Ron Nirenberg to participate in one or more Rivard Report Town Hall meetings on the future of San Antonio.

We hope they agree, and that our staffs can then get busy setting a date, selecting a venue, and agreeing on the format details. It’s still early, but a date, or dates if the candidates want to stage more than one Town Hall in different parts of the city, would be set well ahead of the April 6 deadline for voter registration and the start of early voting on April 24.

Like many of you, I’ve sat through hours of presidential primary and general election debates this year, and I think I’ve learned a few things. One, I prefer the Town Hall format where both journalists and citizens pose questions rather than the alternative where only journalists address the candidates and audience members are instructed to sit on their hands. With citizens participating there seem to be fewer “gotcha” questions from the moderators and more decorum and less bickering among the candidates.

Questioners can be selected based on the caliber of their pre-submitted questions and then asked to stand in the audience and directly address the candidates. That avoids speechifying and other disruptions from the floor that detract from the value of the event.

So far, such a Town hall meeting would be between Mayor Taylor, who announced her re-election bid on Nov. 13, and Councilman Nirenberg, who officially announced his plans to challenge the incumbent on Saturday.

Both are articulate and have warm personalities, although there is no love lost between them. A Town Hall between the two would certainly feature some strong exchanges, but it would hardly be the kind of food fights we witnessed when 17 Republicans crowded the stage and vied for the world’s attention. In fact, a Taylor-Nirenberg Town Hall might be downright wonky with both well schooled on the issues and their respective positions.

Voters would find that refreshing, I think. And the two officeholders do have their differences. We will try to bring those differences and the most important issues into focus for you in the coming months as we also introduce you to candidates for City Council. You deserve to know what kind of individuals are behind the names on the ballot, and where they stand on the critical issues facing the city as a whole and residents of any given council district.

One thing we will not do is tell you how to vote. There is a lot in the mainstream media coverage these days of nonprofit journalism startups that have taken root all over the country as well as here in San Antonio. The New York Times published a lengthy article on the surge in funding for nonprofit journalism since the Nov. 8 election when virtually every daily newspaper in the nation endorsed Hillary Clinton. Voters were not reading, or if they were reading, they weren’t interested in being told how to vote.

We’ve certainly enjoyed a marked surge in donations and membership at the Rivard Report as we near the finish of our first year as a nonprofit media and hit the home stretch of our campaign to sign up 1,000 individual and business members. That funding surge will enable us to hire several new reporters in early 2017 and bring a greater focus to business and tech news; public health and our medical and biosciences community; and arts and culture coverage. We hope you will join and help us grow.

We also will bring you improved local political coverage in 2017. That should help you reach intelligent decisions on your own without us or anyone else telling you how to vote. Of course, we hope the candidates agree to at least one Town Hall meeting and that we get the opportunity to invite you to ask a question.

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is editor of the San Antonio Report.