Mayoral candidates (from left) Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) and Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
Mayoral candidates (from left) Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) and Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The two frontrunners in San Antonio’s mayoral race further illuminated their political differences Monday night during a candidate forum, including their stances on infrastructure and population growth planning.

Despite their differences, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) managed to compliment each other when prompted by a leader of the Highland Hills Neighborhood Association who served as the event’s moderator. But even those answers came with barbs.

“He’s always got great boots,” Nirenberg quipped. “I respect Councilman Brockhouse’s ambition and drive to achieve a personal goal. To have that kind of passion for a personal goal is something that should be lauded, and I do.”

“It’s not a personal goal,” Brockhouse responded, referring to his race for the mayor’s office. “It’s a city goal.. … This I will tell you about Mr. Nirenberg: He’s one heck of a father and … he’s one heck of a husband.”

The councilman turned to face Nirenberg directly. They both gave answers similar to those given in a recent Rivard Report Q&A, but on Monday they had a chance to double down on their positions.

“We may disagree heavily, but I know the kind of person you are and I will never attack you personally over anything,” said Brockhouse, who has recently refuted allegations of physical aggression that took place more than 10 years ago.

Nirenberg and Brockhouse have the typical markings of an incumbent and challenger; the former paints a picture of a City making progress, the latter paints a City headed in the wrong direction. They rehashed their talking points on crime, jobs, and infrastructure priorities.

One of the questions posed to the candidates touched on both sides of that coin: “How can SA [be] a world-class city while having such an enormous socio-economic divide?”

“We cannot be a world class city if we don’t address the issues of generational poverty and socioeconomic inequity,” Nirenberg said, “which is why I worked with City Council to be the first big city in the nation to use equity as a frame for budgeting – meaning that we don’t just simply cut everything up arbitrarily by 10 because we have 10 single-member Council districts. We focus the resources of this community in the areas that [they are] needed the most.”

The South Side, for instance, is getting more funding for infrastructure “that it’s been waiting on for a decade,” he said, and it will take more than one budget cycle to correct. “The only council member that protested and didn’t want us to do it that way is Councilman Brockhouse.”

Brockhouse said he looked out for the interests of his district. “District 6 got zero dollars of equity budgeting … as your mayor I’m going to bring that energy and attitude toward everything we’re doing,” he said.

“… I’m not worried about the million people coming here,” Brockhouse said, referencing Nirenberg’s comprehensive transportation and housing plans. “My number one concern is the million-and-a-half that are here now. Those [new] jobs have to be for the residents.”

Nirenberg used his campaign slogan, “The City You Deserve,” to illustrate progress made in crime rates and progressive momentum. Brockhouse fired back: “It’s not about creating the city you deserve because we already have the city we want … what you want to do is make it a better version of itself.”

The candidate forum, which took place on the South Side at Highland Hills Elementary School, also featured incumbent Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3), who is seeking her fourth and final term, and Liz Campos, her sole competitor.

(From left) D3 candidates for city council Elizabeth Campos and Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3).
(From left) District 3 City Council candidate Liz Campos and three-term incumbent Rebecca Viagran. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Campos emphasized the need for a more responsive Council representative. If elected, she would have an “open door policy” and “not responding [to constituents] is not going to be acceptable.”

Viagran, who has served for nearly six years, highlighted her office’s weekly email updates, regular office hours, monthly community meetings, code enforcement-focused events, and quarterly physical newsletters as ways she has responded to residents’  need for more communication.

She has been a “strong voice” for the South Side, Viagran said, and is dedicated to being “responsive and collaborative.”

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org