If City Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) doesn’t win the mayoral race, he’s done with local politics.
“If I don’t win, I don’t win,” he said. “If the city as a whole is not where I’m at as an elected official and they don’t want to move forward on that path, that’s a clean score. … I won’t be coming back to run for anything in local government again. This is my shot, my chance. I fulfilled a professional goal getting elected. I wanted to do the job and loved every minute of representing District 6.”
Brockhouse formally launched his mayoral campaign in February. Brockhouse has often voted against the majority on council. He’s now positioning himself as a contrast to incumbent Mayor Ron Nirenberg – challenging Nirenberg’s claims that San Antonio is on a path of lower crime rates, higher employment rates, and solving transportation woes – while striking a conciliatory tone and highlighting elected officials’ personal sacrifices.
“Politics is a tough game. It can be very difficult. My wife told me the other morning, ‘Greg, if you lose, I win,’” Brockhouse said at a candidate forum in Northeast San Antonio on April 15. “All of us sacrifice. Ron does, as an elected official over the last two years. It’s hard work. We put everything we got into it. Sometimes we disagree, but that’s OK. At the end of the day, if we do it respectfully and stick to the facts and talk about the things that matter most to residents and neighborhoods, we’re going to be doing our job and that’s the campaign I’m running.”
The councilman has represented District 6 for one term. He replaced current state Rep. Ray Lopez in 2017 after Lopez served the maximum four terms.
Here’s a look at some of Brockhouse’s key votes on City Council and issues on which he’s drawn criticism:
Fire Union Propositions and Criticism of Sheryl Sculley
Brockhouse’s time in City Council has been marked by his support for the fire union, which is backing Brockhouse’s campaign, and the three charter amendments the union championed in the November election. Two of the three passed, one of which capped city manager salary to roughly $300,000, less than what former City Manager Sheryl Sculley was earning.
Brockhouse called for Sculley’s retirement after the election, scoffing at Sculley’s self-evaluation submitted as part of her formal performance review. She announced her retirement later in November, and alluded to the difficulty of being the only woman in a room full of men.
Brockhouse later complimented Sculley for her work during her 13-year tenure as city manager.
“You are the finest city manager this city has ever had,” he said on her last day.
The ‘Equity Lens’
Brockhouse is now campaigning on promises to reduce property taxes through a local homestead exemption. Councilman John Courage (D9) and Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) have asked City staff to research the effects of implementing such an exemption. Brockhouse also requested a half-cent reduction in property taxes during City Council’s budget process in 2017, which was rejected. The reduction would have saved homeowners an average of $8.45 per year while costing the City $5 million.
During that budget process, Brockhouse criticized City Council’s so-called “equity lens” budget when it passed in 2017. It aimed to distribute funding from a needs-based perspective rather than equally dividing up resources by district. The budget took extra street repair dollars and applied it to districts 1, 2, 3, and 5 because they had more failing-grade street conditions. Brockhouse objected after his funding request to purchase land for a possible future community center in District 6 was removed.
Housing Policy and Developer Incentives
He also objected to most of the Housing Policy Task Force’s recommendations, which other council members supported. Brockhouse said the City should stay out of the “housing business” and questioned whether homeownership is a right. He did support the task force’s recommendation to reduce red tape for affordable housing development. The City ended up allocating $25.1 million toward housing in its 2019 budget. Brockhouse supported a failed motion from Perry that would have removed $9 million from housing programs.
He did vote in favor of adding an affordable housing focus to two downtown development incentive programs in December. The year before, Brockhouse filed a request to review the City’s incentive programs and said that the revised Inner City Reinvestment and Infill Policy (ICRIP) and Center City Housing Incentive Policy (CCHIP) programs had changed for the better.
Open Government and Closed Sessions
One of Brockhouse’s early moves as a councilman was to ask City staff to review open records request practices. He suggested an independent party review information that could relate to an open records request, so that documents are not vetted only by the person or entity whose records are being requested.
“Every citizen should have access to the information they request to hold their government accountable,” he said in a prepared statement in November 2017. “I ran for public office under the promise to open up city government and be completely transparent.”
The councilman excoriated the City for not pursuing Amazon HQ2 and the Republican National Convention. Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in October 2017 withdrawing San Antonio from the bidding process for a second Amazon headquarters. Amazon ultimately chose to build in Crystal City, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.
Brockhouse said at a debate hosted by the Rivard Report Wednesday that these choices showed that Nirenberg cannot think “big” for San Antonio.
He has criticized City Council for making decisions in closed executive sessions, arguing that the public deserves to see the decision-making process. City Council voted against putting a proposal together for the RNC during a closed-door meeting last May.
“Most decisions have to be made out in the open,” he said. “Own your vote.”
Brockhouse continues to label the City’s inaction on the RNC and Amazon HQ2 and a recent vote involving Chick-fil-A as “anti-business.” City Council voted in March to remove the fast food restaurant from a new airport concessions contract. Chick-fil-A has been associated with anti-LGBTQIA groups and has donated to Christian organizations that oppose LGBTQIA rights, and Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) said he wanted visitors to see San Antonio as welcoming. Council members also said they would like to install a local restaurant at the airport, and one open on Sundays. Chick-fil-A closes all of its locations on Sundays.
Brockhouse has slammed City Council and Nirenberg over the move.
“It’s not about a chicken sandwich, Ron,” Brockhouse said at Wednesday’s debate. “It’s about freedom of religion that this city was built on, and that sends the most anti-business message of all – that you’re not welcome here because you’re a faith-based organization.”
Brockhouse attempted to put the matter back before the Council for another vote, but his motion failed in a 6-5 vote last week.
Early voting starts April 22 and runs through April 30. Election Day is May 4. Find more information on when and how to vote here.