Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina launched his bid for mayor Saturday in front of San Fernando Cathedral.

Joined by family, friends, and more than 150 supporters, Medina, who referred to himself as “financially and politically independent,” pledged to protect taxpayers’ interests should he be elected mayor.

A longtime political consultant, Medina has never held an elected government office.

Among his supporters Saturday were elected officials such as State Rep. Diana Arévalo (D-116), Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti, and former District 5 Councilwoman Lourdes Galvan.

Manuel Medina speaks about the changes he will make as mayor of San Antonio during his official campaign announcement.
Manuel Medina speaks about the changes he will make as mayor of San Antonio during his official campaign announcement. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / San Antonio Report

Medina pledged to focus on citizens’ imminent needs, improve transparency and accountability among City leaders, regulate public utility rate and salary increases, and boost public transportation, among other initiatives.

Mayor Ivy Taylor and challenger City Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) worry about future growth, he said, when they should be focusing more on current residents’ needs.

“There’s a valid concern in our community that our mayor is out of touch, that she only talks about the 1 million people who are coming to San Antonio over the next 25 years, that she only worries about SA Tomorrow and SA2020,” he said. “Well, how about the 1.5 million who are already here?”

Many people came to him seeking a different voice at City Hall, he said.

“We need independent leadership at City Hall,” he told the crowd. “We need transparency and to restore public trust at City Hall. And you told me you want a mayor that’ll focus and prioritize the situation on taxes, public safety, and transportation.”

Positioning himself as a political outsider, Medina pledged that – if elected mayor – he would lead a Council accountable to “taxpayers, and not the City manager or political insiders.”

Juan Bernal (right) and supporters cheer as Manuel Medina announces his official mayor campaign.
Juan Bernal (right) and supporters cheer as Manuel Medina announces campaign for mayor. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / San Antonio Report

He specifically criticized Taylor for having established backers who are financing her re-election campaign to the tune of more than $1 million.

“She epitomizes a pay-for-play culture at City Hall that can be best summarized as ‘Candidates get their contributions, special interests get their special favors, taxpayers get stuck with the bill,’” he added.

Medina promised he would closely scrutinize any proposals that involve rate or executive salary hikes at San Antonio Water System (SAWS) and CPS Energy.

Acknowledging that City government is typically non-partisan, Medina said local Republicans and Democrats alike “game the system and stack the deck against taxpayers like you and me.”

He dinged Taylor for what he described as a failure to provide more transparency and community discussion regarding the Vista Ridge water pipeline, adding that the project will only lead to higher water rates for people who will have a hard time affording them.

He again went after Taylor by citing a conflict of interest, in which Taylor and her husband received income from Section 8 vouchers at several properties they rented out on the city’s Eastside through the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA). The mayor is responsible for appointing Housing Authority board members.

Taylor’s campaign manager Christian Anderson responded to Medina’s critique of the mayor Saturday afternoon:

“… She’s kept partisanship out of City Hall. Partisan brawls at City Council would kill the progress we’ve made in San Antonio over the last several years.

Medina is a political insider looking to divide San Antonians by their party affiliations. He wants to slice up our City into sections, one pitted against another. He’s already labelled the East Side a seat of ‘generational violence.’

He’s trying to inject into the Mayor’s race the toxic, bombastic politics that’s hurt us at the national level. He’s willing to say anything, regardless of the facts, to try to win support.”

Responding to a reporter’s request for comment, Nirenberg echoed Medina’s frustration over City leaders paying more attention to powerful constituents. However, he decried Medina injecting a sense of partisanship into the mayor’s race.

“Medina and I agree that Mayor Taylor isn’t getting the job done, but I think he’s wrong to paint everyone in the city with her failures,” Nirenberg said. “I have a vision for the future that is inclusive and comprehensive and that I’m confident the people of San Antonio agree with. We need leadership that unites our city, not partisanship that divides.”

Medina chided Nirenberg for his appointments to the City’s Parks Bond Committee, which recently made recommendations on the City’s planned May 6 bond election.

Those board members’ support for a Hardberger Park land bridge was controversial, he said, as it signaled to the rest of the community that the City favors larger, more prestigious projects over smaller parks.

Power brokers, special interests, and donors with deep pockets “have year-round access to elected officials and City staff,” he explained.

“We’re going to change that. We’re going to change the status quo at City Hall,” he added.

While noting many benefits included in the planned $850 million City bond, Medina said it may still be too costly, especially for low-income taxpayers. He recommended that the City lower its property tax rate in response to rising property appraisals.

He also supports boosting funding for the VIA Metropolitan Transit to improve ridership frequency, routes, and corridors.

As mayor, Medina would also promote affordable housing, respect for all people, equal opportunity for prosperity, strong economic development, reducing crime and traffic congestion, bolstering police-community relations, and improving ties with the military and Mexico.

“My name is Manuel Medina. I am a leader and have a vision for San Antonio,” he told the crowd at San Fernando.

Urged by fellow Democrats, Medina last year set up an exploratory committee, which gauged community support for a mayoral run. He hired Tom Daniels, a noted Democratic campaign financial consultant, as his treasurer in December and provided his campaign with $250,000 of his own money.

Under his leadership, the Bexar County Democratic Party won several local elections, including the Bexar County Sheriff’s office, defying national political trends in the November election.

Eddie Bravenec, an attorney and former Bexar County assistant district attorney, was one of a handful of backers who spoke in support of Medina.

Bravenec praised Medina for his leadership of the Bexar County Democratic Party, and for excelling at reaching out to people on both sides of the political aisle.

“Man, woman, African-American, Mexican-American, Anglo,” Bravenec said, “he’s going to do his best to bring you together.”

Joshua Greene, a local teacher and Democratic activist, praised Medina for getting more young people engaged in local politics.

“We are excited to be here and if there’s ever a time when we need more people involved, it’s right now,” he said.

Medina’s wife, Janeth Soto, told the crowd that San Antonians of all backgrounds can support her husband’s campaign.

“I see how the community is behind you,” she said. “They love you, they believe in you.”

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Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.