The warm reception for Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Council members continued Tuesday evening as 12 local business advocacy groups, including six chambers of commerce, welcomed the elected officials to a reception at the Pearl Stable staged as a show of San Antonio’s diversity.

The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce organized the reception at the Pearl Stable, and the Alamo Asian, Alamo City Black, San Antonio LGBT, San Antonio Women’s, and South San Antonio chambers of commerce all participated in the festivities.

Other event partners included the Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos, Centro San Antonio, Maestro Entrepreneur Center, San Antonio Mobility Coalition, TechBloc, and the World Affairs Council of San Antonio. More than 800 people registered for the reception.

A leader from each partner organization briefly introduced the mayor and each Council member. Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) did not attend, and Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) was out of the country.

Organizational leaders also talked about their own group’s mission. Nirenberg warmly greeted the festive crowd, which had plenty of representation from each of the event partner organizations. Attendees included the likes of former Council members Ray Lopez and Elisa Chan, and Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (P4).

Nirenberg said barely one week after being sworn into office, he and the new Council’s possess a renewed spirit of collaboration that is reflected by the diversity of the City’s business community.

“A new page is being turned in San Antonio,” he said. “We’re ready to build a city you deserve.”

Mayor Ron Nirenberg addresses the crowd at the reception honoring San Antonio's 2017 City Council leadership at the Pearl Stable.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg addresses the crowd at the reception honoring San Antonio’s 2017 City Council leadership at the Pearl Stable. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Nirenberg pledged to improve transportation citywide to help boost existing local commerce and to lure new businesses to town.

But the mayor also asked the business community for its help to fight controversial state laws, such as Senate Bill 4 and Senate Bill 6, also known as “the bathroom bill.”

He has said such measures inhibit progress and threaten to make the state’s business climate less inviting to other companies and special events.

Nirenberg and other local elected officials joined protesters at the John H. Wood Federal Courthouse on Monday to denounce the so-called “sanctuary cities” law, which is being contested in court.

On Tuesday, he told the crowd at Pearl that the State Legislature will debate the bathroom bill in special session in July.

“The fight has come to San Antonio, Texas,” Nirenberg told the audience Tuesday.

“There is a lot of legislation being proposed that is going to be damaging to our community, and we need the business community of San Antonio to stand up and protect San Antonio.”

The mayor invited businesses and advocacy groups to educate their members on how these laws could adversely affect their public image, practices, and workforces.

“We need your help in showing that there’s devastating negative economic impact from bad legislation like SB 4, like SB 6, and all the other things that seek to divide our community, and we need our business community to help us tell that story,” he added.

Nirenberg said with new leadership and a new budget preparation cycle underway, he and the Council will strive to make San Antonio “a city that works for every single person, every single business.”

Leaders from the event partner groups lavished praise upon Nirenberg, the new Council, as well as Tuesday’s unique collaboration.

Hispanic Chamber President and CEO Ramiro Cavazos described the ease with which the reception was organized in just one month’s time.

The Hispanic Chamber shares many values with local women- and minority-owned chambers of commerce and business groups, Cavazos noted.

“I think this event was four times larger than last week’s event because it was equal and ecumenical,” Cavazos explained. “It truly is an equal distribution of the resources and it made it easier for us to plan because these groups already work together.”

Cavazos said he liked the approach of Tuesday’s event, where a representative of each partner organization got to talk briefly about his or her group while introducing the mayor or a Council member.

Cavazos described the partner organizations as examples of the City’s cultural diversity.

“They really are leaders of what’s strong about San Antonio, the diversity of our community, and the spirit of unity rather than division,” he added.

David Solis, LGBT Chamber board president, said he was excited and proud that his organization was invited to take part in the reception.

“It is a great opportunity, really for the City, to show how diverse we are. We’re accepting to everybody. It paints a picture of San Antonio,” he added.

Solis said this new level of partnership between local chambers of commerce and other business groups exemplifies a spirit of openness conveyed by the new mayor and Council. He also said San Antonio is becoming more socially progressive.

“That’s important, especially for Millennials. They want to see diversity and improvements,” Solis said. “That’s something we need to harvest, and it’s a perfect time to bring that talent here.”

Before introducing Nirenberg, TechBloc co-founder David Heard thanked Cavazos and the Hispanic Chamber for organizing the reception.

“He’s always been about collaboration with others instead of competing against [them],” Heard said of Cavazos.

Heard thanked Nirenberg for being a supporter of the local tech industry, and for the way he encouraged collaboration among technology businesses, advocates, and the City.

“He’s a friendly person, approachable, a thoughtful leader with a clear vision for our City,” he added.

The Greater San Antonio and the North San Antonio chambers of commerce teamed up to meet the City’s newly elected representatives in an event last week at Sunset Station.

A large crowd listens to the program honoring San Antonio's 2017 City Council leadership at the Pearl Stable.
A large crowd listens to the program honoring San Antonio’s 2017 City Council leadership at the Pearl Stable. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

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.