Mayor Ron Nirenberg took to Facebook Live on Wednesday night for the pilot episode of “Ask Ron,” inviting online viewers into his City Hall office and answering questions about municipal government and policy goals.

“San Antonio, good evening, and thank you so much for tuning in,” Nirenberg said. “This is the very first ‘Ask Ron’ from the mayor’s office.”

Continuing a practice he began during his mayoral campaign, when he took questions from voters via Facebook Live, Nirenberg said he plans to take the same approach each Wednesday night at 9 p.m., using the opportunity not only for outreach but to preview items and issues coming before the City Council at its Thursday sessions.
For more than 30 minutes, Nirenberg discussed his agenda, took questions submitted by citizens in advance of the livestream, and even offered a brief civics lesson.

By Thursday evening, the stream had been viewed more than 15,800 times, received more than 950 reactions, was shared more than 180 times, and elicited more than 470 comments.

Nirenberg kicked off the session by giving viewers a tour of the mayor’s office, a hand-held camera moving shakily as it followed him around the room. He pointed out commemorative Alamo Bowl footballs and binders of papers and budgets left over from his work as District 8 Councilman.

“This is the desk that I will be sitting at to do a lot of the work of signing papers and things like that,” Nirenberg said. “All of the ordinances that we pass every week at council, every vote that’s taken, has an ordinance or resolution attached that has to be signed, and those are the kinds of things that happen at the desk.”

As he showed viewers around his office, the video felt reminiscent of the television specials of the 1960s in which First Lady Jackie Kennedy revealed the interior of the White House to viewers.

After the tour, Nirenberg told viewers how pleased he was to be selected as Grand Marshal for Saturday’s Pride Parade. He also shared news of VIA’s goMobile application launch earlier Wednesday and discussed the day’s budget session for the City’s 2018 fiscal year.

Joined briefly by Juany Torres, his senior policy advisor and director of community engagement, Nirenberg also spent time answering questions from citizens – the main focus of “Ask Ron.” Questioned about the city’s pursuit of a $15 minimum wage, he said he wanted to move toward the City Council’s goal of establishing a $15 minimum wage by 2019 through implementing a $14.75 minimum wage in the 2018 fiscal budget. He said implementing a $15 minimum wage immediately is unlikely because of expected federal budget cuts.

Asked if he would promote civic engagement and education for the city’s young people, Nirenberg said working to move municipal election dates to November and increasing accessibility to him and his staff would be among his goals.

In response to a question on affordable housing in the city’s urban core, Nirenberg stressed that he hoped to work with the local business community to help provide the housing that the city simply can’t build on its own.

Asked about the city’s plans for becoming more wheelchair-accessible, the mayor cited plans to expand sidewalks in accordance with ADA accessibility guidelines. Nirenberg also said he supports District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño’s idea for developing a plan to create an ADA entrance for the front of city hall. Countering potential criticisms of purposeless government spending, the mayor stated that the steps to the “people’s house” should be accessible to wheelchairs from the front of the building.

Answering a question about understaffing in the San Antonio Police Department, Nirenberg said the city is projected to fill some 200 positions through five online cadet training courses and by making the city safer as a whole through the addition of another 120 mixed jurisdiction officers to assist in battling gang activity.

Bruce Davidson, Nirenberg’s director of communications, previously told the Rivard Report that the mayor planned on having a continued social media presence.

Facebook users interested in submitting questions for “Ask Ron” may do so by posting their question as a comment onto the weekly Q&A announcement post on Facebook preceding the Wednesday night streams starting at 9 p.m.

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Jeffrey Sullivan

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.