(From left) Mayor Ron Nirenberg and San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association President Chris Steele.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg (left) and San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association President Chris Steele. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and firefighters union President Chris Steele will be in the same room for the first time in months Thursday night when they appear on a panel to discuss three controversial propositions on the November ballot.

The town hall-style event, hosted by the San Antonio Express-News, will be moderated by Francine Romero, associate dean for the College of Public Policy. Frank Garza, a partner at Davidson, Troilo, Ream & Garza law firm and St. Mary’s University adjunct professor, will join Nirenberg and Steele as a panelist.

The discussion will take place at the Buena Vista Theater at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Downtown Campus. Doors close at 6:45 p.m., and the event is free and open to the public. Registration information and directions are online here.

The propositions, which the fire union spearheaded amid a stalemate in labor negotiations, would change the City’s charter:

  • (Prop A) makes it easier for citizens to put proposed ordinances and financial decisions to a public vote;
  • (Prop B) limits future city managers’ salaries and tenure, and;
  • (Prop C) forces binding arbitration between the union and the City for a new labor contract.

The mayor, many business leaders, and labor advocates say special-interest groups could throw the city into chaos with constant referenda and decision reversals while threatening the City’s AAA bond rating and costing the city millions in increased interest payments. San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association officials say these changes would give the citizens of San Antonio a stronger voice in local government.

Prop A would decrease the number of citizen signatures required to place referenda on a ballot from 10 percent of registered voters (about 70,000 today) to 20,000 (regardless of the number of registered voters) and increase the time petitioners have to collect them from 40 to 180 days.

Prop B would not impact current City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who likely will receive more than $500,000 for her work in 2018, has held that position for 12 years. It would limit whoever comes next to a $300,000 salary and limit their tenure to eight years. The city manger oversees a $2.7 billion budget and more than 12,000 employees.

Prop C would remove other avenues the City has in its contract negotiations with the fire union. The language would allow the union to declare an impasse and select an arbitrator.

The third proposition has been said to be the main reason behind the fire union’s fight against City Hall, but Steele has denied that. Attempts to reach Steele for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

“I look forward to ensuring that voters hear the truth about these destructive charter amendments,” Nirenberg said Wednesday.

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