Hoping to inspire San Antonio millennials to support their mayoral campaigns, Mayor Ivy Taylor, City Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8), and Bexar County Democratic Chairman Manuel Medina shared their visions for a better city with a crowd of more than 100 people Thursday night at Dorçol Distilling Company.

With the municipal election less than four months away, the event – organized by MOVE San Antonio, a voting advocacy nonprofit – was the first time all three mayoral candidates were in same room at the same time since kicking off their campaigns, said MOVE San Antonio Executive Director Drew Galloway.

In their brief remarks, each candidate recognized the importance of getting the city’s Milliennial population to the ballot box for the May 6 City Election. Taylor described her vision for San Antonio to be “a globally competitive city” and cited her efforts with the community to secure rideshare operations in the city, bolster the local tech scene, and enhance the city’s arts and culture sector as examples of her dedication to achieve that.

As mayor, Taylor hopes to continue that innovation while also addressing basic needs such as infrastructure and “ensuring that we have a great police force.”

“I know it takes work beyond us at City Hall,” she said, “… it takes all of us working together in order to continue the momentum and the energy we have.”

Mayor Ivy Taylor discusses her accomplishments as Mayor of San Antonio.
Mayor Ivy Taylor discusses her accomplishments as Mayor of San Antonio. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Nirenberg, however, said Taylor could have done more.

“We have no lack of good ideas in the city of San Antonio,” he said. “What we lack is action.”

The District 8 Councilman pointed to San Antonio’s lack of “an efficient and effective public transportation system,” something he said residents from every part of the city have been wanting for years, but have not received. If elected mayor, Nirenberg said he plans to implement “a truly comprehensive multimodal transportation plan” and a more “equitable and compassionate housing policy” as the city continues to be redeveloped.

Councilman and Mayoral candidate Ron Nirenberg specifically calls out transportation as a large problem in San Antonio.
Councilman and mayoral candidate Ron Nirenberg cites transportation as an important issue for San Antonio voters. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Medina, a longtime political consultant who has never held an elected government office, referred to himself as “financially and politically independent” and vowed to “represent the taxpayers” and “fight for our San Antonio values” as mayor.

He said Taylor was “out of touch” with the needs of San Antonio residents and too focused on the 1 million people who will come to live in the city over the next 25 years.

“Mayor Taylor has championed three ‘back-to-basics’ budgets that delivered on streets and drainage, senior programs, parks, and other basic services. She’s supporting a $850 million bond package that will address some of our city’s greatest needs. She meets with residents daily to hear their concerns and aspirations,” said Taylor’s re-election campaign manager Christian Anderson. “Only a candidate who doesn’t know the issues would suggest she’s out of touch.”

Also present Thursday evening were individuals running for their respective City Council district seats. They each had two minutes to share their campaign focuses and ideas for a better San Antonio.

With Nirenberg running for mayor, City Councilman Ray Lopez (D6) termed out, and Councilmen Joe Krier (D9) and Mike Gallagher (D10) not seeking re-election, four Council seats are vacant and up for grabs by candidates ranging from political newcomers to seasoned business owners to educators and civically engaged Millennials.

Council members Roberto Treviño (D1), Alan Warrick (D2), Rey Saldaña (D4), Shirley Gonzales (D5), and Cris Medina (D7) were present and all but Medina and Warrick, who had to leave before their time to speak, addressed the crowd and advocated for their re-election. As of now, Saldaña is running uncontested.

Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) was not present Thursday, and no one announced their campaign to run against her.

Some Council district races are shaping up to be competitive, such as the District 2 race among incumbent Warrick, attorney William “Cruz” Shaw, and former Councilman Keith Toney, who will officially announce his bid on Saturday.

Meanwhile, there are four contenders in the race for the District 6 Council seat, and the former chairman of the Brooks Development Authority Manny Pelaez is running for the vacant District 8 seat against USAA financial analyst Tony Valdivia.

Pelaez, a business attorney who was Toyota’s first local hire in 2003, touted his experience in the business sector, his leadership on several organization boards including VIA Metropolitan Transit, and his volunteerism as key components that make him the best replacement for Nirenberg.

After hearing the brief statements by the mayoral and City Council candidates, a number of the Millennials said it was still too early to say which candidates will win their votes.

“I’m just now starting to research the candidates and get an idea of who they are,” said attendee Ken Briggs. So far, he is impressed with Nirenberg who he said presented “good ideas and seems to really care about the city and its future.” But Taylor’s history as mayor, Briggs added, has been productive, which gives him pause.

Denise Hernandez, a local Millennial activist, said that she will be looking at each mayoral candidate’s voting history regarding local policies, among other things, to help shape her decision.

“I’m trying to be as open-minded as I can be and trying to see what each person brings to the table,” she said. “I’m going to see who can bring something authentic to San Antonio and see if they really care about our issues” and not their own self interests.

Attendee Daniel Paul Rivera said that once election day comes around, he will vote for candidates that he believes will bring “effective leadership” that keep San Antonio’s momentum going.

“I want somebody who can actually transform San Antonio into a global capital,” he said.

Camille Garcia is a journalist born and raised in San Antonio. She formerly worked at the San Antonio Report as assistant editor and reporter. Her email is camillenicgarcia@gmail.com