To inform readers about the candidates seeking their votes on the May 1 ballot, the San Antonio Report asked all City Council and mayoral candidates to respond to a brief questionnaire. Only candidates who responded are listed below. Some responses were edited slightly for clarity, and we did not fact-check responses.

See more Q&As with candidates in the May election here.

Quick navigation: Manny Pelaez | Cesario Garcia | Rob Rodriguez

Manny Pelaez

Age 46, District 8 City Council member and attorney. San Antonio resident for 29 years.

List any previous experience in government or participation on local boards, commissions, or neighborhood associations.

I’ve practiced law since 2000. I was the first person ever hired by Toyota Motor Manufacturing. I have served as the general counsel for a multinational publicly traded engineering and automotive manufacturing company. I have represented more than 175 homeowners associations. Since 2016 I have represented thousands of small businesses and homeowners as their attorney.

Current or former boards, commissions, and memberships: Brooks City Base Development Authority (Trustee, Chairman); VIA Metropolitan Transit Authority (Trustee); San Antonio Economic Development Corporation (Board Member); San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (Executive Board Member and Chairman of International Affairs Committee); Advanced Transportation District (Trustee); Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board (Board Member); San Antonio Water Systems (Rate Advisory Committee Board Member); City of San Antonio (Bond Selection Commission, Chairman of Drainage Committee); Mayor’s Library District Commission (Board Member); North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce (Past Board Member); Tri-Ed Northern Kentucky/Ohio/Indiana Economic Development Foundation (Board Member); National Hispanic Lobbyists Association (Board Member); San Antonio Zoo (Board Member); Trinity University Board of Visitors (Presidential Advisory Board Member); San Antonio Express News (Community Advisory Board); U.S.-Mexico Bar Association (Dispute Resolution Committee and Chairman of In-House Counsel Committee); American Bar Association (Section of Dispute Resolution); State Bar of Texas (Dispute Resolution Committee); State Bar of Texas (Public Affairs Committee, Board Member); Minority Counsel Program, (Steering Committee, Board Member); Association of Corporate Counsel; Texas Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights (Board Member); San Antonio Bar Association (International Law Committee; Board Member); San Antonio Bar Foundation (Board Member); Leadership San Antonio (Steering Committee Board Member).

What are the top priorities you would like to address as a council member?

Police and fire: I intend to oppose any efforts to reduce the amount of protection my neighborhoods get from police and fire. I will oppose any initiative that threatens to reduce 911 response times. During my four years on City Council, I have consistently increased police and fire department headcount and increased budgets for equipment, computer systems, and vehicles and radio systems. 

Resilience: Megastorms and catastrophes (eg. COVID-19 pandemic) are the new normal. San Antonio continues to suffer from lack of preparedness to handle catastrophic events and acute shocks. Preparedness will require major infrastructure investment (stormwater infrastructure, flood control, first responder equipment, Metro Health upgrades, information systems hardening, warning systems, and emergency hospital services). We will only be able to make that investment if we continue to bring home federal grant dollars from FEMA, DOJ, DOD, DOT, and DHS. As the chairman of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee, I have brought home more than $360 million of our federal tax dollars back from Washington, D.C. And, in the first quarter of 2021 I brought back $46 million.

Domestic violence: One out of three women in San Antonio have a domestic violence story to tell or will have a domestic violence story to tell. This is unacceptable. I have dedicated my life to combating domestic violence by serving as the pro-bono general counsel for the Battered Women & Children’s Shelter. I authored the ordinance mandating San Antonio’s very first domestic violence response plan, resulting in the first ever multidisciplinary and cross agency domestic violence program led by local judges, education leaders, Metro Health, law enforcement, and nonprofits. I have brought home tens of millions of dollars from the federal and Texas governments for domestic violence programs.

Do you support the proposition to change city charter language and expand the use of bond money beyond public works?

Yes. I trust the wisdom and will of the voters. This proposed charter amendment gives voters more options from which to choose. I will always advocate for increasing voter choices instead of curtailing them. That’s why I support this proposition – because it treats voters like adults and recognizes their right to help direct how money is spent in their neighborhoods. 

Do you believe there is a need for policing reform in San Antonio?

I support police officers and I appreciate the sacrifices they make for all of us. It is not up for debate that all aspects of government offer room for improvement. The officers whom I consider friends and advisors agree that our police department is not immune from the need for continuous improvement. They and I support any and all effort to make SAPD services better (i.e. more efficient, safer, more transparent, more accountable, more compassionate, and more accessible). If that’s what reform is, then yes – I support police reform. I do not, however, support any effort that would reduce 911 response times, police compensation, or quality of policing in my neighborhoods. I believe that the Fix SAPD initiative, if approved, will result in negative impacts to recruitment efforts, 911 response times, and quality of policing services. 

How do you see the concept of “equity” applying to a City Council member’s job?

Equity is one of San Antonio’s most important values. It is the idea that all people are worthy of respect and dignity matched by the recognition that a community’s well-being depends on ensuring that all members are given a seat at the table. For equity to work, it requires us to accept that vulnerable people exist and that we, as conscientious members of an interdependent community, have an obligation to ensure that budgets and services do not leave vulnerable people more vulnerable than they already are.

Equity is, and must always be part of our daily vocabulary and should inform all our decisions at City Hall.  This is especially true when times are tough. Our character and our values will be tested and it important that our response to challenges start with an important question: “Who is most at risk and how should our response be designed so as to not leave those vulnerable San Antonians worse off than everyone else?” That’s how I apply equity in every decision I make at City Hall.

Cesario Garcia

Age 49, owner operator in the video production industry. San Antonio resident for 25 years.

List any previous experience in government or participation on local boards, commissions, or neighborhood associations.

As a military brat I have worked with MWR and AAFES at various military bases: Reese AFB, Torrejón AFB along with Ramstein USAFE 86th Services.

What are the top priorities you would like to address as a council member?

First and foremost as a conduit for all city and private business in support of as facilitator on a local government level. To partner with each business as needed.

Do you support the proposition to change city charter language and expand the use of bond money beyond public works?

City charter language needs to be transparent so that the public can be empowered.

Only if the monies that are used benefit infrastructure projects and not pet projects. Without having to raise taxes on citizens who are already burdened with the current pandemic.

Do you believe there is a need for policing reform in San Antonio?

Yes, I believe each new and current peace officer must know the U.S. constitution and how each law is applied during and thought out in each encounter with the public. An educational apparatus must be in place for both the public and peace officer. However, removing funding is not reforming the police, it’s limiting them with the tools needed to carry out their jobs.

How do you see the concept of “equity” applying to a City Council member’s job?

When one is elected (i.e. hired by the people) and serves the public they are expected to operate as an extension of the people’s charter and work in concert with the various departments within the city as liaison from that district. Equally, they must be willing to address the concerns and answer the hard questions.

Rob Rodriguez

Age 53, military veteran and broker and managing partner of a commercial real estate brokerage in San Antonio. San Antonio resident for more than 30 years.

List any previous experience in government or participation on local boards, commissions, or neighborhood associations.

City of San Antonio Planning Commission, chairman; City of San Antonio Small Business Advocacy Committee, member; City of San Antonio Goal Setting Committee, member; City of San Antonio Convention and Visitors Commission, member; SAWS Community Conservation Committee, member; Northside ISD Bond Committee; San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board, member; South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Board, member; Southside First Economic Development Council, member; Alamo Area Home Care Council, president; Red Cross Board-San Antonio Chapter, member; Youth Orchestra of San Antonio, member; FIRST Robotics Board, member.

What are the top priorities you would like to address as a council member?

Increasing the affordability of home ownership by raising the homestead tax exemption. Assisting small businesses by streamlining city and city-owned entities’ procurement policies to favor locally owned businesses. Ensuring public safety by improving infrastructure and traffic conditions.

Do you support the proposition to change city charter language and expand the use of bond money beyond public works?

No. The city is far behind on maintaining and building vital infrastructure and public works. Expanding the scope of the purpose of bond dollars drains the limited funds to put toward these projects.

Do you believe there is a need for policing reform in San Antonio?

I believe that we can provide police reform within the framework of the collective bargaining agreement. The SAPD can improve on the quality of people it recruits by raising admission standards. In addition, the quality of police can be maintained by formal, written quarterly and annual evaluations that can assist supervisors in correcting potentially problematic policemen.

How do you see the concept of “equity” applying to a City Council member’s job?

San Antonio amended its city charter in 1977 to allow for single member districts. The concept then, as it should be now, is that each council member should be foremost an advocate for their respective district. There are some instances where the equity funding model is not appropriate. Allocation of federal/state COVID-19/small business relief dollars and determination of which citizens will be eligible for SA Ready to Work funding are examples. When elected, I will work for the maximum allocation of budget dollars for my district.

San Antonio Report Staff

San Antonio Report Staff

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff.