Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Robert Rivard discuss the biggest challenges facing San Antonio during a conversation at the Pearl Stable.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg is “100 percent confident” that the fire union’s three proposed amendments to the City charter will fail on November’s ballot.

“We have a highly informed electorate when it comes to things in our city, and this is not something we can afford to lose,” he said.

Nirenberg sat down Tuesday at the Pearl Stable with Rivard Report Publisher and Editor Robert Rivard at the second annual “Conversation with the Mayor,” presented by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Rivard Report. The two discussed for an hour affordable housing, public transportation, and the ongoing battle between the City and the firefighters union.

If voters approve the fire union’s three ballot proposals, the new City charter language would limit future city managers’ salaries and tenures, force arbitration between the union and the City for a new contract, and make it easier for citizens to put proposed ordinances to a public vote.

Nirenberg accused the fire union of being a “small minority taking advantage of political turmoil” and polarizing the issue to further its cause. Though there is disagreement, Nirenberg said he’s confident it will all work out.

“There isn’t a challenge we haven’t been able to overcome if we work together,” Nirenberg said. “We get along here, despite our differences and sometimes because of them.”

Nirenberg also emphasized the importance of creating more affordable housing. Like other big cities, San Antonio is facing a housing crisis, he said. His Housing Policy Task Force released a report Monday on comprehensive housing reform, proposing a $3.9 billion funding plan over 10 years.

Nirenberg said his committee has discussed different ways to incentivize affordable housing development, such as land banking or offering by-right zoning in areas that haven’t already been developed.

“We do need to create housing of all types, such as market-rate housing,” he said. “The housing market is healthiest when it’s a mix of all types.”

Along the same vein of equity, the mayor said he supports expanding San Antonio’s public transportation options. He started the nonprofit ConnectSA with Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff in April to raise awareness of mass transit planning in San Antonio. He prefers trackless transportation to installing a light rail, he said, because it provides more flexibility.

Nirenberg acknowledged that voters would not need to approve a trackless plan, but said there’s “no better affirmation of the cultural change” than people voting in favor of better transportation.

“We need multimodal transportation,” he said. “And when we get to show 65 percent of voters said yes to a multimodal transportation future, it will put all those naysayers to rest.”

The conversation ended on the topic of the Alamo redevelopment plan. Nirenberg said he does not want to close off access to Alamo Plaza, but understands the need to respect burial grounds of indigenous people. He said the Alamo’s close link to Texas’ identity makes it a brand known around the world.

“We cannot remove the Alamo Plaza from the civic center,” he said. “It’s gotta remain a central part of civic life in San Antonio.”

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.