I am guessing the Maeckle-Rivard family is not the only one in San Antonio debating the merits of Proposition A on the municipal ballot May 6, when only a small percentage of registered voters are expected to turn out for city elections.

Review a sample ballot here. It will take voters quite a bit of time just to read and digest Prop A’s long and ponderous wording, published in English and Spanish.

How other family members decide to vote is a personal matter. I am voting against it, concluding once again that government by proposition or referendum almost always comes with unintended consequences that demonstrate the folly of bypassing elected representatives empowered to act on behalf of their constituents.

I’m not saying my decision to vote against Prop A has been an easy one.

The individuals who gathered the necessary signatures to place Prop A on the ballot should be commended for their volunteerism and civic engagement and for their desire to extend legal protections to vulnerable populations in San Antonio, notably inner city minorities living in over-policed neighborhoods and women who are denied the right to safe and legal abortion.

Unfortunately, progressives are targeting city government when their focus should be on Republican state leaders and legislators who hold the real power to address everything from a woman’s right to an abortion to the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana. Even if Prop A were to pass, most of its initiatives would be struck down in state district courts.

I agree with Prop A proponents that the use by police of chokeholds and other unjustified, potentially deadly acts of force should be outlawed here. I am wary, however, of creating another city job and title in the form of a justice director. Creating a cycling director at City Hall some years ago has not made San Antonio a safe cycling city. Creating a justice director position will not translate into justice for minority communities. The mayor and members of the City Council should be our true justice directors. If we find individual council members failing us, they should be voted out. If the mayor and council members find the police chief unresponsive to their direction, they should make a change.

It’s only a matter of time before personal use of marijuana is legalized in Texas and other states where it remains criminalized. San Antonio suffers from an epidemic of drunk driving, with too many serial offenders able to plead down DWI charges and get back behind the wheel, posing a serious public danger. Pot smokers don’t cause the same havoc.

I am far less agreeable to the idea of allowing graffiti artists to inflict up to $2,500 of damage on private or public property and not be held accountable, or for criminals to enter local businesses or target individuals for up to $750 in theft without facing arrest and the prospect of jail time. For advocates who say such consequences lead to lost wages and jobs, I’d counter that the person who wants to steal the catalytic converter from my vehicle should know the potential consequences include costly jail time, not just a written citation and court date.

There are too many elements to Prop A. That’s why most voters, I predict, will join local municipal leaders like Mayor Ron Nirenberg and many small business owners who reject it. There’s a kitchen sink quality to the proposition, as if every member of a progressive committee was allowed to place their priority item on the ballot proposition.

Progressives impatient with police reforms, the loss of women’s reproductive rights, and the cruel weight of petty criminal charges see Proposition A as a challenge to the status quo. I respect that. Change does come too slowly, and seldom without the political pressure a movement can generate,

If you are still trying to make up your mind about Proposition A as early voting gets underway Monday, you can learn a lot from Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick’s explanatory article. You can read Nirenberg’s call for a no vote here and commentaries published simultaneously on the San Antonio Report in support of and in opposition to Prop A. 

If Proposition A does fall short with voters, organizers might be wise to focus on a single local issue, like inappropriate use of force by San Antonio police, including no-knock warrants and the use of chokeholds. That could be an issue where voters agree the police are here to protect us, not terrorize people of color or inflict bodily harm in the course of traffic stops and other arrests that escalate out of control.

What is lost in the debate for and against Proposition A is that everyone seems to have an opinion, yet only 10% to 15% of the city’s registered voters are likely to show up and vote. That’s a dismal pattern in local elections. If you really care about the issues being debated and the individuals who hold elected office in San Antonio, you ought to make it to the polls.

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.