Protesters disrupted a mayoral forum Tuesday night, shouting at Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) and carrying posters decrying domestic violence. One woman yelled, “We read the report!”
Brockhouse supporters drowned out her voice: “Clear her out! Clear her out!”
The crowd at Travis Park Church grew tense and vocal as Brockhouse again denied domestic violence allegations contained in a pair of police reports, indicating the mayoral race’s recent contentious turn. Around 400 people attended the forum hosted by the Rivard Report and Travis Park Church, where both candidates fielded questions – in separate sessions – about transportation, homelessness, and Chick-fil-A.
Domestic violence has become an issue in the mayoral runoff, even as Brockhouse continues to defend himself, accusing Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s campaign of using “personal slander” as a political tool.
At a Rivard Report forum held in April, Brockhouse had avoided discussing two police reports in which he was the subject of domestic violence allegations, in 2006 and 2009. He was never arrested or charged in either alleged incident.
“It’s absolutely false,” he said Tuesday of the allegations. “ … I have been consistent that these accusations are false.”
Brockhouse promised to commit “full funding” to addressing domestic violence if elected. He also read a statement from his wife, Annalisa, following the publication of what the San Antonio Express-News said was a copy of the 2009 police report filed when a police officer responded to the Brockhouse home for a domestic violence call. Brockhouse has denied being involved in such an incident.
“I have never been a victim before, but Ron Nirenberg has made he me feel like one with his constant attacks on my character, my family and my husband,” Brockhouse read on behalf of his wife. Annalisa sat in the audience, watching her husband.
Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick, who moderated the event with Travis Park Church Associate Pastor Gavin Rogers, asked Brockhouse if he had the 2009 police report expunged. The San Antonio Police Department has said the 2009 report didn’t exist in City records.
“No,” he said. “The report is false.”
As the shouting grew louder from protesters inside the church and with Brockhouse supporters shouting back, Brockhouse thrust his hands forward.
“You wanted to hear me speak,” he said. “Now I’m speaking. Now you need to listen.”
Brockhouse answered questions posed by the moderators and audience members for nearly an hour.
Nirenberg’s turn came next. He said that a public figure’s private life can become relevant, especially when running for office.
“I think it’s fair to question someone’s ability to manage themselves,” Nirenberg said. “It’s fair to question someone’s moral fiber when you’re vying to lead a city of a million and a half people.”
Nirenberg defended his record as mayor, responding to one of Brockhouse’s most-repeated campaign lines: that he has accomplished little in his two-year term. Nirenberg pointed to ConnectSA, a comprehensive multimodal transportation plan that he intends to bring to the voters to approve. He said he does not support diverting money from the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program and from funds for creating linear creekway parks.
Brockhouse said he would shelve both ConnectSA and the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan if elected. His solution to solving transportation woes in San Antonio lies in the hands of VIA Metropolitan Transit, he said.
“VIA has received less than half of the major transit authorities in Texas,” Brockhouse said. “We have to increase that … VIA is the answer for me. We have to increase that funding, find the mechanisms to make that happen.”
Both he and Nirenberg said they would continue to help fund nonprofit efforts to support asylum seekers passing through San Antonio, even if the federal government was unable to provide reimbursement. City Council recently approved up to $141,000 to go toward Catholic Charities and other organizations in San Antonio who provide food, shelter, and other services to migrants.
“Our job is not to ask, ‘When do we get ours back?’ It is, ‘What we can do to help?’” Nirenberg said. “This is a very small portion of funding that is being matched.by the private sector and being quadrupled by other nonprofits pitching in their time. … We’re not in the position to say let’s wait until the check cashes to give somebody food. We can’t do that.”
Brockhouse said he understands concerns from community members, but stressed that the migrants traveling through San Antonio are legally seeking asylum.
“The scary part for people is how long it’ll last, how much it’ll cost,” Brockhouse said. That doesn’t help any of [the migrants]. They’re here lawfully. They’re asylum seekers here lawfully.”
Brockhouse dismissed concerns that his relationship with the firefighters union would give the union the upper hand in contract negotiations. The union returned to the negotiating table with the City after five years of no discussion.
“My commitment is solid,” he said. “The taxpayer comes first and we will balance that accordingly. Public safety is job one, period. We need to make sure [firefighters] are compensated and taken care of.”
Brockhouse said he also wants to address San Antonio’s problem with homelessness by helping Haven for Hope develop a sustainable funding model, and to bring in more faith communities to tackle homelessness in San Antonio. Nirenberg said understanding the root causes of homelessness is key to helping those who struggle with it.
“If you talk to these folks and learn their stories, it is highly correlated with incidents of mental [illness], domestic violence, to substance abuse – all of these contribute to homelessness,” he said.