In light of political chaos at the national level, many voters may feel they lack power, and achieving amity in the current body politic feels remote. However, change begins at the local level, and we all possess the ability to effect change locally.
Voters can make their voices heard by voting yes on three ballot referendums on the Nov. 6 ballot: Propositions A, B, and C.
Opponents of the propositions tout governmental efficiency and an adverse effect on our City’s AAA bond rating. But they are a necessary check on City leadership, which has opted to pursue the agendas of special-interest money in order to exert influence where the city’s elites have deemed it necessary.
A vote in favor of Prop A allows citizens to together rally against decisions by the City Council and the city manager. The Declaration of Independence proclaims, “governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” In other words, the power of the government emanates from the people. Therefore, a measure allowing for greater participation and input from the constituency through referendum should be favored, not vilified.
We must ask ourselves: What is the intent of an elite leadership who seeks to curb the power of people in a city, state, or nation?
One of the leaders of Tech Bloc recently related these propositions to the wave of populism sweeping the country. Populism means support for the concerns of ordinary people, and one could juxtapose this by saying it goes against the explicit desires of the elite. Looking at those who support these measures we find the mayor, many on city council, the city manager, chambers of commerce, and others within the business community at-large. In other words, the major proponents of these propositions are the elite of San Antonio
, who have no regard for citizens who struggle to meet their basic needs.
Does the average person in this city earn more than $600,000 per year like our city manager? Can the average person in this city afford $15,000 curtains for his office like Mayor Ron Nirenberg? The answer is no.
Lastly, a vote in favor of Proposition B limits the tenure and pay of future city managers. Our current city manager has reigned in power for nearly 15 years as a technocrat ably installing personnel to suit her own personal vision. Voting yes for this proposition effectively creates a balance of power between the people of San Antonio and the autocratic rule that can result when the city manager possesses what essentially amounts to unchecked power.
Utilizing taxpayer dollars, the City has routinely and successfully fought against many people and entities by attempting to starve them out in litigation. These propositions became necessary after the City challenged the firefighters union all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, spending more than $1.5 million in taxpayer dollars to fight the evergreen clause in the union’s labor contract.
The binding arbitration prescribed in this proposition would be a win for taxpayers. In the course of litigation, neither side seeks or desires arbitration because it results in compromise. Voting against Prop C would allow the City to continue to bully outside groups by starving their court challenges through legal expenses. After all, how many ordinary people can fight the City and win? Taxpayer dollars should not be used as a weapon to marginalize those who are weaker. If anything, Prop C would demand a better democratic process from the City, which has a city manager who wields too much power.
Ironically, opponents of the propositions assert division within the city as a consequence of the passage of these propositions, but the City’s process has already divided San Antonio by forcing its sub-communities to compete for dollars when the city has not yet formed a collective identity. Given the chance, our neighborhoods and communities could help realize that identity. Neighborhoods won’t turn against other neighborhoods – it’s not in the character or nature of our collective communities, who are already scrambling for dollars to preserve and solidify infrastructure while outside developers and corporations are incentivized to make this city something it is not. Why not empower local companies and community partners rather than prematurely reward unproven outsiders who thus far have not had our collective communities’ best interest in mind?
It’s time for the citizens of San Antonio to reclaim their city. However, it’s going to take communities uniting to neutralize the special interest platform that has run this government for decades. Voting yes for Props A, B, and C give citizens the power to finally exercise their innate right to fair, democratic governance. We don’t know what is possible as a truly collective community; however, if we reclaim our rights and assert our own democratic influence, we will have an opportunity to determine our own destiny for the benefit of San Antonio as a whole.