Mayor Ron Nirenberg addresses the revamped Charter Review Commission in a first meeting of new members. Credit: Edmond Ortiz / San Antonio Report

A new City Charter Review Commission (CRC) debuted at City Hall on Friday, as its members introduced themselves and discussed subcommittees that will examine specific issues ahead of a potential charter amendment election.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced in late March the appointment of new members he hopes will provide fresh perspectives on four issues for potential charter revision: development, public finance, ethics, and governance.

Nirenberg briefly addressed the commission, which includes 11 new members, two members returning from the last iteration of the CRC, and an alternate member. He commended previous commission members for their work, adding that the new members all bring relevant expertise.

“Every one of you has been a source of information, advice, accountability, for many members of our community for a long, long time in the areas of governance, finance, ethics and development,” Nirenberg said.

“I want to thank you for your willingness to serve. This is an extraordinary body of people and I’m truly impressed that you are all assembled here today and especially on such short notice.”

Nirenberg said he is particularly interested in seeing what the commission comes up with regarding potential changes in the City’s ethics code, which was a priority topic during his mayoral campaign.

“Our hope is that San Antonio can truly be a gold standard for function and for ethics and accountability in government,” he said.

“My hope is that this body will help give some guidance as to revisions of the charter to help solidify that, and continue to build on that feeling in our community that this is a worthy, strong city.”

City staff offered a calendar of proposed meeting dates for the full Commission and for the four subcommittees. The full Commission is tentatively set to meet at 10 a.m. April 24, May 8, June 5 and 12, and July 17 and 24.

All of those meetings – except the May 8 session – will take place at the Central Library; the May 8 gathering will be held in the ‘B’ meeting room at the City Hall Municipal Plaza building.

The full Commission would also have meetings following public hearings that begin at 6 p.m. on May 24 and 31. The locations for those hearings and meetings have yet to be determined.

In a memorandum to City staff about revamping the Commission, Nirenberg expressed a desire to see whether the panel could recommend charter amendment proposals to the City Council’s Governance Committee by June 21.

That way, the Committee – and then the full Council – could explore whether to call a charter amendment election for Nov. 6. The City has a state-mandated deadline of Aug. 20 to do that.

Despite the tight time frame, Nirenberg on Friday asked the commission not to rush its work: “We hope you have enough time to consider all the issues. However, it’s more important we get great work rather than rushed work.”

If no election is called for November, the City would have to wait until its May 2019 municipal elections to consider calling a charter amendment vote.

CRC Chairwoman Bonnie Prosser Elder, an executive with VIA Metropolitan Transit,  asked her fellow commissioners to study what previous CRC members have done and found in their exploration of the issues the last few years.

“They did a lot of work, and it’d be helpful, when breaking down in your subcommittee, to go back and see specific work related to your committee,” she said.

Elder suggested the formation of a fifth subcommittee that could oversee public outreach in order to ensure the community knows what the commission is doing every step of the way.

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.