Citizens both for and against propositions A, B, and C in the upcoming election.
Citizens for and against Propositions A, B, and C in the upcoming election show support for their positions. Credit: Composite / Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Secure San Antonio’s Future has placed a $500,000 ad buy with cable and network television stations, the political action committee’s campaign manager said, and the Go Vote No campaign’s commercials started airing Wednesday.

Secure San Antonio’s Future is the political action committee formed to fight against the passage of three proposed amendments to the City Charter that will be on November’s ballot. Ballot propositions A, B, and C are being spearheaded by the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association.

Two ads, which do not use the word “firefighter” and instead refer to a “special-interest union,” call the three propositions a “con job,” “shell game,” and a “power play.”

The propositions would (A) expand the scope of future ballot referenda and lower the threshold for signatures on future ballot petitions, (B) limit the tenure and pay of future city managers, and (C) force binding arbitration on labor contract negotiations between the City and union.

Officials from the firefighters union could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

While Secure San Antonio’s Future’s Go Vote No campaign has released dozens of video testimonies and other videos on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, the union’s Approved By Citizens campaign has released at least two videos that feature the text of quotes from supporters. SAPFA’s social media accounts, however, are active, with posts of illustrations and memes focusing attention on Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Manager Sheryl Sculley. Sculley’s pay would not be impacted by the charter change, City officials say.

Click here to watch one of the Go Vote No videos and here to view the union’s Facebook page.

Christian Archer, campaign manager for Secure San Antonio’s Future, said he recently saw a television ad paid for by the union’s PAC, San Antonio First, but the Rivard Report was unable to confirm the existence of such an ad.

“Chris Steele spent $510,000 of member dues to get petitions signed, so I imagine that they are going to be placing more television [ads],” Archer said.

The SSAF has filed a lawsuit against the union alleging it illegally used member dues – instead of a unique political action committee – to pay an out-of-town consultant to collect signatures required to put the propositions on the ballot.

The amendments, according to union officials, are aimed at reining in a “corrupt” city government by letting “the people decide” on key financial decisions such as utility rates and ending the labor contract stalemate between the union and the City. But City officials and SSAF campaign material say the amendments would hold the City hostage to special-interest groups that can afford to run petition campaigns and would put municipal finances in danger.

The “special-interest union” referred to in the campaign ad is, of course, the fire union, Archer said, but “I think it’s important that people don’t get confused that it’s the men and women firefighters behind these [propositions]. … There’s a big difference between them and Chris Steele.”

Steele is president of the fire union who launched San Antonio First initiative earlier this year.

Last week, Steele sent a proxy in his place to a recent town hall-style debate with the mayor last week. The meeting’s organizer, the San Antonio Express-Newscanceled the event.

On Wednesday, SSAF announced that Nirenberg has agreed to an hour-long televised debate on Oct. 10. It’s not known whether Steele will participate.

“This is all about trying to create chaos at City Hall,” Archer said, and an “unelected union member [Steele] who won’t even speak in public about why he has done it.”

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. She was the San Antonio Report's...