SAN ANTONIO – The debate over allowing voters to decide whether the city annexes land around Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and Camp Bullis took a heated turn during an exchange between Mayor Ron Nirenberg and District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse.
Prior to voting on the proposal, the council was discussing whether to put the annexation issue on the ballot for the November election.
The back-and-forth began when Brockhouse, who opposes annexation and likened it to a money grab by the city, interrupted Bridgett White, director of the city's planning department, as she answered questions from the council.
"The vote today is a foregone conclusion, Bridgett, so they can turn around and we can begin the process of grabbing this land. That's what's happening," Brockhouse said.
"Councilman, do you have a question?" asked Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
"Mayor, I'm afforded the time," Brockhouse said.
Nirenberg repeated, "Do you have a question for the staff member?"
"Unless you're attempting to cut me off, sir, I'll be waiting," Brockhouse said.
"I'm maintaining control of the meeting, councilman," Nirenberg said. "Do you have a question?"
"Maintaining control from what, sir? I'm asking a question," Brockhouse responded.
"We have a motion on the floor, so contain your conversation to the motion on the floor," Nirenberg said.
"This is an unprecedented move to strike my ability to have a conversation regarding a subject, sir," Brockhouse said.
Nirenberg said, "We're going to keep the conversation moving about the motion on the floor, so if you have a--"
"What you have just witnessed is Mayor Ron Nirenberg at his best, right? Right there. Stifling conversation with those who don't agree with him," Brockhouse said.
According to city staff, annexing land around the military installations would allow the city to protect the training and missions of the military by regulating surrounding development.
"I think it's this red herring of a discussion about the military," Brockhouse said.
If voters don't approve annexation, the city will still exert land-use controls afforded by Senate Bill 6, passed during the last Texas legislative session.
"If the vote doesn't pass, in that particular area, that's where we would be able to create and adopt ordinances," White said. "Extending our tree ordinance, lighting, noise, sound. Things like that."
According to city staff, if the land is annexed, residents living within five miles of JBSA-Lackland would see roughly a $700 increase in property taxes and those living near Camp Bullis would see a $1,700 increase.
Voters will decide on the annexation proposal during the Nov. 6 election.