SAN ANTONIO – Last summer, as demonstrations took over the streets of San Antonio, Mayor Ron Nirenberg delivered an impassioned speech to protestors who wanted to see a change in policing after the death of George Floyd.
“I’m asking you to hold me accountable … nobody else,” Nirenberg told the crowd. “We hear you. We know there needs to be change.”
As he campaigns for another term as mayor, Nirenberg said Tuesday that he feels like he is living up to those words.
“Accountability is a process. It doesn’t always happen quickly,” Nirenberg said. “I want to be held accountable for the outcomes of what we’re trying to achieve.”
Nirenberg appeared Tuesday evening on the premiere of a three-night mayoral forum hosted by KSAT, San Antonio Report, and Bexar Facts. Though he said police reform remains a major priority for him, he remained steadfast in not taking a position on Proposition B, an initiative organized by activists that would undo collective bargaining rights for San Antonio police officers.
“It’s my job as mayor to make sure there are good-faith negotiations happening in the next collective bargaining agreement of which we are now engaged,” Nirenberg said.
The mayor said that he is focused on trying to achieve reforms on the police department’s disciplinary procedures through the next collective bargaining agreement.
“They’ve been effectuated in the priorities of the collective bargaining negotiation,” Nirenberg said. “If the voters change the rules by which we can establish our disciplinary process, then we’ll go with that. But right now, we’re going with the rules that are established.”
Beyond issues in policing, though, Nirenberg said he wants to push for equity in other areas, like workforce development.
In November, voters approved a proposition championed by Nirenberg that reallocated an existing 1/8 cent sales toward a workforce development program that Nirenberg thinks could help the city recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and also help tens of thousands of San Antonio families break generational poverty.
“We need to do something to provide access to economic mobility in our city,” Nirenberg said. “We have to make sure we are targeting folks and not just creating a new benefit.”
If elected, Nirenberg would have to lead the city at a tough time when San Antonio is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and a brutal winter storm that drastically changed how voters felt about CPS Energy.
Nirenberg said the failures seen during the winter storm remain under review by a committee, and said he is prepared to own up to anything the city needs to address. However, he refused to say whether he had confidence in Paula Gold-Williams, CPS Energy CEO.
“Those kinds of things are premature until we have a complete investigation in terms of what happened,” Nirenberg said. “But believe me, every question will be answered.”
Regardless of who voters choose as mayor on Election Day, Nirenberg said it’s been an honor of his lifetime to be mayor of San Antonio.