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After months of campaigning, early voting is underway in San Antonio and voters are casting their ballots to decide who will represent the city.
The most high-profile race on the ballot is for mayor.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg is hoping he will be reelected for a third term by the end of May 1, but he will have outlast more than a dozen challengers, including former councilman Greg Brockhouse and former District 2 councilwoman candidate Denise Gutierrez-Homer.
The three candidates appeared separately in last week’s mayoral forum, hosted by KSAT, San Antonio Report and Bexar Facts.
Each spoke at length about their platforms, how they’d help San Antonio’s economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic and their stance on Proposition B. Watch the full appearances and read takeaways below.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg
Running for his third term as mayor, Nirenberg focused on the need for equity throughout the forum.
One way Nirenberg hopes to help break generational poverty is with the workforce development program that was approved by voters last November.
“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.”
The program could also help people who have been laid off amid the COVID-19 pandemic, helping them learn new skills to compete in the job market, he said.
Despite giving an impassioned speech to protesters in San Antonio who wanted to see a change in policing after the death of George Floyd, Nirenberg has kept his distance on activists’ efforts to undo collective bargaining rights for San Antonio police officers through Proposition B.
The mayor refused to give his personal stance on the proposition and said he would leave it to the voters. Instead, he said he is focusing on the ongoing negotiations between the city and the police union for a new collective bargaining agreement.
“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 believes that the city will address issues with police department’s disciplinary procedures through the bargaining table.
“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.”
In his second bid for mayor, Brockhouse said he has learned a lot from his narrow defeat to Nirenberg in 2019.
Trailing by double-digits in a recent Bexar Facts poll, Brockhouse also does not have the endorsements of the police or fire unions in San Antonio like he did last time. But that doesn’t bother him, he said.
“You can’t run just to be the mayor of the police and firefighters, you have to be for the entire community and the entire city. And that’s what we came back with this time,” Brockhouse said.
Brockhouse railed on Nirenberg’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he was unable to adapt to changing guidance and too heavy-handed in his approach.
“I would have never shut us down,” Brockhouse said. “I would have not promoted mandatory masks. I would have worked within the science and the parameters of helping us keep moving throughout our community.”
If elected, Brockhouse would freeze Nirenberg’s workforce development program and focus on revitalizing industries like hotel and tourism, he said.
On Proposition B, Brockhouse was steadfastly opposed to it.
“I believe it will defund our police department,” he said. “Police officers will leave, and it will make us less safe.”
Gutierrez-Homer, a former District 2 councilwoman candidate, knows she’s more of an outsider than the two leading candidates in the San Antonio mayoral race, but said she can use that to her advantage.
Spending more than two decades in subcontracting, Gutierrez-Homer said the profession has given her experience in working with people and managing a budget.
“I was able to wear so many different hats,” she said. “Whether you’re building a home or a multi-million dollar project, you have to do what you have to do to get those projects done on time and on budget.”
Gutierrez-Homer thinks Nirenberg was “getting too much direction” from Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We were closed for too long,” she said.
By improving and expanding broadband access throughout the city of San Antonio, Gutierrez-Homer said that will help attract new businesses and help San Antonio’s economy grow.
As a former teacher, Gutierrez-Homer said collective bargaining rights help ensure employees are not being taken advantage of. Because of that, she opposes Proposition B.