SAN ANTONIO – After a contentious campaign that drew record numbers of San Antonio voters to the polls, Proposition B— but only just.
The ballot measure to strip San Antonio police officers of their collective bargaining power fell short by 3,475 —a 2.3% margin. To Fix SAPD, the group that circulated the petition to get the issue onto the ballot, that slim defeat shows “the community is ready for change.”
“Those 3,000 votes really comes down to a matter of resources and being able to reach folks,” said Deputy Director Ananda Tomas. “We are a brand-new, grassroots organization - we haven’t even hit our one-year anniversary yet - going against an established political machine, which is the San Antonio Police Officers Association.”
Tomas says Fix SAPD’s work isn’t done yet.
The group can’t submit another petition to get a local repeal of the same state law, Chapter 174, onto the ballot for at least another year.
However, it plans to continue to push for the local repeal of another state law, Chapter 143, which establishes various disciplinary procedures and protections that Fix SAPD believes are barriers to accountability - like requiring misconduct be punished within 180 days of it happening.
Tomas said Fix SAPD has had conversations with the city manager and the city attorney’s office about the ability of the police union contract to retain some of those provisions, even if Chapter 143 is repealed. However, she said Fix SAPD believes it will be easier to get the reforms they want if the law isn’t in play.
“But they do think that some things in terms of access to disciplinary records, or possibly the 180 window, or other parts of that can still be more easily pulled out of the contract because there’s no longer a law backing them up,” Tomas said.
The signature threshold to get Chapter 143 is considerably higher than the one to get Chapter 174 onto the ballot was - about 80,000 signatures, instead of 20,000. Because the signatures are only good for 180 days, many of the signatures on Fix SAPD’s current Chapter 143 petition are expired or about to be.
So, Tomas says, they’ll need to start over.
“But we have activated a lot of folks in the community, built a coalition of partners. I think that this round - no matter if it’s going after both laws, or just one or the other - it’s going to be much easier and much more attainable than when we started,” Tomas said.
There are also several police reform bills being considered at the state capitol, which could affect how Fix SAPD proceeds - even whether it tries to tackle collective bargaining again, or not.
Tomas says the group plans to lend its voice to those efforts in Austin, but also closer to home - to the police contract talks that are now free to proceed.
“So, there’s still a lot of pressure to put there to say don’t rush a contract, don’t back down on arbitration. This is a huge piece for a lot of folks —just making sure that the community is part of that, whether it’s calling the elected officials, speaking as citizens to be heard, creating our own petition, you know, to give to our elected leaders,” Tomas said.
John “Danny” Diaz, the president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association, says the union is waiting for the city’s call on when the next contract negotiation dates will be.
The election results don’t change their approach to the negations, Diaz said, though he acknowledged the results showed a certain amount of distrust towards officers and said the union would work hard towards earning trust back.
“We have to get out in the community and show 49% of the citizens here in San Antonio that it’s not what it’s been portrayed out to be,” Diaz said.