San Antonio – District 1 Councilman Mario Bravo lit into District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval directly ahead of the city budget vote on Sep. 15, in a confrontation that included personal comments, sources tell KSAT.
The confrontation reportedly left Sandoval in tears, and Bravo was later seen shouting at Sandoval’s chief of staff that the councilwoman had “put the knives in my back,” a reference to what Bravo claims was Sandoval’s flip-flop on supporting his plan to use a windfall of unexpected CPS Energy revenues for climate-related projects.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg is aware of the incident and is expected to take some kind of action Friday.
The incident was initially reported by the San Antonio Express News.
During the meeting on the annual budget that followed, Sandoval abstained from a narrow 5-5 vote on whether to hold off on spending $42.5 million of the $75 million in unexpected CPS Energy revenue the city received from the utility.
Bravo was one of the main forces behind the attempt to delay, hoping it would allow his plan to use the money to “reduce future high energy bills, reduce urban heat island effect and flooding, and increase community resilience” to move forward.
But because Sandoval abstained, the split vote meant the motion to delay spending the money failed, and the original plan to use the funds for CPS customer bill credits, proposed by city staff and championed by Mayor Ron Nirenberg, passed instead.
It had been unclear in the week leading up to the vote which way Sandoval would end up voting on the issue. She and Bravo both have reputations as champions of environmental issues, and Sandoval had put forward her own proposal to establish a new climate resiliency and sustainability fund using a portion of the CPS Energy revenue the city receives every year.
Unlike Bravo’s proposal, though, Sandoval’s passed as part of the final budget with $9.5 million of funding for FY 2023 and $9.15 million for FY 2024.
Pressed after the meeting about why she had abstained on the vote to delay spending the $42.5 million, Sandoval told KSAT, with clear frustration, “because I didn’t support either one, OK?”
Before the meeting began, city hall sources say Bravo got into a confrontation with Sandoval in city council chambers.
The two council members had previously dated, and a source says Bravo’s comments turned personal and “a line was crossed,” though the source did not get into the specifics.
Sources say Sandoval was left in tears, and Andrew Solano, Sandoval’s chief of staff, later told Bravo he did not need to make the issue personal. As Solano walked away, Bravo was seen following him and shouting, “she put the knives in my back.”
In an emailed statement from a spokeswoman, Bravo said Thursday:
“Councilwoman Sandoval’s team promised to be the 6th vote on a major climate policy issue that we both share a deep commitment to. When she broke her promise at the last hour, I lost my cool and said things that I regret. While I struggle to understand why she compromised her principals (sic) in last week’s vote, I remain committed to working professionally with all of my council colleagues to advance policies that benefit our city.”
However, a city hall source familiar with the discussions between the two council offices leading up to the budget meeting says Sandoval’s team did not make any commitment to support Bravo’s proposed use of the money.
Bravo’s anger was on display later during the actual meeting, too. During the discussion following the split vote, the District 1 councilman brought up Sandoval’s proposal.
“I looked at this proposal and it’s funny, you know, that I got so much criticism for the proposal I put forward, got that criticism from the mayor and Councilwoman Sandoval for the lack of detail. But I see the same thing in this proposal,” Bravo said.
City Attorney Andy Segovia later interrupted Bravo to tell him to stop referencing Sandoval.
“The point of decorum I’m trying to make is that your comments should be directed at the policy, at the staffer, but not to other council members. That’s a rule that this council has adopted. And so that’s why I’m bringing up a...” Segovia said before Bravo jumped back in.
“And I’m not addressing her directly. I’m addressing the plan, the proposal,” the councilman said.
“You have been during the whole discussion council,” Segovia replied.
Sandoval’s office issued the following statement:
“Councilwoman Sandoval is not going to comment on the incident. She is instead focused on the incredible investment City Council made that will invest $10m a year towards climate action.”
Late Thursday night, after the story aired on KSAT 12, Bravo issued the following statement to his council colleagues:
“All members of council deserve to be treated with respect at all times. In this instance I fell short of that. I regret it and wholeheartedly apologize to Councilwoman Sandoval, the rest of my council colleagues, and all of the residents of District 1.”