‘A middle finger’: San Antonio councilman blasts staff rejection of crime prevention office plan

Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez proposed a new Office of Crime & Recidivism Prevention, but city staff say it’s not needed

SAN ANTONIO – Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez did little to conceal his frustration in a Tuesday morning Public Safety Committee.

Nearly 20 months after the East Side councilman submitted a request to consider the creation of a brand-new “Office of Crime and Recidivism Prevention,” a top city executive had told him and the other committee members that such an office was unnecessary. Her presentation did not include any analysis of how such an office would function, how much it might cost, or whether other cities have similar setups.

As she had already done in a separate December 2022 meeting of the Governance Committee, Deputy City Manager Maria Villagomez said Tuesday that ongoing city initiatives already “address the priorities outlined in the (Council Consideration Request).”

To McKee-Rodriguez, who has repeatedly brought up his idea for a new way to tackle the city’s problems with crime, it was a “particularly vexing” response.

“I see very, very little work done in response to the CCR -- just a list of piecemeal initiatives that do not equate to the proposal that I initiated,” he said.

“And it’s taking the words that I say and trying to make a bunch of things feel like a response -- and like a personalized, deliberate response -- but to me, it feels like a middle finger in the form of ‘We don’t care to look into what your CCR would take, so here are all the reasons we shouldn’t do it.’”

McKee-Rodriguez continued to say he felt “disrespected” by the staff’s handling of his request and how the CCR system generally works.

“When a council member files a CCR, regardless of whether or not I agree with it, it is not the staff’s role to disregard it and wait it out until the council member is no longer in office or to refuse to respond directly to its purpose,” he said.

Villagomez said city staff “take all CCRs with a lot of great respect, and we provide to the committees our professional recommendations on the issues at hand. That is how we are addressing this particular CCR.”

City council members often use CCRs to start a conversation on a particular issue, but it can be a long road before they result in a hard policy or vote. Every CCR goes through the Governance Committee before it’s sent on for other council committees to consider.

Although city staff analyze each request and present their recommendations, the chairperson of each committee sets the schedule.

McKee-Rodriguez submitted his CCR in January 2022. It went before the Governance Committee chaired by Mayor Ron Nirenberg in December 2022. Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6) said that, as chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee, she “didn’t get to it fast enough.”

Whatever the timeline, Villagomez and First Assistant City Attorney Liz Provencio told the committee members that while the council’s role is to say what they want to see done, it’s the purview of the city staff to figure out how best to accomplish it.

“So what I would ask for the committee is to tell us what are those outcomes that you want us to focus on?” she told the committee.

McKee-Rodriguez, though, requested his idea for a new city office be continued at the next available committee meeting.

After the meeting, he said he does not expect city staff to present any options. Instead, the councilman said the council offices will have to do some “behind the scenes work” and coordinate.

“I’ll have to do some research and make very clear what my ask is to my colleagues, and we’ll have to all be on the same page next meeting,” McKee-Rodriguez said.

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.