Drama, confusion ensue after fire union president backs out of town hall meeting with mayor

Mayor, union president were supposed to debate on city charter amendments

By Myra Arthur - Anchor/Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Drama, confusion and anger ensued Thursday night after the president of the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association backed out of a town hall meeting with Mayor Ron Nirenberg at the eleventh hour.

The town hall was meant to be a forum to discuss and answer questions about three city charter amendments the fire union pushed to get on the city ballot in November.

The town hall was supposed to be hosted by the University of Texas at San Antonio and the San Antonio Express News at 7 p.m. 

Around 5:45 p.m., however, KSAT learned that fire union President Chris Steele wasn’t going to be there.

The event was planned well in advance.

For months, Nirenberg and Steele have been exchanging heated words in sound bites about the proposed amendments and what they each believe the impact to the city would be.

Ultimately, the event was canceled.

A fire union spokesperson told KSAT that Steele did not back out at the last minute. Instead, they said, they were sending a spokesperson for the charter amendment campaign because, “As these are the people’s charter amendments and not the firefighters (sic), Chief Christopher Steele will not be attending.”

For months, Steele had been the face of the petition, which garnered enough signatures to get the amendments on the ballot.

KSAT asked Steele for an on-camera interview, which was denied. Nirenberg, however, did not mince any words when talking about his would-be debate opponent. Watch the Facebook Live below to hear what Nirenberg said.

Here’s a breakdown of the three charter amendments:

  • Proposition A would ease the current requirements for voters to change or overturn decisions made by the City Council, including taxes and utility rates. According to San Antonio First’s campaign website, the proposition would require 20,000 signatures on a petition to be gathered within 180 days instead of more than 70,000 signatures to be gathered in 40 days.

  • Proposition B would set a term limit and salary cap for the city manager. It would also require a supermajority of the City Council to approve the city manager’s contract with the city.

  • Proposition C would require arbitration between the fire union and the city. The latest contract between the two entities expired in 2014 and the two have yet to meet at the negotiation table.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

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