Controversial Firefighter Petitions Approved for Ballot Review

San Antonio City Council today certified that three controversial charter change petitions circulated by the San Antonio Professional Firefigthers Association will appear on the special election ballot in November, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

One of the proposals calls for limiting the city manager's salary to ten times the lowest paid full time city employee, or about $250,000 a year, and also to limit the City Manager to eight years in that position.

The SAPFFA is trying to disrupt San Antonio City Council through its petitions, and it realizes that current City Manager Sheryl Sculley's salary and benefits of a half million dollars is controversial among the voters.  Ironically, this measure, if approved, would not affect Sculley, whose employment provisions are covered by contract.

Another proposal would require any dispute between the City and a public workers union to go to binding arbitration.  The SAPFFA has been angry that the City has sued the union in an attempt to end the 'evergreen clause' in its 2011 contract, which has allowed the union to dodge changes in their cushy 'zero premium' health benefits.

The third proposal would establish a 'California style' referendum system, which would allow citizens to petition for an election to overturn essentially any decision made by City Council, to banning the sale of cigarettes to anybody under the age of 21.

Councilman Greg Brockhouse, who is a former adviser to the fire union, cautioned City and business leaders not to oppose the ballot measures simply because of their opposition to the union.

"I think we have to be very cautious what kinds of campaigns we run against this, the language that we use, and the way we characterize the people who led this," he said.

But north side Councilman John Courge said he doesn't think opponents should hestiate to explain to voters the problems with the proposals.

"I think it is the responsibility of all of us on City Council to make sure the voters are adequately informed about the results and the consequences of their vote," Courage said.

Mayor Ron NIrenberg has minced no words in his opposition to the proposals.  He says limiting the City Manager's salary and term length would tie the City's hands when it comes to hiring an experienced manager to run the city departments, and he says the referendum proposal would cause concerns by lending authorities about the city's governance structure, leading to a decreased bond rating and potentially higher property taxes.

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