by Morgan Montalvo
Local taxpayer advocates took advantage of Thursday evening's canceled town hall meeting on November ballot items to rally support for three proposals which they say will increase citizen control over local government, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports
."San Antonio First" turned out several dozen members for the 7 p.m. scheduled event at the UTSA Downtown Campus. The forum was to have featured Mayor Ron Nirenberg and San Antonio Profess Firefighters Union President Chris Steele, and was co-sponsored by the university and the San Antonio Express-News.
But the forum was abruptly cancelled when Steele decided to send a citizen representative to participate, saying it is a 'people's referendum, not a firefighters union referendum.' That prompted Nirenberg to drop out.
The mayor tweeted: "The only thing harder than getting union head Chris Steele to the negotiating table is getting him to show up for an honest, public debate about his tax raising power grab."
An an impromptu news conference, the mayor blasted the proposals.
"This fraud that he (Steele) has put on San Antonio taxpayers would end up raising our taxes, lowering city services, and making our economic momentum come to a screeching halt."
Members of the local advocacy group assembled outside the theater venue for an impromptu rally led by spokeswoman Reinette King, who read a prepared statement and then spoke with reporters.
King says 'San Antonio First' supports "initiative and referendum" Propositions A, B and C, which, if approved, would: make it easier for citizens to place items onto the ballot by reducing from 75,000 to 20,000 the number of certified signatures needed for voter consideration, and give voters the choice to approve or veto "unnecessary" local tax and fee hikes or zoning changes; would impose term limits and salary caps on future San Antonio city managers; and require mandatory arbitration between the city and the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Union, which has been without a contract since 2014.
She says developers and other moneyed interests currying favor with City Manager Sheryl Sculley are working overtime to derail voter approval of the trio of initiatives.
"There's been a lot of doom and gloom proclaimed and fear tactics used to try to keep people from voting 'yes' on these amendments," King said.
San Antonio First, King said, stands in solidarity with local firefighters and prefers mandatory arbitration as a way to settle disputes, not the current method that, in recent years, has led to delays in approval of pay and benefits contracts with firefighters and police.
The group want to limit the employment tenure of future San Antonio city managers and cap their salaries at 10 times the wagers or salary of the lowest-paid city workers, who currently earn about $29,000.
Sculley's salary is $475,000 plus a recent $75,000 bonus or, as King puts it "more than what the President of the United States and the Governor of Texas make, combined."
Other city managers working in large Texas metropolitan areas, King says, often make about half that amount and have additional responsibilities.
King says she questions what she has been told by local elected leaders, that Sculley's departure as city manager would result in San Antonio losing its Triple-A bond rating.
PHOTO" MORGAN MONTALVO