The hard ball has been turned up to eleven as the 'Go Vote No' campaign against those three charter amendments being pushed by the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Union has released several new secretly recorded tapes of Union President Chris Steele doing everything from bragging that he has refused the city's efforts to invite him to the bargaining table to even vowing that if the city didn't give him the sweetheart deal he was demanding he would attempt to sabotage the Tricentennial celebrations, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"The City has asked me nine times to come to the table," Steele is heard saying in a tape the anti amendment group says was recorded secretly by a 'concerned firefighter.' "I said no."
The union has claimed repeatedly that the reason it circulated the petitions to get the items on the ballot was to encourage the City to open talks on a new contract, and to fight back against the City's effort to due the union to have the ten year 'evergreen clause' in the former contract declared unconstitutional.
Steele is heard several times discussing tactics to try to undermine the City government, but at no time does he claim that his desire in circulating the petitions is the 'restore power to the citizens,' which is the main claim of the 'Approved by Citizens' effort.
Repeatedly, Steele says his goal is to get Mayor Nirenberg to 'bow down, including one tape where he discusses spreading false information in an attempt to stop visitors from coming to the city for he Tricentennial.
"They're going to bow down," he said. "Or, don't come to San Antonio for the 300 year, because you're not going to be safe."
He says he will circulate claims that San Antonio's crime rate is 'worse than Detroit' and visitors will be in danger if they come to San Antonio.
“This is further proof of Chris Steele’s campaign of lies and deception. Propositions A, B, and C are meant to serve his own obsessive pursuit of power and desire to cause chaos in a city that he despises. He doesn’t even live in San Antonio," Nirenberg said.
A recent poll showed that focusing on Steele's goals has been an effective strategy for charter opponents to counter claims that voting for the charter amendments amounts to 'supporting our firefighters.'
One person who opposes the amendments told 1200 WOAI news that firefighters are the most loved city employees, so to counter that, the opponents will stress that this is 'not a firefighters issue, its' a labor union issue.'
The SAPFFA has been without a new contract for more than four years, but is working under a ten year 'evergreen clause,' which allows the provisions of the previous contract. The union is fighting an effort by the city to require the firefighters do do what the police union agreed to do three years ago. and which almost every private sector worker in the country has been required to do for years...pay premiums for their family's health insurance benefits.
So what happens if the amendments win next week? Steele made that clear on the tapes.
"We're going to ask for her (City Manager Sheryl Sculley) and the mayor's resignation."
The union released this statement following release of the tapes:
"The so-called "secret recordings" are just another attempt by the No campaign to deflect discussion away from the issues. The No campaign reflects everything wrong with politics: lies, personal attacks, and unlimited corporate special interest money. We have 4 more days of Early Voting and then Election Day C."to send a message to the lobbyists, special interests, and corrupted politicians that we,the people,are back in control of City Hall. We want an end to backroom deals, an end to constantly rising taxes and utility rates, and an end to putting special interests ahead of the public interests. This City Manager and her handpicked Mayor are colluding with lobbyists to keep power. They are spending millions of special interest dollars to spread lies and use scare tactics. Don't be fooled, be focused on the choice at hand: reform City Hall and end corruption and backroom deals, or let the lobbyists and special interests silence your voice and stay in control. When our families are in crisis, Fire Fighters have always been there for us. Now our city is in crisis and your Fire Fighters are there to protect your rights and your voice. Stand up to corruption and the special interests;vote Yes on Props A, B, and C."