The Go Vote No Campaign Can Hold a Press Conference with Democrats, Too

click to enlarge Mayor Ron Nirenberg speaks at the Go Vote No presser, surrounded by local Democrats. - SANFORD NOWLIN
Sanford Nowlin
Mayor Ron Nirenberg speaks at the Go Vote No presser, surrounded by local Democrats.
Today, the Go Vote No campaign showed off some Democratic friends of its own.

At a press conference this morning, local party activists joined Mayor Ron Nirenberg in blasting three proposed charter amendments the city's fire union landed on the November ballot.

The event was intended as a public counterpunch to the Bexar County Democratic Party's recent endorsement of the fire union measures. Members of the Northwest Democrats, Bexar County Democratic Party Youth Caucus, Bexar County Democratic Women and one of San Antonio's Indivisible groups took turns warning about the initiatives' public consequences.

"Instead of giving people a voice, these propositions will give lobbyists and special interests unfair power," Northwest Democrats Chair Esmeralda Rodriguez said. "We have to vote 'no' because instead of making San Antonio stronger, they put San Antonio at risk."

Last month, fire union boss Chris Steele held news conference at Bexar County Democratic Party headquarters announcing the group had endorsed all three of the union's ballot proposals. (You may remember that presser as the one where Steele got into hot water for wearing his fake firefighter's uniform.)

In keeping with recent strategy, union officials didn't respond to interview requests for this story.

The proposed amendments are large viewed as the union's middle finger to the city over stalled contract negotiations. Along with making it easier for citizens to force a public vote on proposed ordinances, they'd push negotiations with the union into binding arbitration and limit future city managers’ salaries and tenure.

High-profile Democrats, including State Rep. Diego Bernal and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, have come out against the measures. Even so, the union maintains the Democrats' County Executive Committee voted four-to-one in favor of its recent endorsement.

The divide within local party stems from entrenched support in the Bexar County Democratic Party for Manuel Medina, its ousted chairman. The fire union endorsed Medina's Trumpian campaign for mayor, which — despite all its focus on populism — fizzled with 15 percent of the vote.

Today's political endorsement appears to risk souring Republican voters, but Democratic activist Verna Blackwell said she's not worried. Blackwell — who publicly tangled with Medina before the party sent him packing — said concern over the proposed amendments is bigger than party and geography.

"This isn't a Democratic issue, a Republican issue or an independent issue," she said.

Indeed, the earliest support for the Go Vote No campaign came from the city's business community, long a bastion of Republican strength, observers point out.

"This thing has the potential to make for some odd alliances on both sides," said David Crockett, a political science professor at Trinity University.

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