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Fire Union's Chris Steele Names Surrogates at Combative Press Conference


David Van Os spars with reporters. - SANFORD NOWLIN
  • Sanford Nowlin
  • David Van Os spars with reporters.
The San Antonio fire union's Thursday afternoon press conference felt like a piece of performance art. Maybe a prank.

In wood-paneled room in the union's Northwest San Antonio headquarters, union President Chris Steele read from an Express-News op-ed by UTSA Associate Dean Francine Sanders Romero urging both sides to avoid "overstatement and innuendo" in their debate over the union's three proposed city-charter amendments.

"We have always wanted to debate and talk to every organization about the facts and the issues surrounding propositions A, B and C," Steele said. "We respect the people enough to do that and not all these other things that are going on."

Next, Steele introduced a pair of surrogates, attorney and Democratic operative David Van Os and anti-streetcar activist and health coach Reinette King, each of whom explained why they support the initiatives that will appear on the November 6 ballot.

After opening the floor to questions, Steele stood silent, ignoring shouted inquiries. An increasingly testy Van Os reminded the dozen or so media in the room that he and King were prepared to answer questions specifically about the proposed amendments.

But, after a recording surfaced this week where the union chief appeared to say its campaign was about securing a labor contract and making Councilman Greg Brockhouse San Antonio's next mayor, reporters showed little interest in rehashing the amendments.

What was Steele's response to the recording? No comment there.

Why is Brockhouse his guy? None there either.

Why did Steele not respond to a recent invitation to debate the mayor on KSAT-TV? Again, nope.

"Is Chris Steele going to answer the question or not?" KENS-TV reporter Marvin Hurst asked, stepping out from the line of camera tripods. "Because if he's not, we're wasting our time."

Steele — who until then had been the campaign's public face — returned to the mic to say he was willing to discuss the propositions and the propositions only.

"The firefighters are going to continue to take the high road," he said shortly before walking out of the room, leaving Van Os and King on their own at the podium.

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