by Callie Enlow
Less than 7 percent of San Antonio's registered voters turned out yesterday and during early voting. To be fair, most races were pretty uninspiring: popular incumbent mayor without a serious threat; an unchallenged D1 council member; only one open seat on council, with all but two races going handily to incumbents.
Most of us can go back to living our uncomplicated civic lives, knowing that the advocacy in and for our district from the past two years will continue pretty much apace for the next two years.
But District 3 might expect some changes, given the ouster of incumbent Leticia Ozuna, an intelligent voice hampered by a botched down-zoning negotiation for a golf course development that occurred early in her tenure as an appointed D3 council member. Replacing her will be Rebecca Viagran, a feisty small business owner who scored endorsements from former D3 councilwomen Jennifer Ramos and Debra Guerrero. Viagran lost out to Ozuna during appointment time, although she's a proud born-and-bred D3 resident with previous experience as a council aide. Ozuna might not have had Viagran's substantial block cred, but she did have a laundry list of endorsements, including the mayor, three former mayors, State Senator Leticia van de Putte, and the San Antonio Police Officers Association. It would have been interesting to see Ozuna's tech-friendly platform grow on the South Side, but if residents wanted a better focus on the basics, that's what they'll likely get from Viagran. From her questionnaire for the Current, and her campaign web site, District 3 can expect a focus on infrastructure needs, safety, and senior issues, though point-by-point plans have been few so far.
Residents of District 8 and District 5 still have work to do, as both districts are set for run-offs scheduled for June 15. Make no mistake, your vote will absolutely count, and these candidates represent substantially different viewpoints.
In District 5, incumbent David Medina, the self-proclaimed virgin who first took his seat at age 23 via a narrow focus on senior issues and a cozy relationship with the area's churches, now faces off against Shirley Gonzales. While Gonzales' status as the owner of a pawn shop might not have signaled "contender" loud-and-clear early on, her passionate advocacy for the Prospect Hill neighborhood and focus on walkability and other tenets of new urbanism have captured the imagination of important backers like Choco Meza and the San Antonio Express-News editorial board. Medina, while dogged by an ever-increasing flow of embarrassing rumors and hard facts that call his leadership skills into question, nevertheless secured Mayor Castro's endorsement, in a letter co-signed by Bill Greehey, Chairman of NuStar Energy as well as Haven for Hope, located within District 5. This is a race of particular interest for LGBT rights advocates. Gonzales has the Stonewall Democrats' support, while Medina has voted against issues like benefits for domestic partners, often citing "community opposition."
Meanwhile, in District 8, KRTU associate general manager Ron Nirenberg continues to duke it out against Rolando Briones. Nirenberg has probably never been happier about Mike Kueber's libertarian-flavored candidacy. Kueber captured a little over 5 percent of the vote, which may have come from Briones' conservative base and thus could have possibly tipped Briones into the more than 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off. As it stands, Nirenberg just barely missed his 50 percent mark, walking away with 49.53 percent of the vote to Briones' 45.14 percent. Though both candidates perceive their district as fiscally conservative, Nirenberg may lean very slightly to the left (I know, I know, City Council is "non-partisan" here) based on his support of Pre-K 4 SA, his day job involvement in the arts community, and interest in protecting the Edwards Aquifer. Briones is a front-and-center fiscal conservative and a business owner, and while he garnered a late endorsement from current D8 councilman Reed Williams, Briones has had to answer for missteps made while a production manager at SAWS, a job from which he was ultimately fired. His acceptance of gifts from a potential contractor during his SAWS days may not sit well with those already concerned about City Council's continued ethics woes. While it paints an unflattering portrait of Briones, Nirenberg's late-stage attack-dog approach, including a web site questioning Briones' conservative bonafides, did not endear him to genteel Northside residents, either. In fact, it helped Briones secure Williams' endorsement.
So district 5 and 8 residents, here's my plea to you: no matter who you vote for, go out and vote this time around. Mark off June 15 (why are these election days are scheduled the day before Mother's Day and Father's Day, by the way?) and make your voice heard. It just might make a difference this time.