5 Things To Expect From The Council Runoff Winners

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As campaigns wind down and recent city council runoff election winners get the official nod later this week during a swearing-in ceremony at City Hall, what should we expect from our newly elected members once the celebrating is done and they start the real work in office?

Based on the Current’s candidate questionnaires from April, we can glean a few things. But as all voters know, tunes can change when candidates get to their seat.

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District 8’s Ron Nirenberg is the associate general manager of KRTU, the former program director of Annenberg Public Policy Center and sits on a handful of nonprofit boards. The Trinity graduate says he sought public office to improve the quality of life for residents, bring new jobs to San Antonio, fix roads and infrastructure and make public safety a priority.

Here’s how we think he’ll swing:

1. Don’t expect him to get on board with streetcar until the city makes the process more transparent. Nirenberg criticized transportation reform for being shrouded from the public, “One of the reasons I (and others) opposed the streetcar program was the back-room process,” wrote Nirenberg earlier this year. “We need to improve the process before we can address the substantive long-term challenges of transportation in San Antonio."

2. He seems to be supportive of the city’s non-discrimination ordinance. The proposal, which grants the LGBTQ community the same employment and housing rights as other citizens, is slated for a vote in August. “All residents of San Antonio deserve equal protection under the law, which includes on the basis of sexual orientation, so it is important that our policies would reflect that,” he wrote. (Nirenberg also answered “yes” to the ordinance in a Stonewall Democrats of SA questionnaire but didn’t receive Stonewall’s endorsement.)

3. He’ll support arts funding and (may be) critical of high-priced development. In his questionnaire, Nirenberg stresses the significance of historic arts and cultural heritage in making SA a competitive city and backs funding for the Department of Culture and Creative Development while opposing the city’s multi-million dollar incentive to create a downtown grocery store.

4. The local environment, namely protecting the Edwards Aquifer, is a prime concern. “We should continue the Edwards Aquifer Protection Initiative as another critical priority, since we can choose to put it on the ballot again in 2015,” wrote Nirenberg. The new councilmember supports restrictions on impervious cover, hazardous material storage, and overall development to protect “our region’s main source of drinking water,” and believes the city could do more to help.

5. He sounds serious about making Pre-K 4 SA efficient and accountable. Specifics include ensuring “board selection, teaching recruitment, curriculumdevelopment,” and “a fair enrollment process” is effective. Nirenberg also calls for an “independent and appropriate measurement of students and the program itself,” as well as parental involvement and expectations, fiscal management, and auditing. Whew.

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Shirley Gonzales of District 5 runs a family pawn shop, graduated from St. Mary’s is and part of Leadership SAISD. Why would the businessowner run for office? She says herdistrict needs, “accessible and responsive” leadership that will, “engage constituents, address their needs, and promote economic development,” and she thinks she’s got the chops. Here are a few possible expectations:

1. Pedestrians trump all in prioritizing transportation system sustainability. Walkability, cycling, public transportation and then, private transportation (in that order) come first to Gonzales, who promotes the use of the infill development zone, commercial retrofit and transportation-oriented development patterns. In other words, Gonzales envisions a high-density, pedestrian-friendly urban core.

2. She appears pro-labor. Gonzales not only supports the Tip Integrity Act– a proposed ordinance that requires companies to disclose where they’re sending hefty customer service charges (like Grand Hyatt hotel’s tacked on 22 percent charge for event dinners) – but, advocates for a citywide measure, since the Act only covers the River Walk area.

3. As part of her vision for urban revitalization, she’ll advocate for historic preservation. Gonzales says she’ll promote the designation of historic landmarks and districts and since that can sometimes cause an uptick in property tax rates, she says she wants to work with the Historical Preservation Department to figure out a “win-win” solution that won’t adversely affect low-income homeowners.

4. She’ll be a definite “yes” on the contentious non-discrimination ordinance vote. Endorsed by Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio and supported by the LGBTQ community, Gonzales is adamantly for the ordinance. Recognizing that local policy oftentimes serves a “patch” to state laws that fail to remedy inequity on a broader level, she also advocates addressing LGBTQ equality statewide.

5. Apartment homes and new business downtown will likely be greenlighted. Gonzales is all for a subsidized downtown grocery store and increasing residential units downtown, saying the inclusion would aid in developing a “vibrant” urban core. Recognizing that affordable housing will remain a “challenge” to downtown development, she says she supports initiatives to improve “linkages between the near east, south, and west sides to downtown,” saying, “[t]hese areas continue to serve as excellent alternatives to citizens who desire the qualities of urban living, but may not be able to afford residences downtown.”

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