San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg conducted a spin class at a gathering of tea party and conservative voters on the northwest side Saturday. It got him nowhere.
Cycling through several pointed questions, hizzoner repeatedly blamed “Facebook” for a supposed public misunderstanding of his administration. Invoking Facebook was a clever, albeit transparent, ploy to forge common cause with an audience that distrusts the liberally biased social media platform.
But Nirenberg’s programmed and knee jerk responses to critical concerns were alternately dismissive, disingenuous or downright dishonest. Some were just laughable.
A compendium of some of his more specious claims:
Nirenberg: “When making decisions, the first question I ask myself: Is it fiscally responsible?”
Reality: $18,000 curtains for your office? $38 million in new debt for a City Hall makeover that circumvents a public vote? An ever-growing list of “progressive” projects and staff additions that bloat the budget, extend far beyond essential municipal services and make a poor city even poorer.
Nirenberg: “I’m an independent.”
Reality: Show us your voting record, mayor.
Nirenberg: “No city money has been spent on the city’s challenge to Senate Bill 4.”
Reality: Legal staff work on city time is a public expenditure. Ditto for the city’s lobbying against property-tax reform and relief at the Texas Legislature. Both gambits work against the interest of taxpayers.
Nirenberg: “I want the [removed] Confederate Monument in a museum.”
Reality: There’s been no movement on that since the city hauled off the Travis Park statue without a public hearing.
Nirenberg: “I want the Cenotaph somewhere on the Alamo grounds.”
Reality: It’s there now, your honor.
Nirenberg: “The city did not say ‘no’ to Amazon.”
Reality: Blaming Facebook (again) for an allegedly false narrative is the kind of nuanced misdirection game that politicians play. Fact is, the city preemptively withdrew from the competition for Amazon’s second headquarters. While vowing that San Antonio wouldn’t “drop its drawers” to bid, Nirenberg & Co. routinely bend over for corporate clients and politically connected local developers. Most recently, the city waived all municipal fees for HEB’s new eastside complex. (The mayor abstained on that giveaway because his wife is employed by HEB. Wink. Wink.)
Nirenberg saved his biggest whoppers for an unstinting defense of City Manager Sheryl Sculley.
Nirenberg: “Sculley does not make more than the president.”
Reality: The city manager’s salary is $450,000. The president’s salary is $400,000. Look it up.
Nirenberg: “Our city manager is the best in the country.”
Reality: A partial list of problems festering on Sculley’s watch: Embezzlement at Centro, a Google Fiber fiasco, ruinous contract negotiations with the fire department, chronic SAPD manpower shortages, spiraling violent crime and a politicized police chief who sidetracks federal authorities to release illegal aliens (witnesses) in a human smuggling case.
While such performance may be acceptable in San Antonio’s corrupt political culture, it would be grounds for termination in the private sector. Sculley has received glowing evaluations and a succession of annual bonuses, yet Nirenberg is distraught – not for taxpayers, but for the woman who serves at the council’s pleasure. “It’s heartbreaking to see her denigrated,” he declares with a virtual sob.
Exposing the entitled/elitist attitude that infests City Hall, Nirenberg concluded Saturday’s meeting by attacking three ballot referenda designed to reign in the city manager’s compensation and restore accountability in local government.
The mayor’s risible claim that duly submitted public petitions, now subject to a citywide vote, are somehow anti-democratic would make George Orwell blush. Nirenberg may have pride in his “Big Ideas” for San Antonio. He clearly has no shame.
Kenric Ward, a freelance journalist based in San Antonio. Ward is a veteran journalist whose work has appeared at Fox News, Houston Chronicle, Washington Times, Washington Examiner, TownHall, Roll Call, and Human Events. An editor and reporter at three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Ward was Virginia bureau chief for Watchdog.org before relocating to Texas.