I’ve blogged previously about Rolando Briones, the reputed frontrunner in the District 8 City Council race. In the past few weeks, a series of articles in the San Antonio Express-News has revealed that Briones as a government employee and vendor has a fundamental belief in the mixture of money and politics. Because I believe that the mixture of money and politics is one of the fundamental evils in America, he is not my idea of a sound councilperson. Today, the Express-News reported on a debate between Briones and another District 8 candidate, Ron Nirenberg, and that article reveals why Nirenberg is fundamentally flawed also.
During the debate, Nirenberg claimed to be a fiscal conservative, and this is consistent with his website claim that he believes in limited government. But when the debate turned from generalities to specifics, Nirenberg sang a different tune. When asked to defend San Antonio’s arts budget, he declared that it was too small to make a difference. When asked to defend San Antonio’s Pre-K 4 SA education spending, he said he’d rather invest in education that builds jobs than pay for welfare programs down the road.
These responses are liberal boilerplate for nonessential government largesse. These responses are exactly the opposite of what a fiscal conservative who believes in limited government would say. A fiscal conservative does not continue spending merely because it is such a small amount that savings would not be significant. As Everett Dirksen said, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money.” With respect to San Antonio’s Pre-K 4 SA spending, this program is something that someone who believes in limited government would recognize as a responsibility of our local school district, not the City Council.
Nirenberg’s one sound position relates to the ethics of mixing money and politics:
- “We really do need to close the revolving door between people in city government and the people who make a living off your taxes.”
Although this comment was obviously a potshot at his debating opponent Rolando Briones, who makes a living as an engineer sucking on the government teat, the comment is dead-on.
The Express-News article noted that the Nirenberg campaign had produced a glossy 26-page position paper on various issues. After an extensive search, I finally got my hands on the position paper. It contained the following interesting revelations about Nirenberg:
- Community organizer. “Ron Nirenberg is a community leader, an entrepreneur, a family man and a public servant. As the Associate General Manager of Trinity University’s noncommercial KRTU-FM, he leads a public media operation that serves both a community focused higher education mission and a burgeoning arts audience in South Texas. Prior to joining KRTU, Ron worked for the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, developing and directing award-winning civic engagement programs in cities across the United States, including San Antonio.” I find these statements interesting, not only because Nirenberg’s prior job sounds a lot like Barack Obama’s job as a community organizer, but also because his current job seems to create a conflict on interests with the issue of city support for the arts.
- Public safety. “To keep you and your property safe, we must ensure that department resources match the rate of growth in the city. Police and fire should be our top budget priority even in lean years…. Emergency services are the single largest investment of our tax dollars, and we need to make sure that we don’t cut them in an effort to ‘get lean’ during the budget process.” This is an obvious play to secure the vote of the police and fire membership. A genuine fiscal conservative would want to get lean at all times, but especially at during lean years.
- Education. “Gaps in education achievement continue to reveal weaknesses in our workforce development, which is a key factor for economic competitiveness coming out of the national recession. We must work to end political in-fighting in area school districts while supporting proven workforce readiness programs.” Along with Nirenberg’s previously declared support for more spending on education, this statement indicates that Nirenberg endorses Mayor Castro’s forays into local school-district elections. This reveals, not a believer in limited government, but rather an arrogant individual who believes he can do anyone’s job better than they can.
- Arts & Culture. “I am a firm believer that arts, history, culture and a sense of inclusion make up San Antonio’s’ very soul and separates us from every other city in the world. To nourish this soul, we must expand patronage of the arts in our own District 8 while encouraging the institutions that do well for the entire city. We must continue to improve our community centers and make them work more efficiently by creating sustainable partnerships with the private sector. Let’s always remember that community and culture are critical parts of our development boom. This paragraph belies Nirenberg’s claim during the debate that spending on the arts is insignificant. If Nirenberg has his way, we can expect San Antonio’s arts spending to explode.
Since President Obama’s inaugural address, there has been talk that big-government liberals are becoming less afraid to come out of the closet and declare their status. Nirenberg’s claim to being a fiscal conservative who believes in limited government shows that being a liberal is not yet viable in San Antonio.
If I had been in the debate with Nirenberg, I would have been tempted to ask him distinguish himself from a fiscal liberal. If Nirenberg isn’t a liberal, I don’t know who is.