Mike Kueber's Blog

January 23, 2013

An open letter to Brian Chasnoff re: the District 8 race

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:35 pm
Tags: , ,

Thank you for an interesting and informative column on City Council District 8.  Your lead paragraphs were especially thought-provoking: 

  • Conventional wisdom says running for City Council is a nonpartisan contest. After all, fixing streets and keeping neighborhoods safe are goals that everyone can agree upon.  But in a city where ideology tracks closely with geography, partisan rifts can split council members and their constituents. A notable example is Pre-K 4 SA, a ballot initiative that broke clearly, if not universally, along political lines last year.”

I have two issues with those paragraphs:

  1. Nonpartisan contests.  Just because City Council contests are nonpartisan doesn’t mean that they don’t contain divisive issues.  Pre-K 4 SA is not an anomaly.  Other divisive issues that should be considered in a council race include (a) whether San Antonio should remain a sanctuary city, (b) the revitalization of downtown, (c) employee pension reform, (d) mass transportation, (e) the utilization of employer-location incentives, and (f) affirmative action or quotas in contracting.
  2. Polarization in District 8.  Just because people (or candidates) voted differently on the Pre-K 4 SA doesn’t mean they are polarized.  Instead they could have a lot of shared values and overlapping feelings, but in the end they had to vote one way or the other.  Your article, however, failed to ask Briones or Nirenberg why they voted as they did.  Perhaps they had shared values and feelings, but ended up coming down on the opposite sides of a close call.  Or perhaps they are ideologues.   

Incidentally, Briones and Nirenberg are not the only candidates in District 8.  I decided last week to run for the position, and after announcing that decision on my Facebook wall, I filed an appointment of campaign treasurer and started collecting the obligatory signatures for an application to be filed next week.  And with respect to Pre-K 4 SA, I opposed the initiative because I think the school districts, not the City Council, should be developing education policy.

Although your column suggested that Briones will be running from the Right while Nirenberg will be running from the Moderate Middle, I contend that the Moderate Middle remains open.  Nirenberg’s website claims that he believes in “limited government,” but his Pre-K 4 SA vote belies that claim.  Plus, he has the endorsement of Phil Hardberger.

Your column parenthetically noted that there was a strong correlation between voting for Pre-K 4 SA and voting for President Obama.  (My friend Randy Bear told me that District 8 was minus-2 against Pre-K 4 SA and minus-3 against Obama.)  You asked Briones and Nirenberg how they voted on Pre-K 4 SA; why didn’t you ask them how they voted in the presidential election.  My suspicion is that Briones voted easily for Romney and Nirenberg voted easily for Obama.  By contrast, as a legitimate member of the Moderate Middle, I voted for Obama in 2008 (I actually changed my vote 3 or 4 times while in the booth) before voting for Romney this time. 

I don’t mean to pick on Nirenberg, but if you read his campaign website, you will see his three big issues are the following:

  1. Reduce traffic congestion and fix decaying infrastructure.
  2. Focus on public safety to protect our neighbors and their property.
  3. Plan better and reduce waste to keep our cost of living affordable.

It appears that he and you have a common understanding about the type of issues in a nonpartisan contest.  I wonder how many candidates (or political consultants) disagree with his interest in reducing traffic congestion, fixing decaying infrastructure, improving public safety, and eliminating government waste.  

If you peruse the Briones website you will find it similarly filled with platitudes and certitudes that no sane person would disagree with.  He doesn’t touch on any of the six issues (or Pre-K) that I listed as potentially divisive, let alone his significant conflict-of-interest problems that you have chronicled in your column.  I would love to know how he (or Nirenberg for that matter) would vote with respect to the current affirmative action or future quotas for Hispanic and Asian contractors with the city.  And since they both work near downtown, there perspective on The Decade of Downtown might be atypical to the Northside.  

In my opinion, political parties and their primaries have caused polarization, and nonpartisan elections, just like the Top-Two primary that California is experimenting with, are a means to reduce the polarization.  But nonpartisan elections are not without divisive issues, and I am hopeful that you will assist the voters in San Antonio by bringing to their attention the substantive issues in this campaign.


Mike Kueber


1 Comment »

  1. MIke, logic and data do not change minds, and they do not win votes… talk to the emotions bro!!

    Comment by Q — January 26, 2013 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

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