Chamber President Richard Perez speaks out against fire union’s petitions alongside Mayor Nirenberg

Yesterday, your San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Richard Perez joined Mayor Nirenberg on the steps of city hall to urge the citizens of San Antonio not to be bullied into signing the Fire Union’s three charter petitions.

The Chamber is publicly and emphatically opposed to the proposed Fire Union petition to amend the City’s charter. Now the Chamber is asking members of the business community to take a stand against the fire union’s attempt to amend the city charter and strip the City Council of authority to make policy decisions that benefit our city.

The Fire Union is circulating three petitions, each of which requires 20,000 certified signatures to get on the November ballot. One petition aims to cap the City Manager’s salary to 10 times that of the lowest-paid city employee and cap tenure to eight years. Another would force the City and Fire Union to negotiate contracts through binding arbitration, should there be an impasse. The third petition would change requirements for citizen-led referendums and give voters the opportunity to challenge city ordinances, even public utility rate increases and taxes.

The Chamber believes that this is an attempt by the Fire Union to punish our top-notch City Manager and our responsive Mayor and City Council, because they will not cow tow to the whims of the Fire Union bosses, who refuse to come to the collective bargaining-table and actually begin a serious dialogue about salary and benefits.

To dictate the salary and term of the City Manager would make it impossible for us going forward to attract the talent necessary to run the seventh largest city in the country. City Manager Sheryl Sculley has been a tremendous asset to San Antonio for 12 years. During her tenure, she has recruited some of the nation’s best management talent; increased financial reserves from 3% to 10% of the annual budget; completed more than $2 billion in infrastructure improvements; and reduced the property tax rate four times. She has successfully balanced 12 city budgets while elevating the financial standing of the city. Of the top ten largest cities in the U.S., only San Antonio has a General Obligation bond rating of AAA from all three major rating agencies. These AAA ratings have been reaffirmed for eight consecutive years and save taxpayers millions of dollars. She has definitely raised the profile and improved the reputation of our city, helping create a business-friendly environment for organizations looking for a place relocate or expand.

Throughout its 124-year history, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce has a long track record of backing policies and initiatives to include Charter Amendment elections that are focused on moving our business community and our city forward in a positive, productive way for ourselves and our families. This proposed Fire Union petition will only lead to massive uncertainty in the governance of our city and that is bad for business.

In addition, requiring the city to enter into binding arbitration rather than mediation would force us to turn the City’s financial future over to an arbitrator who isn’t bound by any limits or standards and doesn’t have the authority to spend taxpayer dollars. We elect our members of the city council to make these types of decisions, based on the broader vision of what is in the best interests of the overall community now and in the future. This would indeed put our city’s financial future in jeopardy.

A well run, financially strong local government is fundamental for business. Businesses cannot grow and prosper without the support and investment of their local government.  It is of crucial importance that a city have the ability and resources available to invest in roads, water and energy as well as ensure the safety and security of our neighborhoods – all necessary assets to remain competitive.

The Chamber will be collaborating with our business and community partners to inform citizens of the long-lasting and far-reaching negative effects these petitions would have on the community. We urge our members to educate their employees, friends and families about this issue and encourage them to stand with the business community, with Mayor Nirenberg and with the San Antonio City Council and refuse to sign the Fire Union’s petition.

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