San Antonio mayoral candidates debate for their spot at the top of city hall. Isaac Serna, The Paisano

Mayor Ivy Taylor, Councilman Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina gathered on stage at the Pearl Stable on Feb. 7 for San Antonio’s first mayoral town hall this election cycle.

The town hall was organized by the Rivard Report and moderated by Robert Rivard. Rivard asked questions of his own and from Facebook. In addition, several members of the audience had the chance to ask their own questions.

Mayor Taylor spoke of her ideas to make San Antonio a globally competitive city by connecting San Antonio to prosperity through safe growth and development. Taylor mentioned her demonstrated leadership, and the city’s gains under her tenure as mayor of the nation’s seventh largest city.

Councilman Nirenberg declared himself as the best choice for mayor, because he has the vision and leadership for the job. Nirenberg discussed the following issues at the event: ethical standards in local government, fiscal responsibility, implementing a comprehensive transportation system, fighting against the recent spike in crime and creating a compassionate housing policy.

The other candidate on stage, a self-proclaimed outsider, Manuel Medina, distinguished himself from what he called, “the status quo.” Medina addressed issues relevant to working and poor families: raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, combating generational poverty, removing special interests from city hall and encouraging community policing.

Medina verbally attacked Mayor Taylor several times throughout the evening.

“Ivy is out of touch,” Medina said, “It’s not the poorest we’ve ever been, but we’re getting there thanks to the mayor.”

Taylor stuck with her message for most of the night.

She countered Medina’s argument with, “I live on the east side, as opposed to the Dominion.” referring to one of San Antonio’s wealthiest neighborhoods.

The crowd was a mix of undecided voters, supporters of all three candidates, local activist groups and reporters.

The Rivard Report hosted the mayoral town hall-style forum in
the Pearl Stable.

Freshman global affairs major and MOVE San Antonio intern, Jay’Len Boone stated, “I enjoyed watching them go back and forth. Especially, the quarrel between (Taylor) and (Medina), but I would definitely have to say (Nirenberg) won me over with his positions on the railway and the civil rights questions covering Senate Bill 4 and Senate Bill 6.”

Councilman Nirenberg opposes SB 6 and believes it infringes on transgender rights, and could damage the city’s business community.

Nirenberg stressed the importance of local control and stands in opposition to SB 4 with San Antonio Police Chief William McManus.

“I trust our chief more than a politician in Austin,” Nirenberg affirmed.

Despite the contention, Taylor, Nirenberg and Medina strongly agree on one solution to the San Antonio-Austin traffic problem: a railway. All three candidates support constructing a bullet train from San Antonio to the state capitol.

“Yes, I support the railway!” Political science graduate student Ananda Torres said, “It would make so many of our lives easier and reduce traffic on the highway. Plus it would help the environment. I also think a railway between the two cities can bring in revenue. Now students from San Antonio have a cheap way to get to and from that concert in Austin.”

“The bullet train will help eliminate traffic and parking congestion,” sophomore biology major Chelsea Castaneda said.

Traffic and crime affect students who travel from home to campus on a daily basis.

“Being a commuter takes more time for driving, and leaving (late) from school makes me worry (about) on campus crimes and crimes in the area,” Castaneda said.

Plans to develop new, safe and efficient transportation systems may determine who UTSA voters will flock to as the campaigns continue until election day on May 6.

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