City Government
8:26 am
Thu September 5, 2013

San Antonio City Council Hears From Public On Eve Of Historic Non-Discrimination Revision Vote

It was one of the last chances residents had to speak directly to each council member about a proposed revision to San Antonio’s non-discrimination ordinance.

More than 700 people – more than last week – signed up. After midnight, Mayor Julián Castro had those who had yet to speak line up so they could approach the podium quickly because the council will be back in the morning to hear from more citizens ahead of its expected vote on the matter.

People packed the chambers by the time the Citizens To Be Heard portion of the day began at 6 p.m. Seven hours later, the crowd was still going strong.

The proposal began earlier this year but Councilman Diego Bernal, who is spearheading the issue, has been working on the matter for a few years. It went to the Governance Committee before the council's July break.

Former Councilman David Medina and several others wanted to postpone the discussion because they said they needed more time to talk to their constituents about the pros and cons of the ordinance.

It picked back up at the start of August and has had time to stew, causing people on both sides to engage in lively debates about the good and bad parts of what could become law.

District 10 Councilman Carlton Soules said Wednesday he'll vote no for updating the proposed ordinance. He said that's because it has big flaws.

For one, he said, it takes old non-discrimination ordinance language out that said a person couldn't serve on a board or commission who previously demonstrated prejudice and now only requires that the person not act in that way while serving on behalf of the city.

He believes the ordinance hasn't been thoroughly vetted internally and with the people of San Antonio.

"Regardless of which side you're at on this issue, it's not been a transparent process,” Soules said. “We've had five drafts. They've been negotiated behind closed doors with specific groups. Not until I raised a fuss, it had not been posted on the city's website, the actual draft language."

Soules also said the city, and its residents, should be more focused on a budget that will cut library and park hours, talks about selling property and using bond funds to pay for operating expenses, and cuts basic services.

The budget vote happens a week from now and has been overshadowed by the non-discrimination issue.

Seven council members appear to favor of the ordinance, including Castro, Bernal, Rey Saldana, Shirley Gonzales, Ray Lopez, Cris Medina, and Ron Nirenberg.

Votes against the ordinance are likely coming from: Ivy Taylor, Rebecca Viagran, Elisa Chan and Soules. Six votes are needed to pass it.