City Council Elections
4:04 am
Mon April 29, 2013

Swayed By Nirenberg Campaign Ad, Williams Endorses Briones

After more than a year watching the race from the sidelines, outgoing District 8 Councilman Reed Williams has finally announced who he is backing to fill his seat.

Williams, who said last year he wouldn’t be seeking his third term in order to spend more time with family, initially wanted to keep his opinions about the candidates to himself to allow each of the challengers a fair shot at the job.

But a mailer to constituents by candidate Ron Nirenberg put the councilman over the edge.

"I think the mailer that came out last week kind of changed my mind," said Williams by phone Sunday.

The Nirenberg campaign mailer said opponent Rolando Briones contributed $6,500 to San Antonio politicians in 2011 and 2012. It also said he was the recipient of at least two city contracts worth $2.15 million.

To Williams, that didn’t sit well.

"Mr. Nirenberg believes that our political personnel, political bodies, can be bought off for $6,500, and that's just not acceptable," he said.

According to campaign finance reports, Briones contributed $6,500 to council  members and candidates, including Williams. Records show he also gave money to District 7 Councilman Cris Medina, District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan, former District 3 Councilwoman Jennifer Ramos, District 20 Councilman Carlton Soules, District 5 Councilman David Medina, District 3 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor, former temporary District 4 Councilwoman Leticia Cantu, and District 1 council candidate Ralph Medina.

In June 2011, seven of the aforementioned council members voted in favor of an ordinance that awarded Briones' consulting and engineering firm a contract up to $500,000 with the possibility of extending it two years.

When asked about the mailer, Nirenberg said he wanted to inform voters of facts that aren’t always flattering. He maintained that he is worried the contributions are part of a larger pattern of how Briones does business.

The mailer cites Briones as having given candidates in Houston and Louisiana nearly $68,000 and received more than $800,000 in contract work.

"The point that was trying to be made on that mailer was: How else can Rolando Briones explain giving tens of thousands of dollars to local officials in jurisdictions where he's seeking business?" Nirenberg asked.

But Williams sees the accusatory ad as an indictment on city council members. By phone, Nirenberg expressed that his ad was not saying San Antonio leaders could be bought.

"I respect the independence of our leaders," Nirenberg said. "The implication is not on the leaders. The implication is on the business practices of Rolando Briones. It's clear from his pattern of blanketing jurisdictions where he's seeking contracts that the contributions are pay for play."

In the wake of current city council discussion over the appearance of ethics violations, the issue is still fresh for current councilman Williams.

Right now the city council is in the middle of considering revising and strengthening San Antonio's ethics code that may impact contributions to politicians and to whom contracts are awarded.

"We're right now at City Hall working very hard to come up with some new ethics guidelines - to revise those and to hopefully come up with some training which I think is critical to avoiding situations in the future," said Williams.

Speaking at an April city council meeting after Chan recused herself from discussion over a new library location, Williams has said trust is easy to break and hard to earn.

Mike Kueber is also running for the council seat in District 8.