A politics of conspiracy, grievance and hate

  • San Antonio Professional Fire Fighters Union President Chris Steele, right, records the speach of San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Friday, Feb. 28, 2018, on the steps of City Hall. Photo: Bob Owen, Staff / San Antonio Express-News / ©2018 San Antonio Express-News

The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association wants you to distrust, resent and despise your city government.

That’s not how Chris Steele would put it, of course. At a press conference this week, moments before delivering petitions to City Hall that call for monumental amendments to the city charter, the fire union president sought to portray those demanding change as “regular people.”

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In fact, the most hard-core agitators for the amendments — those arrayed behind Steele at the news conference, including a handful he had selected to speak — are far from typical residents. Unlike the vast majority of San Antonians, many are so steeped in a politics of conspiracy, grievance and hate toward city government, it’s no wonder they’ve embraced Steele’s belligerent campaign.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg has vowed not to back down in his opposition to the amendments, calling them destructive to municipal governance here and rooted in a labor dispute between the city and the union. The changes would cap a future city manager’s salary at no more than 10 times that of the lowest-paid city employee; make it easier to take city ordinances to a public vote; and prohibit the city from going to court over labor agreements.

“It seems like the mayor wants to characterize this as a union issue,” Steele said at the news conference. “So these groups are going to talk to you and tell you why it’s a people issue.”

Behind Steele stood Antonio Diaz, a failed candidate for mayor who earned less than one percent of the vote last year. In a previous interview with the San Antonio Express-News,…

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