Right out of the gate, Mayor Ron Nirenberg set the pace for his new administration and the City Council with resolutions Thursday affirming support for the Paris climate accord and the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities.
The climate resolution, officially signing on San Antonio to the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, sends a clear message to Washington that this municipality will work with others on the goals of the Paris accord, even if the Trump administration refuses to do so.
The other resolution authorizes San Antonio to register with the compassion campaign and notes that while acts of compassion unfold daily here, the municipality will support groups and initiatives “that will make San Antonio a more compassionate city” through public, private, community and faith-based organizations.
“It is our first council agenda, but there are very important foundations that we lay in our city on issues of resilience, on issues of equity and fairness,” Nirenberg said. “Two of those items of significance — symbolism but significance — are on our agenda today.
“Council just approved a charter for compassion, which recognizes that San Antonio is built on a foundation of compassion toward others, and this is an issue of our place in the world, to make sure we’re building not just a city that’s strong, but that’s strong for its future.”
Moments later, the council voted 9-1 in support of the Paris resolution, demonstrating that Nirenberg can command an overwhelming majority of the new council despite a Taylor campaign claim that he couldn’t do that..
“It’s pretty easy, when we’re thinking about it, to support something that tells folks outside of San Antonio — tells our state, tells folks in D.C. — that San Antonio is going to continue to do what we’ve already been doing in protecting our environment, in investing in new technologies that reduce our greenhouse gases, not only because it is good for our lungs, but because it’s good for our wallets,” Councilman Rey Saldaña said.
San Antonio joins more than 300 other cities across the U.S. in the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, a group founded during the Obama presidency to promote cities’ efforts in combatting greenhouse gas emissions.
Nirenberg reminded supporters who’d addressed the council in favor of the resolution that it was just that — the city has resolved to address climate change, but there’s much hard work and debate to come.
After he was elected June 10, Nirenberg said joining other American cities in fighting climate change was a priority for his fledgling administration.
Nearly two dozen residents addressed the council, all but one in favor of the resolution. They included college students who implored the council to take action for their future and a former resident of the Mission Trails, a mobile home park along the San Antonio River, who worries not only about San Antonio but the entire world.
“You can see when Mother Earth is not cared for, it is us who get sick,” said Manuel de La O, who was displaced after Mission Trails was sold to make way for high-end development.
Bob Thompson, the former District 6 councilman, noted the council will face tough issues and that it will need to “stand tall” in the face of pushback on climate.
“I liken the naysayers of climate change to the old Flat Earth Society,” he said. “They just can’t see beyond the coastline.”
Council members lined up to back the resolution, including Ana Sandoval, a climate scientist elected to represent District 7. She’s expected to be a leader on environmental issues for this council.
“What we’re discussing today is actually something very personal, and it’s very local to San Antonio and every single one of us. Climate change is called a ‘global problem,’ but its impacts are felt locally, wherever you go,” she said.
Every person in chambers, Sandoval said, can feel that San Antonio has gotten warmer and that flooding has worsened over the past two decades. Data and studies show it, she said.
“Climate change is a big problem, there’s no doubt about it,” she said, noting that it affects butterflies and other wildlife, causes heat waves and impacts people with asthma. “It is not one issue. It is every issue.”
Only District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry voted against the resolution. He’d attempted to delay the vote until August, and got support from Councilman Greg Brockhouse to do so, but their push died without support from the balance of council.
Ultimately, Brockhouse supported the measure, but not before voicing significant displeasure at how the item had made the council’s first agenda.
He suggested the resolution should have passed through council committees, where individual members might have pushed to change some of the language it contains.
District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez was not present for his first council session. He was testifying as an informant in a federal corruption case.