Scariest People of 2016: No. 4 Ron Nirenberg

He’s smart, articulate, energetic and seemingly everywhere. City Councilman Ron Nirenberg is the scariest person in San Antonio.

Scariest People of 2016: No. 4 Ron Nirenberg
We Say: Count on writers to go where other so-called journalists fear to tread. Here’s another hard-hitting piece by Ken Ward for your reading pleasure.
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Republished from, by Kenric Ward, December 29, 2016. Image credit: City of San Antonio

By Kenric Ward

2016 might go down as one of the most unusual years in the history of American politics. Voters chose historic change, but in all too many ways, it was business as usual.

Too many bureaucrats still put their own interests over the interests of the people they were supposed to be serving. Too many officials – elected and unelected – continued to act more like petty tyrants than servants of the people, imposing their own vision of how others should live their lives on citizens perfectly capable of making those decisions for themselves.

This week we’ll highlight the scariest examples by shining a light on those who seem to think your liberty is less important than their power.

Here’s No. 4. 

He’s smart, articulate, energetic and seemingly everywhere. City Councilman is the scariest person in San Antonio.

Nirenberg easily clears City Hall’s low performance bar. His nine council colleagues behave in scripted style and vote robotically. Downtown representative Robert Trevino personifies the twin pillars of council malfeasance: overweening arrogance and tone-deafness to taxpayer concerns.

By contrast, Nirenberg is statesmanlike. He comes across as both thoughtful and caring, and he keeps the local media in thrall over his recently announced mayoral bid. Of Jewish and Filipino heritage, Nirenberg is married to a Latina — a notable political asset in this heavily Hispanic city, the nation’s seventh largest.

His philosophizing on government — including “fiscal objections” to a hard-fought police contract — has some San Antonians convinced he’s a freedom-loving libertarian.

Far from it.

Nirenberg flatly rejects any legislative efforts to slow local property tax increases. More revenue is needed to fund growth and to counter the cost cutters in Austin, he argues. In Nirenberg’s “forward together” world, overtaxed property owners don’t need a city homestead exemption. Collectivist municipal “investment” comes first.

Recently, the councilor said he wants to earmark $25 million of an upcoming municipal bond to fund athletic facilities at UT-San Antonio (located mainly in his district). Stating the obvious – “it’s a public university” – the councilman concluded that the city’s taxpayers should shoulder more debt on the state school’s behalf.

Leveraging motorists’ disgust over the awful condition of San Antonio’s roads, Nirenberg pushes new transportation schemes, including a light-rail system. Never mind that rail was rejected twice by local voters; this Penn graduate and former “civic-engagement” director who never rides a bus knows what’s best for the people.

Lest anyone challenge Nirenberg’s tax-and-spend tendencies, the local Express-News newspaper has his back editorially. Deep-pocketed developers are lined up behind him with cash. They’re all in for his “local control” mantra, which translates into more intrusion by government and more public-private deals running through City Hall.

Mayor Ivy Taylor is running for a second term, and cannot be counted out of the May 2017 race. But she’s a bland figure whose scattered vision of economic development included a recent “trade mission” to Namibia. Namibia?!?

San Antonio’s Castro twins could pose a formidable threat if they want to play kingmakers. Julian Castro, a former mayor and outgoing secretary of Housing and Urban Development, says he is coming home to write his memoirs. Brother Joaquin remains a well-connected South Texas congressman.

Rey Saldana — a shiny new cog in the city’s Democrat machine and Stanford classmate of the Castros — appeared ready to run at their behest. But with Saldana announcing last week that he would seek another council term, the twins will leverage another candidate.

An increasingly likely contender is county Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina. He has foot soldiers at his disposal, but he could be hampered in a contest that has no option for straight-ticket voting.

More clever than Taylor and less overtly partisan than Medina, Nirenberg is gathering momentum.

It’s a scary scenario for citizens beleaguered by ballooning tax bills and violent crime that has surged during Nirenberg’s tenure.

Homeowner-Taxpayer Association President Bob Martin has seen political grifters come and go through City Hall over 30-plus years.

“Nirenberg looks the scariest right now,” Martin said.

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Kenric Ward reports for the Texas Bureau of Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Kenricward.

Part 8 of 10 in the series Scariest People of 2016

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Kenric Ward
Kenric Ward is a veteran journalist whose work has appeared at Fox News, Houston Chronicle, Washington Times, Washington Examiner, TownHall, Roll Call, and Human Events. An editor and reporter at three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Ward was Virginia bureau chief for before relocating to Texas. He earned a bachelor's degree (Phi Beta Kappa) in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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