City Council Ruffles Feathers With No Re-Vote on Chick-Fil-A
April 18, 2019 - City Council Chambers (Downtown SA)
By: Jonathan Guajardo - Editor, San Antonio Sentinel
The morning after a torrential downpour drenched the Alamo City, golden rays peeked through the clouds, drying the soaked streets and sidewalks outside the Municipal Plaza building that houses the city’s council chambers. While this inundating light flowed upon the city, warming the citizens of Bexar County, a new storm brewed within the walls of council chambers. Like the lightning that struck with such ferocity the previous night, the breaking of day brought with it a showdown that would boom as loud as the evening’s rolling thunder throughout the city and the state. Hurricane Chick-fil-A had arrived.
“The motion that is going to be made by Councilman Brockhouse as he gave notice of under Robert’s Rules last meeting will ask the council to place an item on a future agenda. This motion is procedural in nature,” stated City Attorney Andy Segovia before discussion of the Chick-fil-A revote began.
Quoting from the 2005 golf movie, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Brockhouse opened his statement on the Chick-fil-A re-vote. “You have these defining moments in your life and either you define the moment or the moment defines you. I consider this opportunity for us today to be a defining moment for the San Antonio City Council,” began Brockhouse.
“I want to bring this back up because it’s the right thing to do,” declared Brockhouse to a nearly-filled city council chambers. As members of San Antonio’s community stood in support of the proposed re-vote, it became evident that the council’s decision had hatched into something they hadn’t bargained for. To many in the San Antonio faith community, this issue was something way beyond chicken sandwiches. To them, it represented freedom of religion and the council’s unwillingness to work with a business that has a strong Christian message.
Some of the council members in attendance, however, didn’t share the same sentiments as the constituents in the gallery, and many were visibly upset by the notion of a re-vote being made in the procedural manner enacted by Brockhouse the previous week. “I will say that procedurally, I’m still scratching my head why we have to do this on May 2nd,” referring to the reasoning behind this proposed re-vote of airport vendors has to take place so soon before an election. Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales also voiced her opinion on the matter of the re-vote stating, “I am beyond offended that we have been put in this position.” Councilman Art Hall from District 6 also chimed in on the re-vote: “I’m one of these folks that believes that once you make a decision, you stick with it. The only reason that I would support re-voting on an item is if there’s a legal basis for re-voting.”
Councilwoman Ana Sandoval voiced her support for bringing the issue to a discussion in a later B-Session council meeting and Councilman John Courage echoed her sentiment. “I think the point to me is that we did not have enough information I believe when the decision was brought to council. I recognize that at the time it was suggested we delay this,” stated Councilman Courage. “At the time of the vote we didn’t have 11 people present. I think we do now. I think some people have had some reconsideration and I appreciate the suggestion that Councilman Sandoval made about having a B-session.”
Immediately before the vote took place, however, Councilwoman Sandoval appeared to go back on her previous statement which had been bolstered by Councilman Courage: ”Like I stated, I support a robust discussion. I don’t know how quickly you’re going to be able to pull all the information together, (City Manager) Eric, but I support that discussion before taking a vote on this item whether or not we reconsider that part of the contract.”
After the council had thoroughly made its nest for the vote to take place, the game of chicken being played in city hall finally came to a head. With a 6-5 vote, the motion to revisit the Chick-fil-A topic failed, and just like that, we were back to a routine city council meeting. As the throngs of supporters exited the chambers shaking their heads and shuffling their feet out the door in disapproval, Councilman Brockhouse leaned back in his chair, visibly disappointed by the results of the council’s vote. Mayor Nirenberg wasted no time in moving the agenda forward and attempting to place the issue in his rearview.
In a statement released after the council meeting, Brockhouse summarized his thoughts on the decision. “The City Council voted 6-5 to deny that debate and potential re-vote. When this Council kicked Chick-fil-A out of the Airport we sent a message to our City, the State and the Nation that we do not respect religious freedom,” stated the councilman. “It has hurt our reputation and sent a message that does not reflect San Antonio and its families. We had a chance to fix that today and follow the will of our City, who have spoken clearly that the removal of Chick-fil-A was a mistake.”
Although this meeting didn’t result in a re-vote, it remains to be seen how Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will deal with the decision and what his investigation into the council’s handling of the matter will produce. “The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-A’s chicken,” stated Paxton. “Unfortunately, I have serious concerns that both are under assault at the San Antonio airport.” With all this turmoil, one can only assume that this issue will come back to roost in the council chambers sooner rather than later.