Updated 9:05 p.m.
A faculty member at Texas A&M University-San Antonio is running for city council against incumbent councilman Mario Bravo.
Marketing adjunct Jeremy Roberts said he started thinking about running for office in November 2022 through encouragement from current city council members and Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
“I saw that councilman Bravo, his staff and team, were not as effective as I wanted them to be,” Roberts said in an interview April 18. “I thought I could do a lot better than this.”
Roberts is one of seven candidates running for the District 1 seat, which is currently occupied by Bravo.
The San Antonio Express-News called Roberts one of Bravo’s “toughest competitors” and endorsed Roberts in an April 10 editorial, saying Roberts “offers a much-needed business acumen for council.”
“We’re kind of polar opposites,” Roberts said of himself and Bravo.
Bravo doesn’t see it that way.
“My top challengers — everything they’re running on is stuff I’m already doing,” Bravo said. “It’s not that they’re running for District 1, it’s that they’re running to be me, and hope that they can do as well as I’m doing.”
Roberts, a full-time corporate marketing executive and entrepreneur, made the development and strengthening of small and local businesses one of the key points in his campaign.
Bravo’s campaign bills him as a progressive and environmentalist.
Besides having chaired the Small Business Advisory Commission, Roberts has been a small business owner since he was 19 doing concert promotion at Sunset Station. He is currently helping San Antonio residents set up their own small businesses for free and is the vice president of marketing at Prosperas, “a startup firm dedicated to financial inclusion and shrinking the global wealth gap by providing access to credit.”
“Small businesses are really the lifeblood of our city,” Roberts said. “The small businesses around you — the shops, the restaurants and everything — that’s what makes your neighborhood livable.”
Bravo and Roberts also have different stances on Proposition A, a measure on the ballot that would decriminalize abortion, marijuana and would implement police reform for the San Antonio Police Department.
During candidate forums, Bravo had not said whether he would vote for or against Prop A while Roberts always said he was firmly against the measure.
Although Roberts supports abortion rights and the decriminalization of marijuana “at all costs,” he said he cannot get behind a bill that includes “things that are terrible for small business.”
One of the measures on Prop A would expand cite-and-release laws, in which police officers are required to cite people for non-violent misdemeanors instead of arresting and filing a charge against them. Such crimes would include possession of marijuana in small amounts and theft of $750 or less from businesses and services.
“It’s too much in one bill,” Roberts said. “I want to focus on legitimate things.”
Bravo hasn’t taken a yes-or-no stance, but he’s made one thing clear.
“Bottom line for Prop A is, I’m very frustrated by it,” Bravo said in an April 21 interview at City Hall. “I believe that it is a distraction.”
Bravo says he believes Prop A is a “wedge issue,” dividing the council and voters. Citing Texas’ laws on abortion and marijuana, he also says it’s taking away opportunities to discuss things that are enforceable.
“It’s sucking up all the oxygen in the room on the election, and preventing us from talking about things where we can improve,” Bravo said. “We’ve got the city attorney saying five of the six issues are not enforceable in the state of Texas.”
In addition to supporting small business, Roberts’ campaign stands on rerouting resources to provide transitional housing for groups of the homeless population in District 1, crime prevention, mending the digital divide and supporting the arts in his district.
Roberts said that out of the 3,000 homeless people in San Antonio, most of them reside within District 1. This includes the chronically homeless, veterans, LGBTQ youth, those who suffer from addiction and mental illness and those who go through financial difficulty.
“The problem is, our councilman has not taken it on,” Roberts said. “The answer is to categorize them [homeless people] based on their need, then you identify the solution. Then you offer them services.”
Bravo says these claims are “complete nonsense,” and says his opponent is ignoring the work he’s done to help District 1’s homeless population, pointing to the city’s Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) program for which he says he was a “leading advocate” in implementing.
Permanent Supportive Housing is a program that offers indefinite leases with mental health support, rehab services and on-site case managers.
“I’ve been pushing city staff to move faster on this, and as a result of that, since I got elected, we’ve secured $43 million for Permanent Supportive Housing,” Bravo said. “Which, I guess Jeremy Roberts says, is doing nothing.”
Crime prevention and supporting the SAPD is another aim of Roberts’ campaign. Roberts said that San Antonio is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country but has the lowest number of officers. His solution would be to hire more officers, rebrand the police department and improve communication between the department and the public.
“People think that law enforcement is synonymous with a very conservative group of politics,” Roberts said. “I’m a Democrat, and I’ve voted Democrat my whole life, but I believe in the police department because I believe that they can do good things.”
Other goals of Roberts’ campaign center on mending the digital divide in his district, which would give residents better access to the internet and cell phone signal.
“Free wifi is not a crazy concept; it’s something that’s offered in a lot of cities,” Roberts said.
He is also interested in supporting the arts, which he said are an “economic driver” to the city’s downtown, which is in great part where District 1 is located.
Roberts said his main competition is scared of him winning.
Roberts posted 40 signs across his district encouraging residents to vote for him. Thirty-nine of those signs have gone missing. Roberts said he suspects it was the opposition that took down his signs.
“He’s throwing out allegations with no proof,” Bravo said of Roberts’ claims. Bravo says he hasn’t heard of any signs going missing, but it wouldn’t surprise him if it’s true.
“People have been stealing signs in San Antonio for forever,” Bravo said. “If the signs are being stolen…is it by any of these eight [candidates], or is it just someone from high school who can’t stand him?”
Roberts said that in hopes of smearing his campaign, the opposition has also started “crazy rumors” about him that include backing by wealthy developers out of Houston that want to get their foot in San Antonio.
Roberts said he was not being funded by developers from Houston.
The San Antonio Police Department’s political action committee has also endorsed Roberts. He said that the signs posted by the SAPD in support of him have also gone missing.
“They’re just being malicious,” Roberts said.
Bravo has been endorsed by the San Antonio American Federation of Labor, a local chapter of the Communications Workers of America and South Central Carpenters.
Currently, Roberts teaches three marketing courses at A&M-San Antonio, and he said he would continue teaching regardless of the election results.
“I love this school,” Roberts said. “It’s new, it’s opportunistic. The fact that they have a digital marketing specialization is big for me because I’m a digital marketing person.”
Roberts said he has often found that students in his classes aren’t registered to vote, or even if they are, they don’t go to the polls because they don’t feel empowered.
He encourages students to exercise their voices and to get involved in giving back to others.
“Start to do something, and you’ll start to see how much change you can really make,” Roberts said. “Rather than sitting back and saying, ‘well, my voice doesn’t matter’ – I don’t accept that.”
On Election Day, May 6, Roberts will be graduating from the University of the Incarnate World with a doctorate in business administration.
Early voting starts April 24 and ends May 2. Visit the Bexar County Elections Department website for polling locations and more information.
To learn more about all District 1 candidates read: “District 1 candidates – get to know them.”