But TCRP’s key recommendation is that San Antonio adopt something akin to Austin’s Office of the Police Monitor, an independent civilian review board set up by the city in 2002 to separately review complaints. According to department stats, SAPD handled 313 citizen-driven complaints, while much smaller Austin, according to OPM numbers, saw 526 citizen complaints. In TCRP’s report, Austin Police Monitor Margo Frasier called San Antonio’s lower numbers “alarming,” saying, “That few complaints tells me something is happening at the front door.”
Through the stream of community budget hearings, peppered between run-of-the-mill concerns like sidewalks, streets, and stray animals, council members and city staff have endured loud complaints from a small but persistent group of local religious and conservative activists, decrying what they deem the city’s descent into moral decay. Charges began after the San Pedro Playhouse staged Corpus Christi, a gay-friendly retelling of the Passion Play. As the city’s Cultural Arts Board finalized its recommendations to dole out funding to local groups earlier this month, an impassioned Mike Knuffke, attending with others from the San Antonio Christian Family Association, equated city funding of Corpus Christi to taxpayer funding of al Qaeda, neo-Nazis, or the KKK.
Now the prospect of the city granting domestic-partner benefits to gay and straight employees, something expected to cost an additional $300,000 per year, has lit a fire under the social conservatives. Along with the likes of Knuffke and others with the Christian Family Association making the district rounds on San Pedro, a group of local religious conservatives calling themselves Voices for Marriage have joined the fight, hoping to convince council members that a vote for domestic-partner benefits chips away at the sacred institution of marriage. One elderly man at last week’s District 1 budget hearing insisted acceptance of homosexuality would lead to increased graffiti, theft, and violent crime.
While it’s the first time the city has touched the issue, the benefits plan would put San Antonio on track with 83 percent of Fortune 100 companies. Some of San Antonio’s largest employers, like USAA, and the cities of Dallas and Austin, already offer such benefits. “We offer benefits for those with common-law marriages here, and at this point we’re really just leaving out one population,” District 1 Councilmember Diego Bernal said last week. “This is a move that makes us more competitive, it makes us an employer of choice. … These people are our family members, they’re our close friends. There’s no justification for treating them differently.”