|A pile of abandoned tires sits in front of a recently repossessed house in the otherwise clean and well-kept 2600 block of Steves Avenue on the city's Southeast Side. Code compliance is just one of many issues in this year's District 3 race. Photo by Mark Greenberg|
It must be coincidence. Read Moorhouse's lips: "I do want to reemphasize that I'm here for the people I represent."
Her list of priorities sounds comprehensive, and contains many of the same issues that need attention in many underserved parts of San Antonio: more police, fire, and EMS service; a crackdown on graffiti, economic development.
McCreless Mall - one of the district's few major commercial hubs - will be renovated, thanks to H-E-B, which plans to open a supermarket there. Moorhouse's vision for the mall is to take on the upscale look of Huebner Oaks and to maintain a space for senior citizens to walk. Brooks City Base is also essential to District 3's growth, and needs tenants if it is to remain open.
One of Moorhouse's most controversial economic moves was to give the farm away to Target Corporation, whose 1998 revenues for its various companies (including Mervyn's and Marshall Fields) topped $30 billion. The sales tax scheme failed - the rest of Council saw it for the scam that it was - and now Moorhouse and developer David Monnich are trying a different method of helping out the ahem, impoverished retailer - a tax increment financing district, which still gives Target a tax break, but is supposed to provide for other drainage improvements and economic opportunities in the area. Sounds like old wine in new bottles, but the proposal has yet to come before Council.
Part of the original Target deal trickled a few dollars to fix drainage on the retailer's property. Yet drainage is so poor at nearby Goliad and Military Drive that the intersection turns into a lake at the first raindrop; a delayed bond project is to blame. Moorhouse said the bond project, which has been in limbo for nearly a decade, wasn't estimated correctly. "What I would like to see on any project includes a price and cost of living index when they are estimating cost," she said. "Bonds don't happen the next day. After three, four, five years, prices have gone up. I don't want to hear excuses but solutions."
Yet, Moorhouse's constituents also want to hear solutions - from her - instead of her contributor list. When a candidate takes campaign contributions, are the donors giving out of the goodness of their hearts? Moorhouse dodged the question. "I have an open door. I am here to serve the community as a whole, not just a certain group. I'm here for the whole, that's how I look at my office. I'm not obligated to anyone except the people I represent."
Not so, says Ron Segovia, a retired police officer with a chest as big as a barrel and a set of shoulders wide enough to set the world upon. "People just want a returned phone call," said Segovia, as he block walked the Sunny Slopes neighborhood near Highland High School. "They don't want a lot: a pothole fixed, a speed bump."
At door after door, Segovia asked for the same commitment from his constituents as he said he would deliver to them: "I want you to hold me accountable and I'll hold you accountable for your involvement."
With former District 3 Councilwoman Helen Dutmer as his campaign manager, Segovia has some inside connections, but his formative political experience came from former city councilman Henry B. Gonzalez. "As a kid I would go to parades and people would cheer for Henry B. I grew up to realize why: He represented his people."
Segovia alleged that not only did Moorhouse forget about her constituents during the PGA debate, but also she fibbed when she "led people to believe she should represent them."
"Toyota is a responsible corporate citizen and proved we didn't have to give the city away," Segovia said, adding he also opposed the Target deal. "I don't want things to come in and run people out of the neighborhood. Developers need to tell me what they're going to give back."
To alleviate the city's budget shortfall, Segovia said he would eliminate expenditures such as the $600,000 giveaway to the Dallas Cowboys to entice them to hold their training camp at the Alamodome. "I'm a big Cowboys fan, but we have libraries that need books, the symphony needs money."
Although Segovia resigned from SAPD in late March, he criticizes the union - which did not endorse him - for a lack of unity. If elected, Segovia said he would vote for a new contract only if it helped San Antonio as a whole. "If it's not, I can't vote for my fellow officers. Let's go back to the negotiating table."
Segovia approached a man relaxing on a porch. "You won't vote for another Alamodome?" the man asked, adding that money had hurt SA's politics. "I've been all over the world. I thought this was a happy city. Now all this money coming in and it's not. We need to get some honest people in there."
Candidate Joe Farias says he is that honest person. A member of the Harlandale School Board, Farias for months mulled over the prospect of running for another office - and the emotional, physical, and financial toll it would take. "This ain't my first barbecue," Farias laughed.
He and his wife, Angie, decided to go for it during a road trip back from Arizona.
"I still don't remember saying 'yes,'" joked Angie.
"Yeah, she might have been nodding off," Joe Farias laughed.
His candidacy prompted him to voluntarily retire from CPS after 30-plus years - as he already had delayed riding off into the sunset once before. To run for District 3, he also asked to be released from the federal grand jury that indicted Councilman John Sanders
|Yet drainage is so poor at nearby Goliad and Military Drive that the intersection turns into a lake at the first raindrop; a delayed bond project is to blame.|
The city's $36 million deficit means that Farias can't promise new streets for every neighborhood, but he would start shaving at the shortfall by cutting back on the frills, namely the Cowboys' training camp and the Miss USA Pageant, which combined could cost the city about $1 million.
He also blames tax abatements for exacerbating the city's financial crisis. "How can we do tax giveaways when we're facing a shortfall?" Farias said, adding he opposed the PGA project, Target's sales tax abatement, and would vote against North Rim, a far Northside development by GW Worth, who is asking for a $50 million tax abatement.
Farias favors shoring up business inside Loop 410 - with companies that offer educational opportunities for workers, and opposes developments that would raise taxes - including bond projects.
Farias' environmental views encompass water and energy issues. Although CPS just announced plans to build a coal-burning plant, Farias supports renewable energy. "We've got big holes in this earth and we're going to run out of coal one of these days."
Farias supports extended term limits - two, 3-year terms. He also led the field in contributions as of April 4, has exceeded the $500 limit recommended by the ethics commission, but he pointed out that none of it came from lobbyists or developers. "It came from a doctor, friends, or family."
Like the others vying for the district seat, Farias is emphasizing his role as the people's candidate. "If constituents disagree with their council person, then there needs to be a discussion on why," he explained. "If they still say no, you've got to face the music and vote with the constituents."
It's tough to block walk when you're confined to a hospital bed, but Jerry Clancy is staying in the race, although he spent much of April at Baptist Hospital's telemetry unit with a heart problem.
Protecting the aquifer, halting annexation, and handling the garbage problem top Clancy's list of priorities. "There should be no growth over the aquifer," said Clancy, who opposed the PGA project.
A 32-year veteran of SAPD, Clancy once served as president of the police officer's union, whose recent contract negotiations with the city became notoriously ugly - and led to the union suing the city. There have also been allegations of racial profiling in the department, but Clancy denies that officers stop or search people on the basis of race. "I think there is criminal profiling," he said. "There are certain parts of town you should not be at certain times of the night with a certain agenda."
Martin Cordero's agenda includes quality of life issues: infrastructure, drainage, parks, streets, speed bumps, and trash.
"This district has been neglected too long by the current councilperson," explained Cordero, a five-year resident of the South Side. "The city needs to put some money in the South Side. "You can drive from one side of town to the other and see which side gets the attention."
Environmentally, Cordero supports a strong tree ordinance, solar power, and a light rail system. Economically, he opposes the TIF for Target - or any retailer. "We need to get businesses in here that pay decent wages." He also is adhering to the $100 campaign contributor cap, and said voters should determine councilmembers' term limits.
Although all five candidates' campaign promises hinge on listening to their constituents, it's uncertain if those guarantees will stick once the anointed one sits at the council dais. However, it is certain that District 3 voters need more access to their Councilperson. As Farias said: "You've got to dance with those who brung you." •
DISTRICT 3 STATS
• District 3 encompasses much of the South and the Southeast Sides.
• Joe Farias leads the contributions race with $19,209 collected through April 4. The biggest in-kind donation - $3,000 - came from John McRae, who owns the former icehouse that now serves as Farias campaign HQ. In the $1,000 club are Danny Kellum, Humberto Saldana, and James Adams.
• Farias also collected $2,349 from selling plates of BBQ, and $2,265 from a golf fund-raiser; although by the time Farias paid $2,976 to rent the Republic Golf Course, he took a $700 loss on the deal. Of the $15,000 he has spent on his campaign, about $500 has gone into T-shirts, $1,700 in printing, and nearly $4,000 in signs.
• Toni Moorhouse has received just $16,500 in contributions, but the majority of them come from San Antonio's well-heeled movers and shakers: Peter Holt ($1,000), Gene Dawson ($500) of PGA infamy; developers Sam Barshop ($250), James Bastoni ($500), the Vickrey family ($1,000), Walter Embrey ($500), and G.W. Worth ($500), and Bill Kaufman ($500), although we don't which Kaufman - lobbyist or builder - without an address.
The most notable contribution came from David Monnich, the developer behind the Target deal, and who was pushing the City to give the major retailer a sales tax rebate. That scam failed, but Monnich and Moorhouse are still working on a tax break for poor, poor Target.
• Moorhouse has spent $5,000 to hire political consultant Kevin Lopez, about $3,000 on fund-raising services by Judy Peterson, and $8,3000 to Politico, for block walking, data, and consulting work.
• Ron Segovia has taken out $24, 578 in loans and collected about $6,500 in contributions, including $500 from the Del Rio Tortilla Factory, $1,000 from the La Chinitas family, $125 from La Mission Infant Care Learning, $500 from Romulo Trevino Self Serve Car Wash, and $300 from Fabian's Painting.
• According to Martin Cordero's filing report, he has received no campaign contributions. Jerry Clancy listed no contributions, but loaned himself $100 for the candidate filing fee. He also spent 74 cents on two stamps.