Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and his opponent, former City Councilman Carlton Soules, have faced off in a flurry of debates as Election Day draws closer.
During an October 13 debate on Texas Public Radio’s The Source, the candidates went head-to-head on transportation, city-county consolidation and even whether they would perform same-sex marriages.
Wolff, who has held Bexar County’s highest office for 13 years, said the County already performs ceremonies on Valentine’s Day for anyone, though those ceremonies are not recognized by the state.
Soules admitted that as same-sex marriage litigation winds its way through the courts—with a possible date at the Supreme Court—he would follow whatever the law dictated. For now, that means no same-sex weddings in Bexar County.
“I think we need to recognize that county government is a direct extension of the State of Texas, and it’s the judge’s role to administer the laws of the State of Texas as they apply on the books at any given time,” Soules said, adding that he believes the county judge should stick to an executive role rather than a judicial role and not conduct marriages.
Wolff and Soules also revisited the explosive downtown streetcar debate that was derailed when Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor announced, under pressure for a public referendum, that they were pulling funding from the project.
Soules said the multimillion-dollar streetcar wouldn’t benefit enough Alamo City residents to be worthwhile. Why spend that kind of money, he asked, when driverless cars might be the wave of the future?
Wolff said Bexar County needs more public transit to facilitate growth in a healthy way that eases congestion, especially with the area’s growing population.
“There’s no way to build enough roads to handle about half a million people [projected to move to San Antonio],” he said.
Wolff initiated the now-dead streetcar project with former VIA Chairman Henry Muñoz, but he acknowledged that a light-rail or streetcar project is a long way off. Wolff compared the failed streetcar plans to Humpty Dumpty being broken, saying it would take a long time to put it back together again, But according to Wolff, streetcar plans will probably return to San Antonio in the future as officials brainstorm ways to ease congestion.
Soules slammed Bexar County’s all-digital BiblioTech, calling it a duplication of service because the San Antonio Public Library already offers digital options. There’s a quiet and contentious debate, which will likely come to a head during the next budget season, about how much cash the County will contribute to the San Antonio Public Library’s budget. Wolff heralds the BiblioTech, calling it healthy competition between the County and the City.
In closing, Wolff touted his tenure as county judge and listed what he considers accomplishments, much of which Soules criticized, including a reduced property tax rate, which, according to Soules, isn’t even enough to buy a meal at McDonald’s.
“As I kidded before [with Soules], if anyone could build a time machine to take Bexar County back to the 19th century, he would,” Wolff said.
Soules readily admitted as much, saying he would go back in time to eliminate Bexar County’s debt.