|Pretty vacant: St. Paul's Square stands empty in District 2. Photo by Mark Greenberg|
Since the vote was void, the five absent council members filed back to their seats, and a motion was made to reconsider the agenda item and to cast their votes. Nine votes for, two against.
This might have been a minor incident in the sloppy ways of modern San Antonio government, but it is a good illustration of how District 2 residents have been treated as the city's stepchild.
The Alamodome was shoved down their throats in the early 1990s. Homeowners were displaced, and the city even tried to make them eat the lead-laden dirt that Alamo Iron Works left behind when it vacated to make way for the "NFL football" facility. A petroleum company built fuel storage tanks near Sam Houston High School after publishing an obscure legal ad in the local newspaper. It escaped the public notice.
When law enforcement officials conducted a sting operation to stop corruption at City Hall, they left the North Side Anglo contingent alone, and went after minority Council members- which included Sanders. He will face federal bribery charges in a federal court in June.
This is the state of affairs in District 2, where Sanders is up for re-election, and faces a slate of candidates who want to replace him.
"You pick areas of my community. We have done things when there had not been anything done in years," Sanders said in defense of his first two years at City Hall. "People in the district knew me before I was elected as someone who is getting things done. I'm the only one in the race with a proven track record of community involvement. I'm not anybody's puppet. I've been too bold and I stand up for certain issues."
Sanders said it is trendy to demonize lobbyists and special interests that pump big bucks into the Council members' campaign chests. "It is playing into the panacea of trying to get people to support it when these people provide a vital service to the city with neighborhood and commercial development in San Antonio. Who do you need to be against to get elected? I don't understand the role. I usually don't know who gave me money until Jack Finger tells me. That's the popular thing, to try to pick on the politics. It plays into the fiction people want to have. I can just run on my record, that's why I'm standing up and running again, and I will be exonerated, because the community has trusted me, has faith in me and has watched me in my office."
Parole officer Sandra Martinez wants to build a clinic on the East Side to serve people who cannot see a doctor. Secondly, she wants to reopen the main gates of Fort Sam Houston, which have been closed since the terrorist bombings in New York City. "People have financially been destroyed. The gate is not security; it is a security illusion. There are entrances alongside that gate that people can walk through," she said. "The businesses in Government Hill had to renovate their buildings to earn more money. They did serious renovations at their expense, and the Army closes the gate."
Martinez is running for a council seat that traditionally has been represented by African-Americans since single-member districts were established in the mid-1980s. "I am willing to listen to everyone regardless of what community they belong to. I can do that very well. I intend to address the issues regardless of race, gender or income. I learned from working for Senator Leticia Van De Putte how to properly represent democracy."
Joel Williams ran against Sanders in 2001, and lost by about 50 votes. He said he has refocused his goals, which include restoring integrity at City Hall. "Our current council member seems to be a part of the good old boy network," he explained.
Williams said he has also visited parts of the city that will be included in District 2 when new boundries go into effect after the May 3 election. Those areas include what formerly were in District 10. "There is great potential in District 2. I have been talking to some of the newer residents up around Austin Highway, Walzem Road, near Perrin Beitel, areas where historically the folks were in District 10."
With the coming of the Toyota manufacturing plant, Williams said District 2 has potential to participate in economic renewal. "We are going to have to work hard to convince the business community to invest in District 2, that is one of the reasons I will look carefully at the Southside Initiative. That could be a positive that could be replicated for District 2, which has tremendous potential in terms of access to the interstate highways."
Ron Wright also has a vision of what needs to be done. "There are overwhelming numbers of families living in poverty," he said via e-mail last week. "The high instances of female-headed households as well as a lack of education in both genders creates a vicious cycle of poverty, violence and open disregard for our surroundings. Our streets, drainage, lack of sidewalks and proper lighting create an atmosphere of disarray. We are outraged by the cracks in the sidewalks as well as the crack sold on the sidewalks."
Floria M. Fox spends her days looking after her granddaughter and thinking about a business environment that uses up workers and throws them away when they are injured or get too old to work. "Doctors, lawyers, workman's comp, workman's comp lawyers and other workers accept fraudulent information, it is a conspiracy." She said she was hurt on the job and subsequently discarded, and nobody will listen to her. "I want to be elected so I can inform others about what to do in the situation. There's too much wrong going on - conspiracy, fraud, racism."
A teacher at Taft High School, Linn Waiters is hard to reach, but she responded to a League of Women Voters questionnaire: "I support establishing salaries for the mayor and city council. I support the modification of term limits, with eight years being the limit. If there were the slightest chance that my knowing, having an interest in, or having a relationship with someone coming before the council could be misconstrued and considered a conflict, I would recuse myself. Integrity and ethics are things that have to be demonstrated and observed. Talk is cheap." •
DISTRICT 2 STATS
• District 2 encompasses much of the East Side, including areas near Fort Sam Houston.
• So far, no major money has flowed into candidates' campaign coffers. Floria Fox hasn't filed a campaign finance report; Sandra Martinez has collected $200; Linn Waiters recorded no contributions through April 5.
• Ron Wright had $550 in his war chest, but has spent $410 of it; incumbent John Sanders received his sole contribution - $500 - from Gloria Bryant.
• Joel Williams, who lost in the last election in a runoff with Sanders, leads the pack with $3,400 in contributions and a $5,000 loan to himself. He paid Election Services $300 for signs and an additional $1,100 for consulting and a mailer.