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Newsmonger: A Water Fight, Toyota Field and Courtroom Drama

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Protesters have issue with SAWS plans to raise rates and lack of transparency. - CHARLIE PEARCE/SIERRA CLUB
  • Charlie Pearce/Sierra Club
  • Protesters have issue with SAWS plans to raise rates and lack of transparency.

Vista Ridge Protest at City Hall

Protesters from both inner-city San Antonio and the rural area north of the city swarmed City Hall last week to protest the contentious Vista Ridge pipeline, the 142-mile water project that would pipe water from Lee and Burleson Counties to San Antonio.

Their gripes were twofold: that the project would cause undue burden on San Antonio Water System customers by raising rates over 50 percent by 2020, and that it would drain the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer.

The project would cost over $3.4 billion. Its proponents, most notably officials of the San Antonio Water System, say that it's a necessary upgrade to hydrate the more than one million new residents San Antonio will welcome over the next 25 years.

The protesters rallied on the steps of City Hall before crowding into Mayor Ivy Taylor's office, brandishing a petition with more than 6,500 signatures from rural landowners who oppose the project.

But at this point, there's no indication that city leaders are buying the protesters' arguments. City Council is scheduled to vote on the rate increases on Thursday, November 19. If it gives SAWS the all-clear to raise the rates, it'll be pump, baby, pump.

The City and County are in the process of purchasing Toyota Field, in partnership with Spurs Sports and Entertainment, in hopes to lure a Major League Soccer team to San Antonio. - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • The City and County are in the process of purchasing Toyota Field, in partnership with Spurs Sports and Entertainment, in hopes to lure a Major League Soccer team to San Antonio.

City Council OKs Toyota Field Purchase

Alright, Major League Soccer. Now that Bexar County and the City of San Antonio have both approved deals to purchase Toyota Field, we're just waiting on you. San Antonio will happily take one franchise whenever you're ready.

The bet that the city and county have made, now that both of their governing bodies have agreed to pay $9 million to buy Toyota Field from local philanthropist and mega-developer Gordon Hartman, is that MLS will eventually call their number. The questions are when will that happen, and how much will it cost?

There are no answers to either of those at the moment. The picture will only become clear once the strategy of Spurs Sports and Entertainment, which is leasing the stadium for 20 years and also paid $3 million for a small ownership stake in it, defines and develops its strategy to lure an MLS franchise.

Those details should emerge fairly soon, since MLS will likely announce plans and criteria for future expansion next year. For now, the most important question is what will the Spurs name the United Soccer League team they plan to field in the interim? Luckily, you'll probably have a say in that; Bobby Perez, the senior vice president general counsel and corporate relations, said at last week's City Council meeting that the team name "will be open up to the community."   

Courtroom Showdown Over Evergreen Clause Starts

Here's a story that won't go away anytime soon: The city and San Antonio's public safety unions fired up their lawsuit again over the evergreen clause, a component of their agreement that keeps an expired contract in place.

The city claims that the clause, which maintains the contract's status quo for 10 years, is unconstitutional, even though city leaders signed the contract in 2009. Members of the police and fire unions argue that the city just has buyer's remorse over the deal and wants to strike a better one.

The legal squabbles between the parties had ceased while they tried to hammer out a new contract this summer. Progress was made, but disagreement over the length of the evergreen clause blocked both sides from getting over the goal line. Unable to reach a deal, the police union announced in October that it would halt negotiations, and Mayor Ivy Taylor said that the city would take its suit back up.

Barring an unforeseen development, the court battle will rage for a while. There's mistrust and bad blood on both sides, and they're dug in deep to their respective positions. And it's not as if they're under a strict deadline: The current evergreen clause keeps the city's police and firemen under contract until 2024.


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