They do it with money. They communicate. They hire public relations specialists who undertake a full court press. The hired hands appear before various business and community groups — anywhere there is an audience. They are always prepared to pay for advertising in print or on radio and TV. Of course, you can depend on the loud mouths on radio to mislead and enrage the citizens, or you can count on Roddy Stinson, the Express-News "defender" of the little guy — a corporate wolf covered in sheep's clothing.
In August, Stinson foisted a bombastic anti-democratic tirade on the citizens. When Stinson attacks environmentalists on behalf of the establishment, he conjures up an image of tree huggers, berry eaters, and free-love hippies who can't hold a job. In fact, environmentalism has long become an important value for the middle-class and educated. The environmental movement in San Antonio is a middle-class suburban movement. Stinson presents a stereotype in order to belittle what should be a powerful force in San Antonio.
Stinson attacks the anti-PGA crowd for accepting a $10,000 donation to their cause from a New York City environmental group. New York City? That contribution pales in comparison to what has been spent by Lumbermen's and PGA, which the last time I looked were not from these parts, either. `Ed. note: Stinson's column also noted $400 spent by PGA opponents to advertise in the San Antonio Current.`
Then he attacks the people who are active in the anti-PGA group. His attacks are intended to raise questions about the legitimacy of the effort to petition the government. Who are these people? They are citizens, Mr. Stinson. Why attack the citizens exercising their constitutional right to petition, when those who support the PGA simply pay — and pay big bucks — to employ their publicists and lobbyists to do the same?
Money elects our mayor and city council. Mayor Garza has done the best he can to secure the PGA deal: He secured environmental protections on behalf of the neighborhood and environmental activists who voted for him, while supporting the project at the bequest of the Chamber of Commerce and other business interests. In continuing to push the PGA, the mayor has sided with a segment of the local business community. Why? Because business interests paid for his campaign.
The real issue is not only regulating what is left of the undeveloped area over the aquifer, but also regulating what has been developed. When the mayor pushes for the PGA as a model of how to control the environmental impact of development over the aquifer, he distracts us from the real issues. The PGA cannot be a model because we cannot pay, either through taxing districts or annexation agreements, for all the undeveloped land over the aquifer. Nor can the PGA-proposed be applied to existing development. The regulatory responsibility for developments over the aquifer rests with EPA and SAWS. And developers control those organizations. They ensured the appointment of Gil Coronado instead of George Rice, and they will fund Coronado's campaign to ensure his election in November. The mainstream of the anti-PGA should focus on this race, and raise the money necessary to elect Rice. With that victory in hand, the environmentalist will have a place at the table, and can raise important issues. Then on to the City Council races: Julian Castro made a difference, and electing like-minded council members will make a difference. Give the mayor a different council, and see how he leads on these important issues.
Will the electorate respond? The response up to now has come from neighborhood associations and environmental activists, the Smart Growth Coalition and Save Our Aquifer. The response at the polls should come from the middle class, and it will.
Michael Berrier is a resident of San Anotnio, and owner of La Tuna ice house.