By Michael Cary
This is the first of a two-part story about the 2005 mayoral candidates.
With the mayoral election a year away, South Side businesswoman Reba Malone says it's too early to predict who will be the next mayor of San Antonio, but if she were to go to the polls today, she would vote for District 9 Councilman Carroll Schubert.
Schubert and District 7's Julían Castro have served two terms apiece at City Hall. Both are attorneys. Schubert is considered to be more conservative than Castro. And despite wishful thinking by other news agencies in town, they are the only two who have formally announced they will run for the mayor's seat in 2005.
"The main reason I would vote for Schubert is that he has more business experience, and I have watched him during council meetings," says Malone, who, for years held the reins at the South Side Chamber of Commerce. "I have been impressed with the way he tries to be fair to everyone. Experience is important, with all of the things that are going on in San Antonio - a lot of things for which we need the maturity and experience that he brings to the table." Malone isn't knocking Julián Castro, and she's not naïve enough to believe there will be only two candidates in the race. The "other" newspaper in town has trotted out judge Phil Hardberger, former District 8 Councilwoman Bonnie Conner, and current District 6 Councilman Enrique Barrera, as possible mayoral contestants. "They all bring something to the table, but the bottom line is who is going to represent the entire City of San Antonio, not just one little group here and one little group there," Malone says.
The Current recently met for breakfast with Schubert at Earl Abel's, the same restaurant where U.S. Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez once punched a man for calling him a Communist.
"I voted against the budget," Schubert recalls. In 2003, City Council adopted a $1.5 billion municipal budget that included a $27 million windfall from City Public Service, the municipally owned utility that pays 14 percent of its annual gross revenues to the City. The 2003 payment was larger than usual because of higher energy rates paid in 2002 by consumers.
"We will later need those funds. People have told me then, and since, that they thought that was the right vote. Everything we do as a Council is dependent on revenues we have in order to fund programs and essential services in the city. We've got to look at expenditures carefully."
Schubert uses his skills as an attorney and a former prosecutor in the district attorney's office to grill City staff about the items on the Council's weekly agenda. From the audience's point of view, Schubert behaves like Perry Mason as he openly works over the budget department, public works, community initiatives, the city attorney's office, during Council meetings.
"I want to make sure we don't get ourselves in trouble," he says.
Schubert hails from Bishop, a small town near Kingsville on the Texas coastal plain. He served in the U.S. Army Ready Reserve as a Second Lieutenant. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1969, and later earned a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and is licensed to practice law in Texas, the District of Columbia; U.S. District Courts, Northern and Western Districts in Texas; the Fifth U.S. Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.
Now a Republican, he worked for Democratic U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen from 1975 to 1978. "I was a Democrat in the John Connally or Lloyd Bentsen mode. I switched parties in the mid-1980s," Schubert explains. "I discovered I was on the conservative side of the Democratic Party."
Schubert has his detractors. Michelle Petty of the Alamo Chapter of the Sierra Club said she favors Castro over Schubert for environmental reasons. Petty lives in Hollywood Park and cannot vote in San Antonio, but her involvement with the Sierra Club frequently brings her to City Council and other meetings where decisions are made about development over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone.
"He `Schubert` needs to be more protective of the aquifer recharge zone and its contributing areas," Petty says. "He gives them (developers) what they want. In terms of getting the tree ordinance passed, it was easier for us to discuss and work with Julián Castro, who is more concerned about the environment, and yet he's still looking at the big picture in terms of overall development and the city. He is concerned more about citizens - all of them - not just the richest."
The Alamo Chapter of the Sierra Club invited all the Democratic candidates to interview with the group before it decided whom to endorse. "We have a political committee and we send out questionnaires and interview candidates before we decide whether to endorse them. Julián Castro did win an award from the Sierra Club for being a friend of the environment."
Will Julián Castro be on the political committee's agenda when it is time to take a look at next year's mayoral candidates?
"We anticipate that will come up," Petty says.
The difference between Schubert and Castro, according to Schubert, is that "Julián believes that government should control almost every aspect of your life. I do not believe a new ordinance is the answer to every issue."
"I take the policy making role of the job very seriously. It has far-reaching effects."
The Council's mission, Schubert says, "is to provide high level essential services within the revenue streams we have, foster a good economical climate and facilitate business efforts to provide good paying jobs, and help those who are less fortunate with their needs."
Campaign finance watchdogs have questioned Schubert's acceptance of a $10,000 contribution to his campaign fund from a Valero Energy Corp. political action committee, and a $1,000 contribution from Valero boss Bill Greehey. Schubert's previous connection to the oil and gas company - as director of Governmental Affairs and Community Relations - has opened those financial doors for him.
"The Valero PAC has never asked me for anything. I used to work for Valero before I worked in the DA's office. I know Mr. Greehey well. He knows me and he thinks I do a good job."
Schubert is well prepared financially. He has accepted many $1,000 contributions from local business people, and a slew of $500 contributions from more big names in the local economy: Peter Holt of the local Caterpillar company and the San Antonio Spurs, John Schaefer, local homebuilder; Sam Barshop, an industrial park and shopping mall mogul; and other developers including Gordon Hartman and Rick Sheldon.
So far, Schubert doesn't plan to limit campaign contributions, or to participate in campaign finance reform. In January 15, Schubert reported $59,109.32 in his campaign fund. In contrast, Castro in the same time period reported a balance of $5,372.19.
Schubert has shown a compassionate side on many occasions during City Council votes. He does not expect a unanimous vote on every issue on the City Hall agenda, a practice that was highly sought after by previous San Antonio mayors. "People have different philosophies, it is hard to get a unanimous vote," Schubert says. Schubert contends that he understands the "differences and triumphs" of people in the public and the private world of business and government. "That experience sets me apart from the other candidates," he says.
"No political job is easy," Schubert explains. "Running for office and serving is an all-consuming job. Those of us who want to be in public service have to make the voters believe you've got something to offer." •
By Michael Cary