If there were a manic street preacher posted somewhere on Vance Jackson, testifying and laying down the gospel about the District 8 candidates for the June 12 runoff election, what would s/he say? These are the kinds of hypotheticals that keep the Queque up at night. Along with how long baby actors can work on film and TV productions in light of child-labor laws. And whether a fish kept in a tepid pot of coffee would swim anxiously till its heart burst.
We choose Vance Jackson because it’s a main artery in District 8 and the kind of street where drivers have been confronted with public challenges to City Council candidates before — consider the “Stop Art Hall” road signs staked along VJ when the outgoing councilman was seeking his second term in 2005 (Hall’s got one up in his sparsely decorated City Hall office). The open grievance was in response to Hall’s vote on a Zoning case that Vance Jackson Neighborhood Association considered “the foot in the door for commercialism,” said past Association President Woody Halsey.
Let’s not get too much into the snory gory bore-y details of land-use regulation; we’ll just say that candidate and former Zoning Commish Morris Stribling has had some ‘splaining to do for the recommendations he made on the citizen board that advises Council on urban planning and property issues. A group of District 8 neighborhood leaders met with the other candidate, public-policy consultant Diane Cibrian, on Thursday, and Stribling on Saturday. An attendee said he was upfront with Dr. Stribling about his problems with him on the Zoning board, and wrote in an email to the Queque that Stribling “appeared to take these criticisms in a constructive manner and promise`d` to do better in the future. (Wish we had this conversation earlier.)”
Still, word on the street is Cibrian, even though her campaign promises sound loopy (cutting tax rates) her exuberant campaign energy is enough to win souls. The Queque thinks she’s lucky, too, that her civic involvement hasn’t put her in the line of much citizen fire (Girl Scouts board, San Antonio City Commission, the police- chief search committee), unless you count her time as board chair of the now dissolved San Antonio Development Agency.
Like The Hollies, the Queque, too, has a bus-stop baby: Alfred Ehm of the Public Transit Users’ Association. But instead of love growing beneath the canopy of an umbrella, Ehm’s been courting us for months about a proposed lawsuit against the City of San Antonio (COSA) for exempting nearly 3,000 acres of Lumbermen’s Investment Corporation land from annexation. That, of course, was the infamous PGA Village deal of January 2005.
Ehm finally filed his suit in the U.S. Western District Court on April 23, claiming the COSA Nostra violated the Texas Constitution by playing tax favoritism, since the 25-year exemption from annexation also means a 25-year exemption from municipal taxes (billions worth, Ehm says). Last week, Assistant City Attorney Edwin Matias filed the City’s obligatory response — more annoyed than defensive — claiming that Ehm doesn’t have a leg to kick with. Not only was the agreement within the City’s legislative authority, but as a sole plaintiff, Ehm can’t really prove he was tangibly injured by the agreement, Matias says. Plus, Ehm’s missed the point: the exemption wasn’t a free ticket. Among other concessions, PGA had to agree to certain wage standards for its hotels and golf course.
Ehm now admits he wasn’t familiar with the details behind the deal, which means he didn’t do his research. That’s forgiveable, Freddy, because the Queque, too, on occasion, leaps without looking. Case in point: Last week we told you there’d be only two more weeks of election coverage on our pages. The run-off election — in District 5 between motherly Lourdes Galvan and young stud David Medina, and in District 8, between tax-unhappy Cibrian and podiatrist Stribling — is set for June 12, which is still three long weeks away.
Online voting’s closed for the True Courage Action Network’s end-of-legislative-session awards, which honors state legislators and public-interest groups who work to “restore ethical standards, government transparency, and electoral reform and voter protection,” and we’re still upset there wasn’t category for “Best Vomit Swallow-backer.” We would’ve nominated Senator Carlos Uresti, who, while suffering from stomach flu, dashed to the Senate floor last week in between dry heaves to block the Republican caucus’s voter ID bill from debate on the Senate floor. Lieutenant Governor/Senate President David Dewhurst had attempted, dastardly and underhandedly, to capitalize on Uresti’s flu and Senator Mario Gallegos’s liver malfunctions (he had a transplant earlier this year) to get the two-thirds majority vote. Uresti reportedly went back to puking after casting his vote.
What’s even more bewildering is that Senator Jeffrey Wentworth was nominated for a Courage Award (named after True Courage Action Network founder, John Courage, the San Antonio educator who picked up 25 percent of the vote in his 2006 run against U.S. Representative Lamar Smith in District 21) despite championing SB 889, a public-information bill that would create widespread government opacity.
Currently Texans enjoy a little something called the Public Information Act, which allows citizens to request copies of governmental documents for little or no cost. Wentworth’s bill — passed by the Senate in late April, by the House Committee on State affairs last week, and as of deadline was on its way to the House floor — allows government agencies to slap open-records requesters with charges for copies and overhead for anything more than 50 pages per month, and even require a deposit or bond if the agency estimates the bill to top $100.
The bill seems to have originated with a public-records spat in the Lake Travis School District in Austin. District officials accuse a couple of filing nearly 1,000 PI requests, “for harassment or retaliatory purposes at the expense of taxpayers,” according to legislative reports. The duo, David and Melissa Lovelace, told a Senate committee that many of the documents — such as meeting minutes and agendas — should’ve been freely available online.
The bill will chill the fact-finding process for public-watchdog organizations, including the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, who vehemently oppose it because agencies will be able to stall the process and lob high-ball estimates when releasing politically inconvenient information. That’s not to mention that the bill offers no encouragement for agencies to streamline their database systems to make the whole process leaner and more efficient. Quite the opposite: Why design a time/cost-effective system when you can place the financial burden on the citizens who exercise their right to inspect the work their tax dollars fund?
To take a cue from Uresti: It’s enough to make you puke.
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