More than 10 years ago, a small crowd gathered downtown to lift a sign, bow their heads, and publicly object to Texas’s killing of killers and the drivers who love them.
Like doomsday clockwork, each time the state loosed the fatal chemical cocktail, Johnny Martinez (or others of like mind) have gathered near the Bexar County Courthouse to make their objection known. Police have respected the protest, sometimes even offering a thumbs-up of support, Martinez said. Never, says the 71-year-old activist, has there “been any bullshit.”
But bullshit came on Thursday, August 21, when a bike cop veered at Martinez and ordered him to “put down the banner,” according to Martinez and a fellow protestor.
Though Martinez and Tom Keene moved slightly to accommodate the officer, the cop insisted: “You’re blocking the sidewalk. Put down the banner.”
Then came the hands, wrestling Martinez to the ground. Then came the cuffs. Then came backup.
Wrote Keene in his complaint to the SAPD: “If I were to describe the demeanor of the arresting officer it would be that it was that of a bully looking for a fight. From the first, his tone was aggressive.”
Tone appears to have been matched with tone. SAPD’s arrest report quotes Martinez as repeatedly challenging the officer: “What are you going to do, punk?” “Fuck off, punk.” “Let’s go, motherfucker.”
SAPD has been busy working on shoring up its image since the Police Executive Research Forum made more than 100 recommendations for improving operations there. Queque would humbly suggest that violating First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly constitutes a thuggish spin contra such image buffing.
Martinez bonded out, but must now prove himself innocent of obstructing a sidewalk, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.
The “Stop Executions” banner wasn’t so lucky. The obviously still-dangerous 10-foot vinyl sign has been confiscated, according to Martinez.
That former corporate raider, natural-gas guru, and (now) energy “independence” advocate T. Boone Pickens once had liquid assets on the brain — oceans of fast-depleting Ogallala Aquifer water to be specific.
He worked the system like a maven, acquiring the authority he needed to pave the way for a massive pipeline that — if ever built — could pump Panhandle water hundreds of miles into piney East Texas.
To say the undertaking was unpopular would be an understatement. The very notion of water being shuttled from the state’s mutton-bustin’ hindquarters to distant latte-lands by private interests has inspired talk of guns in certain rural enclaves of this “right of capture” state.
Now with Pickens’ mega-media campaign endorsing a major shift in national energy policy (natural gas = transportation; wind = baseload power generation), that history is all but forgotten.
It took Popular Mechanics, perhaps stirred by a coupla curious bloggers, to pop the obvious question: How does this wind-energy campaign play into Pickens’ ambitions to establish himself as a Texas water baron? For starters, the mag points out, “His yet-to-be-built pipeline would follow the same 250-mile corridor as electric lines carrying power from his wind farms.”
Funny thing. After the story was published along with a link to the proposed pipeline path, Pickens’ water district took the map off the web. If you backtrack on the district’s URL, you find the project has been “suspended for now,” though the district (thank your stars!) “is continuing efforts to acquire and develop water rights.”
Queque expects that once the wind-power deal is done, the water deal will be back in prominent play. Too bad the media watchdogs have decided to snooze on the ever-lovin’ switch.
The Queque swears on our stack of Gore Vidal novels that we were done with the Clear Channel digital-billboard story `see “Hang ’em high (and fast), August 27, 2008` — at least while we finished filing and waiting on open-records requests at the state and federal level (because we’re struck practically dumb with admiration at the way our local media juggernaut stormed the fed-state-local regs in one Sherman-esque march to the “see”). But a little vanguard doc showed up late last week, a sort of scouting party, we assume, for an army of interesting info to follow.
So let us pause a moment to tip our hat to Clear Channel VP Tim Anderson, who is either missing the irony gene or was having a good chuckle the day he confirmed to us that Clear Channel Outdoor Prez Blake Custer used to work for City Manager Sheryl Sculley way back in Phoenix, but never mentioned that the time lapse between his tenure at TxDOT — in the Right of Way division, no less — and a job at that same Clear Channel, was infinitesimal by comparison. By which we mean “negligible.” (True, we didn’t ask; Queque’s imagination sometimes fails us in the infamy department & a September '07 E-N story buried that nugget.)
That’s the same TxDOT that obligingly changed its rules to allow digital signage on federally funded Texas highways not five months after the Federal Highway Administration said digital signs don’t necessarily violate state-fed agreements under the Highway Beautification Act — and not two years after TxDOTs former Tim Anderson, Esq., wrote the FHWA inquiring about just that topic.
More on that soon.
Breaking up is hard to do
Sometimes new-relationship passion is merely an augur for the intensity of the fallout when it turns out you’re not perfect for each other after all. Such seems to be the case with former Luminaria Steering Committee member Gabriel Velasquez, who everyone agrees was a pinch hitter for the first year of the hastily born and raised citywide arts festival. But when Velasquez, a founder of independent Latino artists’ org CALO — which brought dozens of artists and performers into the Luminaria 2008 schedule — sought to leverage that 11th-hour salvation into a board position on Luminaria’s new 501(c)3, violins stopped playing, roses wilted, and, in the way of our time, increasingly bitter emails flew.
Velasquez says that he was motivated only by love for his community’s artists, who he fears will be neglected under the new Luminaria structure, which puts established, and mostly familiar, local arts-admin types in charge of subcommittees for Visual Arts, Dance, Multi `sic` Arts, etc. While Centro Cultural Aztlan’s Malena Gonzalez-Cid, Jump-Start’s Steve Bailey, and Gemini Ink’s Rosemary Catacalos may lend a veneer of diversity, he says, “the institutions don’t represent the artists, they represent their institutions.”
Luminaria 2009 Co-Chair and Artpace Executive Director Matthew Drutt disagrees. “Do you want to tell me Steve Bailey isn’t concerned about community?” he asks. Drutt says he thinks he was asked to be on the second-year steering committee because he was vocally critical of the first year’s lack of organization and “vetting” of artists’ proposals, and that a priority for him was establishing a functional structure — the ideal composition, he added, being a jury of peers (professional artists, and professional arts administrators) a camp in which he doesn’t include Velasquez. But the lack of an official arts paycheck didn’t seal the divorce, says Drutt.
“There are several reasons,” he told the Queque, “but chief among them is basically `Velasquez` alienated everyone.” The message behind his aggressiveness, Drutt believes was, “you have to have him, or he’s gonna turn the Chicano community against you.”
Velasquez, for his part, said he thought preparations for ’09 were proceeding well until CALO submitted a letter to the mayor requesting that he be appointed the Luminaria Board Member for Xicano and Latino Diversity. “It wasn’t until I gave them the diveristy letter, that’s when it changed,” he says, and scoffs at Co-Chair (and Witte CEO) Marise McDermott’s reply that the 501(c)3 is just for raising and spending money, while the Steering Committee will make programming decisions. Most of all, though, he says he’s concerned that Luminaria is operating without transparency, and even its founder, Mayor Hardberger, to whom he appealed for help, seems unwilling or unable to do anything about it. (“Gabe Velasquez was active in recruiting artists for the successful Luminaria 2008 project and I appreciate his efforts,” the Mayor replied via third-party email. But after an unsuccessful effort to mend fences, “This is now the responsibility of the chairs.”)
“It makes me feel I don’t really understand what kind of buzzword diversity is to the rest of the art world,” says Velasquez.
Non-native Drutt is similarly nonplussed: “I felt like I walked into an argument that’s been happening for generations.” •