Puss in booths
The Express-News is shaping up to be the paper of former District 1 Councilman Julian Castro come City election time (no less a moral watchdog than Jaime Castillo called District 8 Councilwoman and mayoral hopeful Diane Cibrian “radioactive,” and many a column inch has been devoted to her undisclosed vacation in the condo of a Northside developer), but the Current is rooting for the brash and unscripted Cibrian to stay in the race, if only because without her it could turn into a snoozefest of Rip Van Winkle proportions. Following last week’s tempest-in-a-teapot revelation that marketer to the political stars Trish DeBerry is flirting with a run (she of this fall’s term-limits campaign, and via Guerra DeBerry Coody personally responsible for your yes vote on the 2007 bond and the 2008 venue-tax extension), Cibrian extended a gloved hand — the easier to throw the gauntlet, my dears.
“You know, I appreciate anyone who wants to serve our city, and I think it’s very important that individuals are willing to run,” she told the Queque. But asked about the identities of this candidate-less “business community” DeBerry was headhunting for before she reached for the crown herself, Cibrian quickly reminded us why next spring’s debates could be more fun — and more dangerous — than two greased feral hogs and a bottle of Weller.
“You know, I think that’s maybe she and a small group of her friends. But I think that our business community is large and diverse, and I believe I have very strong support within a large sector of the business community,” said Cibrian. “But perhaps if she and her friends would like to have a candidate that they know, then that is an option for her.”
Castro, by comparison, displayed the assertiveness of a turtle, declining even to discuss whether it’s appropriate for the person running the term-limits campaign (which if successful, will benefit the next mayor) to announce her candidacy before that election’s finished. “I have always been very impressed with `DeBerry’s` work, and I think that I’ll let San Antonians decide whether there’s something there that needs more scrutiny,” he hedged, making Queque suspect that if DeBerry comes to her senses (“It’s tough to be a candidate,” Cibrian offered, much like a cat commenting on the hardships of mouse life), Castro hopes to hire her to run his PR.
With election day behind us, we can look forward to an immigration-based ad campaign from MATT.org (Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together), the SA non-profit created by vaunted Republican pitchman Lionel Sosa.
Organization reps like to emphasize MATT’s nonpartisan, unity agenda, although its connections to Sosa (who helped John Tower, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and John McCain reach Latinos) and Cesar Martinez (who created the much-derided Spanish-language commercial depicting Barack Obama palling around indiscriminately with Hugo Chavez) suggest a slight degree of sympathy with the GOP.
The new campaign, however, will probably put MATT at odds with some Republicans because it argues that the federal government has made sufficient progress on border security, and should now concentrate on comprehensive immigration reform. The ads will run in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico, but MATT reps will not offer a timetable for the rollout or indicate whether the ads have yet been produced.
A key player in the effort has been MATT spokesman, and former Republican Congressman, Henry Bonilla. A staunch conservative, Bonilla has nonetheless put together a mixed record on immigration — voting for the border fence and against sanctuary policies, but supporting more immigration visas and apparently having an internal tug-of-war over so-called “chain migration.”
It’s easy to see what makes the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry so gung-ho about MATT’s ad campaign. They seem to be most enthused about overturning strict state laws that punish employers who hire undocumented immigrants. It’s enough to make you question whether the motivating force behind this movement is compassion for those here illegally or protection for people who exploit them.
When Mayor Hardberger laid out his vision for “COSA Mission Verde” — that is, how alternative technologies, smart transportation changes, revised building codes, and better use of electricity could revitalize and empower San Anto in a rapidly changing world — the air crackled with possibility.
Task forces were established in June to lead the charge by crafting meat to hang on those green bones. (Hence, all the recent banter about light rail and the banter to come over ramped-up building codes.) But as the clock ticks down on the first deadline — a draft document laying out a vision for the transformation of our regional transportation — cracks are developing in key points of the transportation group’s platform.
Jim Reed, board member of the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (“Moving people faster” since 2003), dropped a whopper when he presented his summary of Denver’s strategic transportation model — the group’s launching pad for its mobile verbiage — saying he didn’t see water quality as an issue in Bexar County. He also removed “limit roadway footprint” from the list of goals, sending a sour shimmer through the process.
As most folks understand, roadways, parking lots, etc., play a major role in the gradually diminishing water quality of the Edwards Aquifer — still our sole drinking-water source. Reed told the Queque he is not opposed to language in the draft in support of maintaining clean water, but thought it would be a “cheap shot” at the San Antonio Water System to suggest there was some sort of problem with the water as it is now. Striking “roadway footprint” was about eliminating “buzzwords” (“It needs to be written in a way that Joe the Plumber can understand it”), he said, and reflecting a perceived consensus among commission members that they not “punish automobiles” or penalize those who choose a suburban lifestyle (“We’re going to be built out to the county line anyway.”).
However, while the Edwards is still a clean one by today’s standards, automotive petrochemicals have made their presence known. As Annalisa Peace, of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance explains it: “We have this enormous pool, so the pollution doesn’t show up as quickly, because it’s diluted.”
Stormwater runoff — rain washing our streets and parking lots of spilled gas, oil, brake fluid, etc. — is recognized by the U.S. EPA as the biggest threat to the nation’s surface water. Studies have found this pollution doesn’t stop at the surface, but trickles down much faster than, e.g., tax cuts for the wealthy.
Fare y tale
While the Transportation Task Force tallies and advocates for urban density and alterna-transporters, County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson sings the praises of our lowly bus service, VIA, “the unspoken Cinderella of this whole mass-transit story.” Once this election’s over, and Bush either wins or loses “his third term” says Adkisson, gas prices will return to their skyrocketing ways, and he suspects VIA will beat last month’s history-making 4.2 million riders: “Everyone’s going to say, where the hell is my bus?” But VIA’s sales-taxing ability is arrested at a paltry 5/8 of a cent, whereas our sister cities to the north and east can levy up to a cent, so Adkisson supports the 10-percent regular-fare increase approved by VIA’s board this fall. Before it becomes the rule of the mass-transpo road in early January, the Local Governmental Approval Committee — which includes Adkisson — must give it its blessing. November 19 is a possible date, but it’s a public meeting, so notice will be posted in case you want to protest. Don’t expect a sympathetic ear from Adkisson, though. If you don’t want to pay more per ride, he suggests, lobby your elected officials to up that sales-tax percentage.
White wall tired
Perhaps it’s a prize for public patriotism. The story in Saturday’s Valley Morning Star opens, “Dorothy Irwin is one of the Border Patrol’s staunchest local supporters and was a fan of the proposed border fence — until she found out it would run right through her house.”
In a remarkable turn for notoriously bull-necked Homeland Security, the federal agency is considering building around Irwin’s Old Nye Plantation south of the Rio Grande levy, even as it completely walls off farms, fields, and homes elsewhere. Apparently, monied Anglos hold a special place in Homeland’s dark-chambered heart.
Eloisa Tamez, revered by many for daring to sue Homeland Security to protect her multi-generational land holdings and thereby delaying wall construction in the Valley, said as many as six families west of La Paloma have been given 90-day orders forcing them out of the homes that have been in their families since Spanish Land Grant days. “Every last one of them was going to be relocated,” she said. “Some of them had already started packing, in tears. Some of them are widows and invalids.”
And so the double standard that has the proposed wall jumping high-dollar developments while carving a deep scar through indigenous communities continues. Tamez’s own case is still pending with a local judge. “We’re just waiting for word from the judge whether they’re going to condemn the land or not,” she said.•