The blanket Real ID Act authority granted Homeland Security by the 2006 Congress that has allowed border-wall construction to move forward unhampered by any “antagonistic” federal laws — laws such as the Native American Graves Protection Act and our cherished Clean Water and Air acts — is about to expire. At least, that appears to be the message emanating from President-elect Obama’s rollout of a powerful cadre of border-region lawmakers named to his cabinet and advisory teams in the past two weeks.
While the dubious choice of Hillary “Sniper Fire” Clinton to lead the State Department has marinated in editorial ink for more than a week, the collection of Southern Tier officials including New Mex Governor Bill Richardson, and (likely) Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano (of “Show me a 50-foot wall and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder” fame), experienced Homeland resister and University of Texas at Brownsville President Juliet V. Garcia, have given wall opponents reason for optimism. A rumor circulating that Real ID opponent Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona is on the short-list for the Secretary of Interior slot is feeding that interest.
Grijalva, who had been scheduled to speak at a summit on border-wall resistance this week, canceled his appearance there. His press secretary in Tucson said that several cancellations have been made as Grijalva prepares to return to Washington for the upcoming session but confirmed they are hearing the same rumors everyone else is. “He has not been contacted by Obama’s transition team,” Natalie Luna said. “But we have heard he is one of the names out there.”
In Texas, thousands of endangered acres maintained by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Audubon Society, and the Nature Conservancy would be sealed off from the public under current construction plans. Anne Brown, VP of the National Audubon Society, has fought hard to gain insight or information from Homeland about the wall that would likely force her group to close their 130-acre sanctuary to the thousands of area schoolchildren who enjoy the verdant reaches of towering sabal palms. She hasn’t gotten much cooperation.
With the new leadership moving into Washington, D.C. in January, however, the chances of the Real ID Act being overturned are increasingly likely.
“I would hope that they would `do that`,” Brown said. “Because I know what that would mean.”
The San Antonio Police Department has been busily reworking numerous use-of-force policies ever since the the D.C.-based policing-policy group Police Executive Research Forum returned 141 recommendations for establishing more equitable baton use.
Most of the recommendations were adopted straight up after SAPD Chief William McManus released the PERF findings in May. Others, including several related to the use of tasers, were prioritized and referred to one of three committees set up to chew through the remainder.
However, when it comes to tasering, McManus apparently reversed himself by putting one of the recommendations he didn’t initially embrace into practice in October. His original May nod did away with unloading multiple simultaneous jolts. Plus: No tasering of bicycling rulebreakers, and a mandated pause between charges.
But the PERF recommendation to rule out tasers when faced with a drug-tweeked suspect, a factor that could put electro-shock recipients at heightened risk of cardiac arrest, was originally on track for the use-of-force committee. At the last minute, it was pulled and implemented.
“The Chief didn’t want to wait and he took the initiative to go ahead and act and made that one the directives,” said Deputy Chief Jose Banales. “We restrict the use of tasers if the officer feels the suspect is under the use of drugs.”
Former San Antonian Sergio Galvan would have appreciated the policy change. Unfortunately, he died almost two years ago after getting jolted three times by two SAPD officers while he was high on cocaine. A wrongful-death lawsuit brought by Galvan’s family was dismissed last week, with the court ruling the use of force was not excessive. While the suit will likely roll uphill to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, look for a new, stand-alone policy on tasers to roll out of the use-of-force committee later this month. Don’t expect, however, a recommendation that the urban warriors of the Tactical Response Unit start carrying the devices (another PERF recommendation). That would require an additional 40 hours of training when they could be out in their camo, bustin’ gangsta heads.
Dust in the wind
As the Big Tex asbestos sagascrapes bottom on its narrative of neighborhood activism and federal foot-dragging, QueQue wonders if the residents of Southtown who first insisted that the EPA test the old W.R. Grace vermiculite-processing facility for contamination before Blue Star developer James Lifshutz started digging multi-use foundations in the dirt feel some vindication. Since those days four years ago when Say-town watchdogs such as Margarita Maldonado and Santiago Escobedo began demanding adequate testing of the site, which processed more than 100,000 tons of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite from Superfund mining town Libby, Montana, the EPA has discovered considerably more soiled soil than the agency first anticipated: by the time cleaning crews finish up around December 20, they’ll have removed twice as many grids of dirt as originally contemplated. Libby’s tremolite asbestos, you might recall, holds a special place in the annals of carcinogens, being smaller than other asbestos fibers. Last year the Government Accountability Office told the EPA to come up with new toxicity and exposure standards for tremolotic; results are due in 2010.
The gray market
The November 13 leaked in-house memo from San Antonio Express-News publisher Tom Stephenson announcing a planned reduction of 50-odd staffers was followed last week by a leaked memo from E-N Editor Bob Rivard, who in a fit of ironic analogy worthy of Jon Stewart appeared to be comparing chili-cook-off results to layoffs. (Scroll on down, and parse for yourself. Then marvel at the salt in the wound: reprinting Maureen Dowd’s typically flippant November 29 New York Times column about newspaper outsourcing in the December 2 E-N. Seriously. Think about it for a few minutes. We’ll wait.)
This sort of news has become as dependable as bluebonnets in spring at San Antonio’s sole print daily, and although the sky has yet to fall, it nonetheless prompts emails to the QueQue titled, e.g., “Is the Express-News imploding?”
Dear reader: We’d be the last to know.
Rivard declined an offer to elaborate on the paper’s plans to produce Taste and part of S.A. Life in Houston, i.e., or what other streamlining the “coming consolidation project” has in store for our paper of record. Likewise he’s unavailable to explain what newsroom cuts will mean for local coverage, although he did email a philosophical post-deadline reply: “Looks to me like the newsroom will go down a total of 10-12 people, a relatively small reduction in the grand scheme of things.”
We understand Rivard’s busy meeting with Stephenson this week to add layoffs to buyouts to make their list of 50 soon-to-be-former employees, but it’s a shame our offer to chat went unanswered: We would’ve complimented our Hearst outpost for Todd Bensman’s excellent article on the Tex-to-Mex gun market in Sunday’s paper, a small balm for the MashUp’s page 7 lashing. •
Posted at poynter.org November 25, 2008
From: Rivard, Robert
To: SAEN Editorial
Cc: Stephenson, Tom
Sent:Friday, November 21, 2008 11:40 AM
Brett tells me there are newsroom rumors of layoffs today. Not so. The big in-house headline probably will be the winners of the chili cook-off. We’ve promised to share information with you as soon as we can, and there is not much to actually share beyond what we had to say last week to the editorial leadership.
I am returning from NY after a meeting with other editors at the Hearst Tower at which we discussed the state of our industry and various cost-cutting measures, including the coming consolidation project and our staff reductions. Today is, I believe, the last official day for opting in to the voluntary buyout program at the Express-News. Nothing on that front is actually happening today. I will meet with Tom Stephenson and others in the leadership next week to review the tally of requested buyouts, and assess the difference between the number of requested buyouts and Tom’s stated goal of a companywide 50 FTE reduction. I also will schedule meetings with newsroom staff that will be affected by the consolidation project.
Right now we are producing Travel in Houston and we will produce Taste there by late December or early January. We expect to produce at least one of our seven daily SA Life sections in Houston by midyear. That date, of course, could change, but you can see from the projected pace of this project that nothing much is imminent here. There will be some new job openings for copy editors and page designers in Houston at some point, we believe, but I can’t project when those job postings might occur. Thank you for all your good work and dedication through these most difficult times.