D2 on the downlow
Continuing the “East Side for Sale” theme of the past year, the City placed an ad in last week’s Express-News, announcing that it plans to deaccession some of the charming storefronts of St. Paul’s Square to the East Commerce Realty LLC, a subsidiary of powerful local players the Zachry Corp, which is well into a 45-year lease on the lots. Zachry son-in-law Jeff Rochelle is the developer of adjacent high-end condo tower the Vidorra — which rankled some Eastside residents with its successful push for a train quiet zone after they’d been living with the lonesome whistle all their un-gentrified lives — and the man who’s overseen the historic district’s transformation into an uninspiring but safe niche for Ruth’s Chris, Aldaco’s, and the occasional event.
East Commerce reps didn’t offer QueQue much in the way of details about the proposed sale, aside from noting that the deal involves “five office buildings,” and does not include the Sunset Station depot or pavilion. But presumably more info will be forthcoming at a mandatory public hearing (mandatory b/c St. Paul Square was renovated in part with CDBG funds), 9am Friday, June 26, in the Council Chambers.
This’ll be the second time this spring that the 1100 block of East Commerce has made the QueQue: We reported (perhaps ad nauseam) that District 2 runoff contender Byron Miller had claimed a commercial storefront across the street from the proposed Zachry sale as his residence when he first sought an open seat on the Edwards Aquifer Authority Board, foreshadowing the flap this time around over his (lack of) Council District 2 home. `See “Parse this,” June 10, for an overview.` Miller finished just 54 votes behind opponent Ivy Taylor in Saturday’s election, and as of press time his campaign was making noises about dead voters on the rolls, pre-stuffed mail ballots, and repeat voting Chicago-style — charges that BexarCo Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen more or less scoffed at.
But Miller’s campaign has till 10 a.m. Monday to give the Mayor a recount petition and $7,215. If he wants to actually challenge the voter rolls, that’ll take an Elections Contest suit — and more cash. Which Miller may very well have: He outraised Taylor in the final stretch, with donations from such community leaders as Paul Covey, Graham Weston, and County Judge Nelson Wolff.
Because hell is for children
Yes, Obama’s in office and Gitmo’s sunsetting, but the Feds are still holding an untold number of non-criminal undocumented families in the T. Don Hutto Residential facility in Taylor, Texas, where they await likely deportation to their countries of origin. The QueQue can’t help but feel that in retrospect this will look just as American as those World War II Japanese internment camps. While the government’s reportedly redecorated the facility, which was originally built as a maximum-security prison, to make it more homey and welcoming for the children, infants, and pregnant women incarcerated there, its refusal to let UN rapporteur Jorge Bustamante enter in 2007, and a general lack of transparency, has fueled ongoing opposition.
On June 20, aka World Refugee Day, a coalition including Amnesty International, Code Pink, the Texas Jail Project, several Williamson County groups, LULAC National and many others will hold another vigil at the site to pressure the Obama Administration to close the facility, and encourage Congress to reintroduce the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (which every UN member save the U.S. and Somalia has ratified).
Following the QueBlog’s report last week that Hutto contractor Corrections Corporation of America had sponsored several LULAC national conventions, to the tune of at least $30,000, and was still listed on LULAC’s website as one of several “companies that support our communities,” LULAC Executive Director Brent Wilkes wrote to say that CCA was no longer endorsed on the site. LULAC returned a $10,000 2007 sponsorship when critics raised the conflict of interest, but the rabblerousers remain convinced that LULAC’s endorsement of CCA inititiatives such as educating jailed undocumented immigrants in preparation for their forced repatriation, means they don’t have the political capital to push for Hutto’s closure.
Follow the Hutto saga on Jay Johnson-Castro’s blog, tdonhutto.blogspot.com, where you’ll find a schedule of fundraisers and vigils, including details for this weekend’s events.
The Castro district
In one of the signs of the End Times, über-mega-church pastor John Hagee has agreed to meet June 28 with LGBT-equality advocates from SA and Austin, after they attend Cornerstone Church’s 11 a.m. worship service as part of the annual Sundays of Solidarity campaign. (The QueQue thinks Hagee might be willing trade some sort of “healing” for a pledge to send any Jewish ’mos back to the Holy Land for his second-coming game plan.)
Hagee’s spiritual largesse damn near trumps Julián Castro’s announcement last week that he’ll be the first SA mayor to lead the city’s annual Gay Pride parade, July 4, which prompted right-wing radio host Adam McManus to mobilize his self-styled “Adam’s Army” in protest. Dozens of emails and phone calls to City Hall ensued.
One email urged the Mayor “to reconsider your decision to act as Grand Marshall in the planned July 4th Homosexual Pride Parade ... There is a difference between Christian tolerance and blind endorsement.”
Castro used the opportunity for a little verbal jujitsu. “I respect your opinion,” he wrote wrote in reply. “However, I am the mayor for all of San Antonio, and I firmly believe we must be an inclusive city.”
The minor flap carried over into Council chambers Thursday, where former mayoral contender Shirley Thompson earned applause from gadfly Jack Finger with an appeal to ... something: “The clean zone that you want for the City is the clean zone that He makes available to us.”
Adam McManus is reportedly resigned to his defeat, expecting no more luck now than in his 2007 campaign to dissuade Police Chief William `no relation` McManus from marshalling the parade. Now that our top council member has followed in the footsteps of our top cop, the QueQue is putting the rest of Texas on notice that we won’t play your “conservative, military” sidekick anymore.
“San Antonio is America’s seventh-largest city,” said Castro. “We’re a city that includes folks, that values our diversity — that doesn’t just tolerate diversity.”
First, the good news: The City is seeking public input on the much-reviled 2007 digital-billboard pilot program, which gifted the city with 13 bright “variable-message” signs, many of them overlooking our scenic byways, all but one operated by SA-based media giant Clear Channel — generous donor to pet mayoral projects under Mayor Hardberger, and no slouch during the latest mayoral campaign. Not only did Clear Channel get a very permissive sign ordinance with a lax takedown provision, but the City promptly neutered the one dog that chomped its ankles during the pilot-ordinance putsch: the Electrical Supervisory Board.
But this announcement of course translates as: The City is going to propose a new ordinance this year which would allow more digital billboards, so these four meetings are your opportunity to weigh in on the signs’ safety, fugliness, and the takedown provision that requires a certain amount of vinyl-billboard space to be retired for every new digital face (ours sounds good, numbers-wise, but isn’t very demanding when it comes to tradeoff locations).
Citizens opposed to any additional signs might wish to cite highway-safety expert Jerry Wachtel’s new study, the upshot of which is that several of our signs are a hazard thanks to their short dwell time and locations near exit/entrance ramps and highway spaghetti bowls. Speaking of Wachtel, the QueQue wonders at the rush: earlier this year, City staff asked for an extension until October for its required safety study of the city’s new signs, and the federal government hasn’t yet issued its anticipated review.
Perhaps it’s simply that Clear Channel Outdoor could use the cash. The company announced a 25-percent decline in first-quarter revenues in 2009, compared to first quarter 2008, but the official press release noted that the company was pleased “with the growth in our digital billboard revenue. That growth was due principally to the significant increase in our digital inventory, particularly during the second half of 2008.” Apparently we’re not one of the “smaller markets” where Clear Channel plans to scale back the digital rollout.
The first public meeting is scheduled for 3pm Monday, June 22, at the Cliff Morton Development & Business Services Center, 1901 S. Alamo, 2nd floor, training room A. Get the full schedule on QueBlog, at sacurrent.com, where you’ll also find links to our exhausting, er, exhaustive, digital-billboard coverage and Wachtel’s full report.
The Feds have come up with a solution to SA’s slow but steady brain drain and our resulting inferiority complex: run the best and brightest out of town before they can leave us first.
But last week an immigration-court judge failed to follow the script, and granted Jefferson valedictorian and two-degree St. Mary’s grad Benita Veliz another few months to muster a case against her deportation — and, perhaps, to place her confrontation with Uncle Sam in closer proximity to DREAM Act passage. The legislation currently on Capitol Hill is designed to reward the undocumented children of undocumented immigrants who, like Veliz are brought to the U.S. as minors, and subsequently earn a college degree or serve in the military with citizenship. It’s like a retention plan for some 2.1 million Type-A would-be Americans. You can get more info at dreamact2009.org.