by Mary Tuma
The Current interviewed all four non-incumbent candidates vying for the post (council member Krier was not available for comment). Find out why they’re running, what their priorities are, how they feel Krier has performed in office, who supports the controversial streetcar plan, and how they stack up to their anti-LGBT predecessor when it comes to a vote on the non-discrimination ordinance (An abridged version of this Q&A appeared in the Current's May 7 issue.) :
Why are you running? It’s an accumulation of things. I came to San Antonio with a lot of volunteering on my back. I knew volunteering was something I was going to do for the rest of my life. So, when I came to UTSA I started a volunteering non-profit and I generated 6,000 hours so far to the community and one of the things I began to realize was the difference that politics has among people at homeless shelters, at detention centers, for people on probation. So, being the person I am, I wanted to make a difference and I started to get involved in politics. I jumped on the Obama campaign and campaigned in New Mexico for him for a week and then I was involved with his campaign here in San Antonio and I also got involved in student government at UTSA and changed my major to political science. I also got an internship with [D4] council member [Rey] Saldaña. It was all those things that pushed me to say ‘maybe I should take it a step further.’ So, when there was an opportunity to run [for council], I took advantage of it.
What are your priorities if elected? There are a lot of issues to be looked at, especially as a councilman, there’s diversity of problems and a diversity of services that government provides, so it’s hard to narrow it down. I can’t say for sure right now these are the things I’m going to focus on primarily because I have to go back to the district and see what they want. But, I was for the NDO and I definitely think it needed to be in the City Charter. Now, the point to be made is where is the transparency, what do people do when they feel like they’re discriminated against. I want to make that system transparent and have people fully understand what the ordinance protects. I’m also really big on education and pushing people to go to college, even when funding may be a problem—I chose not to feel victimized coming from a family without wealth, I said I’m going to make it to college somehow, and if it wasn’t for the Pell Grant it may have been something I could have never done. I also want to work on basic services— getting the roads fixed, making sure sewage lines are properly maintained and making sure they’re done in a timely manner. Because that’s one thing you cannot overlook as a City council member, the primary services the government offers and if those things need to be fixed we need to be on top of them first and foremost.
How do you feel incumbent council member Krier has performed in office? I feel like he’s done an okay job; there are things he’s done that I wouldn’t have done, but that’s going to be with everyone, we’re all different. But I don’t think he’s done a fulfilling or a great job, I don’t think he’s going to reach out to the constituents the way I’m going to reach out to constituents. I think I’m a lot more motivated, a lot more progressive, a lot more energetic and I think what I have to offer is going to be very refreshing to the district as well as the city.
Do you support the streetcar plan? Personally I think it’s a great idea. But I can’t support it if I’m on council because it’s not something that my district supports— at least that’s the sense I get. It’s something that if it does go up for a vote, or in any case where the streetcar petition does go into effect, I would definitely reach out to my constituents and ask what do you really want? And, I have to back my constituents on that one.
Would have voted for the LGBT non-discrimination ordinance? Yes, I’ve been to every single forum I’ve been invited to unlike the other candidates and wasn’t fearful of stating that in front of the people that were against it. I went to the Cornerstone Church, they had a panel, the Christian Chamber of Commerce had a panel and I went in front of them and I stated I do not believe in undermining any particular group of people and say that they’re livelihoods are not more important, or as important as anyone else’s. I tried to put in a way where they could see my reasoning and could agree with.
Why are you running? I am running so that we can restore balance to City Council. There’s been an assault, I feel and many people feel, by the liberal agenda, promoted by Mayor Castro whether it’s PREK4SA or light trail or spending money recklessly and so I want to refocus on basic services, so we can refocus on bringing jobs to SA and cut taxes, and make sure San Antonio continues to be a world class city and fight for children’s future today.
What are your priorities if elected? We got to fight off the debt that we currently have. We have to find a way to increase the road maintenance budget and find a way to take care of emergency services.
How do you feel incumbent council member Krier has performed in office? He has not represented the conservative values as they have been represented previously, he’s voted with the mayor almost 99 percent of the time. He’s voted with the mayor on very, very liberal non-traditional things like spending $900,000 on curbing teen pregnancy by giving inserts to teen girls. It has major cancer impacts, major sterilization impacts, all kinds of things that would hurt a young woman, its’ just wrong to do. A much more pragmatic way to curb teen pregnancy would be to look at a citywide health initiative like an absence program, and you could impact all of the girls. [
Do you support the streetcar plan? Some people in the race say they want to put it to a vote; not only do I want to put to a vote but I actively want to stop the streetcar. I’m trying hard to stop the streetcar outside of Council and once I’m elected, I’ll try even harder to stop the streetcar because it’s a very large waste of our resources. The citizens have said no several times. It’s going to hurt our tourism industry, it’s going to hurt any downtown growth and it’s going to be bad for San Antonio. And we just had Fiesta, what are they going to do with the 100-year old Fiesta parade routes—shut off the streetcar? It’s a very bad thing, it doesn’t work for San Antonio and it’s a very big waste of money and resources that we could use on other things like providing VIA bus services to veterans in far North Side or in the South Side in San Antonio where they have limited bus service. It’s such a wrong thing to do for all the right reasons but yet the Mayor has a desire to push this national political agenda down our throats and he thinks we did a streetcar and a light rail.
Would have voted for the LGBT non-discrimination ordinance? Joe Krier and I have made the same statement, that we both would have voted against it. Obviously, I actively worked to try to stop it. So, yes, absolutely I would have voted against it. It violated free speech and religious freedom. We need to focus on traditional San Antonio values. If elected, would you find a way to repeal the NDO? I don’t what the options are, but certainly I will be speaking with city attorney’s office about what the options are if elected.
You tried to oust council members who voted for the NDO out of office. Do you think this will cause friction at the dais if you are elected? It shouldn’t. I expect these people to act like professionals. Mayor Castro very clearly said during his debate with [state Sen.] Dan Patrick that he reaches across the aisle on a daily basis to solve problems. I spoke with the mayor afterward and told him I look forward to him reaching across the aisle. The issues in SA need to be resolved you don’t need to make a national political agenda just to pad your political agenda out of the people here in SA and that’s all [the NDO] was— even people in the LGBT community knew they were being used as a pawn, they should be incensed and indignant about the fact Mayor Castro and the City Council used that particular issue to gain more credibility on a larger scale.
So, no, we’re not going to have any issue working together if they’re willing to put San Antonio first. And, the other thing is, the recall effort was a done as a political maneuver to get these people to have a moment of clarity and pause to realize that they were being manipulated by a national political agenda as well.
Candidate: Bert Cecconi, retired Air Force colonel; retired dentist
Why are you running? There are a number of issues that I find important that I want to get us talking about. For instance, I talked a lot about linear parks and bike paths 20 years ago, it didn’t happen then, but it started getting into the dialogue and I think I contributed to making those issues things we discussed. Eventually, we got linear parks and more bike paths.
What are your priorities if elected? I think our districts have gotten awfully large, so I think sometime in the future we need to think about increasing the number of districts. We also can’t have elected officials serving for $20 a month, they have to have some reasonable compensation. It also increases the number of citizens that could run if they chose to. Also, transportation in North Central San Antonio is very important, because we are very close to having a gridlock many times, there’s almost a linear parking lot. And we have the Wurzbach Parkway to open probably this fall, so if we don’t have flow traffic moving on those four arteries we’re going to be in total gridlock.
How do you feel incumbent council member Krier has performed in office? I think he is personally first-rate and all candidates are first-rate, but I’m the only one to speak on these issues and say the streetcar is going to come and we should make it outstanding, all the others are against it, as far as I’ve heard.
Do you support the streetcar plan? My view is that folks that proposed it went through the proper legal steps and it was passed 9-2 and passed by the VIA board. So I don’t envision those folks changing their mind anytime soon. So, I look at is as something that is going to happen, so let’s be sure it’s done on budget, on time and it’s an outstanding system that we want to take our kids and grandkids to and one that we want to use. Also, make sure it’s something that improves tourism. I think it certainly has the potential to increase business and residential potential for downtown. It’s going to happen so let’s make it as good as we possibly can. But any other rail projects in the future, it might be wise to bring it to a vote to citizens.
Would you have voted for the LGBT non-discrimination ordinance? I’m for equal justice for all our citizens and equal rights, whether I agree or disagree with them. We are all under the same constitution.
Why are you running? I’ve increased my level of service to the community over time, I’ve done junior achievement and math camps and as my professional career grew, my engineer work kind of directed me to give my time to something that would be more conducive to my background. I was on the City Planning Commission for a couple of years, it was such a rewarding experience, to be evaluating appeals and land transactions, use plans and city code—it was great, but what I realized is that I have a lot of ideas and a lot to offer and you need to be on City Council to really make a difference. So when [former D9 council member Elisa] Chan quit I thought, why not now.
What are your priorities if elected? I want to be a voice of technical expertise on the Council, I know they don’t have that. What’s real important to me is to get another fire station north of [Loop] 1604, I want to augment city code so it’s possible to get certain traffic violations in gated neighborhoods. I also want to help with the unified development code; I think the City Council should have an engineer for that occurrence.
How do you feel incumbent council member Krier has performed in office? I was one of the 12 applicants in November and I was the only one of the 12 applicants that said he’s going to run in May. I knew that Council wanted someone that wasn’t going to run, and I was trying to be honest. [Krier] said he had no intent to run [in November], to me that means you’re not going to do something barring something out of your control. He makes choices and he has to live with them. A lot of people I talked to when block walking really didn’t like that and they were very vocal to me about it. It was one of the common themes, they were unhappy with that.
Do you support the streetcar plan? I’m against it. I don’t think it’s a fiscally responsible project. When the city undertakes large jobs especially ones that change the dynamic of the downtown experience, it needs to be put to a vote. Aside from that aspect, the city should only be spending money on those jobs that actually serve a purpose. They don’t have people downtown that are going to ride and pay for this thing, it’s going to be a burden on the taxpayers, it’s no different than building a statue. It doesn’t serve a purpose and I can’t agree with it.
Would you have voted for the LGBT non-discrimination ordinance? I do get asked that a lot. There’s no simple yes or no answer. As presented, I would have voted no because the items in there are already covered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and federal and state statues. I’m not a fan of the City of San Antonio making an ordinance that’s covered by someone else. And for that reason I would have voted no. I don’t think anyone should be discriminated against. I think in those matters the city has an obligation to be more of a compliance officer. So if there’s an individual that’s being discriminated against and there’s a state or federal law, which there are, which makes that illegal, the city should be worried about compliance with those laws and not creating their own rules and regulations that accomplish the same things. Who do you complain to? Are you supposed to go to the federal government? The state? The city? And that’s a problem I’m seeing, we have people casting votes because they’re upset about something that’s a state issue— the City of San Antonio is supposed to be about streets, drainage, emergency services, the library, animal services, garbage collection— we’re not supposed to be regulating civil rights. We’re here to ensure compliance. I don’t want someone to vote for me based on what church I’m affiliated with or what political party I may be associated with. I’m stressing to be people to really think about what this job is supposed to be [
] We’re not here to create social legislation, we’re here to make sure the roads don’t have potholes and the police and fire department are out there the libraries are open. So, all the time and money they spent on the NDO, it’s already covered by other rules and regulations, we could have used that money to fix a bunch of potholes.