This month's election in small-but-growing, 9,000-population Hondo west
of SA has dramatically shifted the makeup of the city
council there — and its agenda.
With a three-candidate sweep achieved under the banner of the "Real
Change Campaign," volunteers and organizers from San Antonio's Southwest Workers Union
helped usher in a platform hinged upon environmental and economic
Born in Hondo (like new councilmember and SWU labor organizer Chavel
Lopez), the Union is celebrating its 20-year anniversary — a
milestone now enhanced by the victory in Medina County.
The local paper didn't quite catch on to what was happening (or chose
to ignore it), sticking to a safer
analysis piggybacking on natural voting trends. (Online, the
deeply historic vote was listed right under the baseball glove donation
national trends in this year’s presidential primaries,
interest in the Hondo city elections is at an all time high, according
to City Secretary Yolanda Benitez. This is the first council election
to be held since the city adopted a Home Rule Charter, providing
council members with three-year terms of office.
Benitez said more early votes were cast in this
year’s municipal elections than in any election in the
city’s history. At the close of early voting Tuesday, 949
early votes had been cast at City Hall and 171 mail-in ballots had been
received, which means 1,120 Hondo residents cast ballots during just
the early voting period. Hondo has 3,304 registered voters and over one
third, or 1,120, decided to vote early. Saturday, May 10, is the
official election day.
The early vote total alone exceeds past election vote
totals, with early voting and Election Day voting combined. A stunning
131 people voted in the four-hour span on Saturday, which was more than
any eight-hour day in the early voting period, according to the City
"The platform is economic development, centered around the community
values. We want new jobs, clean jobs, green jobs," Lopez said.
The town is faced with losing is primary manufacturing facility this
summer, a toilet company employing about 250 people.
The Change candidates plan to explore the city's business and
industrial footprint to see how it may be transformed to create new
opportunities, possibly in solar manufacturing. A municipal and
residential solar program is also being explored by the trio.
More immediately achievable efforts by the new members will include a
push to simplify the process for residents wanting to get on City
Council agendas; ensuring the presence of a translator at public meetings
so Spanish-speaking residents can "feel more comfortable" sharing their
thoughts with the council; as well as a Living Wage Committee to help
bring city employee salaries up to at least $12.21 per hour.
The town has been the focus of past campaigns to remove grain elevators
that neighbors complain draw flies, rats, and unbearable dust into
"Infrastructurally, a lot of the areas have been neglected in terms of
the streets, drainage, sidewalks," Lopez said.
The two other new faces on board are Lucio Torrez and Virginia Gonzales.
The three will be inspecting city budgets and salaries closely, said
Lopez, who has been organizing in Hondo since the 1970's.
"The people want change. That's what all three of us want…
we don't want to go in and burn the house down, but we do want to go in
there and see all the contracts."
With so much progressive-minded new blood at the city's helm, Hondo
will be one town to watch in the near future.