Greg M. Schwartz
The wide-open battle for District 5 is heating up, as candidates and their supporters attempt to discredit their competitors in what looks to be a tight race. The incumbent is usually the favorite, but Lourdes Galvan’s frontrunner status is questionable. She failed to garner an endorsement from the Express-News, which decided not to endorse anyone in District 5.
The San Antonio Police Officer’s Association originally said last year that they wouldn’t endorse her either after her support of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, but now they’ve flip-flopped and decided to endorse the status quo. David Gonzalez, PAC chair for the SAPOA, says that Galvan has since apologized and said she “didn’t know what the Bandidos stood for.”
“She found out that [the club’s charity work] was a blip in what they really do, and has since denounced her appreciation of the Bandidos,” said Gonzalez. He says the Bandidos are a “criminal element from our point of view.”
“I’m sure there are some Bandidos who are nice guys, but for the most part they are not,” added Gonzalez. (If any Bandidos are reading, the Queblog is interested in hearing your side of this story.)
The police endorsement may not be a crucial factor in District 5, however. Inside polling information from a fly on the wall indicates that 2007 runner-up David Medina and 2009 newcomer John Carlos Garcia — who has won the endorsement of the Bexar County Young Democrats — are leading Galvan in the race to get into a two-person runoff. The chances of any candidate winning more than 50 percent of the overall vote on May 9 looks remote.
There seems to be plenty of bad blood between the campaigns of Galvan and Medina, where there’s already been allegations of sign stealing from both camps. The exact details remain murky, but a couple of little birdies reported that Galvan’s husband was involved in an altercation with Medina supporter Richard Olano on Wednesday in the parking lot at the Las Palmas Mall.
Olano apparently had accused the councilwoman of misspending, and Mr. Galvan allegedly responded with a derogatory homophobic insult. Initial reports suggested fisticuffs ensued, but this was later downgraded to mere verbal sparring. Inquiries with Galvan’s office for comment were not returned. Medina still hasn’t returned Queblog’s calls since we inquired about the allegations that he didn’t actually live in District 5 for the requisite six months prior to filing to run.
Now there are new carpetbagger allegations against Medina that he lied about graduating from District 5’s Burbank High School, when he actually graduated from John Marshall High on the North Side. Sources say that while Medina did attend Burbank at one time, he did not finish there. A copy of Medina’s graduation photo from John Marshall, class of 2004, is currently circulating.
Candidate Raymond Zavala also has a flyer out that takes Medina to task for exaggerating his political and work experience, as well as his failure to answer candidate questionnaires (including that of the Current.) Zavala also claims that Medina “has a habit of being impossible to reach,” a claim with which the Quebog can concur.
Then came a tip suggesting that candidate Garcia had a felony assault on his record. The felony characterization proved false, however. Garcia says, and Justice Center records confirm, that he was arrested in 2007 after a domestic dispute but that the misdemeanor charge was dismissed and is in the process of being expunged from the record.
“[The argument] happened outside my office and got the attention of a neighbor, which is why the police were called,” said Garcia. He says he and fiancee Bernadette Valdez have been together for ten years and have since had a second child, so “the incident is not anything in character.”
“It was just a misunderstanding between both of us… and we’ve been fine ever since,” concurred Valdez.
A comparison of the rumored frontrunners shows that the forthcoming Garcia has all his answers to various candidate questionnaires posted at his site, while Medina’s site has no such information at all.
Garcia has gone on the offensive against the incumbent Galvan with a flyer that attacks her for a lack of leadership in the district. It takes Galvan to task for her retroactive response to community concerns about the location of the Secrets Executive Club on New Laredo Highway, where two men were recently killed in a parking lot shooting.
“Only after this violent incident did Councilwoman Galvan bother to pay attention to the community’s concerns. She expressed ‘outrage’ just as she did after the burning of a warehouse recycling plant at 5317 W. Commerce. Long before the building burned down on January 10, 2008, nearby residents reported numerous code-compliance concerns to Councilwoman Galvan, but their pleas for help fell on deaf ears! Galvan’s retroactive ‘outrage’ approach has FAILED,” reads the flyer.
Pastor Conrad Palacios from the River Worship Church seconds this critique of Galvan. He says Galvan failed to show this week at an Infrastructure and Growth Committee meeting, where the issue of zoning distinctions for live entertainment venue was among those to be discussed.
“I guess two people dying is not enough for her to change her schedule,” said Palacios. He said he wants clarity between bars and strip clubs, noting that many of the latter simply register as live entertainment venues, allowing them to open up almost anywhere. “No one is trying to shut down the strip clubs, we’re just trying to make it safer for the families.”
Queblog hasn’t been able to track any mud flying at candidate Eiginio Rodriguez yet, which might lead one to believe the former zoning commissioner isn’t making enough waves in the race to merit such attention, despite his outspoken questioning of the city’s status quo on numerous issues. But Rodriguez reported this morning that all emails to his website address mysteriously disappeared yesterday. Does this represent a mere random cyberspace meltdown or something more sinister?
“The only new thing I can remember having occurred within the past week was having spoken to an elderly retired civilian military base research scientist that emailed me some information regarding the Kelly underground vapor/liquid contamination Congressional Hearing,” said Rodriguez in an email. “I also remember that he asked questions about the Medina Base explosion [in 1963] and why I had hypothesized why there was a possible correlation of thyroid disease and rare cancer incidents in the area.”
For the record, Councilwoman Galvan has failed for a week now to respond to a request for comment on the burying of the liver cancer report that connected some of the cancers in the district’s Toxic Triangle with the contamination from Kelly.
Stay tuned for live web cast Election Day coverage from the Current on May 9…
Thank God for OKC.
Texans used to chortle snide gratitudes for Louisiana, the only state in the Union that regularly ranked lower in terms of health care, education, and the number of crackling towers of burning toxic waste. Until we went Republican, anyway, and we started swapping places with the Magnolia State.
But in the race to turn trash into treasure — or at least make recyclables a revenue stream worth a dime — Texans can now turn up false pitying noses at poor Oklahoma City, where only 3 percent of the trash stream gets recycled.
But don’t gloat too long, San Antonio. You’re only an imperceptible rise higher at 4 percent, based on 2007 numbers, according a recent report in Waste & Recycling News.
Compared to superstars like San Francisco (70 percent), Portland (63 percent), and Dallas (44.6 percent), San Antonio and Oklahoma City are the leaching goop at the bottom of the heap that is the 30 most populous U.S. city rankings.
Other Texas cities ranked as follows:
N.B.: Yes, I owe you a followup digital-billboard-study post, but then all this shit keeps happening at the Capitol, and closer to home. Monday, Scout's honor.
It was a tough day at the Pink Dome for common sense and self-determination. One reason Texas women ought to be less enthusiastic about secession than their boot-scootin' counterparts: they could fare much worse if Houston's Dan Patrick were suddenly promoted from State Senator to Senator of the Republic.
Patrick is the author of the abortion ultrasound bill we've reported on (scroll down here), and which has passed the Senate. And while it's considerably different from its once-identical companion bill in the House, it's still a meddlesome thing between a woman and her doctor. In the latest version, it is now optional for the woman to view and listen to an ultrasound before having an abortion, but she must sign a statement noting that it was offered, and that she's refusing it. Reproductive rights activists say the language is confusing, and may mean that she can refuse an ultrasound altogether, although according to Planned Parenthood, most clinics that perform abortions require an ultrasound for medical reasons -- they just didn't try to force women to view them. Patrick isn't a doctor, but he likes to fuck with them on TV (yes, you can watch your lege in action on the internets, at legis.state.tx.us).
The House State Affairs Committee is expected take up Corte's HB36 early next week.
San Antonio's Senator Leticia Van de Putte was unable to secure final passage today for her attempt to undo Texas's number-one ranking for repeat teen pregnancies. Since the Senate passed a bill intended to "shame women into changing their mind," she said, "We might want to take some measures that would actually reduce the number of abortions that occur."
The Senator said she plans to try to get the votes she needs Monday, but this afternoon the bill was saddled with an unfriendly amendment -- by none other than Patrick. The intent of the legislation would allow teen mothers to access family-planning services and contraception without their parents' consent, but Patrick's amendment excepts teen parents who still live at home (let's set aside for a moment the vexing question of proving that you don't live with your parents -- do you show up at the clinic with two utility bills, a birth certificate, and a notarized affidavit from a witness?).
"We’re one of only one or two states who make a 16 or 17 year old who has already had a baby get her parents’ permission" to obtain birth control, said Van de Putte. She said she agrees that teens who aren't yet parents should have to get their parents' consent for family-planning services, because it gives the parents a heads-up.
"But I think parents who are now grandparents know their children are sexually active.”
Activist group places figure as high as $22 billion
A new report about the ultimate cost of new nuclear power in Texas suggests the figure could reach almost three times earlier company projections.
Officially released from the steps of San Antonio City Hall this week, the report by a former director of regulatory analysis for the Texas Public Utility Commission, Clarence Johnson, overshot NRG Energy’s earlier projection of $8 billion and hit into the $20 billion to $22 billion range.
Members of several area environmental organizations ran down their list of objections to nuclear — from its long-lived radioactive waste, to the drain it could put on local clean-energy generation — but it will undoubtedly be the new cost analysis that captures local officials’ attention.
While San Antonio-owned CPS Energy, a 50-50 partner with NRG at the twin-plant South Texas Project, hasn’t released any numbers on its projections, Luminant, hoping to expand by two more reactors at Comanche Peak in North Texas, has suggested a range between $8 billion and $20 billion. That projection is “so broad,” Johnson’s report states, “it may not be very meaningful.”
The new number of $22 billion (itself a $5 billion stretch beyond projections offered a year ago by anti-nuclear activists) will likely register with the city’s front-running mayoral candidates, all of whom said recently that the city’s commitment to nuclear should be decided largely by the financials of the project.
Mayoral candidates Julian Castro and Trish DeBerry-Mejia have also said a slowed global economy will force them to delay some aspects of Mission Verde’s objectives. Only councilmember and current mayoral candidate Diane Cibrian stated she would still work to implement all aspects of the sustainability plan.
“This new report indicates that we're going to have to decide now which energy future we want for San Antonio,” Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson states in a recent press release. “If CPS becomes a partner in the South Texas Project expansion, we are simply not going to have the financial resources to front Mission Verde. We can either choose the most expensive option possible and send our jobs to Bay City and overseas contractors, or pay a fraction of the cost to create thousands of jobs here at home and power the city with clean, green energy.”
While Johnson’s report spends a great amount of energy explaining the cost overruns and construction delays of STP’s existing reactors, local boosters have been able to counteract much of that critique by pointing to San Antonio’s low electricity rates.
That argument doesn’t fly far beyond CPS Energy’s service area, however.
Prior to deregulation in 2001, ratepayers were drained of $5 billion in capital costs for the nukes in North Texas and Bay City, according to Johnson’s “Costs of Current and Planned Nuclear Power Plants in Texas.”
Also, much of the overruns associated with Comanche Peak and STP have been borne by electric consumers in Texas’ deregulated market since, who “continue to pay off at least $3.4 billion for nuclear assets through transition charges, as well as $45 million in annual payments for nuclear decommissioning,” Johnson writes.
Additional associated STP costs have also been passed along by AEP and CenterPoint to their customers.
You can view the entire report below:
Costs of Current and Planned Nuclear Power Plants in Texas
The Supreme Court of Texas today upheld its anti-trial-law bona fides, overturning an appeals-court ruling in favor of San Antonio's Pollock family. Justice Hecht delivered the opinion; Justice Medina filed a dissenting opinion, in which he was joined by Justice O'Neill.
The Pollocks, former neighbors of the long-neglected West Avenue landfill, sued the City after their daughter, Sarah, developed ALL leukemia -- which her doctors later agreed was caused by in-utero exposure to benzene which escaped from the landfill (piggybacking on a lot of methane) into the Pollocks' home.
The Pollocks discovered the methane/benzene problem when they sold the home while Sarah was undergoing treatment (at a loss, and well below the asking price). Sarah was treated successfully, although according the Court's opinion, there is a 20-percent chance of relapse.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs found a long paper trail showing that the City knew of the landfill's problems for many years, and took its time addressing the issues. A jury found in favor of the Pollocks, and the appeals court affirmed. But the Supreme Court disagrees, claiming the City didn't know it was damaging the Pollocks' property, and that there's not enough evidence to show that Sarah's leukemia was caused by benzene leaking from the landfill into the Pollocks' home while her mother was pregnant with her. Read the opinion here, and look for analysis in next week's issue of the QueQue.
By Gilbert Garcia
For much of her contentious re-election campaign, Mary Alice Cisneros has had to answer complaints that she's not sufficiently responsive to her constituents.
Recently, however, another issue has begun to dog the District 1 councilmember: allegations that she's exaggerating her achievements and inflating her record. The two complaints are related, in the sense that Cisneros has felt pressure to defend her Council record, and seems to have gone to great lengths to argue that she's attuned to her district's problems.
This morning, the Express-News published a strong piece by Tracy Idell-Hamilton, which dissected a Cisneros campaign mailer that gives the councilwoman credit for projects approved by voters before she took office.
One District 1 resident outraged by Cisneros' recent assertions has been Patricia Doria, president of the Los Angeles Heights/Keystone Neighborhood Association. Doria, who supports Cisneros' challenger Chris Forbrich, says Cisneros dropped Doria's name at a Monte Vista neighborhood forum as someone with whom she's worked closely on historical designation for two streets in Doria's neighborhood. "I've never even spoken to the councilwoman about that. Her office never even got involved," Doria says.
During a March interview with the Current, Cisneros similarly touted her cooperative working relationship with Doria. "It really bothers me," Doria says, "because how can anyone put their trust in her as our city councilperson, if she's going around and saying things that are false?"
Doria is also incensed that Cisneros has listed the establishment of a police store front in the Deco Building among her accomplishments. "We had a meeting with Chief McManus, and [Deco Building board president] Paul Stahl stood up and told the chief that he'd give the department a space in the Deco Building if [McManus] could make it happen," Doria says. "[District 7 Councilmember] Justin Rodriguez was there, but the councilwoman was not even there yet. She was late. Justin is the one who got this done, not the councilwoman."
By Gilbert Garcia
Here's QueBlog's definition of political cyanide for a city councilmember: being forced to cut $14 million in planned street repairs a week before election day. Coming out at a neighborhood forum as a parishioner of the Church of Satan would be only slightly more damaging to your grassroots rep.
That was the conundrum faced by the Council this morning after enduring some bitter fiscal medicine from Management and Budget Director Peter Zanoni. Zanoni's presentation confirmed universal suspicions that the City is facing revenue shortfalls this year and must make some tough choices to maintain a balanced budget. He recommended four mid-year budget adjustments, including a $7 million cut in the CPS Utility Rate Transfer from the City's General Fund to the Solid Waste Fund.
Lourdes Galvan, facing a tough re-election contest in District 5, and chronically frustrated at the City's poor record of handling infrastructure problems on the West Side, balked at the street-repair provision (which would defer scheduled 2009 repairs to next year).
"These streets are in disarray and many of them have been started and haven't been finished," she said.
Sheila McNeil and Jennifer Ramos also expressed concerns about the infrastructure cuts. Ramos moved that the Council vote on the rest of Zanoni's suggested adjustments and put off a vote on street improvements until they had a better sense of what CPS revenues might look like this summer. Galvan even suggested that Councilmembers whose districts didn't face urgent street problems could agree to the recommended cuts and allow the most needy districts to proceed with their repairs this year.
Mayor Phil Hardberger supported Ramos and Galvan in their request for more time to consider the issue, but warned that if the Council didn't defer street improvements this year, they'd probably be looking at cutting libraries, parks, summer youth programs, or Project Quest. "You cannot cut without bleeding," he said. "So it's going to happen, and it's going to be painful."
The Council unanimously voted to defer their vote on the deferment until May 14. Why then? It'll be the first Council meeting after the election, of course.
A newly released study of digital-billboard safety commissioned by the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials surveys the research currently available, here and abroad, and presents a list of best practices for communities that plan to allow and regulate what the industry likes to call “variable message” signs. The nutgraf: San Antonio’s digital-billboard policy is at best negligence, and at worst malfeasance.
That may sound like hyperbole, but no one but Clear Channel was pressuring our city council to approve digital billboards in 2007, when it adopted the 12-month pilot program, which gave Clear Channel and Lamar permission to erect up to 15 signs -- they might have waited for the federal safety study due out this year, or, for instance, this document.
Things we likely got wrong, making some of our highways more dangerous than they already were:
- Dwell time, the amount of time a message remains on the sign before the next one appears. Research shows that its best if dwell time is long enough that its likely drivers will see only one image change while the sign is in their view. Ours is very, very short.
- Placement. Among the worst places to erect digital signs are at busy interchanges or on- and off-ramps, where drivers must already deal with distractions and more challenging tasks. I’m thinking of the big Clear Channel digital billboard at the Highway 281/I-35/I-37 interchange.
The Current interviewed lead report author Jerry Wachtel yesterday (scroll down to the third QueQue item under that link) -- who has criticized the City's underfunded plans to study the safety of its own signs -- and a more detailed QueBlog post is headed your way tomorrow. In the meantime, if you like details, download the full survey yourself here. (It's a lengthy Word doc, fyi.)
By Gilbert Garcia
Phil Hardberger's impatience with the often-glacial pace of the City governing process hasn't put much of a dent in his public reputation, but the mayor seems to sense that the issue is gaining steam as he prepares to leave office.
Hardberger barely averted a PR disaster on April 16, when local environmental activists prepared to blast him at the Council's A Session for failing to set up an interview process to fill three SAWS board vacancies and simply presenting the Council with three picks ready for rubber-stamping
Hardberger pre-empted the brewing controversy that day by pushing back the Council's SAWS vote three weeks, and on April 23, he announced a "new process" for filling SAWS board positions. From now on, Hardberger's office revealed, interested citizens can pick up applications at the City Clerk's office (the deadline for the current openings is April 30) or apply via the City's website (www.sanantonio.gov/clerk, under Boards and Commissions). Once that process is complete, Council members can each pick an applicant to interview by completing an interview request form (and getting at least one colleague to sign it). In truth, the "new process" works the way most observers assumed that the process had already been designed to function, so this feels like a case of the mayor "fixing" something he himself botched.
The Council will interview SAWS board candidates on May 6 and make their choices the next day.
Greg M. Schwartz
If CPS Energy thinks the citizens of South Texas are just going to stand by while the company sinks billions of dollars into a risky nuclear expansion project, it looks like they’ve got another think coming. Several Texas groups filed a petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week to block the expansion of two more reactors at the South Texas Project in Bay City.
“Our contentions laid out the many defects in the South Texas Project license application, including inadequate fire protection, the lack of viable radioactive waste disposal plan, an inability to secure against airplane attacks, vast water consumption, water contamination risks, the failure to analyze clean, safe alternatives and an array of other financial, health and safety risks,” said Karen Hadden, Executive Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition, in a press release.
SEED was joined in its petition filing by Public Citizen and the South Texas Association for Responsible Energy. CPS Energy holds a 40 percent stake in the two nuclear reactors currently operating at the STP site and has been positioning to add two more. The city-owned utility has already spent or budgeted close to half a billion dollars on design and engineering for the two additional reactors.
NRC spokesman Scott Burnell told the Express-News that it would probably take at least six weeks to determine if the petition merits a hearing.
One of the most contentious issues surrounding the expansion plans has been the lack of a clear plan for the safe and economic disposal of radioactive waste, an issue which continues to dog the so-called national nuclear renaissance.
“We don’t have Yucca Mountain and we don’t know what the costs of waste management are going to be,” said Dr. Arjun Makhijani in a conference call yesterday. Makhijani, a SEED advisor from the Maryland-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, has estimated the costs of adding the two reactors at a whopping $12.5 -$17 billion dollars.
“Utilities are really being very conventional at an unconventional time and not looking at the full range of options,” said Makhijani.
“Wind energy is booming in Texas, solar costs are coming down, the legislature supports efficiency and more renewable energy, transmission lines for renewable energy have been approved and with efficiency improvements, projected demand needs to be re- examined,” said SEED’s Hadden.
Robert Eye, attorney for the petitioners, said that the application for the STP expansion has not addressed the enormous draw in groundwater resources that the new reactors would require.
“We are asking a tremendous amount from the citizens of Texas to go along with this water requirement,” said Eye.
Dr. Lauren Ross, a civil engineer with a focus on water resources from Austin-based Glenrose Engineering, said that the application from CPS partner NRG Energy proposes to defer the issue of groundwater availability until the application is approved. Ross said the groundwater availability is a “crucial safety factor” and that Texans should be wary of the NRC allowing new plants to operate under a discharge permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. She said TCEQ’s permit does not address radionuclides or heavy metals other than iron and copper.
“So essentially, the state of Texas is not regulating discharges from this facility,” said Ross. “It’s a huge loophole and there’s nothing in the permits that addresses this… You imagine that these power plants are going [to operate] in a regulatory environment where someone is paying attention to what’s going on and that’s not the case.”
Severe drought conditions in Texas are already threatening whooping cranes, an endangered species. The shortage of rain has made the marshes of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 35 miles from the STP site, almost as salty as the Gulf of Mexico. The salt levels have diminished the crab population, the main food source for the whooping cranes. SEED says the license application should, but doesn’t, adequately research the possibility of radionuclides bioaccumulating in the ecosystem and further impacting the already endangered birds.
SEED’s Hadden said that CPS had given a presentation in January where Deputy General Manager Steve Bartley said customer use had declined 16 percent in the last two years.
“So it’s hard to see how this [STP expansion] is needed,” said Hadden. “In San Antonio, there’s a push for a sustainability program, so these two things are in opposition. You’ll have a disincentive for efficiency because you’ve got to use that power.”
Hadden said some estimates had consumer bills going up as much as 60 percent under the STP expansion, making it hard to see how CPS is going to convince the city and its residents to go along with such a plan.
CPS and NRG have said that they hope to obtain a license from the NRC by 2012 and to have the new reactors running by 2016 or 2017. CPS officials say the utility's legal department will study the petition.
Eloisa Tamez is hours away from losing a portion of her family land in El Calaboz to U.S. Homeland Security.
In its push to fulfill its mandate to establish nearly 700 miles of border wall, Homeland has benefited from its clearance to waive dozens of federal laws under the Real ID Act.
Tamez objected, however, complaining in federal court that Homeland had never sought to negotiate with her or make a fair offer for her land. Last year, a federal judge concurred, delaying a portion of the Cameron County barrier. However, in a ruling last week, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen said Homeland is now clear to grab Tamez’s land.
As the construction crews mobilized, Tamez’s attorney Peter Schey, of the Los Angeles-based Center for Human Rights and International Law, is angling for a temporary restraining order.
He wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Aiman yesterday, objecting that the agency is skipping a couple important steps in its land rush, including demonstrating "the steps Plaintiff will take to minimize the impact on the
environment, culture, commerce and quality of life for the defendant….”
You can read his letter below.
With the Dems making significant progress on their Take Back Texas 2010 agenda, and the term “moderate Republican” no longer the political-limbo sentence it was under Craddick, legislators averted an expected showdown over family-planning funding Friday. A handful of key Ds and Rs conferred, said one observer, and agreed to remove controversial provisions so they could get the budget done before heading home Friday (early Saturday morning, as it turned out). As a result, five rider amendments were ditched that would have drastically reduced or completely gutted funding for traditional low-income family-planning providers — read: Planned Parenthood. But if a bracing combo of huevos and pragmatism was in evidence at the Pink Dome, it was nowhere to be found at the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Foes of Planned Parenthood worked hard last week to make political hay of an apparent bureaucratic misstep at the Texas Department of State Health Services. In 2004, the director of the licensing division told the San Antonio-based South Central Texas Planned Parenthood chapter it did not need separate abortion licenses for four clinics where it planned to dispense the abortifacient mifepristone, but not provide in-clinic abortion services. Planned Parenthood operated those four clinics under that directive until this winter, when proposed regulations alerted President and CEO Jeffrey Hons that somewhere along the line the rules had changed. When Hons learned that the director who’d advised them had recently departed the agency, they applied for four licenses for those clinics.
Those applications were received by TDSHS on Friday, March 13, according to department spokesman Doug McBride. The following Monday, the agency received a request from the Texas Conservative Coalition (board members, in part: Rep. Phil King, Rep. Geanie Morrison, Rep. Warren Chisum) to investigate Planned Parenthood facilities that “perform elective abortions, although the facilities are not included on a recent list of abortion facilities.”
What a coincidence, eh?
Representative King announced at a Capitol press conference Tuesday that Planned Parenthood couldn’t be trusted with the state’s federal family-planning funds (which do not support abortion services or counseling; Planned Parenthood has been commended for keeping these services separate), although McBride was unable to tell the Current exactly when the rules regarding licensing of mifepristone-only clinics came into being (they’ve been in place a long time, he assured us). Hons says that following this dust-up, his organization found language on the department’s website that dates to about a year ago, indicating that such clinics also need an abortion license, but that his organization was never told by TDSHS that they were out of compliance. During this same time period, he says, Planned Parenthood SCTX received glowing annual Quality Assurance reports from the state’s independent auditor.
Nonetheless, on April 6, TDSHS Commissioner David Lakey sent a letter to the Texas Conservative Coalition that says, “As a result of your inquiry we are investigating services provided at several facilities.” The letter goes on to note that the four mife-only clinics have been issued cease-and-desist orders, but never mentions that Planned Parenthood had initiated license applications before TCC’s “inquiry” or that the organization may have received mixed signals from his department.
Meanwhile, McBride’s statement in the Express-News that “what was thrown wasn’t what was caught” prompted Hons to send a sharply worded retort to the agency April 15, accompanied by a transcript from that 2004 phone call.
By Thursday, five riders were in play at the capitol that would have directed those family-planning funds, which Planned Parenthood relies on to serve low-income clients, to other health-care providers — some of them having nothing to do with preventing unintended pregnancies. Although disaster was avoided for the time being, the amendments could be revived in Conference Committee. House Speaker Joe Straus’s next show of finesse and political muscle will come with the selection of those committee members.
In the meantime, reproductive-rights advocates can’t rest easy. Today, the House State Affairs Committee is scheduled to take up Representative Frank Corte’s version of Senator Dan Patrick’s odious abortion ultrasound bill, and Rep. Morrison’s abortion-reporting bill, which is almost prurient in the amount of detailed information it would require physicians to collect and submit: patients’ reasons (in technicolor detail) for seeking an abortion, plus age, race or ethnicity, marital status, and city, county, state, and nation of residence. Although the proposed law states that the records submitted to the state must in no way identify patients, opponents worry that in small towns and counties, even general identifiers could be enough — especially when it comes to minors who receive judicial waivers and the judges who provide them.
But Morrison’s bill would also require physicians to have every abortion patient sign a form declaring that she isn’t being coerced, and those forms must also be submitted to the state by mail. Based on the proposed language, I’m not sure how that paperwork, stored at the state, would conceal patients’ identities. Mind you, this is the same department from which news of Planned Parenthood’s license applications apparently leaked over a single weekend, and although those may be in the public domain (we’re awaiting the results of an open-record request), we’ve no reason to believe that the Texas Conservative Coalition’s department mole has any compunction about private information.
QueBlog recently caught up with District 7 Councilmember Justin Rodriguez and he had some interesting things to say about the South Texas Project's effort to build two new nuclear reactors at their plant near Bay City.
Rodriguez, who is currently seeking re-election in District 7, said he has yet to make a decision on whether San Antonio (via CPS) should participate in the nuclear project, but he expressed strong reservations. Rodriguez said he was most concerned about the cost issue, and said he's had a very difficult time "getting a straight answer" from CPS reps about the ultimate price tag for the reactors. He added that CPS has urged him to visit the facility, but he will probably wait until after the May 9 election before making the trip.
At this week's Current/Sa4Mayor Town Hall, mayoral candidate Julian Castro called the nuclear project the most important issue the next mayor will initially face, and while Castro didn't endorse the plan, he sounded like he was leaning in that direction. Mayoral contender Diane Cibrian expressed a bit more reluctance about the project, while Rhett Smith, Lauro Bustamante, and Napoleon Madrid slammed it as a foolish and expensive boondoggle.
By Gilbert Garcia
Phil Hardberger is so quick on his political feet that even when he's on the defensive, he still ends up controlling the agenda.
This morning's City Council session provided the latest example of Hardberger's impatience with an open governing process. With three all-important SAWS Board positions opening up (for four-year terms), the natural approach would have been to openly welcome applications, allow the Council to interview all serious candidates, and provide some public forums for discussion.
Instead, the City's website provided no notice of an application process. Local environmentalist and water authority Jerry Morrisey says he checked the site repeatedly over the last few months and even contacted City Clerk Leticia Vacek about the possibility of applying for a SAWS board position, but the City kept him in the dark. Early this week, Morrisey learned that a decision had already been made: Hardberger had chosen his three candidates — Chris Martinez, Bob Leonard, and outgoing District 9 Councilman Louis Rowe — and on April 8 he sent Vacek an interdepartmental memo with supporting signatures from seven councilmembers (incredibly, Rowe, who is in line for the Northeast Quadrant position, dutifully signed on in support of Martinez for the Southwest Quadrant).
When this procedural end-run showed up on this week's Council agenda, it swiftly drew criticism from water activist such as Elyzabeth Earnley, technical research director for Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas (AGUA), and Annalisa Peace, executive director for the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance. Earnley, Peace, and others appeared at this morning's Council session to speak on behalf of Morrisey, and some of his supporters even relinquished their speaking time so that Morrisey could get a full opportunity to make his case. As he later noted in an interview with the Current, this might be the closest he gets to receiving a job interview for the SAWS Board.
With characteristic deftness, Hardberger sensed the political temperature of the room and urged Council to put the matter on hold for three weeks. He complimented Morrisey and his backers, and said no issue was more personally important to him than water. When Council irritant Jack Finger asked what the process had been for the SAWS Board selections, Hardberger responded: "The procedure, for the record, is that the Council selects." Of course, when Hardberger whittles the applicants down to three (before the Council gets to see any applications), and then tells the Council to rubber-stamp those three choices, it's a bit disingenuous to say "the Council selects."
Nonetheless, Hardberger's willingess to slow down the train and consider additional candidates had most of the councilmembers lauding him for his "leadership." Certainly, no one can deny Hardberger's capacity to lead. It's his adherence to transparency that's less clear.
That most useful of all 12th-century hobbies, science, is sparking another renaissance in a medieval, cloistered culture: the Texas lege. Advocates for fact-based sex-ed are optimistic about the chances of a comprehensive sex-ed bill (which you’ll recall from last week’s QueQue) authored by Representative Joaquin Castro and currently working its way through the Public Education Committee. Compromise language is scheduled for a vote Thursday; in the meantime you can peruse the original bill on the lege's website.
Two of that Committee’s Republican members are doctors (an M.D., who has worked with children and infectious diseases, and a Ph.D. who has worked in education and the psychiatric field), making them amenable perhaps to research showing that a generation of abstinence-only demagoguery has failed to stem the tide of teen births (Texas ranks third for first-timers and first for repeat deliveries among the under-18 set). To make the bill viable, however, say Capitol insiders, it will include copious language calling for abstinence to receive more attention in the classroom than any other birth-control methods, and require classes to warn youth of the potential emotional trauma of sex consequences such as STDs and unplanned pregnancies. Opt-out language is also being strengthened, says one observer, requiring schools to give parents ample warming and access to the curriculum, and remind them of their opportunity to participate in their School Health Advisory Councils (perhaps prompting schools who don’t have them to put them together).
The changes don’t undermine the bill’s core goal, say supporters: sex-ed based on science, and some of the changes — in particular the emphasis on abstinence — may give it a fighting chance if it makes it to the Senate. “The comprehensive sex-ed message is still there,” says a proponent of the legislation. “And that’s exciting.”
When it comes to Global Warming, it seems that everything is the “canary in the coalmine.”
One week, we’re told that as the Artic sea ice goes, so goes the world. The next, drought-stricken Australia is the planetary harbinger. Now, it’s corn.
Before we could even wash off the ink of our Global Warming feature (“Last Chance for a Slow Dance?”), significantly void of any canary references, we might add, the irascible Environment Texas agitants were welding together their own canary cage around Texas-grown corn, warning that:
Greg M. Schwartz
San Antonio Metro Health says it’s trying to “cover all the bases” when it comes to analyzing the health issues that plague the city’s “toxic triangle” by the former Kelly Air Force Base. But that only seems to apply to reasons other than the toxic contaminants in the underground plume emanating from the base being responsible for the health problems. When there’s evidence to indicate that the plume may be indeed be responsible for some of the cancers and birth defects, it seems like it is swept aside.
Case in point — last month’s report from the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science and Technology titled “ATSDR: Problems in the Past, Potential for the Future?” The report ripped the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry for its shoddy analytical work.
“The Subcommittee has heard from many sources examples of jackleg science by ATSDR and their keenness to please industries and government agencies that prefer to minimize public health consequence,” said Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) upon the report’s release.
The report cited ten examples of such jackleg science, with the former Kelly AFB being among them. Yet Metro Health Director Fernando Guerra admitted today that he hadn’t even read the 33-page report (released a month ago), despite the fact that much of Metro Health’s own analysis of the situation at Kelly uses ATSDR’s work as a foundation.
“Dr. Guerra has consistently downplayed the health problems in the Kelly community and any link to the contamination [from the base],” said Southwest Workers Union Environmental Justice Coordinator Lara Cushing in a prescient comment last week. “I doubt that EPA, TCEQ or Metro Health will give much attention to the new Congressional report. They've made up their mind on this community long ago.”
Perhaps even more troubling is the silencing of Professor Timothy Aldrich, an expert in cancer clusters from East Tennessee State University, who was brought in by Metro Health contractor HealthCare Resolution Services in 2006 to examine the reports of elevated liver cancers in the areas surrounding Kelly.
The Express-News reported in 2007 that Aldrich’s report was “quietly released” to city council but that a planned meeting to announce the results to those living in the affected neighborhoods was never held.
Could this be because Aldrich’s findings were deemed politically inconvenient? Aldrich’s analysis suggested that even after accounting for all other potential factors — such as lifestyle and genetics — that 11.5 percent of the cancers in the neighborhoods examined “may be attributable to residing over the Kelly ... plume."
Metro Health then put together a “blue ribbon” panel of “experts in cancer” to review Aldrich’s report (a roster of which the Current is awaiting.) That panel ruled that “of particular concern as an outcome of this report was its discussion of attributable risk. The panel felt that this study, as presented, could not accurately conclude anything about attributable risk.”
The panel went on to say Aldrich’s report had “significant flaws,” though little detail was given to specifying those flaws. The panel said that “while an epidemiological study would be potentially feasible, it would be a massive undertaking and extremely expensive.”
They instead suggested that “other ongoing scientific investigations that might shed light on this overall issue” should be pursued. These included estimating the rate of hepatitis in the area, as well as a study of possible aflatoxin exposure (a toxic mold that can grow in corn and other crops.) Documentation of such exposure, however, has most commonly been observed in third world countries.
“[Aldrich’s] info was of concern because it wasn’t jiving with what we already had from the state,” said Guerra regarding how Aldrich came up with conclusions that did not agree with data from the Texas Cancer Registry. Guerra says it wasn’t Metro Health’s desire to withhold anything from the community. “It was clear that he exceeded what he was meant to have done and there was concern about methodology.”
“He didn’t establish a [toxicological] pathway to the community,” added Metro Health Assistant Director Charles Pruski.
“The reason we had it peer reviewed is because there were things that just didn’t add up,” said Metro Health’s Kyle Cunningham, who served as a liaison to Aldrich on the project.
Guerra says Metro Health didn’t want the report released because they didn’t feel that it offered accurate information and that it’s standard contract language for Metro Health to reserve the right not to publish such work.
Tim Aldrich is curiously not allowed to defend his work, however. Upon being contacted for an interview last week, Aldrich informed the QueQue that he has been essentially gagged from speaking about his report. He said in an email that he was required to direct such inquiry to either Dr. Guerra or HealthCare Resolution Services President Brenda Doles, the latter of which he said had threatened him with a breach of contract lawsuit if he published the report on his own or spoke about it to the media.
Dr. Guerra and other Metro Health officials begged innocence when questioned about the gagging of Aldrich.
“I have no knowledge of the threat of a lawsuit,” said Pruskie, who claimed that HCRS is “a contractor, not a partner” of Metro Health. Talk about splitting hairs — Metro Health hired HCRS, which in turn hired Aldrich. But it apparently allows Metro Health to pass the buck to HCRS on the matter of Aldrich’s gagging.
“It sounds like another betrayal of the Kelly community by the agency that is supposed to protect us from toxic health threats, not cover them up,” said SWU’s Cushing upon hearing about the suppression of Aldrich’s voice.
The Maryland-based HCRS has boasted of its “roster of Air Force clientele,” and was chosen as a partner by Metro Health in 2006 after a request for proposals to conduct a study of the liver cancer deaths near Kelly. When Brenda Doles was recognized in 2006 as one of the Washington Business Journal’s “Women Who Mean Business,” a press release indicated that HCRS’ revenues had “skyrocketed” to $7.4 million in 2004, $12 million in 2005 and a projected $20 million in 2006 “thanks to successfully fulfilling numerous government contracts, including several high-profile ones in the military.”
The Southwest Workers Union believes the gagging of Aldrich by HCRS may well suggest a possible conflict of interest.
"The Air Force wants to walk away from Kelly by the end of next year and leave behind highly contaminated soils and water, clean up procedures expected to take decades, and a contaminated Leon Creek. Failing to connect the cancer epidemic to the contamination essentially lets the Air Force get away with murder, because without this ‘missing link’ the Department of Defense is never held to account for the suffering of workers and the community,” said Cushing.
Two independent sources told the Current this week that the Express-News
-- which bade farewell to 135-odd employees last month (and decided not to fill 30 open positions) -- is
outsourcing at least some of its design and production work to India.
Ad production is said to be taking longer, and ads are going through
more revisions as businesses and the overseas artists work through
language, context, and time-zone barriers. But the more arduous
creation and approval process hasn't resulted in lower rates, we're
I suppose that counts as an overseas bureau of sorts.
The Current has a call in to Express-News ombudsman Bob Richter for confirmation and details. Did we miss a big news announcement or story (or an aside in one of Rivard's too-numerous-too-count we-still-matter editorials)? If so, send it our way (or, alternately, your tale of newspaper-outsourcing woe).
On April 7, 2009 the Peruvian justice system did the unthinkable: It actually worked. On that day, ex-president Alberto Fujimori was found guilty on several counts of human rights abuses.
Fujimori, who served as president of Peru from 1990 to 2000, was alleged to have ordered several massacres in the Andean highlands. He was also found guilty of abuse of power and illegal wiretapping.
However, what’s really encouraging is that this trial marks a step forward in Latin American justice. Leaders are beginning to be held accountable for their actions in a region where presidents have traditionally gotten away with almost anything.
Perhaps one day we will see a world where the autocrats of Latin America will finally be brought to justice.
Former death squad members from El Salvador will share the docket with Daniel Ortega and Hugo Chavez.
Alvaro Uribe would have to answer as to why so many union leaders die in Colombia, and Guatemalan General Jose Efrain Rios Montt would get the conviction he so desperately deserves.
Anastasio Somoza would be brought back to life only to receive a life sentence, and Fidel Castro would be wheeled into the courtroom to hear his sentence being read.
At the very least, Manuel Noriega would have a lot of new roommates.
Greg M. Schwartz
San Antonio Metro Health is the agency currently charged with researching the question of what’s been causing the health problems in the city’s “Toxic Triangle” by the former Kelly Air Force Base, such as the elevated rates of liver cancer. Most citizens of the affected region believe that chemicals from the toxic plume coming from the base are the cause, despite a lack of conclusive research from various government agencies.
While there’s been much inconclusive debate over what the cause is, the unusually high rate of liver cancer is a fact.ATSDR (the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) got ripped by a new Congressional report last month that concluded the agency “often obscures or overlooks potential health hazards, uses inadequate analysis, and fails to zero in on toxic culprits,” citing Kelly as a primary example. But while ATSDR had failed to connect high rates of liver cancer to the Kelly plume, the agency had at least recognized that those high rates of liver cancer do exist in a 2001 report.
But for some reason, Metro Health still seems to be debating this. A 2007 Metro Health study took another look at data from 1995-2003. The study was “inconclusive due to the difficulty in case follow-up” but also “did corroborate previous findings of increased liver cancer in Bexar County.” Yet an assessment reported in January 2008 had a Metro Health panel of scientists look at a previous report on liver cancer in Southwest San Antonio “to determine if it appropriately answered concerns about the possibility of elevated liver cancer in parts of Bexar County, specifically related to contamination from Kelly Air Force Base.” This is some mystifyingly contradictory language.
ATSDR had already concluded years ago that there were indeed elevated levels of liver cancer in several zip codes near the base, so the QueQue wonders why Metro Health is still talking about those high levels as a mere “possibility?” The panel concluded that the previous feasibility study was deeply flawed in its lack of data. But the panel then oddly concluded that no further feasibility study was warranted at the time and instead suggested that “other ongoing activities” be pursued, such as a study of possible aflatoxin exposure (which apparently refers to a Texas A&M study of tainted tortillas.)
“It is outrageous, we’ve been eating tortillas since day one,” said longtime area resident and activist Robert Alvarado regarding the aflatoxin theory. Alvarado says he and others served tortillas at a meeting after the aflatoxin theory had first been floated two years ago, in order “to protest the ridiculousness” of the concept.
“All we want is the truth,” said Alvarado.
Many of Metro Health’s assessments in their 45-page collection of environmental studies from 2003-08 are based on ATSDR’s now dubious conclusions, so it would seem that Metro Health has quite a bit of work to do to reassess some of that work.
The QueQue has a plethora of questions for Metro Health and will finally have a chance to have them answered during a visit to their facility on Monday morning. More questions will be raised at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Kelly Restoration Advisory Board, and still more at the EPA report back of the latest vapor tests on Wednesday. Stay tuned…
The Texas Senate has recently passed two bills that target drunk drivers at the potential expense of the general population’s civil rights, which now puts the House on the hot seat to vote on whether these bills should become law.
SB 298 would allow police in urban areas to set up sobriety checkpoints on roads that have been identified as having DUI problems. It doesn’t allow for a state check point free-for-all, as the checkpoints would only be allowed in counties with at least 250,000 residents or a city with at least 500,000. Such checkpoints have not been used since 1994 when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled such roadblocks to be unconstitutional.
Then there’s SB 261, which would expand the situations in which law enforcement can require drivers to submit a breath or blood test. Drivers in accidents that cause death or serious injury are currently required to submit blood tests, but SB 261 would expand that to include accidents involving any injury that results in medical care, a DWI suspect with a child in the vehicle, or a motorist with a prior felony DWI conviction or two or more DWI convictions.
But Bexar County has already engaged in mandatory blood draws for drivers pulled over on suspicion of DWI that refuse breath tests. How was it legal? By having warrants issued for the blood tests. Bexar County First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg says his understanding is that the sobriety checkpoint bill is unlikely to pass the House, but that Texans pulled over on suspicion of DWI should prepare to submit blood tests.
“Checkpoints have always been very controversial in Texas, and I would be surprised if it passed,” said Herberg, noting that a friend who’s very knowledgeable about the legislature laughed at the idea of SB 298 passing the House.
The Texas ACLU opposes SB 298, saying it’s an inadequate use of police resources because such checkpoints have shown a tendency of pulling over hundreds of vehicles for only a one to two percent arrest rate.
“So we feel police resources could be better allocated elsewhere,” said Jose Medina, media coordinator for the Texas ACLU. The blood tests are another story however, where the ACLU has yet to take a position.
Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed ordered a No Refusal Accepted edict last May that police would obtain search warrants to draw blood from anyone suspected of DWI that refused a breath test. This was repeated on New Year’s Eve. A December press release indicated that 77 people had been arrested over the Memorial Day weekend, with blood samples obtained from 40. The average blood alcohol content was .16, double the legal limit of .08.
“One of the interesting stats is that people who refuse the breath test average a .17,” said Herberg of the county’s stats. He also noted that roughly 50 percent of cases where DWI suspects don’t have to submit to a test wind up getting dismissed. He cites this as the motivation for the No Refusal Accepted program.
The Memorial Day and New Year’s operations were announced ahead of time, whereas the county then brought the operation back unannounced for a week in February. Herberg says the mandatory blood draws have been legal under various circumstances, with laws varying from county to county and that the current legislative efforts are designed to streamline the process.
“Bexar County’s actually not at the cutting edge, this is the way the trend is going,” said Herberg. He pointed out one case where the blood draw actually helped a person who wasn’t intoxicated but was driving erratically due what turned out to be undiagnosed diabetes, a condition only discovered due to the blood test.
Herberg says Bexar County’s goal is to make the mandatory blood tests full-time for DWI suspects that refuse breathe tests, but that costs and logistics are an obstacle. He cited costs for nurses, refrigeration of samples, officer training and computer programs to create the warrants and streamline the forms. He said the San Antonio Police Department has talked about absorbing the cost of the tests until they can be recovered from probationary fees.
“This is the wave of the future, across the states and across Texas,” warned Herberg.
Community green centers could take its place
Greg M. Schwartz
Illegal immigrants who become victims of crimes are justifiably reluctant to come forward, as merely doing so could wind up getting them deported. But an obscure pathway to legalization known as the U visa has solidified in the past year, offering law enforcement agents who are serious about fighting such crimes as domestic abuse and extortion a way to give illegal immigrants the protection that would motivate them to come forward.
“The U visa has been around awhile in statutes, but there were no regulations to accommodate it,” said Jonathan D. Ryan, executive director of RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), this week. Ryan said the U visa has existed since the turn of the century, when Congress created it as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act that was passed in 2000.
But Ryan says it wasn’t until about a year ago that the Department of Homeland Security released regulations for it. The U visa law had sat around unused for almost eight years, but has now become a potentially vital tool for immigrant crime victims. The U visa grants recipients up to four years of legal status, and allows them to apply for permanent residency after three years, along with dependent family members. Congress has allowed for up to 10,000 U visas to be issued per year.
Officials with the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Citizenship and Immigration Services, have said the delay had to do with coordinating the work of the many agencies involved.
"It's a complicated adjustment," Sharon Rummery, a CIS spokeswoman,told the San Jose Mercury News last year. "That's why it's taking so long."
Ryan says RAICES has filed for U visas in a few cases, most having to do with female victims of domestic violence. Another situation he cited where it could be used is for victims of “coyotes,” the unscrupulous predators who seek to “help” immigrants cross the border for exorbitant fees.
“People who get their stuff taken and are extorted for more money [could be eligible],” said Ryan. “But you’re really relying on the discretion of the enforcer, so it really is the fox guarding the henhouse.”
The only way to receive a U visa is for an applicant to be certified as being a participant in an investigation by a law enforcement agency, putting victims at the discretion of law enforcement. The LA Times reported in January that over 13,000 people had applied for U visas by the end of 2008, but that only 65 had been issued, while 20 had been denied.
“The burden of proof falls on the applicant,” U.S. CIS regional spokesperson Maria Elena Garcia-Upson told the QueQue this week. She said that the agency does not keep regional or local breakdowns on how many U visas have been applied for.
RAICES’ Ryan says his primary work of late has been assisting unaccompanied minors who arrive at the border to find homes in Texas shelters instead of being turned away. He says somewhere from 40 to 80 thousand unaccompanied Mexican minors were turned away at the border last year.
Gabriel Velasquez, a local community organizer with the Metaform Collaborative, says that issues like the U visa and handling of the unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border all revert back to federal inaction on the larger immigration issue.
“The solution is a federal issue, so the fight is everywhere,” said Velasquez. “A huge part of the problem is how insensitive we’ve become [as a society.]”
Velasquez says “the real cause for immigration activists is the transformation of the American public,” to see that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.
For those in San Antonio who feel they might qualify for a U visa, RAICES offers open hours for anonymous consultations on Tuesdays and Thursdays at their office at 1305 N. Flores Street. For more information, see www.raicesinc.org.
Greg M. Schwartz
Controversy continues to rear its ugly head in the upcoming District 5 city council race. First, there were accusations that incumbent Lourdes Galvan had made an error on her application and had altered it instead of filing a new application, which some community members said violated election code as indicated to them by the Texas Secretary of State’s office.
There were claims that Galvan’s application should be nullified and that she should only be eligible as a write-in candidate. But upon further inquiry, San Antonio City Clerk Leticia Vacek said the mistake where District 3 had been filled in instead of District 5 was her error, and that she was therefore allowed to correct it. A spokesperson from the secretary of state’s office said that such decisions about application validity would be left up to the local municipality in question, which ended controversy number one.
Now questions are being raised about the validity of David Medina Jr.’s application. Gilbert Gallegos, president of United Public Workers of Texas, says he’s uncovered evidence that Medina did not live in the district for six months prior to his application date, as required by city code.
“Each member from a district or ward shall reside within its boundaries at least six months prior to filing his (or her) application for election and continuing during his or her term of office, and failure to do so shall render such office vacant,” reads Section 4 of the city charter.
Gallego and associates suspected that Medina had not actually been living in the house on Winnipeg Street that is listed as his residence on his application. Gallego filed an open records request with the San Antonio Water System and was informed that the address in question “does not have monthly billing for water and sewer for the requested time period,” which was August 2008 to February 2009. Medina’s candidate application was filed on March 4.
This would indeed seem to suggest that no one had actually been living at the residence during the requested time period. But Vacek says that her office’s only criteria for establishing that candidates meet the six-month residency requirement is whether the address on the application matches the one on the candidate’s Bexar County voter registration. Vacek said Medina’s voter registration did match, and the Bexar County Elections Department says Medina has been registered at the Winnipeg address since October 2004.
“If there are doubts [about residency], they would have to take that up in district court,” said Vacek of the SAWS records indicating that Medina probably wasn’t living at the address for six months prior to his candidate filing.
This highlights what looks like a troublesome loophole in the city’s election system. The Current left multiple messages for Mr. Medina seeking comment on the matter, which he did not return.
“Hopefully, we can find a way to bring justice back to District 5,” said Gallego upon learning of the city clerk’s narrow criteria. “If we can’t trust our own candidates/elected officials, then who can we trust?”
There’s also been allegations from Galvan supporters that Medina supporters have been stealing their signs and replacing them with Medina signs.
“My [Galvan] sign was stolen and a David Medina sign was left in its place,” said district resident Patty Abrego. “Now I know how he has placed so many signs up and down Malone Street — apparently he doesn't ask the homeowners permission.”
Palm Heights Neighborhood Association President and Save Burbank organizer Fernando Velazquez says that Galvan volunteers put up tons of signs along the Cesar Chavez memorial parade route last weekend, only to later find that they’d been pulled out and replaced by Medina signs.
“Dude plays dirty, and he has done it to Rodriguez and Garcia too,” said Velazquez, charging that the Medina campaign has been pulling the signs of all the other main contenders in District 5.
Would such activity represent standard political one-upmanship or low down, dirty pool? What say you San Antonio?
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