By Gilbert Garcia
Politicians generally start mending fences the year BEFORE an election, not the year after. But only a few months after beating Democratic challenger Rick Noriega (and five years before he'll again have to face Texas voters), John Cornyn seems to have been bitten by the bipartisan bug.
How else to explain the fact that Cornyn publicly rejected Rush Limbaugh's branding of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as a "racist," and encouraged his Republican Senate colleagues to wait until her confirmation hearings are completed before they make up their minds about her — quite a novel concept. An even bigger surprise from the oft-divisive Cornyn was his request to meet with the state's Mexican American Legislative Caucus, making him the first sitting U.S. Senator to ever break (roast-beef-sandwich) bread with the group.
The Cornyn-MALC summit this afternoon was remarkably free of rancor. Cornyn listened to concerns by Latino legislators and invited guests about health care, immigration, and Sotomayor's confirmation process, and spoke with unfailing civility and deference, even while adhering to his well-known conservative views.
On the issue of health care, for instance, he patiently listened to Rep. Veronica Gonzales (D-McAllen) as she told him about a woman in her district who is battling cancer and "is not poor enough for Medicaid and not old enough for Medicare."
Cornyn said: "Texas unfortunately has the highest percentage of uninsured people in the country, but there's a variety of reasons for that," including people not taking advantage of their CHIP eligibility, twentysomethings convincing themselves they're invincible, and small businesses struggling to provide insurance for their employees. Both Cornyn and Gonzales referenced a recent New Yorker piece that investigated exorbitant health-care costs in McAllen, and indicated that doctors in that city pad their incomes by ordering excessive tests. "There are no easy answers, but we need to look at that," Cornyn said.
He described health-care reform as "a train that's left the station and is barreling down the tracks." He fretted that a government health-care option would destroy competition and lead to more than 100 million Americans shifting from private to public health insurance.
On immigration, Cornyn and MALC chair Trey Martinez Fischer agreed that a comprehensive approach was needed, and the senator reiterated his stated support for a temporary guest-worker program. At a brief, post-meeting press conference, QueBlog asked Cornyn how he currently views the controversial border-wall issue. He responded: "No one believes that building fencing — or what the Border Patrol calls 'tactical infrastructure' — will solve the problem of border security completely. I'm not so naive as to believe that either. What I do think though is that whether you're a member of the United States military fighting terrorists in Iraq or professional law-enforcement personnel dealing with border security, that we ought to yield to the advice of the experts.
"What the experts told us is that they needed this tool as a part of what they needed for border security." Cornyn also emphasized that the pro-border-wall bill he voted for also met with support from then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Cornyn explained his new wilingness to engage with Latino leaders by saying that during last year's election campaign, he became aware of negative perceptions of him. He accepted the blame for his partisan-pitbull rep by saying that he'd not done a good enough job of meeting face-to-face with various state groups.
If you're not convinced that Cornyn is carving out a less partisan niche for himself, consider that he voluntarily uttered a sentence that many members of his party would resist even when threatened with repeated waterboarding: "I congratulate Mr. Franken." And he didn't even snarl when he said it.
In a move obviously timed just to spite the Current's publishing schedule, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery yesterday dismissed the lawsuit against the City of San Antonio by an assortment of local non-profit, social justice groups.
I speculated on the course the case would take should it be granted a hearing in a story that hit the streets today. Now it’s up to the folks with the Free Speech Coalition and International Womens’ Day March to figure out their next step.
An emergency meeting of the Free Speech Coalition has been called for tonight at 6:30 pm a the Esperanza.
Read Biery's obscure ruling below...
Judge Biery Dismisses Free Speech Suit
Monday afternoon, CPS Energy’s top brass released their $13 billion figure to the board of directors, including new mayor Julián Castro.
Toward the end of the meeting, board members expressed the meekest of hesitations.
Board Chair Aurora Geis stressed that with technologies developing as rapidly as they are, the utility is shooting at a moving target. That anything can still happen. It was an invitation for boosters of renewable power sources to believe yet that nukes are not, in fact, a done deal.
Then, there was hesitancy to embrace the current plan to sell off a chunk of the proposed nuke expansion into the open market as acceptable policy. Such sales occur as new capacity comes online and demand steadily grows, but the nuke expansion would be the first time merchant operations were adopted as policy. Meeting attendees were assured the board was still “discussing” this potential shift.
CPS’s GM Milton Lee and Acting GM (Formerly Acting GM?) Steve Bartley appear to have taken the board on directly in a story scheduled for tomorrow’s* Express-News, in which they warn that should the board fail to allow the utility to grow into a merchant power operation San Antonio customers would have to eat even higher bills than the nuke plant would otherwise require.
Vicki Vaughan reports:
It’s too soon to get a feel for the chemistry of the new City Council, but QueBlog can’t help but notice the recent change in District 1 Council member Mary Alice Cisneros.
During her first term, MAC spoke as little as possible during Council sessions. Inevitably, she would make brief, tentative comments after her colleagues had expressed themselves and merely echo their sentiments.
Since her hard-earned May 9 election victory over Chris Forbrich, however, Cisneros has taken on a new assurance — discussing policy with surprising detail, joking with her other Council members, and often taking the lead when the Council weighs in on an agenda item.
There are a couple of theories behind this: One is that Cisneros’ tough election campaign forced her to do her homework and brush up on the issues. The other is that she has relaxed in her role because term limits dictate that she won’t have to face District 1 voters again (it also helps that she’s surrounded by five new Council members, who are just getting up to speed on City business).
The new, improved Cisneros won plaudits from Mayor Julián Castro on Thursday, June 25, for her work to launch a rezoning effort for properties on West Avenue between Fredericksburg Road and Loop 410. Cisneros told Council that she became concerned with the disparity between the residential zoning on streets that intersect the corridor and the widespread commercial/industrial zoning along West Avenue, believing that the residential neighborhoods in the area were being compromised. Council unanimously approved the rezoning project, which will be handled by the Planning and Development Services Department.
Last week, the Texas Public Utility Commission hoisted the yellow flag — sort of a National Threat Assessment for electricity users — urging folks to forgo unnecessary appliance-assisted tasks.
We’ve been peaking, in case you didn’t know. Waves of angry sunage have been bustin’ thermometers across South Texas.
So, on yet another triple-digit day, I rang up the PUC. What did it mean? If I ran my washer during peak demand hours (if I owned a washer and ran it, that is) would I black out Alamo City?
Not hardly, I was reassured. There is still a 12-percent “buffer” of extra power available statewide, I was told. In fact, we’re in better shape that we were a year ago. The yellow-flag encouragement to conserve wasn’t so much to avoid power disruption, but to limit possible “strain” on the power grid.
It was as if the warning was simply bureaucrats at work. Worrywarts and busybodies and too many highlighting markers.
Cranking up the AC, I felt better — at least until I flipped on the news. Transdimensional pranksters had sparked an outage of one of CPS Energy’s coal plants, forcing the utility to buy higher-priced power from out of the area. This wasn’t the “cheap and reliable” power I had grown used to. Worse, it was coming to my bill at month’s end.
Well, there’s plenty more of that on the way.
Whether we’re talking about San Antonio’s push for more nuclear power or of the U.S. Congress wrasslin’ over global warming, our future has been written in one key way: the era of cheap energy is over.
Estimates on twin new nukes for a possibly 50-50 venture between the City of San Antonio and NRG Energy range between NRG’s $10 billion and the anti-nukers’ $17 billion to $22 billion figures. CPS, announcing their preferred figure an hour from now, will be under a certain amount of pressure to concur with their partners at NRG.
But even those that labor over concerns about the impact of uranium mining on groundwater supplies, the long-term costs and feasibility of nuke waste containment, and critical-impact radioactive rainfall, know the renewable path will bring those higher costs along, just as surely.
As a score of young climate heroes demonstrated against nukes on the sidewalk outside CPS Energy downtown last week, I asked organizer Diana Lopez of the Southwest Workers Union if she would she likewise protest if the city adopted a renewables-only approach since that will bring on bigger bills, too.
“I think over the long run nuclear is more expensive and there is more at risk with the South Texas mining and the waste,” she said.
There is no avoiding higher energy costs to come as we transition to low- and no-carbon options. And those battling in Washington have had their own ideological hurdles to clear, as well.
To be frank, the climate bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday will not save us. Even if every nation on Earth adopted similar legislation, we’d be in for seriously rough water.
To get a bill passed, legislators made compromises that have so weakened the bill’s intention that it cannot achieve its desired end: the limitation of greenhouse gas emissions to levels that would slow now-careening global warming.
MIT researchers reported recently that the effects of global warming are coming twice as fast as was projected only a couple years ago by the IPCC. That temps could reach nearly 10 degrees Fahrenheit this century if dramatic action is not taken.
U.S. Representative Llloyd Doggett opposed the bill for those reasons. It simply didn’t go far enough.
He was one of the enlightened dissenters until an 11th-hour perspective shift caused him to plug his nose, overlook the giveaways to Big Coal and others, and help squeak through the American Clean Energy & Security Act at a vote of 219-212.
What made him change?
Here are his comments from the House floor on Friday.
In a session where about 70 renewable energy bills were introduced, only one for the advancement of solar was sent to Governor Perry's desk for approval. However, the most significant efforts to establish a viable solar energy industry in the state died. The final solar energy bill to die was House Bill 1243.
After Senate bill 545, an attempt to create a $500 million incentive program for the use of solar energy, died in the House because of time restraints, it was added to HB 1243, a bill intended to make sure homeowners would be paid a fair market value for the excess energy they created by using solar energy.
Representative Sylvester Turner (left), a Houston Democrat, challenged the relevancy of the amendment, as documented by archived video footage (see 5/29/09 1:05pm) as well as journal notes (Ref. pg. 5968) hosted on the Texas Legislature's website. "The only thing I ask is to treat me fairly... Don't send me back to the Senate in a conference and when the utilities come to raise our electricity bills, it's OK for them."
Democrat Representative Pete Gallego from Alpine (below right), author of HB 1243, said this week that he has a hard time believing the charge of unfairness Turner made.
"Members were treated more fairly this year than they had been treated in the past six years," said Representative Gallego. "It was more open and more fair and more people participated than at any time in a very very long time.
"My impression is that if Mr. Turner sacrifices the opportunity to move Texas ahead in both solar and wind because he personally felt that he hadn't been treated fairly then it's a huge disservice and it's a very small minded decision," said Gallego.
At 10:37 p.m. on May 29th, with an hour and 23 minutes to pass the bill, the Chairman brought up HB 1243 in the House with the Senate amendments for Representative Gallego to discuss. Representative Turner objected that three of the amendments were not closely related enough to the main bill for further consideration on the floor.
When called down to discuss the objection, Representative Burt Solomons, acting Chairman and Republican from Carrollton, can be heard on the video footage telling Turner that his objection to the amendments needs to be withdrawn temporarily to which Turner responded, “You need to temporarily withdraw your bill so I can pass my bill.”
Fifteen minutes later, both the bill and point of order were withdrawn and other bills were debated.
HB 1243 was again brought up for consideration at 11:34 p.m., just a mere 26 minutes before the deadline. The chair recognized Turner’s original objection, overruled it, saying a detailed explanation of the ruling would be in the House journal.
Turner spent another 10 minutes quibbling with Chairman Solomons about the details of his objection and the decision to overrule it.
With 16 minutes to pass the bill, Representative Gallego finally got his chance to discuss the amendments with members, said that there was a broad base of support for the bill, and moved for a motion to accept the amendments and pass the bill to Governor Perry.
Representative Turner then offered an alternate option: send the bill to go to Conference Committee. Quoting from the bill, he“to recover the cost for [the rebates in amendment 3] they can go up 20 cents per month on residential customers; they can go up two dollars per month for commercial customers; they can go up $20 per month for industrial customers,” Turner said. “When you vote for this bill, understand that you are voting to increase the electricity bills of the residential consumers.”
Ultimately, Turner failed to get the bill sent to committee, and 90 members of the House voted in favor of accepting the Senate amendments at 11:55 p.m.. One minute until deadline and Gallego wanted to go to conference because that was his only choice to keep the bill alive and Representative Turner refused to let the bill go to conference.
Throughout the entire House meeting and even in an interview, Turner explained his actions as, “representing his district,” which according to a 2000 Census 26 percent of the population live at or below the federal poverty line. “I certainly support solar energy,” said Representative Turner, but he added, “If it's going to increase the cost of electricity where it achieves an adverse outcome for [my constituency], I'm not going to support it.”
But, Gallego who wrote HB 1243 and pushed for its passage, has a district, according to the same 2000 census, with 32 percent of the population living in poverty. Furthermore, according to that census, Senator Troy Fraser, a Republican from Marble Falls, who authored SB 545 had a constituency with 18 percent living in poverty.
"My folks, the district that I represent, definitely have more need statistically than his does," said Gallego. "My parents are both on a fixed income," he continued. "Frankly the argument that Mr. Turner makes [about the cost] is laughable."
Senator Fraser was not available for comment.
Representative Patrick Rose, a Democrat from Austin, asked Turner if he realized he was killing a bill for consumers, to which Representative Turner replied, “I am not killing a bill for consumers. I am choosing not to abuse the process to which I’m a part of.”
Turner continued, “I wanted people to go to conference; they chose not to. That was their choice, not mine.”
After another speech on the floor by Turner, time had run out for the bill. An interest was taken in suspending the rules and allowing the bill more time because other bills that could have been taken up after midnight had been discussed before the solar bill with a midnight deadline. That effort failed.
"There were motions that were going to be made to suspend the rules because this one was clearly the chair’s error and that chair was trying to fix it, but in the final analysis, it didn't allow the bill more time," said Gallego.
According to Gallego, there were a couple of errors made. The first was that other bills were brought up instead of HB 1243 when they were not on as strict of a deadline. Another was that an effort to accept the amendments in a motion to concur was not followed immediately after Turner’s second objection failed.
Representative Jim Dunnam, a Democrat from Moody, brought up the latter point, but upon reviewing the footage of the chamber, Gallego had asked for the bill to go to committee instead of passing because of time constraints.
Representative Turner raised his final objection that time had run out for consideration of Senate amendments. It was sustained and the bill, HB 1243, died along with incentives for solar energy in Texas.
"Mr. Turner killed the only pro-consumer electric bill this session," said Gallego.
Jump-Start's CAM edition of the Windows will be more transitory, and transvestite, than previous versions of this regular First Friday public installation. Indispensable troupe member S.T. Shimi is rolling straight from her performance in the Neon Twins, through June's W-I-P (a traveling buffet of dance, outside, 7pm, tonight!), and into an under-construction tribute to the 1969 riots that are credited with catalyzing the modern gay-rights movement.
"[Stonewall] was kind of the break between being ashamed of who you were, letting the police beat you up in bars, to saying 'fuck you,' basically," says Shimi.
Her 40th anniversary tribute probably won't include video. Shimi's a performance-video maven, but time and money are in the way. And the performance, starring Jump-Start's Steve Bailey and playwright/actor Paul Bonin-Rodriguez, will take place inside and outside and probably one-time-only.
Shimi says Stonewall is especially symbolic because it was the most marginalized of this marginalized population -- the trannies, the butches, hustlers, etc., who frequented the Stonewall Inn -- who started the uprising. Then the movement "went into a period of, 'We're just like everybody else; be nice to us.' But these people were the frontline."
"A fabulous soundtrack of some kind," will be featured, and "some element of the [Jump-Start] wall itself," Shimi says.
More in next week's issue of the Current, but in the meantime, mark your calendar for this (probably) one-time-only event: 8:30pm Friday July 3 (the official CAM calendar says 9-10pm, but the artist says 8:30, so we'll be there at 8:30) at Jump-Start, 108 Blue Star.
Surprise Veto of TV Recycling Bill Turns Heads
Since the 81st regular legislature closed up shop June 1, environmental organizations here waited to hear Governor Rick Perry say yes and officially sign HB 821, otherwise known as the TV TakeBack Bill, into law – or at least let it slide by unconfronted. The TV TakeBack Bill was based on the 2007 Computer TakeBack Bill (HB 2714), and it would have created a widespread recycling system less reliant on taxpayer dollars, according to Jeff Jacoby, Director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment’s Dallas office. Everyone was ready for the yes.
The digital transition that took place on June 12 was one motivator for the creation of this bill because consumers are expected to dump their old TVs en masse. “Ninety-nine million TVs are currently sitting in storage in the United States. If you look at the number proportionally, eight million TVs are sitting and gathering dust in Texas,” Jacoby said. “With the switch, we estimate about 3 million TVs could be sent to the landfill.” Even so, not everyone decided to dump their TVs.
But Perry vetoed the bill, June 19. Before the TCE found out about the veto at 4 p.m. that Friday, “all indications from his staff were that he was OK with the bill,” Jacoby said.
“At the end of May, that’s when we got a very strong message that the Governor would be fine with this,” Robin Schneider, TCE Executive Director, said.
The office of Representative David Leibowitz seemed similarly confident of Perry’s support. Prior to the veto announcement, Rob Borja, Leibowitz’s Chief of Staff, noted that Perry signed the Computer TakeBack Bill, so there was a high probability he would sign this bill as well.
Rep. Leibowitz himself was stunned at the announcement. “It did nothing but help people, then out of the blue, he vetoes it. It absolutely boggles my mind,” he said. “Of all the missteps and all the screw-ups in this session, this is probably the most tragic.”
The bill’s author, Leibowitz, is taking the veto personally. “It’s as if somebody said ‘Who cares about your hundreds of man hours?’” he lamented.
Governor Perry’s statement concerning his veto was full of reasons why this bill was not beneficial for Texas – many of which are seen as contradictory by the TCE and Leibowitz’s office. “Although House Bill No. 821 attempts to make it easier for consumers to recycle old televisions, it does so at the expense of manufacturers, retailers and recyclers by imposing onerous new mandates, fees and regulations,” his statement said.
Schneider assessed the statement as “strange, because these groups worked with us [to create the bill]. The retailers were not necessarily for it, but they were not opposed.”
“The first draft of the bill that we worked off of, which was provided by the television industry, included these fees,” Borja said. “The industry said the $2,500-a-year fees were fine. It was a trade-group and TV-manufacturer proposal.”
“All the different perspectives kept meeting until we came up with a compromise everyone agreed on,” said Leibowitz. “It was very unique in the sense that all these different groups worked together . . . I know we even met with a Baptist organization.”
Schneider received no better answer when she confronted Perry the morning after the veto. “The weird thing was he said he vetoed the bill because it was an industry-backed bill. He said it was backed by GE,” she said. “What he failed to mention was that the [Computer TakeBack bill he passed] was made by computer manufacturers like Dell.”
Perry recommends “that the next legislature look at this issue and maybe look at ways to make [the TV TakeBack Bill] like the computer recycling bill,” Perry’s Press Secretary, Allison Castle, said.
Yet after looking at Perry’s statement, participants in the creation of the bill were again confused. “[Gov. Perry] put it in the veto message that the bill needed to be more like the Computer TakeBack Bill,” Borja said, “but that was the bill this was based on.”
Even with the veto, the fight is not yet over. “Well we can’t override a veto if we are not in session, and the governor has not called a special session,” Leibowitz said. He believes the Governor might have waited until the session ended on purpose, but he said “[I am] working on a response to his veto right now.”
Check out this link for a point by point rebuttal of Perry’s explanation of his reasons for the veto provided by Robin Schneider, TCE Executive Director: www.sacurrent.com/blog/hb821rebuttal.pdf
Two of the losing candidates in the June 13 runoff – District 2’s Byron Miller and District 5’s Lourdes Galvan -- have decided to call it quits despite their opponents’ narrow margins of victory (54 in Miller’s case, 45 for Galvan), clearing the way for a cloud-free swearing in this evening at City Hall. (In District 8, Reed trounced Berlanga.) While both cited the usual well-meaning platitudes about moving forward, etc., money no doubt played a role as well. A District 5 recount petition would have run more than 4 grand, and District 2’s was a pricey $7,215. And that’s just to essentially rerun the machine’s tally.
If you really wanted to question the vote -- registration, validity, etc. -- as the Miller campaign suggested it might earlier this week, you’re talking about an Election Contest, which requires a lawyer and more cash. One local elections attorney cites $7,500 as his fee to get the ball rolling, and a local political organizer suggested that the investigative footwork involved was easily a mid-five-figure investment.
Ten days before the runoff, Miller called Taylor’s residency into question, alleging in a press release that she wasn’t really living in the house she and her husband bought on Olive Street for six months before she filed, as required by City law. Now that Taylor’s the victor, recent Texas court rulings suggest that Miller doesn’t have standing to challenge her right to hold office, and would have to convince Texas AG Greg Abbott or Bexar County DA Susan Reed to take it up. A source close to the campaign implied that this political unlikelihood was a deciding factor in Miller’s late-Thursday concession phone call to Taylor, but the QueBlog wonders if Miller’s own well-documented residency questions didn’t preclude a real challenge on this point.
But we also wonder whether the bars to requesting a recount or investigating possible voting irregularities are unnecessarily high?
Taylor, who hadn’t spoken with the Miller campaign between the runoff and Miller’s concession, says she wasn’t surprised by her opponent’s decision despite his campaign's early posturing.
“Well, it’s pretty costly,” she said.
Maybe not as costly as the 2004 Cuellar/Rodriguez Democratic-primary vote showdown, because we’re talking about far fewer than Webb County’s 15,000 ballots. But we’re also talking about smaller potatoes in the end: recorded City kickbacks average far less than the cost of the recount alone.
(Just kidding, of course. SA council members learned their lesson with Kike Martin and John Sanders a few years back & QueBlog is in no way impugning the character of the D2 candidates.)
Ed. note: This blog post has been corrected. It originally stated that "...recent Texas court rulings suggest that Wright doesn’t have standing to challenge her right to hold office ...," instead of "...recent Texas court rulings suggest that Miller doesn’t have standing to challenge her right to hold office." Wright was a candidate in the general election; he first raised the issue of Miller's residency. He threw his support to Taylor in the runoff.
Ten billion or $22 billion? What does it matter how much it costs to build two new nuclear power plants in Matagorda County if a hijacked airliner comes crashing down into the equation?
Better yet, where do the billions go if South Texas Project’s best can’t pull enough water from the Guadalupe River to cool their reactors?
And just why hasn’t anyone plugged the leak on the bottom of the existing nuclear power complex’s 7,000-acre cooling reservoir?
These are the sorts of questions anti-nuclear activists will be asking of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission when it convenes for two days of open meetings in Bay City next week.
A similar summer gathering was hosted by the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board concerning the proposed expansion of the Comanche Peak nuke plant recently up in North Texas, but activists see the application by San Antonio-owned CPS Energy and partner NRG Energy as even more vulnerable to critique.
“This application is much more incomplete,” Karen Hadden of the SEED Coalition said, adding that opponents have objected to the STP license on 28 points compared to the 18 raised over Comanche Peak.
As San Antonio entered State Two drought restrictions and Valley growers are witnessing a sun-savaged year of crop losses from extended drought, it would make sense to explore the consumption of water resources (and pollution thereof) the proposed plants represent.
Lauren Ross of Glenn Rose Engineering attempted to do that, but found many of her questions unaddressed in the license application.
“We can see over the … time the plant has been operating that those tritium ground water levels are increasing,” Ross said, “but their permit application makes no effort to estimate what the consequences are of doubling the production capacity. Clearly we would expect those tritium levels would increase.”
The existing plants have already contributed to elevated tritium levels in area water, Ross said.
Just as the application is silent on expected increases in radioactivity released to ground and surface water, it is also “absolutely silent on the saltiness of the water that would be discharged from their cooling reservoir,” she added.
In fact, operators at STP “haven’t discharged any water from the main cooling reservoir since the 1990s,” Ross said.
That’s because it’s leaking out of the bottom of the reservoir, apparently outside the legal purview of state regulators.
From the report:
Homosexual detainee "removed" to Nigeria despite violently anti-gay culture.
Amnesty International has come and gone but concerns about a lack of due process and complaints of inadequate medical care continue among detainees at the Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos outside Brownsville.
This week, the appearance of “flu-like symptoms” that has a dozen detainees hospitalized and 54 under restricted movement at the immigration processing facility have added to the unease.
The original hunger strike began in late April with as many as 70 detainees refusing food, and grew to about 200, according to immigration-rights organizations.
To date, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement have admitted only one case of “voluntary fasting” and say that are no confirmed cases of H1N1, also known as swine flu.
“All detention facilities maintain a plan to manage infectious or communicable diseases,” said Nina Pruneda, spokesperson for ICE in South Texas. “None of the 54 that are in that dormitory are exhibiting flu-like symptoms.”
Still, concerns about extended incarcerations, lack of access to legal counsel, poor medical care, and allegations of abuse by guards continue. Concerns that Amnesty International found compelling.
Amnesty told the Houston Press:
By Gilbert Garcia
Councilman Phil Cortez called it "the first major initiative" of Mayor Julián Castro's new administration. At the very least, Castro's proposed changes to the city's Ethics and Municipal Campaign Finance Codes — approved this afternoon by the Council's Governance Committee — can be viewed as the mayor's first fulfilled campaign promise.
That said, the changes offered by Castro merely expand the range of — or bring greater clarity to — existing provisions, rather than dramatically altering the City's ethics rules. Up to now, for example, signatories to high-profile contracts with the City (those in excess of $1 million, with a high degree of community interest) could not contribute to the campaigns or political-action committees of Council candidates from the day they applied for a contract until 30 days after the contract is awarded. Castro's revision will enable contributions until 10 business after the City has released the Request for Proposal and will, in addition to signatories, apply to company executives and their spouses, as well as lobbyists hired on behalf of the entities.
Under Castro's plan, these standards will also apply, for the first time, to zoning cases. He also intends to ban entertainment, lodging, and travel gifts, which are currently allowed up to $500. (The Council is expected to vote on the revisions on April 25.)
Now if Castro can devise a way to keep his friend, peek-a-boo lobbyist Gerardo Menchaca, out of City business, we'll really be getting somewhere.
By Gilbert Garcia
It isn't easy being a member of the BexarMet board of directors. They've endured scandals, public derision, and attempts by the lege to abolish them altogether.
So it's little surprise that this morning's gathering, largely devoted to the future of the county water board, felt less like a public-utility meeting than a testy group-therapy session.
After receiving a presentation from the point men for their lobbyist team — former Councilman Bobby Perez and former Texas Deputy Secretary of State Luis Saenz — board members asked a few obligatory questions about the recent legislative session, and then went on extended rants about how misunderstood and underappreciated they feel, while Perez and Saenz politely nodded.
"I'm trying to understand what they're seeing," said Debra Eaton, the board's vice president, about BexarMet's many critics. Insisting that the utility was providing ratepayers with high-quality water at a reasonable price, she called out politicians who've attacked the board: "I just want to make sure that they're concerned about their constituents and not trying to further their political careers by using BexarMet as a stepping stone."
To most of the board members, BexarMet's problems are all about perception, about improprieties that happened years ago, before many of them joined the board But the sense that they must justify their own existence has led to a defiant, defensive attitude among several board members, and hard feelings within the board.
When Blanche Atkinson called the board "dysfunctional" and supported the idea of the Texas Commission on Environmental Equality taking a conservator's oversight role for BexarMet (an approach favored by Reps. David Leibowitz and Trey Martinez Fischer), she incurred the wrath of District 6's Lesley Wenger, who agreed with Eaton that the board is doing just fine and doesn't need any more outside interference. Things got so unpleasant that Wenger and Atikinson even argued about how many years Atkinson has been on the board (Atkinson said it was four years, but Wenger correctly noted that it's been only two years).
When it came time to vote on approving the TCEQ conservatorship plan, Wenger moved to table the vote, and Andy Carr seconded. Board President Guadalupe Lopez, who was speaking at the time, told Wenger she was out of order. A procedural free-for-all ensued, with Carr ultimately rescinding his second.
The confusion persisted until the board was assured that a "yes" vote would merely enable discussions to begin between BexarMet staff and TCEQ on a formula for working together. That was too much for Wenger, but with Eaton leaving the meeting early ("I'm having trouble holding food down," she announced to Perez and Saenz early in the meeting), Wenger cast the lone opposing vote. Negotiations will now begin on a conservatorship plan between TCEQ and BexarMet. It might be the only path to survival for the public utility, but it should make for a very bumpy ride.
The Digital Transition Aftermath in SA
By Haylley Johnson
A father gets up in the morning to make a cup of joe and watch the news before heading off to work. In preparation for the analog to digital switch, he had purchased a TV converter box for his old analog TV and set up his rabbit-eared antenna. Nothing should prevent him from watching his favorite morning broadcast. But the TV only displays static – even after wires are twiddled and buttons are pushed.
This was one problem that hit San Antonians on June 12, 2009, the official date of the transition from analog to digital broadcast signals. Patricia Gonzales, Senior Vice President of the William C. Velasquez Institute said that the main difficulty people experienced this past weekend was that they already had the converter box, but it was not set up correctly. The Velasquez Institute provides English and Spanish speakers to answer questions over the phone and to help individuals acquire the government-issued coupons for converter boxes.
With the switch to digital signals, people need to buy a new digital set or have the mirepoix of electronics – the analog television, the signal converter box, and an antenna – but “[people] didn’t know that once the transition occurred you would have to rescan [reset] your converter box” Wesley Zernial, program coordinator for the Alamo Area Agency of Aging, said. All the puzzle pieces must be there, and one has to know how to hook them all together.
Since electronics are so easy to not understand, the phone calls and requests came flooding in on Friday morning and continued through Saturday. The WCVI received a substantial amount of calls for help on Saturday, according to Gonzales. “Saturday was our ‘whoa’ morning,” she said.
But Friday was a particularly crazy day for the FCC-funded South Texas Resource and Assistance Center – a nonprofit organization that, among many things, sends technicians to install converter boxes and antennas for free. “Our call center crashed twice because we got so many calls . . . We couldn’t keep up with the volume,” Adam Rodriguez, vice chair, board member and grant writer for the Center, said.
The Center received approximately 150 calls per hour for the first two days (phew!), and Rodriguez says the Center needs more bilingual volunteers. “There are three demographics [of people calling us],” he said. “There are folks that were prepared, but they didn’t know how to rescan; there are ones that weren’t ready and were calling for coupons; and then there were some seniors and disabled who didn’t understand what happened.”
“We were stretched,” he said, and no wonder. The FCC placed the Center in charge of aiding all of South Texas, Houston, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans.
Many other companies around San Antonio felt the heat – indoors that is. Bjorn’s and Best Buy experienced increased customer demand over the weekend. Bjorn’s had heavy phone traffic on Friday from people calling to get information on how to rescan their converter box, said Joey Martinez, assistant sales-floor manager. Ernest Rangel, manager for the Best Buy in Selma, said “Not too many people came in looking for new TVs; they came in for convertor boxes and antennas.”
Prior to the switch, the NTIA identified seven cities that would need extra assistance during the switch. “[San Antonio was] at risk due to the high level of low income, elderly, Mexican [Spanish speaking], and deaf populations [who would need help],” said Deanne Cuellar, Project director for the Texas Media Empowerment Project. A June 10 Nielsen Media Research press release projected that 3.17 percent of homes in San Antonio were still not ready for the change.
But now, most coordinators for groups aiding San Antonians with the switch believe the transition went well, all things considered. “I think it was pretty smooth . . . there will always be people that need help, [but] I would give it a B if I were to grade it,” says Rodriguez.
However, Zernial sees it a bit differently. “I think the transition has been really good . . . we were ranked as number 2 in the nation for DTV preparedness” he says. “What makes San Antonio different is that all of the DTV grant recipients have been very cooperative and worked together . . . We share resources,” Zernial says. “San Antonio has done a really great job.”
The Byron Miller campaign, which lost Saturday's District 2 election runoff to former City staffer Ivy Taylor by 54 votes, is alleging election fraud and irregularities, including dead voters, pre-filled-in mail ballots, and multiple voting. But Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen says that while she doesn't want to call the county's election system failproof, "we have a very good voter-registration database."
The system is designed to catch double-voting, with real-time voter head counts during early voting, and a pre-marked list for election day, says Callanen, and the only way dead voters are running elections from the grave is if they passed on to their greater rewards after casting legitimate ballots.
Perhaps the most troubling charge made by the Miller campaign is that voters received mail ballots already filled out for Taylor.
"Yes, we've heard that, too," says Callanen, "and that's a total impossibility."
Well, not impossible that someone printed out the sample ballot that's available ahead of elections online and mailed it to folks, but even if those ballots were returned, they wouldn't be counted, Callanen says, because they'd be missing the unique serial number printed on every official mail ballot.
Callanen says that a returns report that was posted around 8:15, subsequently pulled down, and replaced with new numbers later in the evening is an example of the system working: the numbers hadn't beeen "critically double-checked" before they were posted on the Bexar County elections site, and once they realized there was an issue, they essentially ran the numbers from scratch before re-posting. The new numbers "changed all of the [runoff elections]."
Miller can challenge the offical tally by petitioning the Mayors' office for a recount -- a plea that must be accompanied by a cashier's check for $7,215 -- no later than next Monday at 10 a.m., but if they want to challenge the voter rolls, that'll take a lawsuit.
City Hall watchers might want to circle Friday, June 26 on their calendars. That's the day the City will hold a public hearing at the Municipal Plaza Building to discuss the proposed sale of Sunset Station property to East Commerce Realty, a subsidiary of the powerful (and seemingly omnipresent) Zachry Realty.
East Commerce reps didn't offer QueBlog 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.
Given the hoopla that surrounded the City's briefly considered sale of Market Square and La Villita a few months ago, and given the campaign-fund largesse that the Zachry family has bestowed on both former Mayor Phil Hardberger and new Mayor Julián Castro, this transaction should generate some questions.
By Gilbert Garcia
The controversy over Mayor Julián Castro's decision to serve as Grand Marshal of SA's July 4 Gay Pride parade, heretofore confined to talk-radio rants and constituent emails, briefly spilled onto the Council floor this morning.
Shirley Thompson, a former mayoral candidate, addressed the issue by telling the Mayor: "There is one standard for all of us, and that's righteousness." She added, in a slightly bewildering reference to the City's periodic clean-zone ordinances (such as the one that kept merchants from parts of downtown during last season's Final Four), "The clean zone that you want for the City is the clean zone that He makes available to us." As she concluded her statement, Council irritant (and vehement gay-rights opponent) Jack Finger applauded.
Thompson later told QueBlog that she believes elected officials should maintain a "neutral stance" on the issue of gay rights, a point made by many of Castro's critics this week. It's hard to imagine, however, that Thompson, an African-American woman old enough to remember the days of segregation, would have defended a "neutral stance" from politicians in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement. Of course, convincing people to view equality for gays as a civil-rights — rather than a lifestyle-choice — issue has long been the most frustrating challenge for gay rights activists.
Right, that's the good news: Public input is being sought 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 and political player Clear Channel.
But, that of course means: The city is considering proposing a new ordinance this year, so these four meetings are your opportunity to weigh in on their safety, aesthetic appeal, 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 who are opposed to the signs might wish to bring highway-safety expert Jerry Wachtel's new study, the upshot of which is that several our signs are a hazard thanks to their short dwell time and locations near exit/entrance ramps and spaghetti bowls.
Speaking of Wachtel, we also wonder 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 (a study that won't mean much, says Wachtel, thanks to poor data and methodology), and the federal government hasn't yet issued its big review.
Here's the schedule of public meetings:
3pm Monday, June 22, Cliff Morton Development & Business Services Center, 1901 S. Alamo, 2nd floor, training room A
6pm Wednesday, June 24, Cody Branch Library, 11441 Vance Jackson
6pm Monday, June 29, McCreless Branch Library, 1023 Ada Street
6pm Monday, July 6, Memorial Branch Library, 3222 Culebra
In the meantime, you can read our coverage of the local digital-billboard issue here (scroll down to See Also for related stories), and study Wachtel's report here. (Scroll to the bottom of the short post and click the download link.)
Mayor Julián Castro knew roughly what to expect when he agreed this week to serve as the Grand Marshal of San Antonio’s July 4 Gay Pride parade — the first San Antonio mayor to do so — and in less than 24 hours, conservative talk-radio host Adam McManus had marshalled his self-styled “Adam’s Army,” urging them via web and airwaves to bombard the new mayor with pleas to withdraw. McManus applied the same pressure to SA Police Chief William (no relation) McManus when he served in the role in 2007.
[Adam McManus is also urging his listeners to protest the public library’s Pride month programming, which includes a screening of Milk. His website, somewhat hysterically, insists on adding “homosexual” in front of any GLBT-related items, as in “San Antonio Homosexual Pride Parade,” and “Stonewall Homosexual Democrats” – in honor of which we’re changing this week’s cover tag, “San Antonio’s Gayest Newspaper,” to “San Antonio’s Homosexual Newspaper.”]
“I knew that it would be controversial,” Castro told the Current via phone this morning. He estimates that he has received 80-90 emails opposing his participation, many of them echoing the radio host’s recommended talking points. “But to [Adam McManus’s] credit ... they have been very polite, very respectful.”
One email urges the Mayor “to reconsider your decision to act as Grand Marshall in the planned July 4th Homosexual Pride Parade ... I have to ask if this truly the environment we want to promote for our city. There is a difference between Christian tolerance and blind endorsement.”
Castro, we’re very proud to report, has used the opportunity for a thoughtful exchange on the subject of tolerance, both in the media and in personal correspondence.
“I respect your opinion,” Castro 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 Mayor’s overriding theme has been that we’re a cosmopolitan community, up there with the New Yorks and San Franciscos in our variety and philosophy. And, we might add, it’s about time someone just went ahead and contradicted the long out-of-date perception that SA is Texas’s “conservative, military” town.
“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.”
And he isn’t shying away from the gist of the anti-Pride opposition, either: “To equate lesbians and gays with something immoral is just wrong,” he said.
SA’s online GLBT publication QSanAntonio.com issued its own call to support the Mayor’s participation in the Pride parade yesterday, which elicited heartfelt responses, some of which were copied to local media.
“Dear Mayor Castro, This email is to thank you for your words on KTSA this morning with Trey Ware,” wrote Linda Smith-Nell, a member of the Texas Gay Rodeo Association, who will be riding in the parade as part of the color guard. “I was encouraged and felt recognized a ‘real person’ when you defended your decision to be Grand Marshall when [longtime Council gadfly] Jack Finger called gays despicable and morally corrupt (or words to that effect).”
A blog update on the case of San Antonian Benita Veliz, from Current intern Alicia Ramirez, who attended today's immigration-court hearing:
St. Mary's University graduate Benita Veliz has been granted a few more months to prepare a case challenging her deportation to Mexico. Veliz, 23, graduated valedictorian of her class at Jefferson High School before going on to earn degrees in biology and sociology, with honors, at St. Mary's. A traffic stop in Helotes in January led to her arrest and detention.
Veliz was brought to the U.S. at age 8 by her parents and was raised entirely in the States; she is not currently eligible for citizenship, and would be barred from returning to the U.S. for a decade if she is deported. The DREAM Act, which is working its way through Congress, is designed to offer a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants like Veliz who complete college degrees or serve in the military. But the new court date, September 9, may still come too early.
"I would have liked October 9," said Veliz's attorney, Nancy Shivers. Shivers is hopeful that as long as the DREAM Act is close to passage, Veliz will be granted a reprieve.
Veliz, who is scheduled to be a bridesmaid in her best friend's wedding September 12, wrote her college thesis on the DREAM Act. "At the end of the day," Veliz said, "it's just going to be another story unless there's actual immigration reform."
A&M researchers project increased flooding for Corpus
By Gilbert Garcia
Simple logic should tell us that District 5 Council member Lourdes Galvan is in deep trouble in her runoff rematch against David Medina.
This May-December grudge match (Galvan is 39 years older than her challenger) comes in the wake of a general election that found Galvan only 90 votes ahead of Medina. In 2007, the first time they faced off for this seat, Medina closed a 722-vote general-election gap by 447 votes to narrowly lose the runoff. He won't need nearly that big a swing this time.
Also, if you think of a Council election as a referendum on an incumbent's job performance, isn't it safe to assume that the 18 percent of District 5 voters who cast their ballots for also-ran candidates were less than satisfied with Galvan's job performance?
Such logic might bolster the spirits of Medina's campaign workers, but it doesn't prove much. For one thing, the runoff turnout will be significantly smaller than what we saw in the general election, which lowers the bar for both candidates -- and Galvan's base of support has been pretty solid, if unspectacular, over the last two election cycles. And even though she's taken heat for verbal gaffes, a unilateral decision to honor the Bandidos motorcycle club, and the frustratingly slow pace of West Side street repairs (which, in fairness, she's pushed her colleagues to speed up), she has the power and name recognition that comes with a Council seat.
Ultimately, this is Medina's race to win, if his campaign can generate a strong turnout, but that's far from a certainty.
As a growing coalition of activists prepares for what they hope will be the most high-profile protest yet at the immigrant-family detention center in Taylor, Texas, fellow activists are challenging LULAC over sponsorship monies received from the private company that runs the prison.
Corrections Corporation of America, the private-prison vanguard and government partner -- which opened the T. Don Hutto facility in May 2006 and continues to operate it as a contractor with the Federal government -- sponsored the LULAC national convention in 2005, 2006, and 2007, according to electronic versions of the convention programs available online. CCA is listed at the Patron level each year, which requires a minimum donation of $10,000, for a total of $30,000 over the three-year period. Critics Antonio Diaz of the Texas Indigenous Council and Pedro Ruiz believe CCA was sponsoring LULAC events as early as 2002.
An unknown number of men, women (including pregnant women), children, and infants are housed at the facility, which was originally built as a maximum-security prison. LULAC, the highly influential Latino advocacy organization, has organized local and national campaigns to close the prison and participated in numerous vigils held in Taylor.
LULAC National Treasurer Jaime Martinez, a longtime San Antonio labor activist, says that when he was made aware of the sponsorship, he and President Rosa Rosales immediately initiated the return of the $10,000 that year.
"We don't want any sponsorships from CCA," said Martinez, calling the money "tainted."
LULAC National Executive Director Brent Wilkes confirms Martinez's account, and says he believes the CCA money was returned in 2007, the last year that LULAC accepted sponsorship money from CCA for its conference. Previous years' funds were not returned, he said, in part because they were probably already spent.
Prior to the Hutto conflict, says Wilkes, LULAC found many things to like about CCA, including a program the corporation initiated to give Mexican Nationals who would face deportation upon release from prison the opportunity to obtain the equivalent of a GED. Wilkes says he believes the CCA sponsorship money was for a Latino law-enforcement awards breakfast held at the conference.
"But when we found out about the Hutto facility," Wilkes said, "we returned the funds."
"We felt very strongly that we didn't want to be associated with that," he added.
Wilkes says it's simply an oversight that CCA was still included as of this morning on lulac.org's Buy America list, the tagline for which is "Support American Jobs and Workers. Companies That Support Our Communities."
"I imagine that's an old list," said Wilkes. "That'll be fixed."
Martinez and Hutto activist Jay Johnson-Castro worry that raising the CCA controversy will undo three years of coalition-building on the Hutto issue, which will culminate in a June 20 vigil in Taylor in honor of World Refugee Day. Outspoken critic Diaz publicly decried LULAC at an August 2007 Hutto protest and vigil; his message, said Diaz, was "If you support LULAC, you support CCA."
"It hurt all of us," said Johnson-Castro. "It hurt our cause that somebody would be so indiscreet as to publicly scam an ally."
Johnson-Castro hopes to keep the focus and pressure on President Obama and the Dem-dominated Congress to close Hutto.
"We can't call children illegals," says Johnson-Castro. "We cannot imprison children for profit."
Get details on the June 20 protest and more info on America's Family Prison at the T Don Hutto blogspot. More in next week's issue of the Current: Wouldn't it be nice if the U.S. would ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child? says Johnson-Castro. We're keeping lonely company with Somalia as the sole UN holdouts on that radical piece of humanitarianism.
By Gilbert Garcia
It's been 18 years since SA last addressed the issue of youth curfews, and by most accounts (including those of Police Chief William McManus and City Manager Sheryl Sculley) the city's existing ordinance has not worked particularly well.
One reason cited by Sculley: Officers have been reluctant to pick up apparent violators, because those officers will subsequently be stuck with the children for long, indefinite stretches, rather than doing "the work they're trained to do" — patrolling the streets.
City Staff recommended that the Council tweak its existing ordinance by moving the evening curfew time from 10:30 to midnight, allowing kids to bend curfew rules if their parents send them on emergency errands, and stipulating that children whose parents can't be located will be sent to SAPD's Youth Services Office. The final provision frees patrolling officers from having to be de-facto babysitters whenever they pick up a curfew violator.
Things got thorny, however, when outgoing District 2 Council member Sheila McNeil and District 10's John Clamp (who have formed a consistent, if unlikely, political alliance on Council over the last year) fretted at the thought that 10-year-old children would be allowed to be out until midnight. Diane Cibrian expressed similar concerns, and after some talk of a convoluted two-tier curfew plan (one for 10-13 year olds, another for 14-16 year-olds), she suggested a compromise: an 11 p.m.-6 a.m. youth curfew that would be applied across the board. The Concil unanimously passed the compromise ordinance.
By Gilbert Garcia
Yesterday's Council B-session was notable primarily because it marked the tentative unveiling of the shiny new 2009-2011 model, with new Council members Ray Lopez and Elisa Chan, and Julian Castro taking his rightful seat in the mayor's chair. Having said all that, the session was essentially dominated by outgoing District 8 Council member Diane Cibrian, who talked nearly as much as the rest of her colleagues combined, and often seemed to be speaking for the Council as if she'd won that little mayoral election we had a few weeks ago. In other words, it felt like old times at the Municipal Plaza Building.
Carlos Contreras, director of Intergovernmental Relations, presented a "preliminary post-session report" on how the City was affected by the legislature's 81st Legislative Session (the reason for the report's tortured title is that it's not yet clear which bills will be signed by Governor Rick Perry, or whether Perry will demand a special session). Contreras reported that seven of the City's eight biggest priorities passed the lege, but conceded that political jockeying over Voter ID had left many bills waiting at the altar.
Among the SA-related legislation that passed: The Military Installation Protection Act, which included an attached amendment from Senators Jeff Wentworth and Leticia Van de Putte that pertained specifically to the creation of a commission to ensure a buffer around Camp Bullis; $4 million in funding for UTSA's Life Science Institute; recognition of Texas A&M-San Antonio as a stand-alone institution. $10 million in additional BRAC funding from the Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant; $20 million for big-city mayor initiatives that will enable SA to apply for more Haven for Hope funding; and a graffiti bill that requires restitution or community service for taggers, but does not include stiff new criminal penalties sought by many San Antonio Council members.
On the downside: $2 billion in highway improvement project bonds, a dangerous-dogs bill, local option funding for transportation, and all proposed meet-and-confer legislation failed to make it out of the lege.
Bill HB 821 designed to increase recycling of televisions in the state of Texas
With the date of the analog to digital television signal switch looming closer, reality has become more prominent - millions of unused analog televisions have the potential to wind up in Texas landfills. Alongside this threat, recycling has risen higher on many individuals’ to-do lists, including the Texas Legislature’s.
Even if it might not be yet in vogue to recycle one’s television, HB 821, otherwise known as the TV TakeBack bill, was approved by the Texas Senate. Since May 31, it has been waiting on the desk of Gov. Rick Perry for his signature of approval.
If it officially becomes law, the TV TakeBack bill will obligate all TV manufacturers to provide a free television recycling plan for their customers if they want to be able to sell their products inside Texas borders, said Rob Borja, chief of staff for San Antonio Rep. David Leibowitz.
Borja said that the bill’s first draft required some changes because TV manufacturers initially opposed the bill which, in its early stages, added televisions to a similar computer-recycling bill passed in 2007.
Televisions have a nasty habit of sticking around for a truly extensive length of time, even outlasting the lifespan of their own manufacturers.
To deal with this problem, “the manufacturers wanted a market share set up” Borja said. If a manufacturer only sells 20 percent of its televisions in Texas, then it will only has to recycle 20 percent of televisions turned in for recycling, while televisions beyond that 20 percent are given to other manufacturers in the market to recycle, he said.
“The enforcement mechanism [for this bill] is that retailers are not allowed to sell any TVs from manufacturers that do not have a recycling plan,” Borja said.
Manufacturer recycling plans must be approved by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality no later than May 1, 2010.
“We are going to use a stakeholder process” in which everyone who is impacted by this legislation will be sought out for their input prior to the formulation of the rules, Director of the Small Business and Environmental Assistance Division for TCEQ, Brian Christian, said. “The stakeholder meetings would be a part of the overall rule-making process.” The process of creating the regulations can take anywhere from six to nine to ten months.
While these TCEQ rules are yet to be laid down, Sony appears to be getting a jump start at Bjorn’s on US 281.
Assistant sales-floor manager Joey Martinez said “Sony is getting ready to launch a recycling and environmental awareness program specifically in Bjorn’s because we have a Sony gallery.”
With the switch from analog to digital television signals coming up on June 12, the importance of TV manufacturers’ recycling program is growing. Jeffery Jacoby, Texas Campaign for the Environment program director for Dallas/Fortworth, said “we anticipate that there will be millions of TVs that will be rendered obsolete . . . we have a responsibility to prevent these TVs from making their way to landfills.”
Yet the bill is not perfect. “The problems with the legislation are that the bill will not be enforced until after the switch from analog to digital [and that] there are no incentives in the bill for manufacturers to begin their programs early,” he said.
“While there are shortcomings if you look at the long term, this is a great investment in our future,” Jacoby said.
Tommy Calvert, Byron Miller's runoff press officer, has coined the nickname Poison Ivy for their June 13 opponent, which is one sign that they're taking their challenger very seriously despite a 10-point lead at the polls in the general election last month.
At first, it seemed all things were swinging Byron, despite charges from general-election opponent Ron Wright that Miller doesn't live in his home-office at Paso Hondo, but with his ex-wife Monica, just outside the boundaries of District 2. Dan Martinez, who finished third behind Ivy Taylor and is well-known for his involvement with the San Antonio Crime Coalition and the Eastern Triangle plan, threw his support to Miller and talked openly of a role in Miller's "administration," or perhaps on the powerful Planning Commission.
But Taylor's campaign seems to be picking up momentum during this early-voting window. The San Antonio AFL-CIO is holding a press conference at 10:45 a.m. tomorrow to announce its endorsement of the former City staffer, and the Deputy Constables Association of BexarCo and the Associated General Contractors of SA have also endorsed her.
Of course, a Calvert in your corner is no small thing, and Tommy Calvert says his support for Miller is based on what he believes will be Miller's more aggressive pursuit of government incentives and investments to leverage Fort Sam's BRAC expansion into an Eastside renaissance.
So, Calvert's come out swinging, accusing Taylor of pursuing the residency issue (although it was Wright, not Taylor, who brought it to the press in January and filed an ethics complaint) to cover her own recent arrival in the district. But Miller continues to dance around this very legitimate question: does he actually live in the district he's running to represent? He's registered to vote at the Paso Hondo house, which is apparently good enough for the City Clerk, but certainly doesn't meet the spirit of the law. He and Monica have by all accounts reconciled, and Miller has twice refused to show the Current his domestic space at his rental house in D2. A May 23 press release is a masterful example of the duck and jab strategy he's pursued on this issue. First he asks his opponent to prove he has a title or a utility bill outside D2 (beside the point; he could own half of San Antonio as long as he resides in D2). Then he notes that "Miller’s wife lives in Woodlake, a subdivision any long-time district 2 resident understands is almost entirely in District 2 except for a few blocks." (Nice move, but the house itself needs to be in the District; not just most of the subdivision in which its located.) And just in case you're not buying that, he reminds us that, "For the good of the Miller children, family, and their relationship they decided to maintain separate residences." Finally, for good measure he scolds Taylor for dragging his family into the fray.
Read their Current candidate questionnaires here (Click on their names for the full set of questions and answers.) and look for more coverage in next week's issue. Get election info (if you're in Districts 2, 5, or 8, you've got a runoff) at bexar.org/elections.
Or: Why now is a perfect time to invest in clean — really clean — living.
By Gilbert Garcia
As the lege's session (apparently) winds to a close, the clearest result is the return of the familiar partisan rancor that made the Tom Craddick years so entertaining for observers and so frustrating for participants.
With Democrats trying every possible point of order last week to bury Voter ID so the House could move on to pressing matters, Speaker Joe Straus was a picture of restrained irritation, stubbornly refusing to give up a procedural point that, in the eyes of his GOP colleagues, would qualify as a legislative emasculation. So he clung to Voter ID with grim determination and Democrats dug in their heels for five days of chubbing -- a slow, grind-it-out, run-out-the-clock technique that everyone hates, but no one was willing to do anythig about.
Once the House hit its Tuesday midnight deadline, effectively killing Voter ID this time around, they settled into some real business, passing legislation both laudable (property tax breaks for disabled veterans) and dubious (did this state really need to mandate the use of car booster seats up to the age of 8?). They also pushed through a get-tough-on-graffiti bill, which has been a major obsession for SA's City Council (although, with so few taggers caught in the act, it remains debatable how effective this kind of strategy will be).
But the person most impacted by the last week's action inside the Capitol Dome has to be Straus. He became Speaker because Democrats were fed up with Craddick and saw the San Antonio representative as a conciliatory, moderate voice. That perception, which held firm for most of this year's session, collapsed over the last week.
"A tremendous amount of goodwill that was built in a short period of time is pretty much eviscerated," said Trey Martinez Fischer, a Representative from San Antonio, and a friend of Straus. "This Speaker got elected with 64 Democrats. I don't think I could get five to vote for him today."
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