What happened to our new era of transparent government? Obama’s been in office months now and I still can’t see through the polyester-nylon weave of local burrocrats and into to their rolls of loveliness and anti-fungal-scented briefs.
Obama’s Sudsy Summit is in the rearview, yet open dialogue is still in danger.
What gives? I want my Change back.
The Food and Drug Administration has open government firmly in hand with a certified Transparency Task Force on the march.
Problem is: one proposal would so strictly track interactions between reporters and staff that I have heard others in open-gov work crying censorship.
I’ve been experiencing my own little transparency problem here in San Antonio. After a week of CPS Energy’s CEO shrugging off questions of pay and job performance, Milton Lee’s No. 2 Steve Bartley gave me the same treatment.
Disappointing, since Bartley had offered to be the anti-Milton: smiling, open, and (apparently) honest.
I wanted to know about the memo Co-GM Bartley had sent to staff about pay freezes and possible furloughs in the future.
I called back.
The press officer said Steve would want to know what “specific questions” I had. I ran down a few for her, adding that I wanted to know if CPS management would consider cutting their own pay to help set an example.
Two more days of silence have followed.
In light of this defensive posturing, what to make of a CPS Energy guard caught telling members of the public and press that Wednesday’s board meeting, scheduled for 2:30 pm, wasn’t happening until 3:30 or later? Turned out the board and staff attendees were already ensconced safely two doors behind him.
Probably nothing, right?
While the board voted to cut Lee’s incentive pay by $35,000 (a pittance), CPS is framing it as a proactive motion on Lee’s part. That he, in fact, volunteered the cut. Then again, last CPS press release I took at face value said that Lee had resigned. Look where that got us!
Until I can suss out this mess I’m recommended both Lee and Bartley attend mandatory public-relations boot camp. Open government is not about sharing information when it suits you, or talking to the press when you enjoy the coverage you receive.
And, IMHO, it’s worth considering that when a leadership attempts to shut out its critics, even the most critical of critics, those critics are left little choice but to become even more violently entrenched as opponents. Of course, we’re all bigger than such petty reactions that here at the Current.
We were pretty excited to start writing semi-positive copy about the utility in recent months. It’d be nice to do so again some day. Even if that story is about a bleeding headless beast growling in the street for more solar panels…
Juan Garcia's defeat last November in his quest for a second term as state rep was stunning, but not exactly a surprise.
The Corpus Christi-based Garcia had achieved the near-impossible in 2006 by taking the seat away from an incumbent Republican in an overwhelmingly GOP district, but last year's election proved that his glittering resume — Harvard Law School, veteran of the Persian Gulf War and Kosovo, and straight-arrow family man — could only carry him so far in District 32.
As a pragmatic, middle-of-the-road Democrat, Garcia would be better suited for a statewide run, but in the meantime, he'll be serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Garcia — an old law-school pal of Barack Obama — sailed through the Senate's Armed Services Committee today, getting a glowing introduction from Republican Senator John Cornyn and a stamp of approval from Kay Bailey Hutchison. His confirmation by the full Senate is all but a certainty.
it's worth noting that both Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt used Assistant Secretary of the Navy stints as springboards for their political careers. Garcia may be onto something here.
By Greg Harman
While our DA is investigating complaints that pee-testing contractor Treatment Associates had a clean-pee-for-hire program working for some probation officers, we’re looking forward to larger federal case.
Guess that will be in the courts in October — unless the U.S. Department of Justice cares to step in, in the meantime.
Either way, we’d be grateful to see the spotlight thrown back on the probation department’s failed leadership, specifically Operations Director Kathy Cline and Chief Bill “All About The Feet” Fitzgerald.
[Yep. We didn’t want to drag things down too much in “Urine Trouble” this week, but new witness Natalie Bynum has her own story about Fitz’s alleged foot fetish. We're so glad she's been drawn to the light.]
In the fights over so-called “false positives,” the depositions being put together by Van Os & Associates offer a tantalizing glimpse into the mind of this gummed-up machine that is Bexar probation and Treatment Associates.
I was floored by how little the Cline knows about the testing process … until I realized how well that position serves her. (No dummy, our local law school grad.) And I was stunned that Treatment Associates’ founder and director Jeff Warner’s would misidentify a probationer for a cat. (Was he a “cool cat,” Jeffrey, or just a run-of-the-mill pussy?)
A few loose quotes from two depositions for further consideration follow.
Here's a fun comparison:
First, the Washington Post's story, published yesterday, about a preliminary report from the GAO, which thinks the Department of Homeland Security used outdated science and poor, rushed decision-making when it decided to relocate the NBAF bio-defense research lab from an Atlantic island to the middle of Kansas.
According to the Washington Post, the GAO thinks that America's tornado alley* doesn't sound like such a great spot for a lab that will research foot-and-mouth disease and a host of other virulent diseases. In fact, the independent government watchdog agency wonders if putting it on the mainland makes sense at all in light of the 2001 lab-caused outbreak in England, in which millions of cattle and pigs were slaughtered.
You should read it, but if you're in a rush, just compare the headline -- "Infectious Diseases Study Site Questioned: Tornado Alley May Not Be Safe, GAO Says" -- to today's Express-News headline reporting the same story: "Decision on biolab S.A. didn't get will be examined."
Even more telling are the stories first paragraphs.
From the Express-News:
"A congressional panel will conduct a review to determine whether the Homeland Security Department used a flawed analysis in its decision to locate a $650 million agricultural lab in Kansas, instead of in San Antonio or other locations, officials said Monday.
The disclosure that locating the laboratory in Kansas was not “scientifically defensible” gave new hope to a San Antonio consortium that has aggressively sought to get the lab in Texas."
From the Washington Post:
"The Department of Homeland Security relied on a rushed, flawed study to justify its decision to locate a $700 million research facility for highly infectious pathogens in a tornado-prone section of Kansas, according to a government report.
The department's analysis was not "scientifically defensible" in concluding that it could safely handle dangerous animal diseases in Kansas -- or any other location on the U.S. mainland, according to a Government Accountability Office draft report obtained by The Washington Post. The GAO said DHS greatly underestimated the chance of accidental release and major contamination from such research, which has been conducted only on a remote island off the United States."
The Express-News story goes on to construct a tit-for-tat argument between Kansas and Texas over which state is the bigger tornado magnet. Remarkably, the E-N -- which during the selection process produced at least two pro-NBAF editorials and a slew of boosterish headlines (scroll down to "Viral marketing") -- presents evidence showing that Bexar County in fact has significantly more tornado touchdowns on record than its counterpart in Kansas.
Nonetheless, according to the E-N, the Texas Research and Technology Foundation -- which already unsuccessfully sued once over the decision -- thinks we're in the game again. I wonder where they got that idea?
* On the tornado alley map linked above, both SA and Manhattan, KS, the proposed NBAF site, appear to fall just outside the boundaries of the official tornado alley, but as this site notes, the boundaries are somewhat fluid, and, most importantly, no guarantee. Check out the map at the bottom that tracks tornado incidents.
By Greg Harman
Upper management at CPS Energy were getting promotions in May of this year, according to CPS staff.
In June, however, employees were being notified there would be no more raises or promotions as the utility navigated an economic slow-down.
Now, a day before CPS Energy’s CEO Milton Lee’s incentives package comes up for discussion at a CPS Board of Trustees meeting, workers are being notified that if the economic “crisis” isn’t alleviated by the wage freeze and other measures, mandatory furloughs and salary decreases could be employed.
As highlighted in a Current story last week, Lee is likely the highest-paid executive of any city-owned utility in the country. In fact “CEO Jr.” Steve Bartley, hired as Lee’s 2nd two years ago as part of a transition plan for Lee’s alleged retirement, may be the second highest paid.
Lee earned $613,000 last year, $245,000 of which was defined as “incentive” pay. Bartley took in $415,000.
The next highest leader at a city-owned utility was Jerry Forte, CEO at Colorado Springs Utilities, who earned a total of $301,000.
The apparent double standard at play between grunt and management pay is roiling the blood of some workers at the city-owned utility.
“If we truly can’t afford to pay the employees how can we afford to have two CEO’s at more than a million dollars?” one employee, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, asked this week.
Bartley issued a memo to all employees this week, stating:
“Our leadership team is asking the directors, managers, and supervisors to micro-manage their budget to reduce expenses further and to stretch every penny of spending that’s mission critical. They will need your cooperation and support. If we cannot reduce expenses through renewed efforts over the next couple of months the next options will be considered…”
Next options include: putting off wage-scale payments to union members, reducing or eliminating annual bonuses, implementing unpaid furloughs, and outright cutting of employee salaries.
While the rhetoric jibes with promises Lee has made to the union last year, a promise to do everything to avoid lay-offs this year, Bartley told the Express-News “all options are on the table.”
How the daily managed to avoid the subject of recent management raises and Milton’s incentives discussion being held tomorrow is an apparent case of willful blindness.
Woe, I say, woe to the one-outlet news consumer. We'll just have to keep on pushing the excluded tid-bits.
Back on Milton, our personal Deep Throat of the day confirmed what so many others have been saying to us lately: The Austin resident is a dud.
“No one likes Milton Lee. We can’t figure out what he does … He shows up at press events, but who cares? That’s not worth what he makes.
“We’re just so ticked off. This is not right. It’s not fair. If he gets a bonus Wednesday, we’re all going to have to take a furlough day to pay him."We've been trying for the last few hours to get confirmation on the stated Veep promotions from CPS today. Pretty useless. Vetting all questions through press office in advance… Nice transparency, guys.
Anyway, I for one am not expecting top management to take voluntary wage reductions to set an example here. But they should.
The San Antonio Free Speech Coalition and the San Antonio International Women’s Day Planning Committee has filed an appeal in the Parade Ordinance lawsuit case. They announced the appeal at a press conference in front of the federal courthouse.
Signs reading Our streets will not be silenced! / ˇLas calles no se callan! were scattered on a table and a bigger one was held behind the group members during the press conference while chants opened and closed the press conference.
“We filed our notice telling the district court and the appellate court that we will be appealing Judge Biery’s decision in dismissing the case and entering judgement for the city,” said attorney Amy Kastely. “We did that because Judge Biery’s decision didn’t discuss any of the important constitutional issues raised by the case.”
The case began with a 2007 parade ordinance that limits parades, marches, and processions by charging signifcant fees for parades such as the International Women’s Day March.
“Our position is that all processions, parades, and marches are First Amendment processions,” Kastely told the Current in January. “What is especially problematic is for City officials to be empowered by the ordinance to tell someone their procession is or is not protected by the First Amendment.”
For now, the group members must wait for COSA to file its response and then the group members will have to file a response to that. The 5th Circuit Court will then make a decision whether to uphold Judge Biery’s decision or to hear the arguments.
Either way, the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition and the San Antonio International Women’s Day Planning Committee are moving forward to get the word out. Their next move is a demonstration against the ordinance on August 8 at the City Council Chambers.
“We know that this case has national significance and we owe it to our community and the country to let it stand on this kind of fragile decision by Judge Biery so we’re going to take it to the 5th circuit.”
Click below to hear some of the speech made by Rosalynn Warren of the Free Speech Coalition.
Neighborhood watchdog Santiago Escobedo sounded the alarm yesterday: Brackenridge High School is scraping its football field bare, and he worried that the earth removal was related to the benzo(a)pyrene-contaminated pile discovered in 2006 when the EPA tested the property for potential asbestos residue from the former W.R. Grace plant across the river. (That round of testing eventually led to the discovery of significant asbestos contamination on the property now known as Big Tex, but the high school was asbestos-free, confirmed EPA PIO Dave Bary.)
The Texas Commission on Enviornmental Quality instructed the San Antonio Independent School District to remove the berm that was contaminated with benzo(a)pyrene, which it did last year. During that process, workers discovered remnants of a basement from a school building that was demolished circa 1973, said Brackenridge Principal Linda Marsh, which led to further testing and the discovery that the field was significantly polluted with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (which include benzo(a)pyrene)
The TCEQ says the PAH come from decomposing roofing and building materials. The District is removing 12 inches of topsoil, and will install a plastic liner before replacing the dirt and turf. But the SAISD will have to continue to monitor the groundwater, and a deed restriction will be attached to the property's title.
That's a lot of alarming-sounding remediation for an old building-demo site. Escobedo wonders whether a former power plant and incinerator adjacent to the school aren't the real culprits, especially in the case of the berm that was removed last year. In a letter that was sent to school parents in 2006, Marsh reported that "Benzo(a)pyrene is formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances like tobacco or charbroiled meat."
Escobedo, you might recall, is one of SA's own Erin Brockoviches. He was one of the citizens who worked overtime to force thorough testing of the Big Tex site, which led to a major asbestos-removal effort there this winter.
"The reason the neighborhood is suspicous [of the current Brackenridge cleanup] is for the very reason that removal occurs without any notification or explanation to the community," wrote Escobedo in a followup email. QueBlog agrees that the school district isn't the only entity that needs to do some digging.
San Antonio Lightning Editor-in-Chief RG Griffing, one of SA's most accomplished chisme practitioners, rang up QueBlog today to take us to task for this week's QueQue item on the Museo Alameda. In it we reported that the Museo was fixin' to bounce some checks earlier this month, but Valero delivered on $60,000 in promised funds, averting disaster (Griffing says it was $70,000 by the way, but we were told $60K by OCA and Slavin).
We first heard this rumor out and about at two different CAM events from folks who have had working relationships with the museum, which lead us to call who's-whos until someone gave us the scoop. But when we finally made contact with Alameda PR man Ken Slavin late Tuesday, he was, in fact, displeased with San Antonio Lightning's coverage of the institution, which includes a recent item speculating that the Museo is broke, and an earlier post announcing that immediate-past director Eliseo Rios had been fired (Slavin disputes this).
We assured RG we hadn't copped his goods, at which point we received a scolding for not checking in diligently with the Lightning -- which is not an unfounded lecture: the man has gotten his hands on the Express-News layoff memos faster than even Romenesko, and he apparently had his finger on this true-gossip tale early, too.
In a July 13 piece, syndicated columnist (and unabashed Sarah Palin defender) Ruben Navarrette Jr. went looking for the Latinobama, a rising-star politician who will be able to exploit the growing ballot-box power of Latinos (projected to constitute one-third of the U.S. population by 2050) while comfortably connecting with non-Latinos. As Navarrette puts it, the "winning formula" would require a candidate "who appreciates one's ethnic background without feeling limited by it."
Navarrette has concluded that the Latino with the best shot at a future presidency is named Castro and hails from San Antonio. He can't decide whether Mayor Julian or State Rep. Joaquin is most likely to make it to the Oval Office, so he doubled his prognosticating chances and lumped them into one entity (bet that's never happened to them before, huh?).
This is wild speculation to be sure (sort of like guessing which middle-school kid has the best shot at someday winning a Super Bowl MVP award), but since we've already got $5 down on Miley Cyrus for 2036, we're willing to wipe the dust off our crystal ball and play the game.
Here's how we see it: The Castro brothers clearly possess an Obama-like ability to appear, if not exactly post-ethnic, at least able to view politics from beyond that limited prism. As twins, they can be in two places at once, clearly an advantage when it allows you to debate an opponent and simultaneously kiss babies at a campaign fundraiser.
On the other hand, before we decide to strike up a conjunto version of "Hail to the Chief(s)," we might want to let one (or both) of the brothers win a statewide (never mind nationwide) election.
Finally, we can't ignore the sad fact that presidential campaigns are unforgiving to the vertically challenged among us. Three or four more inches of height might have made all the difference for Michael Dukakis in 1988, and Ross Perot's zesty brand of Texas Crazy might have seemed charming if he'd been 6-1 instead of 5-7. This country has not elected a president under 5-9 in more than 100 years and that fact not only increases the odds against the Castros, it nearly guarantees that Prince will never reside in the White House.
So now that we’ve wrapped up beating down San Antonio’s highest paid Austin resident*, CPS CEO Milton Lee (read “Lee’s Electric Company”) , it’s time to lift our head from the coal muck and scan the horizon once more.
Beneath the back-and-forth reporting on what China/India/developing economies are/aren’t willing to do re: mandatory emissions caps, the international community is actually taking steps now to convert to low-carbon alternatives. Even as France’s ambition to sell nukes across the Middle East is gumming up the works with the recently formed International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), our own Senate is working now to nuke the climate bill.
I think there isn’t a Capitol watcher on the planet that would dispute the fact that the American Clean Energy Act has been considerably retooled since Representatives Waxman and Markey first rolled their proposal out to the House Energy & Commerce Committee.
Thanks in part to our Representative Henry Gonzalez, the bill’s cap-and-trade provision went from 100-percent auction (to create a fund to fuel more clean-energy development) to a mostly giveaway system to protect coal plants from paying for their pollution. (Though the Gonz is still head-and-shoulders above fellow Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, who pledged to support the bill, voted against it, and pitifully ran away!)
The amount of misinformation about the bill from “flat-earthers,” as Rep Doggett called the oil and gas lobby posing as representatives of the public interest, pushed even critics like Doggett, who decried the amount of giveaways to industry, to vote it up.
And although some House members were clamoring that ACES was a piggy bank-wreaking behemoth, the EPA broke the bill open last month and found that, through increased efficiency investments, it will actually reduce most electric bills.
The delirium du jour has had some farming groups fretting over the imagined future regulation of methane-burping cows and other nonsense.
In response, USDA eyeballed the proposal and reached the conclusion this week that the bill is good for agriculture, too.
As Reuters reported yesterday:
U.S. farmers and foresters could earn significantly more money from carbon contracts than they see in higher costs from legislation to control greenhouse gases, the Agriculture Department estimated on Wednesday.
It was one of the first full-spectrum analyses of the climate bill. Skeptics say the climate legislation will drive up sharply the cost of fuel, fertilizer and pesticides for the farm sector and make rural life more expensive.
"Our analysis demonstrates that the economic opportunities for farmers and ranchers can potentially outpace -- perhaps significantly -- the costs from climate legislation," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement prepared for a Senate hearing.
We know something about crop losses in South Texas. And while we can’t link any weather event directly to global warming (climate scientists are not weather forecasters. They spot trends, not dust devils.) best projections suggest a need for rapid and serious action to prepare for a more waterless world.
The USDA doesn’t consider the cost of inaction. But in Texas this year’s crop losses are at $3.6 billion, and growing.What the Senate needs to focus on now is making sure the Clean Energy Bank — a board that will ultimately be responsible for shoveling out money to “clean” energy projects — has well defined direction. Federal funding should go to the most viable technologies that also boast carbon-free footprints.
The House version of the bank, last I looked, required the board to move money to those techs that would make an impact on carbon emissions the fastest. That would mean solar and wind and biogas, existing green technologies would benefit.
* A cursory title search revealed two properties up in Travis County and nada in Bexar County. We're not ready to say "Lee doesn't live here," but it appears Lee doesn't live here.
The federal bailout for the arts — which averaged out to about $1 million per state (not that it was allocated exactly like that) — benefited two local arts agencies: the Southwest School of Art & Craft, which received $50,000, and the International Accordion Festival, which received $25,000. More grants went to organizations in El Paso, Houston, and Austin, than in SA, and our excellent Symphony did not get the nod.
“Like all grants, it’s a competitive process, and we’re disappointed,” said San Antonio Symphony President and CEO Jack Fishman. But the organization will apply at the state level for a secondary round of federal bailout funds.
Organizations had to have received a National Endowment for the Arts grant in the past four years to be eligible to apply, and the funds, allocated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, are dedicated to preserving staff positions in artistic areas of the organization. The cost of a single symphony concert is more than $100,000, and most of that expense is the musicians’ salary. Personnel account for 80 percent of the Symphony's budget, and “You can’t just lay off the violin section” because the economy tanks, notes Fishman.
The last six months were tough, Fishman allows, but former Mayor Phil Hardberger and County Judge Nelson Wolff helped the Symphony raise an additional $2 million this spring, which compensated for the philanthropic fallout from last fall's market collapse. Nonetheless, they’re planning conservatively for 2010. As the economy recovers, notes Fishman, donations and grants will likely follow more slowly, because it takes a while for the stock portfolios that underpin much giving to regain their value. The Symphony has reduced its budget for next year, from $6.6 million to $5.1 million, not quite half of which is actual salaries.
“It makes our musicians and staff some of the largest donors to the Symphony,” observes Fishman. The Symphony is also being frugal by engaging less expensive guest artists, and trimming the Sunday Pops concerts. And the Symphony is mindful that it’s not the only organization doing more with less; they will participate again next year in the Orchestras Feeding America national food drive.
“The arts have the highest value, maybe, in tough times,” Fishman says, but those tough times are also encouraging the Symphony to “re-imagine our role in the community.”
Get more local arts-funding news in this week's QueQue.
By Haylley Johnson
Simplification is key. If you take a complex idea and condense it into something comprehensible, everyone can move on with their lives just a bit easier. Yet in the effort to simplify the city’s convoluted tree ordinance, the main goal behind the Tree Canopy Preservation Ordinance revision, simplification could be considered a death warrant for San Antonio’s older trees.
At the stakeholder committee meeting on Tuesday, July 14, no one probably intended a death warrant. People from both the developer and the conservation perspective make up this committee. According to a Development Services official who helped select the committee, Fernando De Leon, City Planning works frequently with the groups that provided the committee members: the Independent School Districts, The Citizens Tree Coalition, The Greater San Antonio Builders Association, etc. “We feel that we’ve created a balanced committee,” said De Leon. The committee’s schedule indicates that the revised ordinance should be submitted to the City Council by February of 2010.
The revision was proposed to tidy up the ordinance and preserve our tree canopy, according to Tom Carrasco, the committee’s mediator from Development Services. “There are a couple of issues. We had the tree canopy study that was completed by a private firm, American Forests. That report said San Antonio had to reach a certain canopy percentage to maintain our tree preservation,” said Carrasco. “Our current ordinance, right now, is somewhat confusing, and PDSD staff has spent a lot of time explaining what the ordinance means.”
“[Simplification] is important in that everybody needs to understand the rules, so that we can actually enforce the rules,” said Michael Nentwich, a committee member and a city forester from San Antonio Parks and Recreation. “There were some confusing components of the ordinance like sometimes the counting aspects of it. Legal terminology can be confusing.”
One central change is that the percentage of trees developers must preserve is based on the tree canopy alone. While it might not appear too dangerous at first glance, many environmentalists are wary because this adjustment potentially allows for favoring new trees over the older more beneficial trees.
Since the amount of trees preserved will be based on the tree canopy instead of tree species and trunk width, developers have the option to consider details such as the species and age of a tree if they feel the monetary savings warrant the preservation of older trees. At last Tuesday’s stakeholder meeting, only Paul Johnson, the regional urban forester from the Texas Forest Service, voiced the potential negative consequences. “Species have a lot of impact on how much that tree does for us. A big tree cleans more air, filters more water, and captures more water than even a small collection of newly planted trees,” Johnson said.
“Looking at the tree canopy is one of the things that [foresters] do as an initial stage, but what you really want to know is what size and species there are to know what action to take,” said Johnson. “You have a better idea of where a building should go if you know that on the east side of the property you have a stand of smaller shorter-lived trees and on the west side you have larger longer-lived tree species which are those that will give us the most environmental benefit.”
“The forest service has realized that kinds of trees are be important not merely canopy,” Loretta Van Coppenolle, conservation chair for the Alamo group of the Sierra Club, said.
Since specific tree measurements will not be mandatory, “It leaves it open to too many abilities to not know or not care,” Johnson said.
Check out Johnson’s reaction to Tuesday’s meeting:
When we first got a look at Lee Gardner's feature story about the impact of video on demand and the increasing number of streaming-video options on art houses and indie films, we immediately thought of our local grassroots screening ventures. Over the past decade a handful of programs and festivals have sprung up to fill San Antonio's indie and foreign film void. Will the ability to watch Steven Soderbergh's latest experiment, or your favorite film artifact any time, anywhere, winnow down the audience?
The short answer: No.
"Many people still like to see film projected on a screen," says Rene Barilleaux, chief curator at the McNay and coordinator of the museum's film program, Get Reel, which presents recent-release foreign and indies that didn't make it to SA screens for long if at all, such as Inch' Allah dimanche and The Rage in Placid Lake. "But also, the communal experience you don't get at home."
Get Reel begins the evening with a wine reception, which adds to the sense of community, says Barilleaux, the pleasure of "being with other people of like interests."
Nathan Cone, who runs Texas Public Radio's Cinema Tuesday's program, agrees with Barilleaux.
"We provide a group experience at the same time as you watch a film," Cone says. "I think I really enjoy it a lot more when I have 150 people next to me to laugh along with it."
And if you really love film, even a 50-inch hi-def screen can't recreate the theater experience: think of Marlon Brando's subtle body language in On the Waterfront, he says: those little hand movements. "Even on your television at home, you lose some of that."
TPR initiated Cinema Tuesdays almost a decade ago as a fundraiser, but it quickly developed a loyal following, and now, says Cone, they consider it part of the station's programming. Cinema Tuesdays tends to focus on classic foreign and Hollywood films, such as Taxi Driver, which will screen August 4, but isn't above Pee-wee's Big Adventure, either.
"Some movies are scheduled just because they're good movies and should be seen," says Cone. The program, which runs during the hot summer months, reliably draws 140-150 viewers, but depending on the selection, as many as 300 might show up. And when your core audience is made up of cinephiles, you'll often be surprised. Cone booked only one screen when they showed Jean Renoir's The River, and ended up turning away dozens of people.
Like Barilleaux, Cone acknowledges that TPR's cinema audience tends to be in their 40s and older, but selections such as A Clockwork Orange, e.g., will bring out a younger, more alternative crowd.
"I think it tends to be an older audience [for Get Reel]," says Barilleaux, but an audience that wants to see challenging fare. And an audience that, like Cinema Tuesday's devotees, appreciates a curator's eye in a world of almost limitless options.
The crowds that turn up for the free Slab Cinema screenings, and their City-sponsored offshoots at Main Plaza and Movies by Moonlight at HemisFair, are all-ages and, say organizers Angela and Rick Martinez, hard to define.
"I would say that Young Frankenstein or Ghostbusters are movies that work best at Hemisfair Park. Movies that entertain you whether you like it or not," Rick Martinez wrote in an email. "Casual movie buffs and film snobs can both get something out of them."
The indie film crowd turns out for selections such as The Darjeeling Limited at Main Plaza, which is a more intimate setting, he says. And as for the cement slab across from La Tuna ice house that started it all with free screenings of films in the public domain?
"I think Eegah or any Roger Corman film is the best example of what works at La Tuna. B films that are so far out there that you have to see it because you’re curious. Not sure what crowd these draw."
Angela Martinez says that if anything, the increasing availability of films like the classics and indies that Warner is now making available through their Archives program, is good for their program.
"I don't think it really affects the movie events much as those are about the community experience of watching movies outdoors in a unique venue," she says. Even recent major-studio releases, which between theaters, DVD, and cable, are often ubiquitous, draw a crowd. "The city chose Kung Fu Panda [for a HemisFair Park screening] and I didn't think that would be a great choice because there is a high probability that people with kids already have it, plus people have probably seen it recently," she says. But it drew Movies by Moonlight's highest turnout yet.
What seemed a sure thing at last week's rally has now come to a grinding halt. The Grand Hyatt employees' highly anticipated union vote will no longer take place this Friday.
Unite Here and Grand Hyatt workers held a press conference yesterday to announce that they were calling off the vote, alleging interference and intimidation by hotel management.
"From the very beginning, this election has been a process that has been very corrupted," said in-room dining server Gabriel Morales. "The company waged a very nasty, disgusting anti-union campaign.
We, the hotel workers, are demanding that the manager of the hotel give us a democratic process and not this this sham election."
A previous Unite Here vote indicated about 60 percent of the hotel workers support the union, and Morales believes that they will eventually win their fight to unionize. "The community has already shown a tremendous amount of support," said Morales.
Community politicians and leaders who have publicly backed the workers' right to vote include Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, Texas State Representative Joe Farias, District 2 Council member Ivy Taylor, Father William of the Immaculate Conception Church, Edward Reid of the Texas AFL-CIO, and the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.
Unite Here official Jay Mehta says the effort to unionize has been corrupted by the Grand Hyatt. "The election process was tainted with the hiring of professional union-busters and the employment of psychological scare tactics," said Mehta.
In lieu of addressing the direct claims made by Unite Here and the hotel workers, the Grand Hyatt issued a prepared statement by Managing Director Tom Netting:
"Grand Hyatt San Antonio is pro-employee, not anti-union. In fact, approximately a third of our full-service hotels in North America are union. Grand Hyatt San Antonio employs 600 people as part of its family. Approximately 350 of these employees will be involved in the secret ballot election on July 17. These employees include: housekeeping, laundry, bell stand and the entire food and beverage department, including kitchen."
While the Grand Hyatt release indicated that the vote will still take place, Mehta insisted there will be no election. "The vote will not take place on Friday, and the National Labor Relations Board has already been notified," he said. "The workers saw what the union-busting tactics were doing to the workers and decided that they are pulling the Hyatt out of the driver's seat and rejecting the election."
"We support our employees’ right to choose whether or not they want to be represented by the union," continued the Grand Hyatt statement. "We believe the best and most fair way for employees to make that decision, free from improper coercion, is through a secret-ballot election, which is guided by the same democratic principles underlying how we select our elected government officials."
"The secret ballot system Hyatt is referring to is not actually secret," said Mehta. "Tom Netting's goal is to stack the deck against the workers by holding one-on-one interrogations, captive audience meetings, and scaring the workers.
The next phase of the campaign will be making sure we're able to change the face of the dominant hospitality industry - and if that means raising hell, so be it - we have San Antonio on our side," said Mehta.
Vietnam veteran and former DEA Agent Celerino Castillo III has been sentenced to report to La Tuna Federal Prison on July 20 to serve his 22 month jail sentence that he received late last year.
His court appearance on July 10 was meant to appeal to the judge to allow him to remain out on bond until the 5th Circuit for appeals heard his case, but the judge denied his request.
"The judge listened to both sides but based on what he new about how the 5th Circuit would react he came to the conclusion that the 5th Circuit would probably not approve their appeal," said friend Danny Romero who was in the court room with Castillo.
Castillo's case began when he was picked up at a gun show in San Antonio in March of last year for dealing in firearms without a license. He was charged with conspiracy to sell guns without a license and selling guns without a license.
"I did sell guns without a license because half of the gun shows do, but they wanted to actually come after me because of my history of fighting the government," said Castillo.
Selling guns without a license at a gun show in Texas is not illegal. There are no federal laws prohibiting the sale or purchase and in Texas there are only a few restrictions. For example, the prohibition of selling to or buying from a felon and the prohibition of selling to someone for the purpose of trafficking firearms across the border or to give to a prohibited person.
Castillo went to court and his first attorney Robert De La Garza told him to plead guilty to dealing guns without a government issued license. De La Garza never mentioned to Castillo or the court that he was being investigated for malpractice nor did he mention that his son was facing similar charges.
In the early '90s, Castillo was a whistle blower and told of the government sponsored drug trafficking that he saw while in El Salvador.
"I initiated the Iran/Contra investigation back in the '80s where we implicated our government in the drug trafficking," said Castillo. "There were some bipartisan investigations that confirmed my allegations."
Castillo will serve his time at La Tuna while preparing for his 5th Circuit appeal.
If a wall going up in southern Cameron County north of the Rio Grande is going to negatively impact the endangered ocelots that still call this thornscrub home, just imagine what a second wall would bring.
No, Mexico hasn’t fallen victim to tit-for-tat mentality,
throwing up their own wall to fend off American gun-runners and stray cattle. A
rowdy band of Senators last week approved an amendment to a Homeland Security
appropriations bill that requires the agency go back to the Congressionally
mandated double-fencing of the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
That would mean the more than 600 miles of border wall already completed will see more construction in the months ahead.
Both Texas Senators Kay Bailey “I Wanna Guv Ya” Hutchison and John “I’m With Sonia” Cornyn voted for the amendment.
Though deep into site preparation, construction hasn’t begun in Cameron County, where one of the last sections of the mandated 700 miles of border wall will soon cut through much of the U.S. Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge — 90,000 acres of some of the most ecologically diverse habitat in the United States.
Officials with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service expect the border wall as planned will negatively impact up to 75 percent of refuge lands, either directly or indirectly.
The prospect of a second wall was not met with enthusiasm.
“Walls and fences in general are pretty tough on wildlife,” said Nancy Brown, public outreach specialist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife. “Two walls, you’re asking a lot at that point.”
Since the Senate amendment carried by South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint did not have a House counterpart, it will have to be hashed out in conference committee. A date for that debate, however, has not yet been set.
Of the more than 650 miles of border fence completed, only 34 miles was double-fenced, as the 2006 Secure Fence Act originally required, according to DeMint.
While plans for the impending Cameron County section call for 8-by-11-inch gaps to be cut every 500 feet through the refuge, no one knows if the ocelots will use them.
“We can’t say with absolute certainty whether or not an ocelot would use that,” Brown said. “That’s what really challenging about this, there’s nothing comparable, there’s no precedent. We don’t know for certain if wildlife will or won’t use that.”
Federal biologists working with the highway department to have wildlife crossings installed on local highways, however, call for culverts that an animal could see through, she said. “Our studies have indicated that ocelots need to be able to see clear through them. They need more space.”
Already, folks from The Nature Conservancy and National Audubon Society have already been hard at work trying to save the sabal palms that happen to be in the way of the Cameron section. Along with lowering a steel curtain on the ocelots, the Feds will soon be fencing the last remaining sabal palm forests south of the wall.
“These four counties are considered one of the most biologically diverse regions in north America. And this is based on five percent existing habitat,” Brown said. “Ninety-five percent of the brush, 95 percent of the habitat is gone. Not altered. Not manipulated. Gone. Off the landscape. So if five percent of the habitat supports one — if not the — most biologically diverse region in North America, what could we do with 10 percent?”
Our current political climate suggests we won’t be finding out anytime soon.
With the DeMint-Cornyn-Hutchison amendment (don’t forget the Texas bloc!) it becomes doubly difficult to jibe federal actions with reality.
Our border is supposedly on fire, and yet El Paso, Texas, is named the third safest large city in the country — just behind Honolulu and New York City. For you out-of-towners reading this: not only is El Paso on the border, but it shares riverfront views with bloody Juarez.
Six-hundred-thousand pop El Paso clocked only 17 murders last year, according to preliminary stats from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Statistics. Compare that to smaller Oklahoma City with 57 murders, or Baltimore’s 234.
An expert in serial killers thinks he knows.
Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Massachusetts, told Reason Magazine last week that immigrants equal security.
“If you want to find a safe city, first determine the size of the immigrant population,” Levin said. “If the immigrant community represents a large proportion of the population, you're likely in one of the country's safer cities. San Diego, Laredo, El Paso—these cities are teeming with immigrants, and they're some of the safest places in the country.”
That keeps San Antonio looking good, according to the CQ Press rankings (pdf).
Though we saw 122 killings in 2008 (up from 2007’s 116 homicides) we’re still ranked as the ninth safest large city in the nation.
Personally, I like the way Rick Van Schoik, director of the North American Center for Transborder Studies, thinks about borders.
“I cannot think of a balkanization that has provided both security and facilitated legitimate flows the way that it should,” Van Schoik told the Current.
The only exception to the rule being airports. Now if we could come up with a way to make our border more like an airport — all 2,000 miles of it — then we could be safe.
Food prices, however. That would be another story.
As part of an evaluation on the current social studies standards, conservatives appointed to the Texas Board of Education are advising curriculum writers to eliminate the heroic status given to Chavez and other historical figures, including Thurgood Marshall, from future classes and textbooks.
The posthumous imprints of labor and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez can be found in the namesakes of places dispersed throughout the country and even in a holiday in some states. However, this may not be enough to salvage his legacy in Texas classrooms.
“Cesar Chavez may be a choice representing diversity but he certainly lacks the stature, impact, and overall contributions of so many others,” said adviser David Barton in his review of the social studies curriculum.
Barton, president of WallBuilders, a faith-based organization in Aledo, is one of six advisers making recommendations to the state for new social studies standards for public schools. Under the category “Heroes of History,” Barton said Chavez is not “praiseworthy to be heralded to students as someone ‘who modeled active participation in the democratic process.’”
Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association – now the United Farm Workers – to improve conditions for union laborers, eventually winning the passage of a landmark statute to give farm workers the right to unionize.
In a press release on March 31 commemorating Chavez’s birthday, President Obama said Chavez’s work as an “educator, environmentalist and as a civil rights leader who struggled for fair treatment and fair wages for America's workers is important for every American to remember.”
“I think anytime you try to eliminate from your curriculum individuals like Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall, you start sending a message that you’re not going to be representative of all segments of the community, of all individual contributions,” said Linda Bridges, president of Texas AFT, the state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. “I don’t think that is what public education is about.”
Because Texas is a large market for textbooks distributed across the country, the recommendations could cause national repercussions, Bridges said.
“I think that this has enough possibility to go through, which is why I’m concerned,” she said. “The State Board of Education has really shifted toward the conservative right, and the individuals on the committee are appointed by the state board members, so they represent to a great degree their viewpoint.”
Adviser and evangelical minister Peter Marshall addressed “general concerns” in his feedback to the state, including the lack of references to the “influence of the Christian faith in the founding of America.” He pointed out “deficient” entries in the curriculum. Of these, he wrote justice Thurgood Marshall was “not a strong enough example” of historical figures who have positively impacted American history.
Prior to becoming the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice, Marshall was the lawyer who argued the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, which led to school desegregation.
According to the Texas Education Agency Web site, SBOE members nominated the six reviewers in April.
“There are a lot of concerns in different quarters about the behavior of the SBOE, and if this goes through, this concern will be heightened,” Bridges said. “I think people need to be watching it very closely. The people who get elected at the State Board are public servants, and they have to represent all of the public, and if they don’t then the public needs to look at who gets elected.”
As part of an evaluation on the current social studies standards, conservatives appointed to the Texas Board of Education are advising curriculum writers to eliminate the heroic status given to Chavez and other historical figures, including Thurgood Marshall, from future classes and textbooks.
PETA member Shari Pearson sports a jail-like minidress in effort to appeal to crowd, stand strong against circus.
In the days just before America’s own independence celebration, cries of freedom for mistreated elephants arose from local animal welfare groups hoping to advance the citywide, progressive movement against animal cruelty.
Members of both VOICE for Animals and People for Ethical Treatment of Animals advocated for a happy end for elephants outside of opening night of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Alamodome Wednesday and in front of the San Antonio Zoo Friday.
Crowds at the circus were greeted by chants of “boycott the circus” and “Ringling Bros. is on federal charges,” led by PETA member Shari Pearson, who dressed up in a prison outfit to represent the captive conditions circus elephants live in.
The circus is no stranger to legal entanglements over the years and is currently awaiting a verdict on a federal lawsuit filed by a coalition of animal rights activists in 2000, which claimed the circus violated the Endangered Species Act of 1973 for prodding and chaining their elephants.
“I want to direct the public to the Web site www.awionline.org so that they can decide for themselves if it is animal cruelty, to give them the choice whether or not they want to come to the circus,” Pearson said. “The best way to fight animal cruelty is don’t buy into it. Don’t pay for these cages, chains and bullhooks they call the circus.”
Though only with a small group of people, Pearson attempted to symbolically convey the complaints against the circus by physically chaining herself to some of the other activists.
“They are chained for over 10 hours a day, and it’s very cruel to do this to these animals,” she said. “For so long, I used to go to the circus, and I didn’t know they did this. A lot of circuses now don’t have animals, and they are very successful, so it’s not a matter of boycotting the circus; it’s a matter of boycotting a circus that has animals.”
Even as droves of families and onlookers passed by the scene, PETA and VOICE member Ann Lowry was not deterred.
“People will walk by and laugh and smile, but I’m going to keep speaking up because the animals can’t,” she said.
In this same spirit, VOICE members teamed up with the Hailey Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to saving animals, on Friday to protest the San Antonio Zoo and its 47-year-old reign over the prized elephant Lucky.
Confined to cramped quarters, activists want the San Antonio Zoo to concede in allowing Lucky to retire to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. According to its Web site, the sanctuary provides for specialized care of endangered elephants and is the largest natural-habitat of its kind.
“The kids who go in there are seeing an elephant wrenched out of its natural habitat, sick and prematurely aged,” VOICE member John Hackett said. “It’s not even representative of African wildlife. We want the zoo to consider a win-win solution and let Lucky go to the sanctuary.”
VOICE and the Hailey Foundation have also made it a goal to appeal to city council in an effort to slash the zoo’s financial assistance.
Handmade signs announced their presence to visitors who may not be aware of the fact that the zoo, a non-profit organization, rents the land it sits on for $1 a year from the city.
Rally spokesman John Bachman said he would like to see the city and Mayor Castro “do the right thing and endorse Lucky.” He urged more transparency from the zoo to its taxpayer base, a base that may encompass the seventh largest city in the nation but does not easily affix to modern thinking, he said.
However, the movement for humane treatment of animals is growing as local demographics change with migration of diverse people into the city, Bachman said. Maybe that’s just in time to grant Lucky her own independence day.
“South Texas is a hard target,” Bachman said. “Wild West thoughts of Texas still pervade. It’s slow, but first comes education, activism and then change.”
At an emotional meeting at the Esperanza last night, the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition and the International Women's Day March Planning Committee announced that they will appeal this week's ruling on the City's Parade Ordinance to the 5th Circuit. Late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery granted the City's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which charges that the ordinance, passed in 2007 and amended following an injunction in 2008, prevents the exercise of free speech through excessive costs, favoritism, and inadequate alternatives for cash-poor groups.
"I was extremely disappointed that the judge chose to dismiss our challenge to the policies without any explanation or discussion of any of the constitutional issues," said Coalition attorney Amy Kastly. "I believe that one of the most important aspects of the law in a democracy is the judge's obligation to explain the reasons for his decision. We don't have a system of raw power where someone can make decisions that affect people's fundamental rights without the obligation to explain."
You can read it for yourself here. And if you're out at CAM First Friday tomorrow, watch for Free Speech Coalition flyers announcing an August 8 rally. The appeal will be filed by July 29 and the City will then have 30 days to respond.
* Current intern Alicia Ramirez provided the bulk of the reporting for this blog post. Go, Alicia! She would have posted it herself but she's busy working on a badass interactive graphic for next week's paper. It's top secret, but make sure you check back next Wednesday.
Border mayors, angry homeowners, vigilantes, migrating humanity: shake ‘em up in a bag and tumble ‘em into the editing machine that is documentary filmmaker Ricardo Martinez. What you get is The Wall, everything we wanted to tell you about fear and loathing on La Frontera but were afraid to ask, we’re sure.
Martinez is promising the thing “won’t be boring,” but honestly, as long as the voiceover speaks the truth about thick-necked/wee-dicked vigilantes and our xenophobic politos, many of us would happily sit through two-hours of nothing but limp laundry on the line.
Thankfully, judging from the trailer below, we don’t have to worry about keeping our retinas entertained.
San Antonio will have the opportunity to view Martinez’s production when it comes to the Guadalupe Theater on July 18. Tickets are a deal at $5. Plus there will be a Q&A with Martinez and a reception following the film.
Oh, and earlier that same day you can catch the third installment of The Guadalupe Center’s free summer movie series, Under the Same Moon (Bajo la Misma Luna).
That’s showing at 1:00 pm as part of the Cine en el Barrio movie making workshop youth program.
“This film also deals with border and immigration issues and is a great precursor for the evening program,” promises John Castro, the Center’s marketing director.
That’s enough warning for you socially conscious cinephiles. Now you just have to ferret away 33 cents a day and show up with all your rightly incensed senses ready to rumble.
By Greg Harman
Okay, maybe I’m the little doggie getting wagged here, but I thought those of you watching the climate bill up in Washington should know that Austin's Representative Lloyd Doggett (right, with unidentified bystander) is denying allegations appearing in Salon and elsewhere that the White House somehow manipulated him into voting for the American Clean Energy & Security Act that passed last Friday by the hairs on Obama’s skinny chin-chin.
I blogged about Doggett’s reversal on the climate bill this Monday.
Now, I’m going to let Representative Doggett speak for himself … through his press secretary … through me …
Several days after requesting an interview, I got this:
To the great surprise and dismay of Texas Campaign for the Environment members and the Texas House Representatives involved, Governor Rick Perry vetoed the TV TakeBack bill. However, the legislature cannot override Perry’s decision even if they wanted to.
By Texas law, if the legislature presents a bill to the governor less than 10 days prior to the close of the legislative session, the governor has 20 days to take action. A bill is considered “dead” if it is vetoed after sine die because a veto must be overridden within the same session it was created.
Officially, the 2009 TV TakeBack bill is dead, but it lies in the minds of its creators. Rep. Leibowitz has already distributed his personal response to Perry’s veto, and he plans to keep this initiative going in the next legislative session. “He intends to work with the stakeholders and the governor’s office to find new legislation that everyone can agree to and pass,” Rob Borja, Leibowitz’s Chief of Staff, said. “I assume it would be with joint and co-authors, the senate, and then the senate sponsors and co-sponsors . . . It’s just trying to find the language that everyone can agree to.” And that includes the Governor.
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:
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