BY ENRIQUE LOPETEGUI
“SAVE THE GCAC MEDIA ARTS PROGRAM TONIGHT! @ 6:30PM,” read the August 27 Facebook posting by Sandra Peña-Sarmiento, Media Arts coordinator for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. “The Executive Director of the [Guadalupe] has decided to dissolve their Media Arts Program effective immediately! Come out for tonight’s GCAC Board Meeting and let them know that you want Media Arts on the Westside to thrive.”
Minutes after the Current posted the essence of the message on Twitter (and roughly an hour after the Current’s calls to the Guadalupe’s executive director and Peña-Sarmiento went unreturned), Guadalupe Marketing and PR Director Lorraine Pulido-Ramírez called us to ask why we had posted “false information without consulting with [GCAC] first,” and proceeded to give us what she said was the real scoop:
“We’re not closing the Media Arts Program, but the position of Media Arts Coordinator has been dissolved,” she said, adding that Peña-Sarmiento’s last day of employment is August 31. “The program will continue with different teachers hired as independent contractors. We’re considering various people, including Sandra and Víctor [Payan, Sandra’s husband].”
The Current asked how you can effectively have a Media Arts Program without a Media Arts Coordinator, and Pulido-Ramírez offered the example of the Guadalupe’s music department.
“We don’t have a ‘music coordinator,’ but we do have a music program and music instructors teaching students. And once a year Juan Tejeda takes care of the Tejano Conjunto Festival.”
Tejeda, leader of Conjunto Aztlan, and instructor of Mexican American studies and director of the conjunto program at Palo Alto College, was the director of the Xicano Music Program at Guadalupe from 1980 to 1998.
“In my time, we had a director in every department, and turned the Guadalupe’s budget from hundreds of dollars to $2 million a year, with 25 full-time staffers,” Tejeda told the Current. “That’s the ideal situation. It was the golden age of Guadalupe. But these are different economic times, and I wouldn’t dare comment on the day-to-day activities of Guadalupe, because I’m not there and I don’t know.”
Eventually, Pulido-Ramírez passed the phone to Patty Ortiz, GCAC’s executive director since March.
“I evaluated the workload of every employee and evaluated the program, and what I am doing is dissolving that position temporarily and focusing on fundraising and marketing,” Ortiz said. “I want to make sure people come to our programs and that there are funds to support them. It would be irresponsible for me to do otherwise. We’re still doing CineFestival, and we’re talking to Sandra and Víctor about still directing that festival. We’re still going to do the program, but we’re doing it item-by-item and focusing on their success.”
But Peña-Sarmiento and Payan insist that Ortiz told them she is “eliminating the program” and that the program “is not a priority” for Guadalupe –– charges Ortiz denies.
“Attendance at GCAC Media Arts programs is on the rise, Texas has just passed a major film incentive program, the coastal studios and major players are finally heading to SA, and affordable equipment is making indie-productions accessible for our youth and community media artists,” read the Facebook message.
“Is this the best time to get rid of a Media Arts program?” Payan asked the Current.
Although Peña’s Facebook message announced a “Rally to save the Media Arts
Program” at 6:30, what actually took place at the Guadalupe Thursday night was a regular board meeting, which started minutes after six and mainly dealt with fundraising and budgetary issues. When the meeting began, the board asked if there were any “citizens to be heard,” but none of the six persons (including the Current and a couple of GCAC employees) sitting in the audience volunteered. Around 6:30 p.m., three more people showed up.
Peña and Payan, who are members of the National Association of Independent Latino Producers, entered the meeting at 6:44 p.m., and about 20 minutes later the board again asked if anybody in the community wanted to speak. At that point, Payan said he wanted to discuss “the closing of the Media Arts Program” and said he had a letter from NALIP San Antonio in which its president, Verónica R. Hernández, expressed NALIP’s “sadness” about the fact that the program is going to be “dissolved.”
“You are taking away a gift,” wrote Hernández in the letter, which praises Peña’s and Payan’s help when NALIP hosted the Adelante Film Forum at the Guadalupe in 2008. “Great job… We were received with no reservations,’” wrote Hernández in the letter [which was not read to the board members]. “I haven’t contacted anyone since I found out I needed to work with [theater manager] Pedro [Ramírez]. Pedro is the best, but Pedro books the theater, I needed to speak to someone who had experience in media arts. I wanted to collaborate with the Guadalupe to fundraise for both NALIP and the GCAC theatre but I got a call from Pedro who was disinterested in what I had to say.” (Ramírez didn’t reply to an email from the Current). Payan added that NALIP had offered to mediate the dispute in order to help the Guadalupe “continue serving our community.”
When Payan mentioned that the Media Arts Program had been dissolved, several board members seemed surprised, while Patty and others smiled.
“Is this a statement based on fact?” asked vice chairman Arturo Madrid.
“Yes, sir, it’s based on conversations we’ve had with the executive director,” replied Payan.
“That’s not true,” said Ortiz. “Someone’s been spreading rumors, and you know that.” “No, I don’t know that,” Payan said.
Ortiz insisted that the program would continue, and that only the position of program coordinator had been eliminated.
“Are you here on behalf of NALIP or on behalf of your wife?” asked board member Celina Peña.
“I’m here on behalf of NALIP,” replied Payan, “but, obviously, I care about whatever happens to my wife.”
The Current asked if any of the board members knew that either the Media Arts program or the position of media arts coordinator had been terminated. “If so, please raise your hand.”
Not a single hand was raised, and Ortiz said "I will report it tonight." But the following day, Ortiz argued that “They didn’t say they didn’t know … they just didn’t respond.”
So, they did know?
“I never work in isolation,” Ortiz said. “I also use the board as my consultants to assist me in making major decisions.”
But at the meeting, Payan had a different impression.
“It seems [eliminating the Media Arts Coordinator position] came from the executive director and not from the board, which is comforting,” he said.
“I just want to know what’s going on at Guadalupe,” said Deborah Kuetzpalin Vásquez,who also attended the meeting. Vásquez is the Guadalupe’s former visual-arts coordinator, who resigned two weeks ago. “I don’t say that, for example, the dance or theater programs should be eliminated –– they’re great, but you can’t have them at the expense of the Media Arts Program. What’s going on?”
“I can talk to you about that, I can talk to you about that,” repeated Ortiz, seemingly implying that the topic should be dealt with in private.
But on Friday, Ortiz told the Current that’s not what she meant. “I just didn’t know she had issues, and I wanted to talk to her about it.”
The Current asked Ortiz about Payan’s specific allegations.
“I never said I’m ‘eliminating’ the program,” Ortiz said. “I never would say that.”
What about the Media Arts department “not being “a priority” for Guadalupe?
“No, I would never say that, either.”
While the Current was asking her another question, Ortiz returned to the previous one.
“It depends; a priority to what?”
“I mean: the Media Arts Department is not one of your priorities … ”
“But we do have a media arts program.”
That seems to be the essence of the dispute: In Ortiz’s mind, the only change has been the elimination of one part-time position. According to Payan and Peña, it’s the end of the program for all practical purposes.
The night of the board meeting, Peña submitted a formal grievance to the board, which has seven days to respond. Which is why, says Payan, he’s been doing all the talking.
“[Peña-Sarmiento] wants to respect the process of the grievance,” said Payan. “All she wants is for Ortiz to respect Guadalupe’s 30-day notice for termination, instead of claiming that under Texas law she can fire [Peña] anytime she wants.”
“There isn’t a 30-day notice policy at Guadalupe,” Ortiz told the Current Monday night. “And this isn’t a firing issue. She wasn’t fired. It’s about the elimination of a position.” The Guadalupe Employee Handbook states that “whenever possible, employees to be laid off will be given thirty days notice.” Peña-Sarmiento was a part-time staffer.
On Monday, the Current received an mp3 with two parts of a recorded conversation between Peña and Ortiz at the latter’s office at the Guadalupe on August 26. In the conversation, Ortiz says, “Yeah, I’m eliminating the program, and I think I mentioned in there that it would end in September.”
In the second clip, Peña asks whether “the media arts program is done for,” to which Ortiz replies, “I wouldn’t call it ‘done for…’ I’m just saying right now we are suspending it.”
“Suspending it?” asks Peña.
“Yeah, suspending it.”
At the end of the second sound clip, Ortiz says, “It doesn’t mean we won’t be doing something or another with one of the program people over that, but it’s not going to be a full-fledged media program, no.”
When told about the taped conversation, Ortiz at first seemed surprised and wanted to discuss legal issues.
“Did I say that the media arts program was being eliminated?” Ortiz finally asked, emphasizing “media arts.” Yes, she did say there will no longer be a “full-fledged media arts program.”
“Yes, but what’s your definition of ‘full-fledged media arts program’ ?” Ortiz asked. “I imagine a lot [more] going on, and right now it’s just the classes and CineFestival.”
Ortiz is smart, charming, with a great sense of humor, and an unparalleled ability to find hidden meanings in simple words like “program eliminated” or “full-fledged,” or to parse why her own board members were (or weren’t) clueless about a major decision made by her.
Semantics aside, whether the Guadalupe’s media-arts program is dead or just sleeping, the Current still has a lot of questions. And it’s looking forward to a veggie dinner with Ortiz on September 14.
Below you'll find this week's QueQue item about the Alameda -- the nonprofit Latino cultural-arts org that operates the Museo Alameda, is restoring the Alameda Theatre, and is now partnering with other local arts orgs to open the Henry Ford Academy: Alameda School for Art & Design.
As the QueQue notes this week, the chair of the Cultural Arts Board, which makes the arts-funding recommendations to City Council with the support of the Office of Cultural Affairs, is concerned about the Museo Alameda's finanical stability -- which is one key factor in receiving City support. The Museo receives almost $380,000 annually toward general operations in this current two-year grant cycle (putting it near the top of the list of grant recipients), and one possibility, if the CAB is unsatisfied with the Alameda's strategic finanical plan, is that the City will attach stringent performance benchmarks to next year's funds. Another option would be to earmark the funds for e.g. utilities and maintenance of the building, which is owned by the City.
The Alameda certainly isn't the first major City-funded arts organization to go through a rough finanical period -- the Symphony and the Guadalupe come to mind. In both cases, the organizations had to meet certain criteria in order to continue receiving funding.
But in order to work with a grant recipient, the City has to know what's going on, and as of last Friday, CAB and OCA were awaiting crucial information from the organization.
"They have satisfied the first year's contract, without a doubt. As far as we're concerned, the museum's functioning." OCA Director Felix Padron said, but he also acknowledged that "We need to have a better understanding of their financials to move ahead."
Since the QueQue was published, public-relations rep Ken Slavin confirmed that none of Ford's new $1.5 million pledge, formally announced last week in conjunction with the Alameda's gala, will go directly to the Museo, which has struggled to meet its budget and grow revenue since it opened.
Why, you might wonder, am I so hard on the Alameda and founder Henry Munoz -- who stepped down as Alameda char this spring, but remains on the board? Just getting the museum built and opened is an amazing accomplishment, right? Right.
But here's my concern -- a concern I gather is shared by Cultural Arts Board Chair Nelson Balido: The Museo is still financially shaky enough that it had a rough moment this summer when it was short payroll and had to approach a funder to step up its pledge. City staff expect it to go through some additional reorganization to make it financially viable in this economy and at its current state of development. Very little progress has been made on the renovation of the theater and its unique blacklight murals -- yes, Henry was able to work $6 million for the theater into last year's venue-tax extension, a portion of Ford's original $5.5 million grant was for the theater, and there is a handful of City money as well, but completion is a long way off. And now, we have a school -- a school that everyone is rightfully very excited about and that has some very well-established, successful partners in SAY Si and the Southwest School of Art & Craft. But the Museo is far from stabilized.
I sense an attitudue -- in fact, sometimes it's more or less spoken -- that the City, or some entity even more vague: "they" -- won't let the Museo fail because it's too important to our Latino heritage and citizens, because it would be too embarrassing, etc. ... Maybe that's true, but it's not much of a business plan.
Here's the original QueQue item:
The City wants to help the perennially underfunded Alameda, but first the San Anto-based Latino cultural-arts center must help itself.
For starters, spend face time with local leaders, not just the fancy pants in New York and D.C. who are always appointing Museo instigator Henry Muñoz to boards. Por ejemplo, the QueQue heard that Cultural Arts Board Chair and Texas Commission on the Arts Commissioner Nelson Balido wasn’t even invited to last week’s star-studded gala, where the guest of honor was former Mexican President Vicente Fox. Nor was Office of Cultural Affairs Director Felix Padrón.
Balido and Padrón represent the key folks to whom the Alameda is accountable for its $390,000 in annual City arts funding. 2010 is the second year in the City’s two-year arts-funding cycle, which usually means that funded organizations will receive the same amount of cash they got the first year, assuming they fulfill their contract with the City. “They have satisfied their first year’s contract, without a doubt,” says Padrón.
But the other leg of that stool is financial stability, and Balido is concerned that the new board chair and the interim director of the Alameda — which was shy of payroll at the Museo earlier this summer [see the QueQue, July 22] — haven’t yet shared their plans for achieving that stability with the CAB or OCA. The gala reportedly raised just under $400,000, but at least $10,000 of that was already spent: Valero agreed to expedite its table donation as part of a $50,000 pledge paid early to cover this summer’s gap.
“Before we award tax dollars,” says Balido, “we need to see a plan for success and solvency. In my opinion, the Alameda has not presented us a plan for success.” Balido says he’s especially conscientous of the CAB’s responsibility to spend public money wisely during the current recession, which will shrink next year’s HOT funding for the arts by an estimated half-million. “We’re looking out for [the Alameda’s] behalf. At the same time, we are also the steward of taxpayer dollars.”
At last week’s gala, a $1.5 million gift from Ford (which has donated $5.5 million to the Museo and the Alameda Theatre restoration) was announced, but two-thirds of that money is earmarked for the new Henry Ford Academy: Alameda School for Art & Design, a partnership with established arts schools Say Sí and the Southwest School of Art & Craft. If the QueQue’s reading the press release correctly, none of the other $500,000 goes directly to the Museo, either, but to other specific programs. A request for clarification from the Alameda was not returned.
And lack of communication is what seems to be bothering Balido. “I’ve reached out to the Chairman [Margarita Flores] over the past month,” he says. “I’ve reached out to Henry Muñoz over the past year — I can’t get a call back.”
He hopes they’ll get it all straightened out before the CAB’s September 8 funding meeting. But, you know, Henry’s dance card is very full.
p.s. The tip that the CAB might be concerned about the Alameda's performance came from R.G. Griffing, at the Lightning. Thanks, R.G.
By Enrique Lopetegui
Texas activist Jim Hightower's take on the health mess.
All this "grassroots" anger... What’s real and what’s been orchestrated?
I think there’s a lot of real anger across the country about health care, the Wall Street bailout, the way corporations send jobs out of the country, how they get tax breaks and take advantage of tax payers. A wide range of people are pretty fed-up with Washington. But these particular town hall meetings is an astroturf effort by insurance companies and right-wing groups headed by the likes of Dick Armey and Rick Scott, who’s been very active and has been presenting himself as a business expert who knows about health care, when in fact he got dumped by his own board of directors from the largest hospital chain in the country, Columbia/HCA, about ten years ago. He is known for the fraudulent practices that ACA, under his leadership, was doing, including bulking Medicare. So they fired him, and he’s running around, orchestrating… He’s doing ads on TV. That part of it is totally illegitimate and cynical.
What’s the difference between, say, FreedomWorks and MoveOn.org?
The difference is that MoveOn alerts people on actions that they take, and then people respond to that. [The others] actually set up the meetings, actually target certain members of Congress who are having town hall sessions and even move people in and provide the talking points, the placards… And the oil industries are involved in the same thing. The oil industry had twenty rallies across the country to oppose climate change legislation in Congress, and they set up this organization called Energy Citizens in Houston. They just had a big gathering there, days ago, and the oil companies provided T-shirts for them, things like “I’ll pass on $4 gas,” which is ironic, since it was the oil companies who brought us $4 gas. They’re creating these events. If you are an employee at a gas company and ask for time off to be with your daughter, they’ll say “we’re not a charity.” But they gave time off to employees and had buses to drive them over to a little corporate rally on behalf of oil corporations. There’s plenty of regular folks who come to these meetings, but they’re used and confused, and usually are unaware of it. When they say “”keep your government off my Medicare…” for example… (laughs) Medicare is a government program! This is a right-wing orchestrated protest, and there is nothing wrong with people being out there. But they need to get a grip on who is using and confusing them. Not too many of the old-time [right wing] populists would’ve rallied on behalf of health insurance corporations.
But Obama still sounds optimistic about getting the bill approved, even with a public option. Do you believe him?
It’s still up to Obama to push that and push it hard and stop wobbling. He’s the one who started the problem last weekend, when he and [Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen] Sebelius said “it’s not absolutely necessary” to have a public option. If you surrender that, then you surrender the whole fight. He’s got to push it and he’s got to push it hard. Yes, the public supports a public option. It will work for people and once the program is actually implemented, just like Medicare was in the 60s, people will say “Oh, this is what it is! I like this!” And they’re going to like this public option, if it is done right.
Do the democrats need the blue dog democrats or they can do it by themselves?
No, and that’s why there’s got to be a lot of pressure on those blue dog democrats. These people need to say whose side they’re really on, because without a public option this is just a bogus reform.
What should people do?
That’s the key right there: it’s not going to come from Washington. That’s where the lobbyists have the control. Don’t go to Washington, these people live in your districts, you have their offices and phone numbers. Go see them. Bring two or three people. Have a lot of people going to see them. Obama has a network of millions of people on the Internet. That’s the only thing that’s going to make it happen.
What’s the problem with non-profit co-ops?
There’s co-ops and co-ops. Many co-ops nowadays are private corporations operating as co-ops. It’s very hard to organize those, you’re not certain of getting the real contrast you’d get from a government-financed insurance company. I’m for co-ops, but it’s not guarantee that by calling it a co-op is going to be any different than the existing insurance companies.
I’m just reading that Obama “guarantees health care reform will pass,” but not a mention of a public option…
Yes, he’s going to pass health care reform, but what kind? It’s got to have [a public option], or it will not be a real reform. It will pass in the House, I think.
The Senate is a little more complicated…
Yes. First of all, Obama handed the authority to write the bill to Max Baucus, a corporate democrat from the get-go. This guy’s not on our side!
But Obama needs to claim some kind of victory, even without the public option, or he's totally screwed. But in that case, won’t Republicans also claim victory?
[No public option] is not a victory, it’s a capitulation to the insurance companies.
What if Obama gets real and is able to pass it with a public option? What would that mean for the mid-term elections?
It will give people some faith that change is possible. That’s the key for me. If he doesn’t stand up, if people don’t see that he’s standing up, or if he talks but doesn’t deliver the goods, then he has a problem.
By Enrique Lopetegui
Update from 8/27/09: It's 1:22 pm, and Turton hasn't called yet.
Update from 8/26/09: Turton just called me and said "I'm not trying to avoid you. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow and afterwards I'll call you between 11 am and noon" to arrange for me to see the files.
As previously reported in this blog, San Antonio’s Wild Animal Orphanage held a press conference on Aug. 20 to respond to accusations from the San Antonio Lightning (whose owner was recently sued by WAO) and to give details concerning the death of Vi-Vi, a tiger who died in captivity at the orphanage.
Instead, the press conference quickly turned into an exchange between Channel 12 producer Shari St. Clair and Dr. Loretta Ehrlund, who had given Vi-Vi a clean bill of health in March.
Mostly reading from a paper, Dr. Ehrlund explained how Vi-Vi, who arrived from the Rio Grande Valley when she was “three to four months old,” hadn’t been eating for several weeks and, according to the USDA report, had been living in inadequate conditions. Dr. Ehrlund said she saw Vi-Vi for the first time on February 25, 2009.
“At that time she was playful, alive, alert, with no obvious signs of infectious or respiratory disease,” the doctor said, adding that “she was in fair health at that time.”
However, things changed in March, when she saw Vi-Vi again.
“She wasn’t eating as much as she should, and the total number of red blood cells were not as high as they should be,” Dr. Ehrlund said. “She was anemic, no specific disease, but she wasn’t well. The end of the long bones were thickened, and this is often associated with growing animals.”
The doctor explained that, while Vi-Vi was eating “most of the time,” her condition was unpredictable.
“As the year went on it was reported that she was a little dizzy and then she would get better. And then she didn’t. At that point we thought we had some sort of encephalitis going on, but five weeks later we treated her with what we could treat her. The attacks became worse, and one day she just got a seizure. Carol [Asvestas, WAO’s director] called me and, when we were preparing to come up, [Vi-Vi] passed away.”
The doctor said that what caused Vi-Vi’s seizure were the lesions found in the brain by the diagnostic lab.
“Those lesions are normal in a young growing animal without enough vitamin A. We didn’t have a chance to be here long enough to change that. And that’s been documented in lions before. I couldn’t find that same documentation in tigers, but I think you can probably extrapolate to the same thing.
“We took her body to Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory to have them do a complete and full necropsy on her to find out the cause of death, and that’s where we are.”
At that point, Channel 12’s St. Clair, who arrived five minutes late, started bombarding doctor Ehrlund with questions.
“Did you take the whole body?,” the producer asked.
“Ain’t that what I said?” said the doctor. “We took the whole tiger.”
The doctor basically had to repeat the whole story, but the producer kept asking questions (the right ones) and going to the jugular, but stopping the flow of the press conference.
“Why don’t you save the questions for the end?” I asked. “This is a press conference, not an interview with Channel 12,” to which she complained about her “not being able to ask questions.”
The back-and-forth, Dr.-producer exchange went on for about 10 minutes, with the doctor giving vague answers (“No, I can’t recall from the top of my head how many animals have died”) and trying her best to be polite to St. Clair, but her piercing gaze was eloquent: she wanted her to shut her trap.
“If you continue this mode of questioning, you’re going to be asked to leave,” Eric Turton, attorney for WAO, told St. Clair.
“This isn’t an argument, dear,” the doctor told St. Clair.
“I’m not going to allow this to deteriorate into a town hall,” said Turton.
The press conference was pretty much over, so St. Clair asked a few more questions and left.
So did Dr. Ehrlund, before I could ask her details of the necropsy report, which is extremely technical and demands in-depth study. WAO didn’t provide any documents at the press conference, citing the fact that “we’re still in litigation” with the Lightning’s R.G. Griffing.
After the press conference, I asked Turton how he expected me to believe that media inquiries concerning how many animals have died at the sanctuary came as “a surprise” for WAO, when allegations to that point were the very substance of the complaints against them. WAO’s inability to provide detailed records only strengthens the critic’s accusations.
While Carol Asvestas, WAO’s director, said at the press conference that “four cougars died,” according to the San Antonio Lightning on 12/12/08 there were 29 tigers and 14 adult mountain lions, and as of 7/1/09 there were 25 tigers and six adult mountain lions.
“If the unaccounted-for animals didn't die, then where are they?” asked the Lightning.
“Really, we thought the questions would be centered about Vi-Vi,” Turton told the Current, minutes before Asvestas opened a drawer full of hanging folders with the animals’ death reports for the last two years.
“Everything is here,” she said. “We have nothing to hide.”
“I don’t mind that you look at them, but I’d like to be here when you do,” Turton told me, “and we need to make an appointment.”
Turton explained he’d be having surgery on Monday, but that I should call on Tuesday (Aug. 25) and, if he’s at the office, we’ll meet at WAO “Tuesday or Wednesday.”
As agreed, on Tuesday the Current left a message for Turton, who still hasn’t replied. I called Asvestas, and she asked me to postpone the meeting for next week, because Turton “needs a few days” to recover from surgery.
“Leave him another message,” she said. “Say you spoke to me and [ask him] what day next week is good to meet.”
By Enrique Lopetegui
On the phone from Summerville, Massachusetts, Chip Berlet, the co-author of Right-Wing Populism In America: Too Close for Comfort, spoke with the Current on the state of dissent in America.
When was the last time there was real debate in American politics?
(laughs) That’s a tough question. Kennedy and Carter tried. And, even on occasion, Ford. You have to give him credit for trying, he was a nice guy…
How much of this anger shown at town hall meetings is real and how much is it manufactured?
We have to distinguish between the people that are genuinely very angry because they’re misinformed, and the people who are there trained to just disrupt. Anger in a democratic society is common place and acceptable. Disruption is not.
What’s the significance and real danger of people with weapons at rallies?
I understand that often this is legal, but it is very insulting and very aggressive. If a whole bunch of black people or undocumented aliens showed up with guns at a meeting with white elected officials, there would be a very different response.
Ask the Black Panthers…
Exactly! And look a [Rodolfo] “Corky” González or colored leaders who have been targeted when they tried to defend themselves.
Yet, when white people show up with guns, it’s their God-given right…
Exactly. When colored people do it it’s dangerous and has to be stopped, and it involves the police. But when white people do it it’s just “exercising their constitutional right.” There’s something wrong with that, isn’t it?
Can Obama bounce back from this mess?
I think he can bounce back if Democrats can find their backbone. When did it happen that someone shouts at Democratic leaders, and they roll up into a corner and give up all of their options? It’s pathetic. I think two things need to happen: the Democrats need to get behind Obama, and people need to go back into the streets and talk about single-payer system of health care for everybody. That’s what most of us want. So many lies and distortions have spread across the country that decent people, who really want the best for America, now have come to believe this gigantic plot to impose tyranny on America in some form of socialized medicine that will kill granny! It’s ridiculous.
Needless to say, you don’t believe real reform is possible without a public option, right?
I don’t believe real reform is possible without a public option and I think it was a serious error to take single-payer off the table. I don’t know… I was a shop steward, and I never went into a negotiation by giving the other side everything that they wanted.
Is the “bi-partisan” argument valid? Why should Obama become a prick and just do his thing, the way Bush and Cheney did?
I think he’s sincere in that, he wants to have a different kind of public dialogue. But you can’t have a public dialogue with a rabid dog chewing on your ankle. He has to make it clear that this manufacture of lies is not acceptable. I’ve been an angry protester at meetings, but I haven’t tried to shout people down. I’ve protested outside, but I’ve never carried a gun. It’s ok for people to be angry and ask questions, but not with anger that is rage, that’s bitter, and nasty and vicious. Democrats and Republicans shouldn’t make up information, but right now it is the Republicans and insurance companies making up information, and that’s not acceptable. There is a difference between a legitimate angry question that expects an answer, and staged confrontations with people so full of rage that they stop listening. That’s not what democracy is about.
San Antonio’s CPS Energy seals deal for new solar, but projected nuke costs won’t let it out of the kiddie clean-energy pool.
As you'll recall from this week's QueQue, Precinct 4 County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson is a pugilistic campaigner -- even when the election contest isn't yet officially on.
But McNeil, who is overseeing the new Gervin Academy for dropouts who want a real diploma instead of a GED (it's a very interesting model; more on that soon), said she is definitely considering a run for Adkisson's seat and will make the call soon.
"I'm in the valley of decision," she said. She suggested she might be "enjoying private life too much to go back," but there are a few agendas she's interested in pushing at the County level, starting with BRAC, the expansion of Ft. Sam Houston. "If anybody benefits from BRAC, [the Eastside] should benefit first."
McNeil demurred on the rumor that she might be a candidate for the Justice of the Peace seat being vacated by Judge Linda Penn without closing the door entirely. "I think they're looking for a J.D." she said (you don't have to be a lawyer to be a JP), although she noted that "[Judge Penn] does truancy and I'm over here working with dropouts."
But, she said, Judge Penn, who's an old childhood friend, hasn't asked her about it, and "I'm not considering that."
Carol Asvestas, director of the Wild Animal Orphanage, is holding that promised press conference today at 3:30pm at the WAO's Leslie Road facility, where, she told the Current last week, she'll release autopsy reports for the recently deceased Bengal tiger, Vi Vi, as well as several cougars who've passed away at the facility in the past year. Asvestas sued archconservative muckraker R.G. Griffing for libel earlier this month over a series of highly critical articles he has published on his website, sanantoniolightning.com.
Loretta Ehrlund, the veterinarian who, according to the Associated Press, gave Vi Vi a clean bill of health in March, will be on hand to answer questions as well.
By Greg Harman
Way back on April Fool’s I told you how your city-owned utility had spent more than $91,000 fighting global warming solutions in Washington.
It wasn't a joke.
At the time, mayoral candidates were outraged (overheard at one debate: “If that is true…”).
Hey, City Hall/CPS Board members! If you want the docs, all you have to do is ring my little telephone, or, better yet, ask someone at CPS dependent on you for their livelihood. Shouldn’t be that hard to get the spreadsheet.
Hey, activists! Time for a new chant.
Ya see, it gets worse. Two hours ago, CPS Energy’s legal team — the only CPS staff that still talk to me, being that the law requires it — updated those figures for me.
It appears that since my last request the utility has spent another $30,000 fighting planetary survival, bringing the grand creation-damning total to $122,000 and some change.
“If this is true” and CPS attorneys aren’t feeding me a rotten muffaletta, maybe our Council/CPS Board should, you know, put a stop to it. [I want to live; I want my friends to live; I even want Milton Lee to live.] And Rapid Climate Change is banging at our sweaty door.
So, here’s your chant: “Yes rate hikes! No nuclear!”
Time to make sure Obama’s incoming weatherization millions go to good use and the green-energy solution San Antonio creates with that $5.2 billion we DON’T spend on nuclear trends directly into the communities that will need it most.
Ack! Here come the methane plumes. They’re coming to take us away!
The federal court in the Western District of Texas dismissed her lawsuit earlier this spring, but Chris Comer, former Director of Science for the Texas Education Agency, will appeal the decision that upheld the TEA’s unwritten “neutrality” policy on evolution and creationism.
Comer was terminated in November 2007 after she forwarded an email to her colleagues from the National Center for Science Education about a public lecture by intelligent design critic Barbara Forrest.
Comer filed suit against the TEA in June 2008, arguing that the neutrality policy violated the Establishment Clause. After hearing oral arguments in December, the court denied Comer’s request for summary judgment, dismissed her claims with prejudice, and granted the TEA’s motion for summary judgment.
The opinion argued that the “policy is reasonable” and maintained TEA’s position that “Agency staff must remain neutral on disputed curriculum issues regardless of a particular position’s merit or constitutionality.”
Comer’s appellate brief states that the termination memo Comer received from her superiors was the first and only document in which the Agency mentioned its “neutrality” policy. The memo evoked a letter of protest signed by 135 science professors from Texas universities.
“Comer’s been the only person who has been reprimanded or forced to resign over such a policy,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the NCSE, who originally sent the email about Forrest’s lecture to Comer. “No one had heard about a policy before they decided to punish Comer. Certainly if I were in Texas, I would be concerned that state bureaucrats set these policies that aren’t written anywhere and are governing the way agencies are administered.”
Branch said Comer was simply doing her job.
“It’s perfectly reasonable for a state employee to disseminate information on that,” he said. “The most troubling part is that [this lawsuit] has to be brought in the first place and that she could be discharged for simply sending an email with ‘FYI’ added on.”
John L. Oberdorfer, one of Comer’s attorneys with Patton Boggs, said the state’s reply to the appeal will most likely be due in early October. He said a date for oral argument has not been scheduled yet.
“We thought Ms. Comer had been wronged, and we thought it was an important issue that needed to be addressed,” he said. “I’ll let the brief speak for itself. I think we’ve laid out why we thought the district court was wrong.”
In the brief, other notable court cases ruling on issues of creationism and evolution were cited, including Edwards v. Aguillard, which forbids the teaching of creationism along with evolution.
Comer and her attorneys are arguing the policy advances religion and thereby fails the “Lemon” test, established by Lemon v. Kurtzman in 1971. The test’s three criteria outline that legislation must have a secular purpose, cannot advance or inhibit religion, and cannot encourage excessive government entanglement with religion.
“Granting the Agency license to enforce neutrality ‘regardless of constitutionality’ impermissibly empowers the TEA to discipline employees for unconstitutional reasons,” the brief says.
Currently, no organizations have filed amicus briefs on Comer’s behalf. Branch said if the lawsuit continues past the appellate level, NCSE might consider filing one. However, he noted the importance of understanding that issues of creationism and evolution pervade multiple levels of the educational bureaucracy.
“Creationism and evolution controversy doesn’t only play out in the level of the classroom,” he said. “Things do happen like this at the local state departments of education and on the state boards of education, and they can have a greater impact.”
Text and photo by
When it comes to headlines, no local watchdog has a sharper bite than the San Antonio Lightning's RG Griffing, and as those headlines are sometimes the story itself, it was only a matter of time before someone hired a lawyer.
And sure enough, last week, Carol Asvestas, executive director of the Wild Animal Orphanage in Bexar County, decided she'd had enough of being called "The Lyin' Queen," and accused of running an "animal Auschwitz."
In the complaint, Asvestas alleges that Griffing's negative reporting on her wildlife refuge has caused a drop in donations to the 26-year-old nonprofit, which, according to its website and guidestar.org, houses 500 or so animals (including 300 primates) on a 10-acre ranch near Helotes, and another 120-acre property in northwest Bexar County. According to the organization's 990 tax returns on GuideStar, WAO's total revenue in 2005 was almost $1.4 million, in 2006 just over $1.7 million, and in 2007 only $1.16 million. A 2008 990 was not available.
As early as October 2007, Griffing was questioning the fate of animals at WAO -- including as many as 100 pit bulls that may have been euthanized at the refuge and a large pack of unaccounted-for potbellied pigs -- and relaying dark and worrisome anonymous whistleblower tales. Earlier this year, Griffing wrote that federal authorities were investigating the refuge, and that there were reports of mass graves on its property. His citations, when he offers them, tend to be vague and /or anonymous.
Griffing says simply, "We stand behind our story."
Most recently, Griffing broke the news in mid-July that a young white Bengal tiger named Vi Vi, who was donated to WAO this spring, had died. In subsequent stories he reported that as many as eight cougars and a lion-tiger mix had also died this year. He cited the total number of confirmed animal deaths at WAO at 13 in the past 12 months.
Griffing wrote that he sought comment from Asvestas, with no luck, and obtained independent confirmation of Vi Vi's death from the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.
At some point last month, Asvestas posted a note on the WAO website, dated simply July 2009, acknowledging Vi Vi's passing. "She died of pre-existing medical problems from poor nutrition when she was being cared for by her former owner," she wrote. "The damage sustained when she was very young could not have been undone. She did not suffer. She passed quickly."
In the same note, Asvestas promised to post a "complete veterinarian report on 'Vi Vi' within the next week." That report would help to answer some questions, including why a March 3, 2009 Associated Press story reported that veterinarian Loretta Ehrlund "says Vivi [sic] appears to be in good health."
Asvestas declined to discuss the suit with the Current, but said that she will hold a press conference at WAO's Leslie Road facility next Thursday, where we would receive a packet with the autopsy report for Vi Vi and the cougars. Veterinarian Ehrlund will be present, she says.
How many cougars have died this year, we asked?
"Off-hand, I don't know," said Asvestas.
If you were following intrepid Current reporter gharman on Twitter today, you might think that this week's City Hall excitement will set with the sun, but peruse tomorrow's A Session agenda, and you'll find plenty of interest, starting with:
A. The reeducation of HemisFair Park, which turned 40 last year, and just sits there these days, being park-like. We used to think that was an attribute, back when our cities were covered in the offal of industry and automobiles and air quality was terrible and ... ... never mind. The point is, these days we realize that "parks" are just (preferably smallish) accessories that draw the eye and pocketbook to the main attraction: Things That Make Money. Condos, hotels, shops, what have you.
So: The City moves forward this week with plans to "revitalize" the old 1968 midway with the creation of a Local Government Corporation that "has the power to buy, sell and accept land a as a non-profit without the restrictions placed on a municipality."
Restrictions it will have to follow include the Open Meetings Act and the Open Records law, so you'll be able to keep an eye on the organization as it hires a contractor to redo the 2004 HF Master Plan, etc. Despite the heady language above, Deputy City Manager Pat DiGiovanni says no decision has been made yet on whether the LGC will acquire or own property (say, those two federal plots that the court and various offices will be vacating), etc.
Proposed board members are: Bill Shown, Xavier Gonzalez, John Laffoon, Deborah Guerrero, Art Hall, Daniel Lopez, Andres Andujar, Gini Garcia, Lisa Schmidt, Madison Smith, and David Zachry.
Rumors are floating about that the Institute of Texan Cultures (where you can visit the AIDS memorial quilt and Leigh Anne Lester's gorgeous work) -- which is located in that 182,000-square-foot isosceles trapezoid on 15 acres at the Southeast end of the park redevelopment area -- would be closing up shop and moving into the UTSA campus on Durango, but ITC Executive Director Tim Gette says they're staying put and moving ahead with plans to seek Tier 1 museum status, and pursuing other exciting developments that will be revealed on a need-to-know basis (i.e. the Institute's wonderful archives and library may get a collection from another Texas institution -- and a cold room, which, no, is not like a bomb shelter for globally warmed South TX residents).
DiGiovanni says that UTSA has not approached them about selling and moving the Institute. Not that the City -- which already purchased the adjacent lot that holds the HemisFair Women's Pavilion from the University -- wouldn't take it.
"From our perspective, it opens up greater development opportunity if they're not there," he said, but, he added, it's a big place and it would take a lot to move them.
Indeed. After talking to Gette, QueBlog doesn't think it can be done. "I would not have come here if I had not thought [the museum's growth and development] was going to take place," he said.
So, good: The condo residents will have easy access to all those great old photos and original texts in ITC's archives. I'd suggest marketing them to our many area educators.
The rest of the park will be remade in keeping with the "vision" and "guiding principles created earlier this year by the HemisFair Redevelopment Ad Hoc Committee. Most notable of those are: Expand and preserve green space (noted elsewhere: the net park land must remain the same), a balance between green space and development, preservation of historic buildings.
Wondering how to parse that? You'll find some clues in the list of abilities that Master Plan candidates must possess, which include:
• Create a neighborhood of balanced mixed use development including mixed income housing, commercial, insitutional and civic uses
• Creat a new city neighborhood with an embedded City Park that is forthe primary use and enjoyment of residents and also by visitors.
You'll find the agenda and supporting docs here.
And B. At 9am, the City Manager will present her Proposed Budget for the downsized fiscal year that'll begin October 1. A series of Council work sessions and public meetings will follow, leading up to the September budget adoption; get the schedule here.
Text and photos by
Update at 6:20pm:
The Commissioners named Michael LaHood to County Court-at-Law #15; Monica Gonzalez to #13, the County's second family-violence court; Ernest Acevedo Jr. to #14; and JP Linda Penn to court #5. Longoria didn't make the final cut; he was reportedly nominated to #14 by Commissioner Chico Rodriguez, and Commissioner Tommy Adkisson seconded, but Adkisson ultimately voted for Acevedo.
Bexar County Commissioners are wrapping up the second day of interviews for four County Court-at-Law benches today, and opponents and supporters were expected to show up this morning for former state legislator, County Judge, and commissioner John Longoria’s 9 a.m. interview slot. Speculators have been predicting for going on a month now that the fix is in for Longoria, Mike LaHood (whose son, Nico, is running against District Attorney Susan Reed in 2010), Pamela Gabriel Craig, and Monica Gonzalez. If the Commissioners stick to their published agenda, they'll get it all sorted out by close of business this evening. Twenty-three finalists made it to the interview cut, including late addition Kristina Ann Escalona. You can read their applications here.
Our favorite (not to say only) daily reported today that Longoria’s candidacy has been all but derailed by opposition from pro-choice forces, who remember his days in the Pink Dome not-so-fondly. Longoria was Frank Corte before Corte (co-author of this session’s controversial abortion-ultrasound bill, e.g.), authoring provisions to grant fetuses personhood and criminalize teen sex, according to the Texas chapter of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. Alerted by a San Antonio member, TARAL encouraged its Bexar County members to phone and write the commissioners, opposing his appointment.
But Longoria's local critics might prefer to be billed more broadly as women’s rights advocates, because they also remember Longoria as the man who derailed the career of County Court-at-Law Judge Bonnie Reed, who spearheaded reform of the County's domestic-violence system. (TARAL is not publicly commenting on this issue, but Executive Director Sara Cleveland notes that many of their members also belong to the National Organization of Women, and this is very much on their radar.) While Reed was on the bench and Longoria was in Austin, Reed refused to reschedule a domestic-violence case in which Longoria represented the defendant, although state law indicates legislator attorneys are entitled to continuances. Citing immediate danger to the victim, Reed instead scheduled arguments for a day the legislature wasn’t in session; Longoria dug in his heels, and his client was convicted. Reed was subsequently found in contempt of court and spent 13 days in jail. Not content, Longoria filed a complaint with the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, and that stress and a simultaneous probe by the District Attorney prompted Reed to resign, after which the TCJC dropped its investigation. The National Organization of Women, which protested Reed’s conviction and jailing reported at the time that Longoria had long been at odds with Reed over abortion rights, and often represented Operation Rescue protesters accused of trespassing.
Longoria told the E-N this week that thanks to the efforts of the pro-choice activists, who’ve called and emailed the commissioners, his chance at the seat has virtually evaporated, but as of last Friday, Bexar County Democratic Chair Carla Vela remained staunch in her support for Longoria, characterizing his critics as “a group of women who really shouldn’t be involved,” and who could jeopardize their organizations’ non-profit status by lobbying against a candidate for public office. She didn’t name names.
“The problem they have with Longoria is that he’s pro-life,” said Vela, but “I think he’s an excellent choice.”
Here’s a $5.5-billion-dollar question for you: What happened to revenue gained from the 2008 electricity rate hike?
If you recall, city-owned CPS Energy was asking for a five-percent rate hike. It was their first such request in more than a dozen years. It had obviously been so long since they needed something from City Hall that they forgot how to ask nice.
All kinds of irritation followed and several city leaders expressed exasperation at how difficult it was to get straight answers from the utility.
Some San Antonians were wary about the hike money flying out an open window into a vacuum for ill-defined nuclear-expansion purposes. Bless their mistrustful, little hearts.
They pushed hard and got the Council to require that no part of the rate hike to go toward the expansion attempts for the South Texas Complex nuclear facility in Bay City.
CPS responded pragmatically that it would instead pull money from its capital budget “to pay its nuclear development obligations.”
“These include the filing of a combined construction and operation license application for STP Units 3 and 4 with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, refining a construction plan/cost estimate and reserving manufacturing slots for large equipment/components that have long lead times.”
(Kicking in for Japanese-made nuke shells before the city had agreed to follow along? but I’m straying.)
The rate-hike money, according to that same 2008 press release, would be used for completion of the Spruce II coal plant, pollution controls on existing plants, new substations and power lines, and a “boost in customer rebates and incentives from $96 million over a four-year-period to approximately $136 million over four years.”
The Council refused to approve the five-percent request, grudgingly offering a lesser 3.5-percent increase, instead.
A few months later, January of '09, almost all of those green rebate programs were closed due to "lack of funds."
At the council’s public hearing Monday night, CPS bosses will probably tell you that the eliminated 1.5 percent just happened to be the 1.5 percent the $40 million in green-energy dollars was going to be pulled from.
Possibly worse: The San Anto-based Consumers' Energy Coalition states in one of their questions that a CPS manager recently suggested those new funds were put in the capital budget (you're getting it now) where the nuke-development cash was being pulled from. Wacky taffy.
At least the question will finally be asked — in public — with an answer required.
One thing’s for sure: All the dominant boosters and critics will get a turn. (Well, everyone but me. I’ll cede by time to the cutest registered greenie on hand, I guess.)
Here’s the running roster:
I knew this whole health-care debate would bring us together. The press release that follows the above headline waxes indignant about law enforcement pointing guns at protesters -- in America!! Then it quotes from an account of an Obama health-care town-hall meeting in Virginia, published on gatewaypundit.blogspot.com (which also documents arrests and harassments of conservative street teams elsewhere):
"The attendees at the actual event were handpicked, [but] there were many protesters along the motorcade route. The anti-ObamaCare protesters greatly outnumbered the pro voices. There were several vehicles following the limo that contained the secret service. The vehicles had all the windows rolled down, and back hatches open on the SUVs with the men holding their, I assume assault rifles, machine guns, drawn on everyone lining the streets. Needless to say, it took my breath away at the sight of them, and made my friends and I dizzy with fear. . . . I turned on a local talk radio program as we were leaving and all the calls were about witnessing the guns being pointed at them."
It's sort of sweet to find out that the right wing wasn't ignoring all those police-state-style crackdowns on citizens exercising their First Amendment rights at Kent State, the WTO Seattle protests, the Republican National Convention, etc. ... apparently they just didn't believe they were happening.
To these self-styled patriots we say, Welcome to the streets. Get yourself a good bike helmet and an ACLU attorney.
By Greg Harman
A band of San Antonian über-boosters are rattling they’ll be suing again to try to wrest Homeland Security’s planned $500-million-plus National Bio & Agro-Defense Facility away from Kansas. Safety be damned.
Some enthusiasm, it seems, truly knows no bounds.
You see, the U.S. General Accountability Office reported last week that lab sites on the mainland examined by Homeland Security are not as safe as an existing research location off Long Island for the advanced research of virulent pathogens — “zoonotic” pathogens able to jump back and forth between humans and non-human species.
The diseases studied are to include foot-and-mouth, as well as
The QueQue made more than one mistake this week, and we take it hard. We pride ourselves on maintaining a low error rate, especially because the Current has a total editorial staff of eight, none of whom is a full-time copy editor. We team edit, and the buck stops with me, who sometimes at the end of the deadline day misses things. Even big things that I know damn well to be the case, like the fact that the City's outdoor pools are open Tuesday-Sunday, not Tuesday-Friday. Another item we got wrong: Richard Alles is a former member of the Planning Commission's Technical Advisory Committee, not a current member. We'll note these and any other corrections in next week's print column, and fix them online.
It's important to us that you can rely on your QueBlog and QueQue as a source of pointed, sometimes snarky, but always factual commentary you can't find elsewhere, and the Current news team and I promise to work hard to keep it that way.
The San Antonio Riverwalk Extension landscape is taking the heat
By Haylley Johnson
After stopping by the Pearl Brewery Farmers Market, I took a morning stroll down the riverwalk extension with my organic coffee in tow. Sadly, most of this was spent sweating and hiding under a shady overpass alongside fellow San Antonians. While beads of sweat fell into my eyes, I looked out at the plants stuck on the scorching hillside and realized in horror that the plants could never join me in the shade. Drought resistance only takes you so far.
Thankfully seven years of tedious effort, planning, and design created the Museum Reach riverwalk extension. “The project itself stared as a vision as far back as 1998. The San Antonio River Authority, the City of San Antonio, and Bexar County created the San Antonio River Oversight Committee [the citizens’ stakeholder group],” Steven Schauer, manager of external communications for SARA, says. When the design and construction phases of the project began, Ford, Powell, and Carson (an architectural firm) designed the extension, and Zachry Construction Corporation implemented FPC’s design – a plan that took our rain-filled Texas weather (just kidding) into account.
“[The landscape] was always meant to be irrigated, but even with a lot of irrigation, you still have to have plants that can stand full sun. They tried to select a lot of plants that were colorful and drought resistance because that’s what you want to see,” says Mark Sorenson, SARA’s project manager for the San Antonio river museum reach urban segment.
Although right now drought resistance seems the only important feature, other important elements are the plant’s aesthetics and their ability to prevent erosion, according to Cullen Coltrane, the landscape architect employed by FPC. No one wants to see an ugly garden, especially one that cost 61.1 million dollars. “As you move further toward Pearl Brewery, you get less tropical and more hill country in style,” Coltrane says.
Yet keeping that lovely hill country garden alive is another story.
Now the extension is open to the public, and the ISS Grounds Control (employed by Zachry to maintain the landscape) works tirelessly to inch the landscape along during our painfully extended drought.
“They will actually be maintaining the whole system for a year. Zachry was required as a part of their bid to insure the entire project for a year,” says Sorenson. “At this point, ISS is taking care of plants for the year [because they were the subcontractors].”
“We have one full time gentleman that is down there every day,” says Chris Pais, ISS project manager for river extension project. “He is in charge of basically maintaining it to the owner’s standards.”
With a degree in landscaping and golf course management from Carleton State University, Timothy Devries is the on-site go-to guy. “We’ve had to pull weeds by hand because the chemicals dilute and are not effective with the way we’ve had to water,” he says. They water daily for shorter periods of time instead of four days a week for longer periods – this process lets the water sink into the ground more effectively says Devries.
For those of us who can only water our lawns once a week, don’t worry, you aren’t getting cheated. “Luckily the water that we are using is recycled water, so the water restriction doesn’t affect us until stage three,” Devries says.
“Our irrigation system has control boxes throughout the river walk . . . if it notices something is not functioning properly, and then it sends me an email,” he says. It’s something out of the Jetsons – plants that harass you when they are dehydrated.
Even with ISS’s unflagging vigilance, a few plants simply can’t take the heat. “Some things might look happy going in but they might not be as happy as they look,” says Coltrane. “You are going to have some [plant] decline from transplanting the material, and you are dealing with nature as well.”
“90 percent of it is drought tolerant,” says Pais. But drought tolerance doesn’t happen as soon as roots hit dirt. “Once it is established it needs less water, but we are still in the establishment phase.”
Around the time of the extension’s grand opening, a 50 foot stretch of Cardinal Flowers died, and Pais is uncertain of the cause. However, he wants to eliminate one possible cause for their death – Pais is waiting until the replacements are fully grown before he puts them in the ground. “We want to make sure the plants are at their proper growth period,” he says.
Overall, the plants are plucky and have stuck it out. Less than 8 percent of the plants struggled, according to Devries, and he takes heart in the irrigation, hard work, and the sky. “As long as things stay wet, we can limp it through the summer,” he says. “Let’s hope god blesses us with some water."
Your dedicated staff is on deadline here at the Current, but I wanted to give you the link to that Government Accountability Office report that criticizes the Department of Homeland Security's decision to relocate a bio-defense research lab to the heartland (that is: to the axis of livestock and tornadoes) so you could study it for yourself. We'll talk about it again next month. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on investigation and oversight didn't take it up last week as expected; they were too busy with health-care reform, but it should be at the top of the agenda when our lawmakers return to work.
You'll recall from last week's post that the Express-News -- which has editorialized more than once in favor of the bio-lab's relocation to SA -- interpreted the GAO's report as another chance for SA to get the project back from evil toy-stealing Kansas, while simultaneously acknowledging that Bexar County appears to be a bigger tornado magnet than the humble Kansas county the NBAF is slated for. Since then, the Current has stumbled across a May 1 E-N editorial that refers to local litigation to overturn the decision as "meritorious" and asks "Is anyone awake in Washington D.C.?" After going on and on about Kansas's terrible tornado problem, it concludes: "We urge the federal court to halt the process and check out the claims in the Texas lawsuit."
It doesn't say, precisely, that SA should have received the NBAF nod instead, but read in the context of their ongoing coverage of the issue, that's the unmistakeable subtext. Maybe they hadn't done their tornado homework yet.
p.s. Why isn't the Congress on staycation like the rest of us?
Yes, our municipally owned pools are free — when they’re open, which is 1-7 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, June 6 through ... August 9?!
The Current was so upset about this state of affairs that it asked video correspondent Jeff Turner to make a dry-doc [use the scroll tool at the bottom to find “SA Pools: Patiently waiting”]. The City it seems heard the pleas of its citizenry and announced this week that COSA's outdoor pools will remain open until August 16. Another nine — Dellview, Lady Bird Johnson, Lincoln, Normoyle, Roosevelt, Southside Lions, Springtime, Westwood Village, and Woodlawn — will stay open through August 23. Once those cease weekday operation, you can swim at the four regional pools — Dellview, Roosevelt, Southside Lyons, and Woodlawn — weekends through Labor Day. And, yes, all still free! You'll find a complete pool list and a handy map here.
The estimated cost to the City for the extra cool pool time: $114,000, which Parks & Rec Director Xavier Urrutia says will come from savings in his department’s budget. The relief? That’s right: priceless.
But why not a full swimming season, like Austin? Free pools are nice, but the QueQue would happily pay a couple of bucks during the “fall” and “winter” for access to some outdoor aquatic recreation. Urrutia says that most of their lifeguards are high-school and college students, and once the fall semesters get underway (August 24 for many local schools), staffing becomes an issue.
* This blog post was corrected. It originally stated that the City's outdoor pools are open 1-7pm Tuesday-Friday, but they are, as a commenter pointed out, open on Saturday and Sunday, too.
By Greg Harman
This small alert from Moody’s Investor Service has been making the rounds these past two weeks. So we’d be remiss if we didn’t throw it out there with schmear o' analysis.
The “special comment” issued last month is pretty plain. Moody’s analysts found that the construction of nuclear-power plants represents a huge financial gamble — a “bet the farm” proposition — that proceeds only at the whim of innumerable political factors over a lengthy time line.
But, all that aside, NRG Energy's (possibly joined by San Antonio’s CPS Energy at a 40 percent stake) planned South Texas Project expansion is the least-worst of the bunch.
On the positive side:
South Texas political blogs
Jon's Jail Journal
B and B
Dig Deeper Texas
The Walker Report
Grits for Breakfast
San Antonio Politics (Express-News)
Off the Kuff
South Texas Chisme
Rhetoric & Rhythm
Did we miss your favorite?
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