Watching the regulatory kabuki up in North Texas can’t inspire a lot of confidence in the increasing number of South Texans leasing their land for so-called “non-traditional” natural gas development in the subterranean Eagle Ford shale.
Late last month, the industry’s PR front organization, the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, released a little report that could have been titled, Frack Gas: Good For You Or What?, and branded with big double-thumbs up.
Dutifully reported as a news nugget by the Fort Worth Business Press, the totally underwhelming finding of industry’s contracted environmental engineers? Natural gas drilling put “some contaminants” into the air, but “not at levels that would cause any health concerns,” Titan Engineering wrote.
Even when the readings ran red-hot — such as was the case when formaldehyde was detected at levels that activist/blogger Sharon Wilson charted at nearly three times Houston Ship Channel’s worst — they were rationalized away in the gas company’s favor.
If Supersize Me taught the world anything, it was that bad diet can kill a person as surely as a bullet. Unfortunately, the “access of evil” of modern inner-city life means that reaching a fat-and-salt-rich meal is often as easy as locating that ubiquitous liquor store or firearm. Securing foods that boost cellular health, maintain weight and energy levels, and improve mood, however, can take multiple bus transfers and punishing hikes [See “The Urban Garden Revolution”].
In foodie speak, such nutrition-starved city sectors are “food deserts.” A gathering Food Policy Council is being organized to develop ways to flood these areas with affordable, healthy food. “We want to make healthier, affordable food more accessible to all of San Antonio and try to limit or make the unhealthy food not as accessible,” said Len Treviño, of San Antonio Metro Health and the effort’s team liaison. “We want people to know where their food comes from.”
The effort is being launched with federal stimulus dollars targeting San Antonio’s obesity rates with the help of the Texas Hunger Initiative and the San Antonio Food Bank.
“We want to kick-start this thing, and we want them, the experts, [to] come together and do what they do well,” Treviño said. “One of the biggest priorities of this group is to develop a sustainability plan … They may decide to become a non-profit agency … but one of the directions we’re taking them is they need to put themselves in position where they can legally apply for grant funding.”
Folks are being sought from a variety of areas, according to the applications being circulated.
By Greg Harman
At a certain point, sustained ignorance becomes so “willful” that it becomes criminal. Texas’ leadership is approaching that territory now in its campaign to deny its responsibility to regulate the gases that are destabilizing the planet and projected to cause untold human suffering especially in developing parts of the world.
In late July, a paper by a Princeton team of researchers suggested that climate-induced crop failures in Mexico could force one in 10 residents of that country to flee to the United States as climate refugees in coming decades. A week later, Texas joined a second lawsuit seeking to stop greenhouse regulation from coming to the Lone Star State.
Attorney General Greg Abbott and Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, wrote to the U.S. EPA that Texas has no intention of regulating greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide, which the pair refer to as a “trace constituent of clean air, vital to all life, that is emitted by all productive activities on Earth.”
Of course, water’s a wondrous constituent too, until mudslides sweep your house and family away.
Until eclipsed by China earlier this year, the U.S. has reigned as the world’s largest emitter of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases (we’re the purple; China’s lavender). When considered its own country, Texas itself regularly ranks among the top ten global greenhouse emitters.
Now, with a large chunk of the nation feverish over immigration, a team of three professors at the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University projects that warming-related agricultural failure brought on by could force millions of Mexican residents streaming toward the United States in search of relief as climate refugees.
Depending on the severity of crop losses, between 1.4 million and 6.7 million people would migrate to the United States by 2080. At the high end, that would represent a doubling of the current number of Mexican nationals already living and working in the United States. And, yet, the team’s numbers are likely low considering expected crop losses from climate change “are considerably larger” than those observed between 1995 and 2005, the years from which data was derived for the study’s methodology, the report concludes.
Of course, there could be a massive, rapid, international climate response that makes this whole conversation moot. But judging from the non-progress so far, it’s not likely.
Some fear the anti-migrant soundbites the Princeton report could inform.
"It would behoove them as scientists to shift their focus," Lorenzo Cano, associate director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston, told Nature recently. "[This is] research that will contribute to the xenophobia that is already running amok in our country today."
Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, said “a misinterpretation of the message” of the study could suggest the authors are opposed to immigration. “We’re not taking any position on whether migration or immigration are good, bad, or indifferent, we’re simply trying to state the numbers and we certainly would not want this used as a club against the immigrant population.”
Certainly, if left unchecked, the thugish political discourse and spread of border vigilantes in the U.S. leaves little question as to whether these victims of industrialization would be treated as refugees or criminals when they arrive. However, the faster we move beyond our low-intensity border conflict and move forward on bi-national efforts to turn our shared land into a hub of clean-energy development and wise water and agricultural practices ever mindful of our shared human rights the better off we’ll all be.
And academic research can propel such policy responses, says (son-of-an-immigrant) Oppenheimer.
“Our real motivation is to provide a scientific basis so that policy makers can make decisions that in a warming world will make people’s lives easier. It doesn’t pay to put your head in the sand and pretend this isn’t gonna happen,” Oppenheimer said. “The more that policy makers know about it, the more that individuals know about it, the more likely it is they can take action that either reduces the need to migrate, by reducing emissions or by improving adaptation capacity so people can stay where they are, or, if they have to move or want to move, to facilitate that movement so it doesn’t create violence and it doesn’t impact people in the receiving country in a negative way.”
As the hottest decade on record closes, and Texas’ juvenile argument against the prevailing science of climate change is debunked (read the EPA’s “myths and facts”), climate-action obstructionists like Abbott, Shaw, and Texas Governor Rick Perry should do some serious soul-searching and start looking beyond the perceived economic impact greenhouse regulation would have on Texas and consider the larger human toll not acting represents for the world’s poorest. It won’t only be Mexico’s farmers impacted by our choices. Other flashpoints referenced in the Princeton paper (and elsewhere) include Africa, India, Bangladesh, (all of) Latin America, and Australia.
“The human race is in the middle of a great transition in terms of the way it views its role on the planet and its responsibility for the planet,” Oppenheimer told the Current. “The climate problem is one of those issues, and the human race is going to wrestle with it and eventually get on top of it. But I don’t think it will make the world unlivable as long as we act accordingly.”
There's that word "act" again.
The first time Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputies wrenched the cuffs on Jose Luna Torres was bad enough. It was 2006 when they showed up at his West Harding Street home and booked him on charges of indecency with a child. Only they had the wrong address and the wrong Torres.
Yet that mistake didn’t keep them from returning two years later to arrest him again on the same charge, even though their arrest warrant still bore a Hollenbeck street address. Other clues they had the wrong man included Torres’ middle name (ie. not “Tejada”) and his driver’s license number.
This time the 60-year-old retiree suffered a stroke while in custody, a medical event that went undiagnosed and untreated, resulting in slurred speech and disorientation, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this year in federal court.
The suit names a slew of law enforcement — from the Sheriff’s Department to the Bexar County Jail, DA’s Office, Bexar County, and the “Unnamed Officers.” For it’s part, the DA’s office has claimed “immunity” from prosecution; Bexar County has yet to file a response.
The suit doesn’t name a desired dollar figure to help make things right, but it does state Torres’ two false arrests have “caused extraordinary personal damages, from the shame and embarrassment of being handcuffed and hauled away in front of neighbors and arrested as a child molesterer [sik].”
Torres couldn’t be reached at his home earlier this week. His attorney, Christa Samaniego, failed to return repeated calls for comment.
Go figure that Torres, twice burned by the system, has refused to have his case heard and decided by a magistrate judge. Instead, he has demanded a true trial by a jury of his peers. If a settlement isn’t reached before next April’s trial date, he’ll get his chance.
Y’all know how much I looked forward to the San Antonio kiddie council’s first day of school
meeting. So, it was with a special poignancy that I looked on today’s
proceedings, the first council meeting since they went on summer break
way back in July.
See, Callie Enlow won’t be kicking council members around anymore (or, more honestly, lightly tapping them until they return my phone calls). That doesn’t mean they won’t get a swift one to the groin from Elaine Wolff or Greg Harman semi-frequently, but I will primarily be annoying bands and maybe a film distributor or two for the Current starting very soon.
So, unless council members John Clamp and Elisa Chan make good on that reggae duo they’ve been threatening*, I probably won’t be writing about them or their colleagues too much. With much heaviness in my heart this morning did I watch our City’s deciders struggle to outdo one another in thanking every single city department manager who presented today. How much time would they save if they didn’t do this, wondered my colleague in the media box. Shh. The council ways are not for us to understand, but only for us to deeply appreciate. I may even have squeezed a little tear when Mary Alice Cisneros halted council business to tell them about taking her granddaughter to see Ramona and Beezus this weekend and what a fine film it was, fine enough for her to recommend the book version to the San Antonio Library’s reading program. Or something. I don’t know, I was laughing too hard.
But, council did manage to discuss and effect something particularly important today. They passed (unanimously, duh) an ordinance adopting the FY 2010-2011 Community Development Block Grant that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) doles out annually. The grants are meant to assist local governments in improving low-income housing and communities. This year, San Antonio received $16,191,955.57 total for public service, housing and neighborhood revitalization projects. Many private groups received funding for neighborhood revitalization. The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center received $337,319 for their Rinconcito de Esperanza, in the old Ruben’s Ice House and an adjacent building on Colorado Street. Graciela Sanchez, executive director of the center and perpetual mistruster of government appeared at City Council just to make sure there wasn’t any last minute reversals. She spoke, calling the “little corner of hope” the gateway to the Westside and promising big plans to improve and expand the fotohistorias del Westside oral history project, create an organic farmer’s market for the surrounding community, install solar panels and a water cistern, and build a storefront for the center’s Mujerartes pottery collective at their casita on Guadalupe and El Paso streets. Other than the Esperanza, the other big gainer was supposed to be the Eastside Eye Care clinic, operated by the UIW School of Optometry, but District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor told council she learned just yesterday the clinic had been delayed “a year or two.” So the $725,330 earmarked for that project was split between several Eastside needs, including $200,000 for sidewalks in Government Hill, $125,000 for the Myra Davis Resource Center, $150,000 for the Ella Austin Community Center, among other projects. Ten other projects throughout the City received additional funding as well.
Still, as District 3 Councilwoman Jennifer Ramos reiterated, “over $42 million worth of need in San Antonio was applied for.”
Officials and staff at Bexar County’s Adult Probation Department are bracing for another year of deep budget cuts as they tally up state funding commitments received over the past few days. Over this closing fiscal year, the department’s $23 million budget was reduced by $600,000. However, this year’s cuts could be twice that as a result of state leaders seeking 5-percent cuts for state agencies, said newbie Chief Probation Officer Jarvis Anderson.
The department receives 75 percent of its funding from the state and only one percent from Bexar County. Nearly one in four of its dollars come directly from the probationers themselves. Compounding budget worries, Anderson said those probationers are also having a hard time making ends meet in this bad economy.
“If they don’t have the money, it’s almost like a wash,” Anderson said. “We typically try to extend [the deadline] if a victim’s involved as far as restitution. But in the end, if they don’t have it, they don’t have it. We work with them.”
Many of the offenders will likely wait until their next tax return to pay off their balances, he said.
Despite the losses, small planned raises for some officers will go forward. And there will be no layoffs even as some vacated positions will start to be restaffed, Anderson said. For the past year, the department has been under a hiring freeze.
While nationally recognized programs like Bexar County’s drug and mental-health courts will be forced to operate at reduced funding levels, the controversial contract with Treatment Associates may come to an end.
TA has been the subject of intense criticism for a rash of “fasle positive” drug test results (see 2008's "Test-Tube Maybes") and for tossing confidential client records in a public dumpster, among other things. Allegations of union busting, improper surveillance, and sexual harassment ("Urine Trouble," 2009) were frequent during the last couple years of former Chief Officer Bill Fitzgerald's time at Adult Probation. Local judges replaced Fitzgerald with Anderson in January.
Anderson was careful in his phrasing on the subject — both TA and Adult Probation are still the subject of at least one lawsuit brought by former probationers alleging bad test results — but he allowed the contract with TA will be carefully reexamined by the end of the year.
“That’s going to be looked at closely,” Anderson said. “There’s going to be something going on with our UA lab, but it has to be where the offenders can afford to go to the UA.
“I don’t want to go it alone, either. If there’s other agencies that need service, maybe we’ll get service for a little cheaper.”
Out-of-work probationers may want start brushing up on their chemistry chops. There's a win-win if ever we saw one.
Lone Star: not as bad as a set from HBO's The Wire
Holy Frijoles! After living in the Lone Star neighborhood for more than one year I attended my first neighborhood association meeting and who should I see but SAPD chief William McManus. I didn’t know we were neighbors? Turns out we’re not. McManus held court at the St. Phillip’s Hall on East Lambert Street to inform the 70-person plus audience about Problem Oriented Policing, or “POP.” It’s a crucial element of the city’s combined Eastside Initiative implemented earlier this year to address District 2 woes from stray dogs to hookers. At some point, someone Lone Star denizen probably read one of several glowing Express-News reports on the POP program, walked out onto their Steves street front stoop and thought, “hookers? strays? Hell, I’ve shooed both off my lawn before my first cup of coffee!”
Thus the humble Lone Star neighborhood association found the Chief in its midst, carrying on about how their ‘hood would likely be the next to host the community-policing crossover conversations between SAFFE cops, quality of life city departments, and neighbors (and these viejita/os LOVE to talk, trust). According to Chief McManus, he attended on the invitation of the Neighborhood Association just to hear their concerns on a host of issues from major to laughably minor, like one elderly lady’s complaint that her young next door neighbor’s music was “so annoying it made me nervous.” The chief quickly mentioned POP as “the solution to the issues Lone Star has.”
Now, I know my little corner of the world, located south of Alamo Street, North of I-10, west of Mission and East of South Flores, isn’t as safe as, say, a gated community, and friends and family have offered me various self-defense mechanisms because they “know the part of town I live in,” but, is crime really so bad as it was on the Eastside? As a whole, this year our City Council District 5 reported two murders from Jan. 1 through June 30, the lowest of any district, and drilling down to the Lone Star neighborhood, violent crimes make up about 15 percent of all our reported crimes, based on YTD stats gathered by the Neighborhood Association. However, people be thievin’ on the regular over here, too. Those same statistics show that burglary and theft of homes, businesses, and cars accounts for nearly 40 percent of reported crimes in Lone Star. We also have our fair share of tacky graffiti, and, to hear some meeting attendees tell it, panhandlers. In a follow-up interview McManus explained that the Eastside’s huge coordinated push led to a misconception about POP. “Lone Star is not going to be ‘the next’ big initiative,” he said, “POP can be a smaller project that the police substation manages.” And don’t worry too much, Lone Starites, any neighborhood with quality of life concerns could benefit from a POP, said McManus during the meeting. “Every neighborhood in the City wants a POP, so we have to pick our battles.” He surveyed the large and attentive crowd, “just form the turnout here tonight, this is the next battlefield.” McManus appeared with local SAFFE officer Steve Ornelaz, two code compliance officers, COSA Housing and Neighborhood Services Department sweep program analyst Domingo Portillo and Michael Tejeda, chief of staff for Councilman David Medina office. Portillo got high marks for accessibility, handing out his business card to everyone at the meeting and ensuring the Association that he is “on call 24/7,” to help address issues from speeding to improperly parked cars.
Somewhat less impressive was Mr. Tejeda’s advocacy of the 311 system. “I’m gonna tell you, the service level is getting pretty high,” he indeed told the crowd. Based on some 311 responses (or lackthereof) discussed in the meeting, it seemed the only thing “getting pretty high” was the 311 responders themselves. Like the one who recommended an elderly lady (yes, there were more than one in attendance), corral a pit bull that liked to chase her home from church in her own yard until Animal Care Services could come and pick it up, which takes at least one day unless it starts biting grandma. Tejeda also tickled us when a concerned Deborah Vasquez, an artist at the Gallista Gallery at Lone Star and Flores and new owner of the adjacent Cafe Citlali, asked if anything was being done to address the underlying issues of panhandlers asking businesses and residents for food or money. She said she didn’t mind helping them, but seemed a little peeved at the audience’s callous calls to make more effort to lock up spare-change-seekers. “Are there any efforts to be proactive?” she wondered. Tejeda replied that perhaps they could consider not just fining the hapless hand-out seekers, but also the business owners throwing a taco or two their way. “I think you’re misunderstanding me,” she said. To his credit, we later observed Tejeda and Vasquez in private conversation, hopefully clarifying Vasquez’s important question.
To here McManus tell it, POP may be more aligned with Vasquez’s social justice concerns than one would normally expect of a police initiative. “You can’t arrest all these problems away,” he repeated to us (see “No Happy Endings” in Aug. 4 QueQue ) before acknowledging, “I say that all the time.” A neighborhood like Lone Star might not need an initiative on the scale of the Eastside’s, but he reckoned, it likely needs a little extra TLC to address the type of small potatoes issues that pile up on residents, especially the elderly and impoverished, and can lead to neglect. “When the appearance of a neighborhood is bad, it attracts bad things, that’s how neighborhoods go into a tailspin,” he told me. First, code compliance officers, SAFFE officers and members of other relevant city departments (Animal Care Services comes to mind...) meet with neighborhood residents to identify the most pressing, systemic issues. Then the most relevant city agencies develop a response plan to address the issue, which is then evaluated for effectiveness until the end goal is reached. That doesn’t always mean dispatching more cop cars, or writing more tickets. “This area needs a smarter approach than simply saturating it with extra police,” McManus said. It could be simply identifying city programs that the neighborhood could tap into, like graffiti abatement or housing grants.
I immediately thought about the two vacant lots on my block, the shady warehouse, and the neighbor’s yard that reeked of cat pee before recalling the many amateur gardeners on my street, the art galleries around the corner and the new Mission Reach bike trail an easy pedal down the road. Not exactly a set from “The Wire”, but still, not even atheists want pit bulls chasing little old church ladies down their block.
How do you like them apples, Arizona? Even as Texas steps up border militarization via National Guard troops, many San Antonians cheered for the preliminary injunction against the controversial Arizona senate bill.
Had the entire bill gone into effect on its scheduled July 29 date, it would have effectively made being an illegal immigrant a state crime in Arizona. But U.S. District Court judge Susan Bolton, after hearing oral arguments on suits brought against Arizona by both the U.S. Department of Justice and human rights groups ACLU and MALDEF, barred several of the most ire-inducing elements from being implemented. Those included: requiring police to check the legal status of anyone under “reasonable suspicion” of being an illegal immigrant; requiring police to check immigration status before releasing arrested individuals; allowing warrantless arrests of foreign nationals if the alleged crime is punishable by deportation; and requiring all foreign nationals to carry papers proving their legal status in the U.S.
San Antonio resident Nina Perales, southwest legal counsel for MALDEF, was of counsel on that group’s plea for the preliminary injunction and said they were pleased with Judge Bolton’s order. “An independent immigration process is a very serious matter and very unconstitutional,” she said Monday. “What Arizona was trying to do was set up its own immigration system with its own set of crimes and its own enforcement that were distinct from federal policy.” Both the White House and the human rights coalition asking for the injunction argued that allowing a state to form immigration policy separate from federal policy encroached on the nation’s constitutional responsibility and set a dangerous precedent. “The threat is a patchwork of immigigration schemes that cause interferrance with foreign policy and our relationship with other countries, and endanger U.S. citizens abroad,” said Perales.
Nadine Saliba, a member of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center said “I had a great sense of relief when I first heard the news. I was pretty emotional. The prospect of what could have happened was awful.” However, she cautions, “Some of the most egregious elements have been stopped, but we can’t forget other elements of the law are in effect now.” While Saliba, herself a non-Mexican immigrant to the U.S. uses the words “ridiculous,” “dangerous,” and “demumanizing,” to characterize the pieces of the bill not stayed by an injunction, including criminalizing the knowing transportation or harboring of illegal immigrants and hiring day laborers off the streets, Perales did not appear as worried. She noted the judge could still overturn that portion of the bill when she rules on it later this year, likely in November or later.Both women agree that the injunction sends a clear message to the handful of legislators in other states, like Texas, seeking to introduce a similar bill. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision late on Friday not to expedite an appeal on the injunction hearing strengthens SB 1070 opponents’ belief that the bill will ultimately be overturned. Even though this bill, and immigration issues, will rightfully continue to be hot-button issues during fall’s mid-term elections “I think that this has taken the wind out of the sails of the most extreme anti-immigrant politicians,” said Perales. “They can’t point to this law as an example as something states should do.”
After months of anxious waiting for news from the U.S. Department of Energy on needed federal loan guarantees, NRG Energy, one of the City of San Antonio’s partners at the South Texas Project nuclear facility in Matagorda County, announced today it will idle payments into a planned two-reactor nuclear expansion on the Texas coast.
By reducing its monthly expenses by roughly 95 percent, partner Toshiba will be left carrying even more of the day-to-day responsibility for developing the site.
If that weren’t bad enough, the pesky U.S. Department of Energy has been lobbying Japan and France to kick in more for what have become bi-national projects of sorts.
From the WaPo back in June (emphasis mine):
Retired Air Force Major General Susan Pamerleau confirmed today that she is seeking the Republican nod to run against Precinct Four County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson. Adkisson's previous opponent, Larry Click, a retired deputy sheriff who was uncontested in the Republican primary, died suddenly July 19.
Pamerleau, who spent eight of her 15 years in the military in San Antonio, is also retired from USAA. "I chose to retire here," she said. Eight months ago, she moved downtown and, she says, she loves it.
According to the Bexar County Republican Party, at least one other candidate is seeking the party's nomination -- the choice will be made by the Precinct 4 Republican Precinct Chairs on August 14. If Pamerleau does get the nod, says one local political consultant, "I think that is a race. That is [Adkisson's] worst-case scenario."
Adkisson, a 12-year incumbent, handily defeated former District 2 Council Member Sheila McNeil in the Democratic primary, despite polls that reportedly showed him to be vulnerable -- and despite some business support that may now coalesce behind Pamerleau. Since then, however, Adkisson, who chairs the Metropolitan Planning Organization, has refused to hand over emails addressing the toll-road issue from his personal email account, incurring bad press in the process.
When we reached General Pamerleau on her cell phone, she was walking (! in 100-degree weather) to an appointment downtown, and had to go just as we were asking her what we're told is the toughest question to answer in politics: Why are you running? We're looking forward to learning the answer asap.
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