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The Que Que

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Photo Illustration by Chuck Kerr

 

Cowed by the Feds

Ah, us chicken hearts, ’fraid a little foot-and-mouth disease will get loose in the wilds of Far West San Antonio should the Feds decide to relocate and expand the Plum Island bio-defense facility at the Texas Research Park. [See “Banging the drum for Bio-defense,” August 15, 2007.] Ambition should be made of sterner stuff, the Bard once said — and indeed ’tis among our Congressional delegation. Lone Star representatives Lamar Smith (R), Charlie Gonzalez and Ciro Rodriguez (Ds, the both of them, although you wouldn’t always know it to look at the latter’s voting record) presented themselves to the Department of Homeland Security last week to remind its Science and Technology Directorate why San Antonio is the best of the five NBAF finalists when it comes to manufacturing swine fevers, Japanese encephalitis, and various invincible viruses in an effort to figure out how to then kill them (this is an ends justifies the means sort of universe here, so if you can’t hang, please scroll your eyes on down the page).

Those reasons: We already have a (private) Level 4 biosafety lab and we love all things military (Military City, U.S.A. Congressman Gonzalez reminded the Queque). But our rarest resource, is, as the press release noted: “the support of the local community,” and “community support needed for the NBAF to succeed.” Read: Not much in the way of protests.

Gonzalez told the Queque that, sure, recent developments in the 2001-02 anthrax attacks (engineered, it seems, from an American lab) give him a moment’s pause, but “the bottom line is, the research has to take place. ... The havoc that could be created as a result of a biological agent ... those are a real concern.”

DHS assured the Texas party that they’re on track for an October decision, so should you not feel warm and fuzzy about our NBAF prospects, you have two opportunities to make yourself heard, this Thursday, August 7, from 12:30-
4:30 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. at the Radisson Hill Country Ballroom, 9800 Westover Hills Blvd. Call (210) 509-9800 for location info. [Want some talking points, including Homeland Security’s own very good reasons for keeping the microbes off the mainland? See Last Words, July 2-8.]

The history, boys

Thanks to an eagle-eyed downtown denizen, the handiwork of a late 19th-century stonemason won’t be buried (again) under the Embassy Suites hotel soon to rise at the corner of Soledad and Travis. Our historically minded whistleblower was correct when s/he noted that the fragments of limestone wall revealed in the excavation are perilously close to significant archeological sites (Fernando Veramendi’s virtual palace and the De La Garza hacienda, home to Texas’s first mint), but says SA’s Interim Historic Preservation Officer (and official archeologist) Kay Hindes, the rocks that caused the alarm are from an 1880s building that served as a pharmacy and hotel, among other things.

Hindes, who’s been working with the hotel developer since 2006, says they’ve done their due diligence, including an “extensive report” prepared by an archeological consulting firm (yes, we’ve ordered a copy, but these things take time) that complies with the state’s Antiquities Code (which, as a private land owner they’re not required to meet, but the City politely insists on these things during the Historic and Design Review process, or in this case, a replatting request).

What would cause a full-on stop-work order? Any intact structural pieces or artifacts from the Colonia era, and in particular the Siege of Bexar, says Hindes, but even though the City considers this discovery plain-ol’ old, not special old, Hindes did ask the developer to salvage the limestone “instead of it going to a landfill.” No word yet on where it’ll end up.

He’ll eat his cake, too

Mayor Phil Hardberger went to the Rotary Club last week to make two major points, and he made them both convincingly. The only problem was that his arguments contradicted each other.

Hardberger began his July 30 luncheon speech at Bright Shawl with a review of the city’s accomplishments over the last three years, and an assurance that, despite worrisome recent news from AT&T and Toyota, San Antonio is firmly in the middle of a golden age.

“Our future is bright and our economy is sound, probably more than at any time in our history,” gushed the mayor, who suggested that the staid, conservative, resistant-to-change SA of the 1960s has given way to a wide-open, entrepreneurial city.

While arguing that things have never been better here, however, he abruptly shifted gears to warn us that term limits are holding the city back.

“This is not about keeping politicians in office,” Hardberger said at the unofficial launch of his term-limit-extension campaign. “That doesn’t matter to me. It’s about having accountability in local government. If people make campaign promises, they should have time to get those things done. Otherwise, we keep churning and churning, but we’re not making any butter.

To convincingly make the case that the Council isn’t “making any butter” under the current revolving-door system, Hardberger may have to resort to a gloominess that’s not only contrary to his nature, but also at odds with the rosy picture he paints of his tenure. It could be a hard sell.

Exculpability

“We are the execution champs, and I think that speaks to the Law of Parties,” Say-town defense attorney Rusty Guyer told the MashUp last year, “and it comes back to, this penalty as it is on the books is supposed to be used for the worst and most heinous crimes involving the death of another.” Guyer was discussing in part the case of Kenneth Foster, convicted and sentenced to die for a ride-along on an unplanned murder. [See “The Law of Parties,” August 29, 2007.] Governor Good Hair commuted Foster’s sentence to life, and justice activists are now asking him to do the same for another South Texas resident, Jeff Wood, who has a date with the executioner August 21 for the 1996 killing of Kerrville convenience-store clerk Kris Keeran. As in Foster’s case, it’s unclear what Wood agreed to on that fateful day, but he wasn’t the trigger man. Activists gathered at the Alamo Saturday to protest the death sentence and the law. For more info on the Law of Parties and contact info for the Guv, visit texasmoratorium.org.

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