> The QueQue
The QueQue was super-excited to read E-N columnist Carlos Guerra’s exposé of the brutish behavior of local police officers during his January 15 arrest for suspected DWI. Even when you’re pulling over a car that comes up as “stolen,” helmed by a driver who’s just had a “sumptuous dinner” and “two glasses of wine ... consumed over a three-hour period,” Miss Manners standards should apply. We’re busy penning a follow-up pitch about that time the QueQue was detained by Illinois’ finest, who thought Texas license plate + long-haired Tex-Mex boyfriend just might = drug smugglers. When we declined to assent to a car search, they yelled at us. In the land of fucking Lincoln. Our polite, almost-whispered, assertion of our rights netted us a lengthy roadside wait for drug-sniffing dogs, wherein we passed the time with interminable small talk designed to demonstrate how little we knew about border contraband much less the smuggling of it, until one of the troopers remembered that they didn’t have any drug-sniffing dogs and let us go about our business. But now that SA’s paper of record is fully on the police-brutality bandwagon, surely justice lurks nearby.
The San Antonio Free Speech Coalition awaits a court date for its parade-ordinance lawsuit with new presiding Justice Fred Biery following the January 15 surprise departure of Federal Judge Xavier Rodriguez.
Rodriguez ruled last February that several provisions in the City’s new parade ordinance were unconstitutional, in part because they gave the City too much discretion in setting fees, which could effectively result in silencing groups with controversial messages by levying heavy expenses for cops and barricades. The City has since rewritten parts of the law and asked the court to lift the injunction, but the Coalition argues that the costs, which can range from two grand to 30K, are still prohibitive. A reasonable application fee is OK, says lead Coalition attorney Amy Kastely, but making citizens pay for cops who are already on duty is not.
Judge Rodriguez recused himself after the plaintiffs added Assistant City Attorney Veronica Zertuche, practically his kissin’ cousin, to their witness list. When the City handed over copies of 2008 parade permits to the Coalition in early January, the plaintiffs learned that Zertuche had been asked to determine whether two permit applicants were holding First Amendment Processions, which qualify for a discount.
Biery could decide to address the City’s plea to lift the injunction and/or its pending motion for summary judgment, or proceed directly to trial. The Coalition plans to use the down time to continue educating the community about the issue.
“Our position is that all processions, parades, and marches are First Amendment processions,” Kastely said. “What is especially problematic is for City officials to be empowered by the ordinance to tell someone their procession is or is not protected by the First Amendment.”
You can find the case documents and orders to date at esperanzacenter.org/freespeech, along with links to join the Coalition, sign a petition, etc. Kastely expects to get a new court date in the next few weeks, although as of last week, the copious paperwork had yet to be transferred from Rodriguez to Biery.
It didn’t have to turn out this way. That is to say (current global economic depression aside), perfect.
Those who have been working for more than six months, meeting in committee, gathering in public hearings, and reviewing and debating various consultants’ reports to the city, are feasting on the success of their two-parts-vision, one-part-luck approach today at the much anticipated roll-out of Mayor Hardberger’s sustainability plan, “Mission Verde.” [See “Hardberger’s ‘Mission Verde’ not impossible,” January 7.]
It seems San Antonio is for once in stride with the Fates — skillfully disguised this visitation as the Obama Administration. Mission Verde, eerily mirroring the President’s own stimulus priorities, is expected to be packed with plans for the weatherization of housing stock and municipal buildings, engorged with mass transportation and hike-and-bike trails, and set to stimulate a future of low-carbon energy solutions and employment opportunity.
Hardberger advisor Larry Zinn said that while today’s energy and environmental aspirations weren’t exactly a secret a year ago, more recent developments could not have been predicted.
“They all talked about renewable energy, green jobs, and all that,” Zinn said of the presidential candidates. “What we didn’t know was that the economy was going to crash and in his first weeks in office Obama was going to totally recreate the economy.”
Fortunately, Obama has been drawing from the same pool of experts as Hardberger and company. The newly elected president and former community organizer was once a board member at the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology, the same non-profit sustainability group that first served notice on San Antonio’s energy vulnerabilities (and opportunities) last June, creating a starting square for Verde’s development.
How far will Mission Verde go? Into what nether regions of the green development buffet will Hardy’s tongs venture? If you haven’t registered for the Chamber-sponsored State of the City Address being held today at noon, you’ll have to listen to the broadcast. As many as 880 people have already reserved seats — selling out the annual affair that typically brings in about 500 to 600, according to one Chamber rep.
Don’t feel bad, though. This vision seems to be spreading. You’ll likely catch it sooner or later.
Perhaps it will even spread to CPS Energy. Bolstered by the pro-nuke-development words of Obama energy czar Steven Chu, the board of our publicly owned utility voted unanimously January 20 to throw another $60 million at the possibility of the opportunity of the promise of nuclear power that could lower SA electric bills in ... 32 years. Or: approx. 9,968 to 999,968 years before the radioactive waste it generates will no longer pose a threat to humans, animals, and water supplies. [See the QueBlog at sacurrent.com if you missed last week’s update on the West Texas nuke dump backed by a Republican sugar daddy, and check “CPS must die,” October 24, 2007, to follow the SA new-nuke story from the beginning.].
The board, including our reputedly enviro Mayor, was quick to note that the additional cash — which brings our total investment to date to $267 million — doesn’t mean CPS will vote to actually build two new reactors at the South Texas Project when they make a final decision (penciled in for fall 2009), but merely guarantees our place in line should the Feds start handing out subsidies.
Texas Senator John Cornyn has been working hard to position himself as the GOP’s top attack dog now that Dick Cheney is off to Dr. Evil’s Retirement Home for Used-Up Despots. The Lone Star State’s second banana single-handedly sought to hold up Hillary Clinton’s confirmation as Secretary of State, calling for more transparency on foreign donations to the foundation headed by hubby Bill, then colluded with GOP cohorts to delay the confirmation hearing of Attorney General-designee Eric Holder, saying he wants assurances Holder won’t prosecute intelligence officials from the Bush administration for their role in torture schemes.
“We should not let our respect for Senator Clinton… or the many good works of the Clinton Foundation blind us to the danger of perceived conflicts of interest caused by the solicitation of hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign and some domestic sources,” said Cornyn on the Senate Floor last week, a sentiment the QueQue can get behind. Cornyn voted to confirm Clinton, but said he’d be working on legislation for “an across-the-board disclosure requirement” that isn’t just targeted at the former first couple. Cornyn spokesperson Kevin McLaughlin says the legislation intends to make it illegal for Cabinet-level appointees (and their spouses) to accept payments or donations from foreign entities while they serve.
But Cornyn, who voted to confirm the disastrous Alberto Gonzales, has been accused of classic partisan politics for essentially asking Holder to make a determination about who to prosecute, or not, before he has all the facts. McLaughlin says Cornyn simply wants to protect those who were just following orders, deemed legal at the time, to defend the country.
The delayed committee vote on Holder’s confirmation is now scheduled for today.
The Planning Department is set to release a much-anticipated report on the City’s Digital Billboard Pilot Program just after this week’s print deadline, and opponents of the eye-catching signage — owned almost exclusively by Clear Channel in SA — will be delighted to learn that staff are asking for another nine months to study the traffic-safety impacts before they make a recommendation to Council. The year-long pilot program expired in early December 2008, capping our local digital-billboard count at 15 unless Council approves a new ordinance. [See “Hang ‘em high (and fast), August 27, 2008, et al.]
The City had originally proposed comparing three months of crash data from before and after the sign installations, an idea that opponents and, ahem, some local media ridiculed as elementary to the point of criminal. The City came around, aided perhaps by conversations with the likes of Jerry Wachtel of the Veridian Group, whom the City contacted in October 2008 for advice.
“I explained to [Chief SA Sign Inspector David] Simpson that, in my opinion, and in the opinion of others who have written on this subject, accident studies such as this, in general, and particularly those collecting data for only a six month total period, would not produce meaningful results,” Wachtel wrote in a January 17 memo.
“We just looked at [the data] we had, and it doesn’t really tell us anything,” said Planning Director Rod Sanchez. The report recommends that the department return to Council with a more thorough study next October. •