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The QueQue

 

Pee
porridge hot

In the ongoing case against Bexar County Probation — your local “don’t ask me for a reliable pee test” Community Supervision and Corrections Department — we spy justice’s golden glimmer.

Local attorney David Van Os has been busy gathering depositions from Chief Bill Fitzgerald, his legal eagle Kathy Cline, and others, despite a motion by the defendants to stave off the pesky champion of the laboring class.

You remember the case, right? Sheri Simonelli and others were trying to unionize at work and instead found themselves greeted by mandatory retention interviews over Christmas. Simonelli was booted right after she voiced her thoughts to the local media. Service Workers International and the Central Texas Association of Public Employees joined Simonelli and a dozen probation workers in suing Fitzgerald. [See Test-tube maybes,” October 1, 2008.]

At the heart of the lawsuit is a small matter of several months of inaccurate urine testing for county probationers and the stream of allegations by those who swear they were locked up over them. From a what-did-they-know-and-when perspective, these depositions should provide some clarifying clarity — without a $39.99 investment in shady online kits.

Fitzgerald et al. had begged the court to shield them from the crush of Plaintiffs additional discovery” that their attorneys swore would prove “excessive and unduly burdensome” in a motion filed in federal court March 20. The judge’s reply (paraphrasing here) came back: “Nnnah.”

Van Os and his team will wrap up their interviews by the end of next month. It would appear this simmering 2007 case could actually hit court this year.

The D2 Federation

It’s true, says District 2 candidate Ivy Taylor, that contender Byron Miller called and suggested she forego the June 13 runoff in favor of “unity,” as Express-News columnist Jaime Castillo reported last week.

Sixty-percent of the people didn’t vote for him, but he calls me and asks me to bow out,” said Taylor, who declined the offer.

Miller polled just under 40 percent of the district’s voters May 9, while Taylor racked up just under 30 percent. The bulk of the remainder went to the San Antonio Crime Coalition’s Dan Martinez, who also serves on the SAPD’s Citizen Advisory Action Board and is one of the architects of the Eastern Triangle Community Plan (scheduled go before Council this week, but likely to be postponed till the new D2 CM is sworn in, says Martinez). Martinez endorsed Miller last week, and the QueQue wondered if that meant a post for civic-minded Martinez if Miller wins the runoff. Martinez says he’s pretty busy already, but “[Miller’s] agreed to involve me in his administration.”

“He’s asked me if I would be on the Planning Commission,” added Martinez, who says he told Miller “I would go ahead and serve wherever he thought I was best-suited for.”

Martinez says he endorsed Miller because Miller “embraced my agenda for District 2, which is a hospital ... that and the Eastern Triangle Plan.” With his high-profile community involvement and 18 percent of the May 9 vote, Martinez is a valuable endorsement for Miller, but new Miller PR man Tommy Calvert should review his talking points. “[Miller’s] wife is very supportive of him,” Martinez told the Current. But QueQue readers will recall that Miller’s wife is actually his ex-wife, with whom he swears he doesn’t live outside of District 2, making a live-work home instead in the small office bungalow on Paso Hondo, where we’re still awaiting an invitation for tea and a tour of the domestic half. With Miller going into the runoff as the likely favorite to win, his putative District 2 residences will come under additional scrutiny. As the QueBlog first reported January 16 (See “I hear you knockin’ but you can’t come in”), Miller claimed a purely commercial address on Commerce Street as his domicile when he first ran for the Edwards Aquifer Authorityboard. QueQue’s already getting emails about it.

Burn notice

The American Clean Energy and Security Act was widely hailed by the broader environmental community when the discussion draft was quietly released weeks ago, but Greenpeace USA has already withdrawn its support for the legislation.

“To avoid the worst impacts of global warming, science tells us that the United States and other developed nations must collectively achieve emissions cuts of at least 25-40-percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80-95 percent by 2050,” wrote the bane of whalers everywhere. “But ACES, as it currently stands, only sets a domestic target of approximately 4 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Even with additional measures elsewhere in the legislation, the U.S. effort would still fall far short of the emissions cuts that climate scientists say are necessary.”

Salt in the wound comes courtesy of our own Representative Charlie Gonzalez, who sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, where the climate bill was born. Instead of getting behind the legislation early on and pushing for improvements, Gonzalez has angled for two things: more support for nuclear power and free pollution credits for utilities. He told the Express-News last week that he was hoping to keep local utility rates down and was motivated by his daily contact with City-owned CPS Energy — which the QueQue discovered a while back has spent more than $90,000of its ratepayer revenues lobbying against cap-and-trade legislation.

Gonzalez apparently didn’t get the nuke subsidies he was searching for, but that standard has been taken up with gusto on the Senate side by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who hopes to increase the pot of money available for new nuke plants through the U.S. Department of Energy.

From her website we read:

“As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, we ask that you ensure that the DoE Loan Guarantee Program has the necessary funds to further develop nuclear power for the country with these 17 applications.”

At last week’s public hearing for City-owned CPS Energy’s proposal to tackle a ream of conservation measures by raising energy rates a nearly imperceptible amount.

Several Council members did inquire when CPS would have some firm-ish numbers for the proposed construction of two additonal nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project. The answer is June 18, according to CPS acting General Manager Steve Bartley. And, he suggested, we can expect a rate-increase discussion next spring, based on the nuclear decision this fall.

While we wait for official word, the most recent nuke-cost projection comes from the green camp, which estimates the project could cost as much as $22 billion. [Details on the STEP Conservation proposal, which comes up for vote at Council this week, can be found on QueBlog at
sacurrent.com.]

Mean streets

Lower-than-expected revenue is forcing the Council to cut an additional $15.3 million out of this year’s budget, and your representatives tackled the problem with the expected enthusiasm last week. A few weeks earlier, City Staff had recommended deferring street-maintenance work, but District 5 Councilwoman Lourdes Galvan, sensitive about the West Side’s notoriously rough ride (and worried about a tough election challenge), convinced her colleagues to put off a vote until May 14, by which time the City Staff would present an alternative plan.

That alternative featured cuts to library, summer-youth, and animal-care programs, and the slashing of 231 jobs. Given the choice between putting off street repairs for what could be as little as three months, and making cuts in vital services, even Galvan conceded that the mean-streets option was preferable. A picture of frustration only a few weeks ago, a mellower Galvan noted that the City had almost doubled its street-repair budget over the last five years and said — to her constituents as much as her colleagues — “we’ve done a lot of work on streets.” For her willingness to bend on the issue, Hardberger praised her as a peerless champion for pavement, which may be cold comfort if repeat contender David Medina unseats her in the June 13 runoff (he trailed her by less than two percentage points May 9).

Council’s approval of the street-maintenance deferment put out one fiscal fire, but there are blazes building over the hill. Budget Director Peter Zanoni projects an $11.2-million shortfall for fiscal-year 2010 (a projection that could be optimistic, given the way the City overestimated its revenues this year), but the number that could cause incoming Mayor Julián Castro to lose some sleep is the 2011 projection: a shortfall of $67.5 million. But he can take heart on at least one count: His landslide victory over three credible opponents saved the City $700,000 in funding that would have been needed for a citywide runoff.

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