The past month has been a pretty busy time for Arkansas on several fronts. In some ways, the state seems ready to go after new economic development and work at maintaining what it has today. But, thanks to a few socially conservative legislators, it almost sent a message to the business community that if economic did consider relocating to the state, not everyone would be welcome. It’s a state in conflict and Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the one public official who should be herding the cats, has been late to the issue almost every time. But there may be some opportunity ahead.
How does one start a blog entry that tries to capture over a quarter of a century in a city? Where do you start? Even more so, where do you end? But, end I must, even if it’s with heavy heart and fond memory of my time in the Alamo City, one of America’s historic and cultural gems. Even during my two week long farewell tour, I know there are many friends I would have loved to have said goodbye to. But, as I’ve told those who I did connect with, “there’s always Facebook.” So maybe it’s best to look at what I’ve learned and experienced during these 27 years here.
We’re less than two months away from San Antonio’s municipal election where we’ll be electing a mayor and ten council members, as well as voting on charter changes and an extension to an 1/8 cent sales tax for aquifer protection and creek way development. With less than eight weeks left until the election, details are sorely lacking online from the candidates. It’s time for some reasons to support these candidates, and those reasons may have to come from you.
This May, voters will be faced with some big changes to the City Charter, most notably a change to how the City compensates council members for their service on City Council. It will be an interesting ballot since it will also include a charter amendment regarding rail in the city, replacement council members and the mayor, cleanup language of some other charter provisions, an extension of a sales tax for aquifer protection and linear creekways, council elections, and probably one of the most competitive mayoral races we’ve seen in a while. That’s a busy ballot, maybe too busy.
As promised, I held any indication of my support for the San Antonio mayoral race until after filing was over. I do that to allow the opportunity for a better candidate to enter the race, giving myself a chance to truly evaluate the field. That period is over and, based on the slate of candidates for mayor, I feel Mike Villarreal would be the best choice for mayor of the city. This is based more on fact and vision than personality or past loyalties. There are reasons to support Mike and reasons not to support the others, which I will outline.
Recently, Gov. Scott Walker fielded some questions regarding his reaction to Rudy Giuliani’s remarks about Obama, followed by questions of whether he thought the president was a Christian or not. Walker deflected the questions adequately in my opinion. He said, “You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian?” If you’ve ever read my thoughts on this subject, you should know I agree with Walker on this.
While it seemed odd to have the first mayoral debate before the filing period closed for the office, three of the lead candidates in the field squared off before a substantial crowd at Churchill High School. Sponsored by the Asian American Alliance of San Antonio, the debate gave voters their first chance to see how the candidates would frame their campaigns side by side on a variety of issues facing the city. Based on the interest in this first debate, these candidates will probably be in demand for more, possibly rivaling the 2012 Republican presidential marathon the American public endured.
The January 15th campaign finance reports for the 2015 San Antonio municipal elections are out. What they reveal is who’s been hard at work getting ready for the elections. What they also reveal is who supports who in terms of money in the bank. But just like any good story, there’s always a good subplot to be revealed and these reports have plenty of subplots in them. One of the biggest involves campaign finances that seem to drift between state and local regulations, namely those of Mike Villarreal and Leticia Van de Putte.
Today San Antonio honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with what many consider one of the largest MLK marches in the nation. With an expected crowd of over 120,000, it’s hard to dispute that claim. But today, when I asked a friend who has lived on the Eastside if he was going to the March, he had an interesting reply. He said, “When it’s all over and people pack up their signs and all the buses leave, the dogs come back out, the drug dealers go right back to the street corners, the ladies prance up and down the streets, and the gunshots ring out again in the night.” His point was simple; why join something that seems like more of a “feel good” show than a call to action?
Recently, a New York Times article speculated about the possibility that Pres. Obama’s presidential library could end up at Columbia University in NYC if a land ownership dispute is not resolved in Chicago. At issue is a concern by the library’s foundation that the potential site would be on land controlled by the Chicago Parks District, not the University of Chicago or the City of Chicago. To me, changing the venue to NYC would be a wrong move and uncharacteristic of the role presidential libraries play in our nation. But, as always, there’s more to the story and I decided to dig into that story.
There has been quite a bit of press lately regarding campaign contributions. In fact, one candidate for the SD-26 race, Trey Martinez-Fischer, seems to have made it his mission to call out another candidate, Jose Menendez, for a double standard of sorts regarding allegiance. The issue is contributions from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a PAC focused on tort reform, something trial lawyers seem to hate with a vengeance. But just as Jesus warned the Pharisees, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” If that were the case, Martinez-Fischer would be in a big heap of trouble trying to accuse Menendez.
My inner data nerd kicked in last night and I decided to pull the campaign finance data for the special elections for the SD-26 and HD-123 races in San Antonio. After all, I had been blitzed by Trey Martinez-Fischer ads showing how much he cared for San Antonio and how his roots are deep in this city. Then I saw where he had raised close to $800,000 for this special election, outpacing not only his nearest opponent, but all candidates combined in both races by a 2 to 1 margin. So I decided to run the numbers to see where this jackpot of money came from and the results were pretty startling.
By now, you’ve probably had your fill of the Uber, Lyft, taxi, horse and buggy, river barge, jitney debate in San Antonio. After Thursday’s 7-2 vote on the matter, it’s pretty much done for a while. Whether the TNCs pull out of the city has yet to be determined. San Antonio isn’t like most cities in the nation since we have not only a thriving tourist industry, but is recognized as a convention or business destination. That’s a lot of money to leave on the table. But the real question that has to be asked is why it had to end up like it did?
Today, City Council picked their three applicants to consider for a successor for the unexpired District 1 seat. While I have thoughts about the selection of those three, that’s not for me to explore publicly. But I can say that one man seeking that office took me on a journey that gave me faith in people committed to public service. When he called me over a week ago to express his interest, never did I ever think I’d get to watch and work with someone as committed to the task of serving the people as Gavin Rogers. Even though he was not selected in that top three, he’s definitely in the top three of those he met.
Last night Sen. Leticia Van de Putte answered the question that has been outstanding since the November election – whether she was going to run for mayor or not. Citing encouragement from political and community leaders, Van de Putte has decided to exit the Senate at the beginning of the session to run for mayor of San Antonio in the May 2015 municipal election. Her decision comes after being recently defeated in the Lieutenant Governor by Sen. Dan Patrick, a staunch conservative. Now the question is if voters will give her a second chance to serve in what is expected to be a crowded field of candidates.