City Council Endorsements–the obvious
It’s getting very close to the start of early voting for San Antonio’s municipal election scheduled for May 14th. Early voting will start on May 2nd and run through May 10th at various locations around the city. Several people have been making their endorsements of candidates and I should as well, considering how closely I try to follow the municipal environment in San Antonio. This round is what I call the obvious or simple endorsements. In many cases it’s because there is one strong candidate in the field. Regardless, an assessment should be made of the field since all races have multiple candidates. I’ll come out with endorsements in District 1, 4 and 7 later.
Mayor – Julian Castro
In my mind this is an easy choice, especially considering the field of candidates. Since taking office in 2009 Mayor Castro has continued to move San Antonio forward during difficult times and has taken the lead on critical issues for the city. Castro began his career tackling probably one of the more contentious issues in our city regarding CPS’s investment in the STP nuclear plant. He brought a sense of calm decision making to the table and, in the end, San Antonio not only benefited by avoiding a costly investment but also a resolution of a leadership issue at CPS.
Castro led the city in a visioning process to help develop a plan to take San Antonio to the future, or the year 2020 at least, in an effort called SA2020. The results of that process speak volumes for the dedication and engagement by the citizens of San Antonio. Out of that process Castro has started focusing on three key issues instrumental in creating change in San Antonio to position for the future: urban core, education, and transportation. In general, Castro’s continued leadership will be vital to seeing a stronger and well positioned San Antonio.
District 2 – Ivy Taylor
Councilwoman Ivy Taylor has exhibited some strong leadership capabilities in representing District 2, the east side of San Antonio. After winning a close election and runoff Taylor dug into her district and began tackling some critical problems such as revitalization for the area, especially in light of the expected growth from the BRAC expansion planned for Fort Sam Houston. Working with Mayor Castro, Taylor helped lead a Reinvestment Summit in January of 2010 to focus on the key issues of the area and what should be done to meet the needs of the BRAC expansion.
Taylor continues to work hard for the district and is seen regularly at public forums and community outreach events, doing more than just speaking by engaging with citizens. Taylor’s opponent, Darrell Boyce, does not exhibit the same kind of leadership skills Taylor has demonstrated during her first term in office. Boyce’ only really opposing point against Taylor was a zoning case that ended up being resolved. As the Express-News noted today, Taylor’s track record speaks for itself and her continuance on city council will help guide District 2 into some crucial growth years.
District 3 – No endorsement
When looking at District 3 I cannot in right mind endorse any candidate in the field. Incumbent Jennifer Ramos has not exhibited the kind of leadership expected of our council members and faced ethics charges recently brought by one of her opponent’s sister regarding her relationship with WellMed. The results of those charges ended up being an admonishment but this is not the first time Ramos has been in the hot seat regarding ethical issues. Had Ramos provided some strong leadership in the district that was game-changing it might be somewhat acceptable to lean towards Ramos but she has not.
Her opponents have their own issues, including a lack of knowledge of the the key issues facing District 3 and the city. In a recent editorial board interview by the Express-News, neither of the opponents, Elizabeth Campos or Ernest Zamora Jr., had any knowledge of Castro’s recent Brainpower Initiative which has received wide-spread coverage. That lack of knowledge resulted in a “no endorsement” position by the Express-News and one that I chose to take also. When the choices are bad all around, there’s no reason to prop up bad choices. Hopefully a better candidate will emerge in District 3 to provide strong representation for the district which is home to Texas A&M-San Antonio and Toyota.
District 5 – David Medina
Councilman David Medina is the best choice for District 5 against former Councilwoman Lourdes Galvan. While Medina is still struggling to really find a voice on council his actions and work for the district have at least served his constituents well and provided some improvements to the district, one of the poorest in the city. The match-up between Medina and Galvan is in its third round, something I wrote about a while back. Medina does do a lot of ribbon-cuttings but those are the results of work to develop projects in the area.
Galvan doesn’t really bring any strong reasons to the table for replacing Medina other than he didn’t execute her projects. Granted those projects probably merited review but, in some cases, it’s best to start anew and reassess the priorities of the district. Galvan’s career on council was lackluster and there’s no reason to believe she has any new initiatives in her bag. In fact, she’s really running on the position she left in 2009. As such, the district will be well served to retain Medina for another term. Hopefully, he’ll start to grow during this next term an provide deeper leadership for the district, especially after the 2012 bond election.
District 6 – Ray Lopez
Councilman Ray Lopez is another who hasn’t really shined on council since taking office in 2009. As noted by the Express-News in their endorsement position, Lopez seems to have some of the same problems as Ramos in terms of understanding our city’s ethics codes. Those kind of things shouldn’t be dogging a council member and serve as more of a deterrent to their public service and the constituents of the district. Granted, we don’t really help our council members much with the very meager compensation we pay them. But they knew this when they signed up for the office and should adhere to the rules of the game.
Lopez has an interesting district that has seen some good expansion in the past, picking up the area north of Port San Antonio and all of the Westover Hills area which has been a haven for some of the datacenters that have located in the city. Lopez has an opportunity to serve the district much better by focusing on greater business development and educational opportunities of the area. However, his opponents don’t offer good alternatives to Lopez’s lackluster performance and could set the district back further. Keeping Lopez in the seat for the next term is probably the best choice with hope that he kicks it up a notch or a better challenger emerges in 2013.
District 8 – Reed Williams
This is probably my second easiest endorsement to make after Mayor Castro’s. Councilman Reed Williams has emerged as the strongest member of council outside of the mayor and has been key leadership on some of the most critical issues. His knowledge of energy policy was vital in the discussions surrounding CPS and his business acumen serves one of the stronger business districts in the city well. Through my interactions with Williams on some key issues, I’ve felt he truly digs into the issues and weighs all sides before making a decision.
Some have viewed Williams as a strong conservative but in my interactions and with some of the conversations I’ve had with other politicos in the city, I would term him more of a moderate along the lines of “fiscal conservative, social moderate.” Williams’ opponent, Caron West, doesn’t have near the knowledge or expertise to lead a district that is a vital business center of the city. In a recent endorsement meeting of the Stonewall Democrats, she came off more like a stand-up comedian rather than a true candidate. Even with that, the group endorsed her over Williams, diminishing the value of their endorsement in my mind. Keeping Williams in the office for another term is crucial to the district, if not the city as a whole.
District 9 – Elisa Chan
Councilwoman Elisa Chan is the best choice for District 9 for a variety of reasons. Even though I disagree with Chan on several issues, feeling she takes too conservative a position on matters, she does listen to her constituents and represents their views better than others might. Her business knowledge and attention to details has proven to be critical in some of the key debates on issues in council, bringing up points that need to be clarified for all. Her international knowledge has been vital, especially in our relations with China, helping San Antonio establish a good business relationship with that country.
Chan has had some missteps, including a recent issue regarding the funding of retaining wall for an HOA. Her management of the process seemed to give appearance to some back room dealings, which could be viewed as ethics violations. The Express-News editorial board further admonished Chan for her actions, pointing out the wrong path she took on the incident. Chan’s opponent, Jose Lopez Jr., doesn’t have near the knowledge of critical issues or policy making as Chan. Having Chan continue in the office will help San Antonio, both in the area of international business and in transportation.
District 10 – Bud Little
Bud Little is probably the best candidate, in my mind, of the slate of candidates for District 10. Little is probably one of the more interesting candidates in the entire field of the municipal election, coming at the race after retiring form WOAI as the City Hall reporter. Little probably knows more about council and the workings than even some of the current office holders. That being said, Little brings a strong dedication to community and a rational mind when looking at things.
I’ve had the opportunity to serve with Little on the Keep San Antonio Beautiful board when he was chair. I didn’t get a lot of experience with Little, since he was out due to knee surgery when I entered the board. However, in the brief time I found Little to be a good mediator and counsel on issues on the board. That will translate well into a council position and could help provide leadership for the district in City Hall. The field in District 10 is large with a Carlton Soules, a business man, and Izy Perez, a college student, bringing some interesting diversity to the race. However, out of the candidates I feel Little would serve the district best and also serve well on the council.
I’ll have my other endorsements out later in the week before early voting along with my final assessments of District 1 candidates, Ray Medina and Chris Forbrich. You’ll have to excuse me a little as I was busy being the Fiesta Trash Man with some great results posted.