James Cannizzo wasn’t a happy camper last week. Cannizzo, an environmental attorney for the U.S. Army at Camp Bullis and Fort Sam Houston, has fought hard to secure greenway buffer zones around the city’s military training grounds. Such buffers hinge on the city’s ability to enforce its tree ordinance inside its extraterritorial jurisdiction. But efforts to undo those powers in the Texas Lege have inspired Cannizzo — as well as SA mayors past and present, among others — to take their fight to the Statehouse. Yet on Friday, state Senator Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, got an amendment to remove the city’s tree power hitched to unrelated legislation. “I thought they would actually vote to defeat this amendment,” a dejected Cannizzo said over the phone Friday afternoon. “I’m surprised it came out this way seeing how tomorrow is Armed Forces Observance Day. It’s ironic the day before we get a vote and the result is not in support of the military.”
At Camp Bullis wholesale clear-cutting of trees near the base would force the endangered golden-cheeked warbler to migrate closer to the base thus limiting use of the acreage for training purposes, Cannizzo and other clear-cutting opponents have argued. City leaders warn of air quality reductions and increased expenses for flood control projects the loss would lead to. While San Antonio Senators Jeff Wentworth and Leticia Van de Putte have successfully blocked a bill targeting the tree ordinance, by the time they got wind of the scope of Fraser’s amendment to House Bill 1665, it was too late to stop the forward motion.
This week, however, city leaders, military lobbyists, and environmentalists alike gave a cautious cheer when Fraser’s amendment was stripped out in a conference committee. As this is the last week such amendments may be considered, San Antonio is “almost out of woods,” said Richard Alles, head of the Citizens Tree Coalition in San Antonio. “A couple more days. We’ve alerted people to other germane bills to keep an eye out for. Maybe they’ll be a little more cautious now that they’ve been burned.”
Several sources close to the King of Kings confirmed this morning that the much-discussed rapture of last weekend was called off at least in part so that several divine personages may come down and stump for Diego Bernal in Council District 1. Now we don’t want to the tell The Dude with his finger on the trigger to “take a number,” but … there’s been quite a line outside Bernal’s tent these days.
The former civil rights attorney came out, rather unexpectedly, election day with a huge lead over candidate Ralph Medina, a retired firefighter who’s pitted against Bernal in the upcoming June 11 runoff. Medina and his flame-bustin’ buddies better throw out some prayers to their patron, Saint Florian, cuz Bernal’s endorsements now include not only former D1 candidates Chris Forbrich and Carolyn Kelley, but also state Rep Mike Villarreal. And Mayor Julián Castro planned to give Bernal his stamp of approval from the steps of City Hall ahead of Tuesday night’s candidate’s forum (his twin, state Rep Joaquín Castro, already backed Bernal). Medina scheduled a City-Hall press conference of his own an hour after Bernal’s, where members of the San Antonio Professional Fire Fighters Association, the San Antonio Police Officers Association, the Deputy Sheriff’s Association and others were all set to stump for their man. Said one source from Upstairs, who spoke on condition of Divine Anonymity: “Hey, if our guy doesn’t win, we can always go back to Plan A.”
The day after the city handed the keys to Municipal Auditorium over to Bexar County, local attorney Sharyll Teneyuca said she hasn’t given up her fight to save the landmark building. As workers set to dismantle theater seating and stage equipment, Teneyuca said she and others are still on track to fight the demolition in court.
Teneyuca, niece of famed labor rights champion Emma Tenayuca (same blood, different spelling), claims that not only are the city and Bexar County destroying an important piece of history — the elder Tenayuca sparked a riot outside the building in 1939 when then-mayor Maury Maverick approved her Communist rally inside the auditorium — but that the project is yet another local example of voter-approved bond money gone awry.
Any legal fight, she said, would closely mirror resistance to the so-called “Hildebrand drainage boondoggle,” which landed the City of San Antonio in court, sued over drastically changing a voter-approved bond project. State District Judge David Berchelmann blocked the city from spending any money on that project until a trial jury hears the case later this year.
Echoing the Hildebrand case, Teneyuca claims Bexar County duped voters into approving a $100-million bond for the new Tobin Center for the Performing Arts by never saying the project would raze Municipal Auditorium, saving only the façade. Veterans groups have also backed Teneyuca’s fight, citing that the auditorium was built in 1926 as a memorial to Americans killed in World War I. Placido Salazar, a local veteran, said KEDA, Radio Jalapeño, has agreed to host a fundraising drive on Monday, May 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to raise money for the legal costs to challenge the demolition in court. Interestingly, the San Antonio Conservation Society has failed to raise a public peep about the destruction of Muni Auditorium, yet is suing the City to stop the change of Durango Street to honor Civil Rights leader Cesar Chavez, a Council vote that broke down last week firmly along racial lines. •
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