Year In Review: News 

Aglow with possibilities

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Uranium exploration in Goldiad County
has been blamed for contaminating local ground
water. A hearing on the mining permit for UEC is set in Goliad on January 24

CASE: CPS Nukes (w/Global Warming & SoTX ref) NO. 36892
STATUS: OPEN
SEE ALSO:Undermining South Texas,” October 3, 2007; “CPS must die,” October 24, 2007

Tables and graphs ring the cafeteria at McAuliffe Junior High School, stationed buddy-style by CPS employees explaining the City-owned utility’s viewpoints on conservation, generation options, and — the most populated “station” by far — nuclear power.

The interest is sparked by CPS’s recent commitment of $206 million to hold a place in line with South Texas Nuclear Project partner NRG and to possibly add two new nuclear plants on the Gulf Coast. They expect the pair to feed Bexar County and beyond the radioactive-sourced electricity while also pursuing “additional nuclear options.” The vote by the board made international news as the first application in 29 years to build and operate new nukes in the U.S.

Tonight’s attendees are almost exclusively young protestors. The Southwest Workers Union members came in chanting over bullhorns about clean energy, about wanting it “today.” They then delivered a series of failing grades to the City-owned power provider.

“Because it’s the end of the semester and a lot of young people are getting their grades,” a young woman announced, “we thought we’d come in here and give CPS their grades.”

The string of Fs is followed by one glaring “I” for the utilities failure to release its Strategic Energy Plan to the public. Ah, the Current, which has been requesting much the same info and more, has been gaffled at every turn by the Texas Attorney General’s genial agreement that such information is “competitive” and therefore secret.

What isn’t secret is the renewed interest in the South Texas uranium fields reaching from Karnes County into and beyond Kingsville, where complaints about poisoned water formations are becoming regular. But criticize the company (as some South Texans have found) and run the risk of being sued by these Canadian-based prospectors.

Now the price of the new nukes ranges wildly in informed circles from $6 billion to almost $20 billion. Considering the first two plants at STNP were years late and vastly over budget, the money CPS will ultimately sink into the project is really anyone’s guess.

The price of mining, refining, and disposing of the waste here in Texas is likewise a convoluted equation that requires the distasteful calculation of pricetagging human lives.

Prognosis: More hearings, but little listening, from your hometown utility.

Greg Harman

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Parking with the Mayor

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Mayor Phil Harberger

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CASE: Main Plaza NO. 13452
STATUS: CLOSED

CASE: Voelcker Park NO. 13453
STATUS: OPEN

CASE: Land Heritage Institute NO. 13454
STATUS: Open
SEE ALSO:Main Plaza redux,” February 1, 2006; “The bonds that tie,” June 21, 2007

 

Right now Main Plaza is one big obstacle between you and the courthouse, and at this point in the 13-month-long construction process it’s hard to remember what the patch of land between San
Fernando and the River Walk is supposed to resemble when all of the digging and rearranging is complete next March. A dusty, wind-scrubbed, un-air-
conditioned square of wheeling, dealing, cemetery plots, and occasional shootings? That’s what it looks like in those inspirational historical photos, anyhow, before the Saint Canary Islanders improved upon it (according to the now-official San Antonio Creation Myth). Sorry, it’s too late to object to the Plaza de las Islas, or the closing of Main and Soledad (see for yourself at sanantonio.gov).

Think instead of atonement of the mayoral stripe, via a 311-acre plot of trees and native grasses and a slate of public-input meetings with the evocatively named D.I.R.T Studios. They’ll mulch our greenspace dreams into “a world-class park” master plan (stop with the “world-class” already; it puts us in mind, yet again, of our favorite Maggie Thatcher quip: Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.) and present it circa May. Some wags say the Voelcker estate lucked out when Hardberger volunteered $50 million for a tract with vested rights in dairy farming, but voters agreed that the densely suburbanized North Side needs a park. If you’d like to add a caveat to your ballot-box “yeah,” two more rounds of community polling are scheduled for February and April; get the details at sanantonio.gov.

Unconsoled still? Direct your attention southward, where the ruins of the voter-drubbed Applewhite Reservoir Project are set to yield the most exciting history-cum-nature experience since the Renaissance Faire was invented (and, we might add, with a tad more historical accuracy and fewer Henry VIII turkey legs). Early next year, council will vote on transferring 1,200 acres along the Medina River to the Land Heritage Institute, the completion of which would make a certain archeologist’s year. “You’re hard-pressed to find another site like it in North America,” says A&M’s Alston Thoms, who led a team in evaluating the site. “Every major archeological period is represented ... It shows a continuity from the prehistoric past right up to the Mission Indians and their descendants today.” If LHI member Ramon Vasquez — executive director of the American Indians in Texas at Spanish Colonial Missions — and his colleagues in the collaborative project have their way, all of the people who passed through by foot, hoof, and wheel will be represented and studied in interactive exhibits and ongoing research. Check for tributes to your historic peeps at landheritageinstitute.org.

Elaine Wolff

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SAPD Probes

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Civil rights attorney James Myart, right, with Joseph
Fennell, who received a $97,000 settlement from the city.

CASE: SAPD civil rights issues NO. 110478
STATUS: OPEN
SEE ALSO:Force of personality,” September 12, 2007

A season of (questionable & anal) probes and stray SAPD bullets. A year of high-profile bomb tossing by civil-rights attorney James Myart. Begging the question whether authentic probes of those probes and projectiles will follow Myart’s own disappearing act?

Leading into ’07, SAPD fillet a young black man’s scalp with a city-issued bullet. An FBI investigation is quickly followed by a City settlement offer of $97,000.

Next come a group of young black men pulled over in March, the car is searched, pockets turned out, socks removed, background checks run. Then out came the latex and (alleged) unwelcome penetration.

An April raid on the Wild Turkey Saloon and a series of bathroom strip searches follows, including more buttocks stretching and repeated anal gazing.

Chief suggests protocol may not have been followed.

Next, Myart himself is pulled over, surrounded at gunpoint, and newsroom fax machines begin that familiar churl of complaint all over again.

Finally, the arrest of an 18-year-old (white, at last!) woman and circulating color photos of raccoon eyes lead Myart to ask in over-punctuated emails, “Now, does any one believe me????? Will there be outrage now??????”

The City invites the Police Executive Research Forum, or PERF, to do the probe. But angry residents ask if it isn’t about time for the Chief to welcome something more … well, less connected to white-establishment police cliques?

After Myart confessed to a bipolar affliction and dropped from public view, the Coalition of Human and Civil Rights, a collection of 27 local minority and social-justice groups, called on the Justice Department to don the latex and peer inside SAPD.

A recent Grand Jury indictment of 11-year SAPD veteran Keith Alfaro for assault, and resisting and evading, suggests some wheels in motion, but there’s still a wide road to hoe.

Greg Harman

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State courts loose on lethals

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CASE: Law of Parties & Kenneth Foster NO. 199603
STATUS: COLD
SEE ALSO:The Queque,” August 8, 2007; “The Law of Parties,” August 29, 2007

Granted, there are good places to be: feeding greedy Muskovie ducks bleached white bread with a sweetheart; working with “at-risk” kids on the basketball court; dancing with Julie Andrews across the Swiss Alps as Dresden burns.

Then there are the not-so’s: like cruising around in the dark hours purse-grabbing and mugging your fellow San Antonians when a fellow hoodlum’s pistol sings, snatching the life from another. Where does that leave you in the eyes of justice?

In the case of non-shooter Kenneth Foster (and about 80 others convicted in similar asinine circumstances) it meant the death queue for a fatal Department of Corrections cocktail.

Thanks to the state’s Law of Parties you can be put to death even if your wingman pulls the trigger during a crime you’re both wrapped up in. Ideally, the jury must have reason to believe you knew the said killing was going to happen.

However, Texas juries and judges play it a little looser than all that, which helps explain Foster’s case: an altercation post crime-spree that left the son of a prominent local attorney dead. The final years before Foster’s anticipated August date with death were bumpy ones. A federal judge threw out the sentence in 2005. The next year, the Fifth Circuit overturned that judgment, putting Foster back on the Texas conveyer belt. Grassroots defenders kicked into action, led by Foster’s family and the international Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Seems a little posse known as the Board of Pardons and Paroles found themselves suitably swayed by the situation, voting 6-1 against the execution. It was their third such vote for commutation. Waiting out his final pre-needle hours at Huntsville’s Walls Unit, Foster was informed hours before his time of departure that Goodhair Perry signed on, issuing his first commutation in his seven-year tenure — a move that stunned execution-numbed Texans.

Surely, Foster is clicking his heels to now have life without parole. But the campaign continues to force Texas courts to review just how this Law of Parties continues to be misused.

To date: more than 2,300 have signed on to the campaign directed at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Now that evidence of the courts’ misuse of the statute has saturated the state, it would follow that reform couldn’t be far behind. But in “Hang ‘Em High” Texas, the likelihood is still dubious.

Greg Harman

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Kidmo lives

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CASE: Hutto NO. 200213
STATUS: OPEN
SEE ALSO:Undocumented immigrants, unlicensed prison,” June 21, 2007

The global Human Rights revolution that Elizabeth Kucinich predicted would detonate in Taylor, site of numerous protests directed at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center where undocumented minors from around the world are held by private security firm Corrections Corporations of America on behalf of Homeland Security, hasn’t caught fire yet. Neither has it diminished the need for such a wave of compassion and conviction.

Since the prison opened in ’06, consistent pressure on the kiddie Gitmo by groups like LULAC, Amnesty International, Code Pink, and others have kept the pressure on. But a lawsuit brought by the ACLU has had the greatest impact so far. Children are now allowed time to play outside within the ring of razor wire, for instance. Twelve-hour mandatory lock-up for families has been abolished. And threats to separate children from their parents as punishment have also supposedly ceased. Still, secrecy has remained paramount at Hutto. In May, Homeland Security denied a UN inspector access to the facility, despite previous promises to open up for a look-see. A Current request for information related to that visit was denied, but a head count was granted, showing simply that hundreds of children remain behind bars at Hutto. Suggests to us that 2008 will be a raucous year for protests in little ol’ Taylor.

Greg Harman

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Bio-boosters bray

CASE: NO.
STATUS:
SEE ALSO: “Banging the drum for Bio-defense,” August 15, 2007

There was one glaring omission in recent reports assessing the economic impact the military has on the Alamo City. Simply stated: War is Good.

The City of San Antonio’s study found that the U.S. Department of Defense’s economic impact on San Antonio is a whopping $13.2 billion. Past analyses were way down the ladder (somewheres about $4.9 just a few years ago). But that’s war on the macro scale.

There are also oodles of greenery to be made in terror war at the micro level, apparently. And SA leaders are primed and ready to cheer it in.

Welcome to Homeland Security’s germ-warfare lab (defensive postures only, lest we be accused of treaty bustin’!), known as the National Bio & Agro-Defense Facility. The proposed 520,000-square-foot, high-security complex would study the world’s most dangerous germs: Those that kill people. Those that kill animals. But chiefly those that bounce between the two, so-called zoonotic killers.

You would think that with such, shall we say, delicate research potentially heaving itself upon our South Texas shores our political leaders would be putting on their critical-thinking caps and asking tough questions. Instead, ever since being short-listed from 18 possible sites to one of just five, it has been one grand carnival. When Der Homeland volks rolled in for the public hearing, not only were our elected leaders not asking questions of the feds, they were selling San Antonio like well-polished pimps at a house of disreputable bacterial agreements.

Our prepondering evidence sack, including the little matter of a half-mil already spent on lobbyists and lawyers out to land this bio-blitz, suggests SA will last into the final round.

Glitch potential: Clear skies until that manipulated military strain of Japanese encephalitis slips out of a FedEx truck and lays waste to the entire Southwest.

Greg Harman

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Glint of hope for sober Edwards policy

CASE: Aquifer Development NO. 300326
STATUS: OPEN

Was this the year our dear Edwards Aquifer finally began to collect all respects overdue, or is just gearing-up-for-ballot-box-time again?

Two surprise votes suggest we’re somewhere in that non-committal middle — better than most had anticipated.

In a show of enviro muscle, the clean-water-drinking contingent and those who eschew notions of multi-million-dollar treatment plants prevailed on political winds (ie. Mayor Hardberger) to twist on Councilman Kevin Wolff.

The councilmember, soon off to run for a county-commissioner seat, took a long time to eat that crow, yammering out a non-apology spin that went something like (allow us to paraphrase) “Um, you can’t stop growth, Northwest SA is just too pretty, I’ve always voted to reduce impervious cover on the recharge zone, I just desperately need a library in my district, and better roads, and more people.”

Unfortunately, Wolff’s plan was to annex 20 acres over the recharge zone and increase impervious cover from 15 to 65 percent and then park a VIA transit center atop. A raw, stinkin’ notion from start to ignoble finish.

So, anyway, the council accepted the withdrawn motion and tabled the matter. “Does that mean forever?” one attendee pressed. Hardberger said yes, but you and I know how long forever is in political years (about two by our election calculations).

Preceding the council vote by a mere two days, the San Antonio Water System dropkicked plans to draw water lines 7.5 miles into the Northwest hills’ recharge area for Baruch Properties’ Hills of Castle Rock development. Um, have we died and gone to Vermont?

Deep Breath: Of course, neither of these matters can be considered nailed shut. For each example of potential aquatic catastrophe averted there are a dozen more lining up on the plank. The war on our groundwater and the breathtaking hills it sits beneath are under constant threat. Groups like the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance still need your support to keep the planning wheel leaning toward Smart-er Growth.

Greg Harman

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Foul plays

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CASE: Big Tex & The Toxic Triangele NO. 198432
STATUS: Open
SEE ALSO:Test the artists, but with what?” October 31, 2007

Environmental footballs don’t get more slippery than SA’s Toxic Triangle and the Big Tex site, and 2007 resulted in another round of bureaucratic punting and citizen frustration.

In the case of the Toxic Triangle, the residential area surrounding the former Kelly Air Force Base, there was reason for optimism this year. A long-anticipated 2006 report by the National Research Council concluded that Trichloroethene (TCE), an industrial cleaning solvent widely used at Kelly, is a dangerous carcinogen. This finding gave residents hope that the Air Force would step up efforts to clean up the plume of contaminated groundwater beneath area neighborhoods, and that serious compensation would be forthcoming for residents who’ve contracted liver, kidney, and thyroid cancer, as well as ALS and other ailments.

So we know that cancer rates are elevated in the Toxic Triangle and that the Air Force exposed residents to carcinogens for many years. But we can’t get government officials to accept a cause-and-effect relationship, to concede that TCE and other hazardous chemicals carelessly dumped at Kelly created health problems.

Adding to the glut of seemingly inconclusive research on this residential area, Texas A&M and Texas Tech launched a new study this year that will look into whether corn tortillas are the real cause of cancer in the Toxic Triangle. If the notion seems far-fetched, you could say the same about every aspect of this endlessly frustrating story.

In terms of frustration and confusion, however, the ongoing Big Tex saga can match the Toxic Triangle obfuscation for obfuscation.

In 2007, the Environmental Protection
Agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Big Tex owner James Lifshutz took turns passing the buck. Lifshutz, who plans to turn the Southtown site of the former W.R. Grace vermiculite-processing facility into a multi-use retail and residential redevelopment project, voluntarily fenced off the site and removed Big Tex occupants (primarily local artists and galleries) this year, but neither the developer nor the EPA accepted responsibilty for informing former residents about the need for asbestos-exposure screening. The EPA says its notification requirements won’t kick in until another round of testing backs up 2006’s initial contamination findings. Until then, the outreach is arbitrary.

TCEQ and EPA reps have collected soil samples from the Big Tex site, and taken turns pinning the burden on each other. Lifshutz, who initially applied with TCEQ’s Voluntary Cleanup Program, reversed his field and decided to work with the EPA, opening up the possibility that the original polluters of the area can be held financially accountable for remediating the site.

Meanwhile, Lifshutz’s multi-million dollar development exists only as an optimistic blueprint.

Gilbert Garcia

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Give us your tired, your poor, your drunk

CASE: Haven for Hope NO. 779034
STATUS: Closed
SEE ALSO:Helter shelter,” July 18, 2007

A year from now, the city’s one-stop social-services campus for the homeless is scheduled to open just west of downtown, no thanks to those pesky area residents who griped that they hadn’t been consulted about the plan to concentrate up to 800 of Bexar County’s homeless each night in the slowly revitalizing neighborhood — 1,000 more in SA’s rare bad weather. (Not true, insists former District 5 Councilwoman and Haven high priestess Patti Radle; her office did distribute flyers.) It’s water under the bridge (and perhaps the end of the Church Under the Bridge) at this point: Zoning and City Council approved the site over the neighborhood’s objections, construction is underway on the 22-acre site, and Haven has raised almost half of the $40 million in private funds it needs to meet its $74-million budget.

The (understandable) District 5 discontent was the only blemish on the otherwise visionary project, which will offer job training, counseling, meals, healthcare, legal services, a chapel, and even pet housing to families and individuals living on the streets, as well as divert addicts from the local drunk tanks, where they pick up nothing but another reason to tie one on. San Diego’s experience suggests that one-stop facilities can yield a 60-percent success rate — which means only 40 percent of Haven’s clients will be looking for diversions beyond the 1,000-foot no-alcohol buffer. Just kidding, West Side!

Elaine Wolff

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Keep on truckin’

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When the San Antonio Toll Party isn't busy suing
to prevent TXDOT from lobbying for toll roads,
they send us (really good) chocolate

CASE: Trans-Texas Corridor/Tolls Roads NO.
STATUS: Open
SEE ALSO:Tarred & weathered,” August 29, 2007

Our hometown MPO may think the 281 toll’s a done deal, but TURF’s Terri Hall — the most gifted fire-and-brimstone populist to romance a mic since Huey Long stomped the Louisiana bayou — is laying long-term plans for the tollers’ defeat. Watch for the San Antonio Toll Party to take an active interest in the next round of elections, from the Commissioners Court to the Statehouse. Some problem actors can’t wait that long, though, she says. “I do think there’s going to be a move to recall `District 8 Councilwoman` Diane Cibrian, and we’re certainly not going to give her a shot at being mayor.”

Hall and her vocal followers would like to similarly foreshorten the political career of Richard Perez, former pro-toll MPO chair and councilman. “We’re gonna make sure nobody forgets what he did,” says Hall of the current Chamber of Commerce prez.

While you wait for those near and distant political battles to heat up, keep your eye on the sort-of-dormant Trans-Texas Corridor. TXDOT has scheduled a series of Town Hall meetings for the winter and spring, and Hall is worried that busy constituents will confuse them with the meetings of record that will take place on their heels. You can get schedules for both at keeptexasmoving.org, and take notes on rhetoric by watching TURF’s new TTC edition of Truth be Tolled, available at texasturf.org.

And don’t count them out in the TXDOT lobbying case, either, adds Hall. The judge may have refused their document request for the moment, but Hall says they have experts ready to explain the difference between promoting toll roads that already exist, and beating the drum for more of the same when they return to the courtroom next month.

Elaine Wolff

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Ol’ man river

CASE: River improvements NO. 6564791
STATUS: OPEN
SEE ALSO:No Dick’s need apply,” March 17, 2005

Although our quivers are loaded, our arrow tips sharpened, when it comes to certain of our Mayor’s initiatives (or, more pointedly, his judicial methods in a deliberative setting), we have to admit that his coalition forces can lay on a march that puts Sherman to shame — which comes in handy when you’re trying to restore Vision over the heads of the penny-pinching, nitpicking homeowner-taxpayer association types who dethroned it two decades ago. Take the Museum Reach of our fair river, a gloriously muddy trench as I type, well on its way to meeting a 2009 date with park fabulousness (marvel at the future-sidewalk bevels; gaze longingly at the now-visible banks).

The San Antonio River Improvement Project will yield 13 landscaped riparian miles, from Brackenridge to the missions, when it’s all said and done, at a cost well over $200 million, paid for in federal, county, and city monies. COSA is picking up the tab for the bulk of the Urban Stretch of the Museum Reach, which runs from the Pearl Brewery redevelopment near Josephine to Lexington Avenue downtown. “A significant amount of credit goes to Mayor Hardberger,” says Steven Schauer, manager of external communications for the San Antonio River Authority. Hizzoner understood that inflation and lost time had increased costs, adds Schauer, and he made sure the money was in place.

Good relations with eager-to-please Washingtonians have swept another $9.8 million into the Mission Reach, slated to return to a state resembling nature after decades confined to a depressing cement sluice. Schauer gives high praise to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison for that contribution in a time of war and mean-spiritedness on Capitol Hill, but $10 mil is far short of the actual cost, so visitors will likely be asked to contribute another $75-125 million through an extension of the Venue Tax — look for it on next May’s ballot. If you choose to prevent the funding delays with a Venue Tax infusion, the Mission Reach improvements could be completed by 2012.

All the cash we’ve discussed so far might buy you a lavish home in the Colorado Mountains, or a bedroom view of Central Park, but when it comes to temporarily displacing icthyans and their watery baggage, all it gets you are the basic necessities: a channel, sidewalks, H2O. The San Antonio River Foundation is in charge of funding the amenities discussed in the Public Art Master Plan (which you can view at sanantonioriverfoundation.org). Phase I is close to its $15 mil goal, monies that will pay for sidewalk improvements, a Wall of Art, irrigation, landscaping, a grotto, and bridge enhancements in the Museum Reach. In early 2008, Express-News publisher Tom Stephenson will lead the charge to raise $20 million for handsome extras in the Mission Reach (e.g., a bridge to connect SA’s hike-n-bike to the national park system’s). Phase III will pay for the as-yet-unfunded Park Reach but there’s still plenty of time to settle the boiling design debate between the birders, golfers, and hike-bikers who enjoy the River Road neighborhood’s urban wild.

Elaine Wolff

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What price First Amendment?

CASE: Parade Ordinance NO. 7410293
STATUS: OPEN
SEE ALSO:The Queque,” December 12, 2007

You can fall out into San Antonio’s downtown streets to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King or celebrate Hidalgo’s Cry of Dolores or even pray for the immediate resurrection of General MacArthur (given it’s during the week-long festivities falling around Veteran’s Day), and never have to worry about the city tapping your organization with a bill.

But just try marching for remembrance of women’s suffrage, in solidarity with immigrants, or to end the war in Iraq, and you’ll get hit with some significant fees for parade policing. Still, some brave souls — like the International Women’s Day March — manage to turn out year after year, even if they are relegated to the sidewalk for lack of funds.

That’s what happened in 2006 when city residents rallied against anti-immigrant speech poisoning Washington and bleeding into national border policy. After getting billed several thousands dollars for a street march, the groups decided to try the free sidewalk alternative offered by the city the next month.

But with 18,000 bodies crowding the sidewalks, and places where the walkways disappeared altogether, the unavoidable happened: “We just couldn’t manage that many people. It was very difficult. We planned and talked to the police about it, but we ended up having to move onto the street because that was safer,” said Joleen Garcia, executive director of the Martinez Street Women’s Center. After it was said and done, the groups say they were billed by the city for $70,000.

While other marches have been able to find city funds through council connections, and other cities consider it their duty to facilitate Constitutionally promised freedom of assembly, that day is over in San Antonio. A new ordinance adopted in November leaves demonstrations without city sponsorship liable for all costs above $3,000, with final fees left up to the discretion of the traffic- and crowd-controlling SAPD.

That move inspired the Free Speech Coalition, which includes the International Women’s Day March and Martinez Street and a dozen other organization’s falling into the gaping crack, to sue the city in district court.

While U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez refused to grant a restraining order at a December 20 hearing to stop the new ordinance from taking effect January 1, he has asked for more information from both camps before deciding whether the law is potentially unconstitutional.

Judge Rodriguez specifically said he wants clarification as to how the City determines which marches it will sponsor (ie. pay for) and how charges for traffic control and police “protection” are determined.

A final judgment is expected in January.

Our take: Despite out-gunning the plaintiff’s attorneys by like five to one, the City may still find itself bested in a righteous people’s upset.

Greg Harman

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Bread

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The McNay's holiday card:
a not-so-subtle reminder that they still
own five O'Keeffes?

CASE: The Tobin Endowment NO. 776910
STATUS: Open
SEE ALSO:Bread or roses?” March 21, 2007

Maybe the clean, level-headed lines of the McNay’s $50-million addition rising steadily in plump Terrell Hills will help us forget the consuming indigo tidal wave that almost joined its sister O’Keeffes in the museum’s impressive collection of modern paintings. Perhaps the silvery glow of Jean-Paul Viguier’s adjustable light-filtering ceiling will cool the fever dream of Charles Demuth’s Study for “I Saw the Number Five in Gold” hanging near Jasper Johns’ “Decoy I.”

Shake it off; it’s not to be. The Demuth and Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1916 work on paper, “Blue I,” belong to others now, sold at auctions in New York, the cash converted to the cause of modernizing Marion Koogler McNay’s mansion-turned-museum. The Tobin Endowment, all that remains of the fabulous mother-son philanthropy team of Margaret Batts and Robert L.B., told the McNay it could either keep the pieces (so reminiscent of the many works donated by Tobins past) and 52 other items, or take $5 million in cash, raised in part by their sale.

Actually, the money was raised mostly by their sale, thanks to the O’Keeffe, which sold to an anonymous buyer for $2.65 million ($3 million with the buyers premium) — more than $2 million over the estimate, and a world auction record for a work on paper by the artist. The Demuth was no slouch, either, bringing in $180,000 for a grand Tobin auction total of $4.2 million. Just focus on that state-of-the-art roof when you visit the McNay’s new Jane and Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions next June.

— Elaine Wolff

 

 

Year in Review: Arts


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