Bluff or fold?
When is an opinion not an opinion? When it’s advice. And when it’s advice, it’s none of your business. So said the Texas Attorney General’s office following a week of dogged phone tag on the part of your devoted Queque. What set us off on this hunt is an inexplicable hankering for the “You write to ask ... ”/“Under Texas law ... ” symmetry of AG opinions — in particular those applied like thumb vises to the proverbial testicles of large corporations who’re threatening a well-funded opposition campaign.
To wit: “If the car rental people want to kill `the venue-tax extension`, they’re going to have to kill the sports fields,” County Judge Nelson Wolff was paraphrased as saying in a January Express-News story about the proposals appearing on this May’s ballot — which could fund a performing-arts center, river improvements, AT&T Center upgrades, soccer fields and swimming pools on the profits of the hotel and car-rental industries. A much-anticipated anti-tax campaign by Enterprise Rent-a-Car went Poof! before so much as a Welfare for Millionaires billboard could be bought, and the daily’s Jaime Castillo guesses the real reason must be that Enterprise’s internal polling told them the numbers were on the pro-tax side.
The Queque suspects otherwise, due to some info obtained on such deep background the whisperer makes Mark Felt look like an exhibitionist: Independent survey numbers showed residents solidly against the AT&T arena upgrades for the Spurs, pro the proposed river improvements, and more-or-less split on amateur-sports facilities and the performing-arts center, is what the Queque recalls — odds that suggest a well-funded campaign could bat .500.
Judge (no relation to Elaine) Wolff disagrees. “If it was a good, accurate poll it would have reflected what ours did, I think,” which, he says, is fairly strong support for all of the propositions, including the AT&T Center.
But back to our game of TAG. The daily said the Judge was “citing an attorney general’s opinion” when he asserted that only the car-rental taxes could fund free-admission amateur sports fields. But some number of conversations with an increasingly testy AG press-office rep and a helpful County Commission staffer later, the verdict was: “not an actual AG opinion,” rather a “conversation” with the AG. And what exactly did they say?
“Anytime we’ve had anybody call about these interactions we don’t have anything to say because it’s just kind of informal,” replied the AG’s office.
Bexar County DA civil-section chief Ed Schweninger was a lot friendler, escorting the Queque through the venue-tax woods (Chapter 334, Subchapter A, for starters), over winding references and around “exceptions to exceptions,” on the way to a rendezvous with acceptable venue-tax expenditures. The trip mostly put us in mind of that timeless adage, where there’s a will there’s a way. Perhaps Enterprise got a similar virtual tour of the County’s political prowess (“We knew the first day they had a push poll,” adds Wolff, “and we knew the next day who did it.”) The Queque’s take on Enterprise’s sudden gas shortage? The Judge knows how to protect a hand. Or, as Russell Crowe’s character remarks in the early stages of 3:10 to Yuma: Remind me not to play poker in this town.•
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