20 Events That Mattered in 2015

Ivy Taylor's historic victory in the mayoral race was one of the most important events of 2015. - SARA LUNA ELLIS
Sara Luna Ellis
Ivy Taylor's historic victory in the mayoral race was one of the most important events of 2015.

From San Antonio to Washington D.C., 2015 has been a big year. The Alamo City reached a milestone by electing its first African-American mayor, but — as usual — there’s been no shortage of scandal, including the police shooting of a man who appeared to be surrendering. But there was plenty of good news, the biggest being that the San Antonio Missions received World Heritage status, the first site in Texas to do so. What follows is a breakdown of 2015’s most important stories.

Hometown News

Questionable Shooting • There are still as many questions as answers surrounding the death of Gilbert Flores, a 41-year-old man who was shot and killed by Bexar County Sheriff’s deputies on August 28. Cellphone video of the event shot from a long distance by a passerby appears to show Flores raising his hands as if to surrender before he is shot, a detail that the county saw fit to leave out of a state-mandated report on the incident. Sheriff Susan Pamerleau said her office believes Flores was holding a knife and had earlier tried to attack the deputies. The two deputies who shot Flores won’t face charges, the District Attorney announced last week.

After a months-long, nationwide search for his replacement, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus returned to his former position. - SAN ANTONIO POLICE DEPARTMENT
San Antonio Police Department
After a months-long, nationwide search for his replacement, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus returned to his former position.

Does He or Doesn't He Want the Job? • City Manager Sheryl Sculley’s search to replace San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, who left SAPD in December 2014 to become head of security at CPS, ended in curious fashion. After fielding dozens of applications and bringing in a handful of finalists for interviews and community forums, Sculley eventually picked McManus himself, after he reached out to ask about getting his old gig back. McManus was unanimously confirmed by the City Council in October.

Betting on MLS • The quest to bring Major League Soccer to San Antonio continued this year, with a new cast of characters taking the reins. Local developer and philanthropist Gordon Hartman sold Toyota Field to the City of San Antonio, Bexar County and Spurs Sports & Entertainment for $21 million. The Spurs will try to lure in a MLS team. In the short-term, the Spurs group will field a team in the third-tier United Soccer League, which leaves the San Antonio Scorpions’ future in limbo.

A Big Catch • The biggest free agent signing in Spurs history? We think so. The Spurs won the 2015 offseason when they lured Texas native LaMarcus Aldridge with a four-year, $80 million contract. Aldridge and the Spurs are still going through some (relative) growing pains, but there’s no question he and Kawhi Leonard mean the Silver and Black’s present and future is bright.

Joan Cheever receiving a ticket from SAPD sparked a conversation about how San Antonio treats its homeless. - CARLOS SANCHEZ
Carlos Sanchez
Joan Cheever receiving a ticket from SAPD sparked a conversation about how San Antonio treats its homeless.

Chew on This • Joan Cheever didn’t mean to start a debate — she just wanted to feed the hungry. But when San Antonio police issued her a $2,000 ticket on April 7 for operating a food truck without a permit in Maverick Park, that changed. The city eventually dismissed the ticket, and Cheever sparked a debate about hunger and homelessness in San Antonio. Now city decision-makers are expected to consider changing the ordinance this week to make it easier for charitable feeders to help the hungry.

Spurs Bounced • In the Duncan-Popovich Era, the Spurs have typically won tight series. But that wasn’t the case this spring when hopes of a title defense faded after the Clippers’ Chris Paul lofted a bank shot over Danny Green in Game 7 of their first round series, which was a classic — perhaps the best-ever first round matchup. But that was little consolation to a Spurs team that won 55 games and hoped to repeat as NBA champions.

Historic Mayoral Race • On June 13, Ivy Taylor beat former state Senator and one-time Lt. Governor candidate Leticia Van de Putte by a little more than 3,000 votes in a runoff to become San Antonio’s first African-American mayor and the second woman to hold the position.

Her success was bolstered by largely conservative North Side voters who disapproved of Van de Putte, fearing another Julián Castro-style administration. Initially, Taylor was appointed mayor after Castro left to work for President Barack Obama’s administration.

San Antonio's Spanish missions became the first site in Texas to earn UNESCO World Heritage Status. - COURTESY
Courtesy
San Antonio's Spanish missions became the first site in Texas to earn UNESCO World Heritage Status.

The First in Texas • This summer, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) granted the missions San Juan, Concepcion, Espada, San José and the Alamo World Heritage status.

The designation came after nearly a decade of work and gave San Antonio the honor of hosting Texas’ first World Heritage Site and the 23rd in the United States.

Now, the city needs to maintain growth around the sites to make sure development doesn’t jeopardize UNESCO World Heritage standards.

Ride-Share Saga • Uber and Lyft had a tumultuous relationship with San Antonio this year. In March, both companies ceased operations after City Council amended its vehicle-for-hire ordinance to regulate them, which Uber and Lyft called burdensome.

The fiasco gave San Antonio the appearance of being backward and averse to change. In August, Lyft reached a deal with the city to operate a 9-month pilot program but didn’t officially return until late November. Uber did the same, but began operations quicker, returning to the streets in October.

Water Grab? • Despite efforts from a broad coalition of opponents, City Council unanimously approved a significant San Antonio Water System rate increase for residents to cover the cost of multiple projects, including a $4.3 billion Vista Ridge pipeline.

The pipeline will bring water from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer — 142 miles away — and save the Alamo City from any future water woes. Critics, however, say the rate increases harm low-income families and seniors, and that the Vista Ridge project threatens the environment by encouraging suburban sprawl.

The kicker: Abengoa — the Spanish company that owns a subsidiary building the pipeline — is in danger of going bankrupt.

Pedal On • Former B-Cycle Executive Director Cindi Snell raised red flags when she announced her resignation this spring. The nonprofit lacked a corporate sponsor, prompting funding concerns that could’ve thrown a wrench in its plan to expand.

The city listened, allotting more than $100,000 in funding to the organization. Then it went further, and partnered with San Antonio Bike Share, the nonprofit operating B-Cycle. The organization also hired a new executive director, JD Simpson, former director of operations at Austin B-Cycle, and is exploring a partnership with VIA Metropolitan Transit.

State

Blue Bell's temporary disappearance exasperated some. Others shrugged. - COURTESY
Courtesy
Blue Bell's temporary disappearance exasperated some. Others shrugged.

Alarm Bells • Somehow, the temporary loss of an iconic ice cream brand caused more panic in Texas this year than the plummeting price of oil. After a Listeria bacteria contamination killed three people and sickened dozens more, Blue Bell recalled all of its products. The company’s future looked to be in jeopardy, and it laid off hundreds of employees. But Blue Bell weathered the storm, and its ice cream returned to San Antonio shelves on December 14.

Accused Politicians • At what point will felony indictments become compulsory for statewide officials in Texas? In 2015, the courtroom saga continued for former Gov. Rick Perry. A state court threw out the charge of coercion of a public official, but he still faces an abuse of power charge. In August, a grand jury indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton on three felony counts of securities fraud, in a case that promises to drag into 2016 and beyond.

Gun-rights advocates won big victories this year in the Legislature. - FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS
Flickr Creative Commons
Gun-rights advocates won big victories this year in the Legislature.

Grab Your Guns! • Firearm fanatics won two major victories in the state Legislature this year: open carry and campus carry. The first measure allows a licensed handgun owner to carry their weapon on their hip or in a shoulder holster. The second will allow licensed gun owners who are 21 and older to carry guns on college campuses.

The Federal Invasion • Oh, boy, this was a doozy. So, if you’re reading this, the federal government has not taken over Texas to usher in Martial law and suppress everyone’s rights, from the Second to the First Amendments.

However, earlier this year, seemingly thousands of Texans were sure that the routine military exercise called Jade Helm was really just a ploy by President Barack “Not My President” Obama to take over the Lone Star State. During the two-month exercise that spanned seven states, the military practiced against hypothetical hostile forces.

People really believed Texas was being invaded. Naturally, once again, the Lone Star State was the laughing stock of the nation.

Jailed Families • Rep. Joaquin Castro, along with 134 other Democrats, asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in May to end the use of family detention facilities — to no avail.

The federal government continues its policy of jailing undocumented women and children, many of whom have fled from gang violence in Central America, even after a California judge ruled the administration violated rules about detaining immigrant children.

National

Planned Parenthood came under fire in an assault that's sure to carry into 2016.
Planned Parenthood came under fire in an assault that's sure to carry into 2016.

War on Planned Parenthood • After heavily edited videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood staff talk about selling “baby parts,” Republican politicians spent a significant amount of time in 2015 trying to figure out how to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides an array of services in addition to abortion. Republicans even launched an investigation into the organization, and the Senate voted to defund it.

Those videos, it turns out, were doctored, but the fallout has trickled down to Republican states across the nation, including Texas, which have waged mini-wars against Planned Parenthood.

Equality in Love • On June 26, a new case was added to the pantheon of landmark Supreme Court decisions. Now Obergfell v. Hodges, the case that declared same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional, will be mentioned in the same breath as Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education and Korematsu v. United States. The 5-4 decision cleared the way for same-sex couples to marry. In Bexar County, John Truho and Larry Stern, who have been together for 17 years, were the first couple to apply for a marriage license.

Immigration Battle • Two executive orders from President Barack Obama would pave the way for nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants to find deportation relief.

That, however, doesn’t sit well with Republicans. Led by Texas, a coalition of states filed a lawsuit against the executive orders, which has found its way to the Supreme Court.

Republicans tried to stall the case so the court wouldn’t hear it until after Obama is no longer president, hoping that a Republican is elected and repeals the order. However, it’s likely the court will take up the case before Obama leaves the White House.

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