Newsmonger: Vista Ridge Pipeline’s Financial Woes, Corruption in Crystal City and Justice Antonin Scalia Dies in West Texas

Robert Puente, CEO of SAWS, speaks about the Vista Ridge Pipeline.
Robert Puente, CEO of SAWS, speaks about the Vista Ridge Pipeline.

Water Bills

Abengoa, the company responsible for the 142-mile Vista Ridge Pipeline, is leaking cash. And it's causing headaches for San Antonio officials trying to make the $3 billion water spigot a reality.

Abengoa can't pay its bills. It's selling off other assets, such as solar panels and ethanol production, and seeking outside investors to buy 80 percent of its share of the water pipeline.

That's a larger share than what the company had initially agreed to. The original contract between Abengoa and San Antonio allowed the company to sell 49 percent of the project.

Mayor Ivy R. Taylor said in a news release on Tuesday, February 9, that despite Abengoa's financial difficulties, the pipeline "remains an exciting, viable project," and that the San Antonio Water System board of directors will play a role in vetting new investors.

The next day, Councilman Ron Nirenberg requested that any alteration to the city's agreement with Abengoa undergo a public briefing and City Council vote, which earned the support of five other councilmembers. Any change to the contract would currently be approved by the SAWS board, whose members are appointed by City Council.

In November, San Antonio City Council unanimously approved rate increases that would fund the pipeline and other projects. Supporters argued that the pipeline is necessary in order to support San Antonio's population, which is projected to grow by over a million people by 2040.

Big Trouble in Small Town Texas

What is going on in the Spinach Capital of the World?

That's the nickname of Crystal City, the South Texas town where five current and former public officials, including the city manager, mayor and a city councilman, were indicted on federal bribery charges last week.

Each of them "used their official positions to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes from persons seeking to do business in Crystal City," according to a news release from the FBI.

The ringleader of the alleged bribery appears to be City Manager William James Jonas, who also served as the city attorney. The FBI alleged that Jonas accepted a bribe from an attorney seeking a contract with the city. In exchange for doing the dirty work, other public officials approved his contract to serve as city manager and city attorney. Jonas earned an annual salary of nearly $220,000 – an enormous sum for a city that struggled to make ends meet.

If convicted, each person indicted could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Now the city is trying to regain its footing. On Tuesday, February 9, District Judge Amado Abascal instructed the city clerk to verify signatures petitioning for a recall election to depose officeholders who were indicted.

Justice Antonin Scalia Found Dead at West Texas Ranch

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead in his room at the Cibolo Creek Ranch near Marfa on Saturday, February 13.

Scalia was at the ranch to hunt quail. When he did not show up for breakfast on Saturday morning, the ranch's owner checked on him. He was found dead on the bed.

Scalia's death will have a profound impact on the presidential race and on cases pending on the Supreme Court's docket. The court is set to rule on cases involving Texas' 2013 anti-abortion law, redistricting in the state and on President Obama's executive actions on immigration.

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