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Slam dunk

East Central ISD's school board president Steve Bryant called last week to complain that the news story about acid rain and City Public Service Energy's coal-fired power plant unfairly critiqued the district's handling of a request to inspect the rooftops at Heritage Middle School `"Reading, writing, and acid rain," August 25-31, 2005`.

China Grove Mayor Dennis Dunk had requested an investigation of discoloration on the school's roof as a possible sign of acid-rain damage. "There is a process in place by which we evaluate our roofs. Our roofing consultant doesn't think it's abnormal, he would tell us if anything is going on; there's nothing wrong with the metal roof," replied Bryant, who also works for Zachry, the contractor hired by CPS to build the new coal-fired plant at Calaveras Lake.

Bryant objected that the Current didn't quote more of the letter to Mayor Dunk, reiterating the rooftop at Heritage is in sound condition. "I hope you can appreciate that we can't have everybody in the world crawling around on our roofs ... I was surprised to see the mayor wasn't happy to see correspondence from a member of the school district, from one elected official to another."

Furthermore, says Bryant, the school board is the only elected body to have heard a presentation from CPS Energy about the power plant. The school board also heard a presentation by power-plant opponents Karen Hadden of the SEED Coalition and Marianne Kestenbaum of Smart Growth San Antonio. CPS Energy offered to present information on the power plant to the China Grove City Council, "but they have refused ... but I didn't call to get into a spitting match with Mayor Dunk."

Meanwhile, the San Antonio City Council debated the merits of boosting funds for Project Quest, a job-training program endorsed by COPS/Metro Alliance. Project Quest is asking the City to increase funding from $1 million to $3 million, and the request touched off a debate among council members last Thursday.

"San Antonio is importing nurses from other countries, and Toyota is training workers from outside San Antonio," said COPS president Mike Philips. He requested funding at $3 million with no minimum match requirement, which the previous Council had required during last year's budget session.

"To cut funding is a travesty," said Philips. "San Antonio is at a crossroads. Either invest or watch other cities pass us by."

He also requested the program be moved into the City's Economic Development department, rather than remain in social services.

Councilwoman Patti Radle endorsed more funding for Project Quest. "I would like to see us commit to workforce training." She asked Economic Development Director Ramiro Cavazos if he would be willing to oversee Project Quest.

Cavazos reassured Radle that "We would be comfortable. We already handle economic development and customized training."

The Council was still split on the issue when Mayor Phil Hardberger spoke his mind. He mentioned citizens who have no education and no cultural foundation, with nothing to build on, who "get dropped out of society. Work is how we redeem ourselves, but there are people who can't work; they are desperate."

Hardberger told Council to restore the $3 million and drop a 50 percent match requirement from private corporations and foundation grants. "Let Project Quest get back to work and train the citizens of San Antonio."

But, the Council insisted on debating the request. "We have been going 11 straight hours," Hardberger explained before offering to recess the meeting until 9 a.m. the following day. "Councilman (Richard) Perez' stomach is growling."

It's true. Everybody in the Council chamber heard it through his microphone.

By Michael Cary

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