The QueQue

In like a lyin’

The QueQue was at HemisFair in person and is delighted to report that 2008, unmasker of greed, corruption, and enough presidential hubris to make Napoleon blush, slipped gently into the history books, accompanied appropriately by sparkly mushroom clouds over the Tower of the Americas. No recession in the city’s firecracker budget; they just reallocated from the live-entertainment fund. And the Jumbotron line item, which in the end we were thankful for, because we can leave one niggling question unanswered for the ages: Were any of our City Council members among the adults carrying on like prom chaperones on the main stage at midnight?

And now, the ’09 revolution is on. Not just the big O, but the sneaky S: all-but-coronated Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, son of one of SA’s most prominent philanthropists and a formidable backroom negotiator, if not a seasoned legislator at a mere four years and counting. Our always-contrary friends over at think he’s as establishment as they come, if not as baldly partisan and vindictive as Craddick (ah, but who is?), and suggests the Dems don’t have anything to gain by bailing out the Rs from their own mean mess. After all, Take Back Texas is on schedule for its 2010 statewide D restoration, even with the loss of Juan “the Chicano Obama” Garcia in Corpus Christi. (And, dear reader, we think he’ll be back.)

The holiday break was otherwise relatively quiet, but for the buildup to January 13, when your lege swings into action on a host of bills dear to progressive hearts, from needle-exchange programs `see “Year in review,” December 23, 2008` to plastic-bag bans `read on`. But the game’s back on, kids, and you’ll need to keep a close eye on the gavel as our Mayor winds down his final months in office. Will the November/December rush to pass a useless City Auditor amendment and give the City Manager a gold-plated, fireproof jumpsuit (that our council didn’t even examine, save that District 7 Boy Scout, Justin Rodriguez) set the spring fashion, too? Or is Mission Verde, Hardberger’s push for a green economy and environment, the blueprint? The stakes are high on a number of issues at the heart of our city’s beauty and charm: an extension of the digital-billboard pilot program `see “Hang ’em high (and fast),” August 27, 2008, et al.`, the proposed sale of Healy-Murphy Park, etc.

The halls of justice will echo with contention, too. City whistleblower John Foddrill is scheduled to get his day in court in early February `see “Off the hook,” October 8, 2008`, and the Free Speech Coalition will go mano a mano with SA’s legal eagles over that troublesome parade ordinance `read on`.

All this and more will keep the QueQue scribes busy this spring, and would veritably overflow this modest space, so you’ll now find us on QueBlog, at, as well as right here every Wednesday, waiting for you and your coffee/beer.

Penalty for your thoughts

Free Speech Coalition member the Esperanza Center is hosting a plática Saturday, where the participants will put our year-old unconstitutional parade ordinance in the context of a national trend toward suppressing dissent (remember the Republican convention in Minnesota? Neither do the jailed journos). Journalist and documentary filmmaker Michelle Garcia will facilitate a conversation with local organizers Genevieve Rodriguez and T.C. Calvert, former Councilwoman Maria Berriozabal, LULAC Prez Rosa Rosales, and journalist/organizer Roberto Lovato.

One purpose of the event, says Esperanza Director Graciela Sanchez, is to remind San Antonio that the streets belong to the public as we head toward the Coalition’s January 26 trial date. Despite modifications the City made to the ordinance after Federal Judge Xavier Rodriguez gave it the thumbs down, our plaintiff-advocates say it still doesn’t pass the Founding Fathers’ Smell Test: fees are prohibitively high, it doesn’t clearly define free-speech demonstrations, and so on. Also of interest: Research for the trial has turned up evidence that the City historically has assessed parade costs in a wildly arbitrary manner based more on who’s-who than what’s-what.

The essence of the suit, says Sanchez, is “Who gets to use these public spaces? In San Antonio it’s just not been permitted for such a long time ... we’re used to marching on the sidewalk.” The plática is free, 7 p.m. January 10, 922 San Pedro.

Lockdown, American-style

Speaking of dissent, the QueQue’s National Affairs desk is hearing an uptick in chatter about Uncle Sam laying down some martial law in 2009, ostensibly to suppress widespread civil disobedience following an impending economic collapse and/or other disasters `Supervolcanoes? Dirty nukes? Über-STD breakouts?` raised the drumbeat of concern during the election season with an official fret over Obama’s desire to field a civilian defense force “as strong as the U.S. military.”

Now is reporting on a martial-law scenario from the U.S. Army War College itself. “Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security,” writes Nathan Freier, a 20-year Army veteran and visiting professor at the college.

Freier’s report follows an October revelation that the Defense Department has for the first time assigned a full-time Army unit to be on-call for domestic deployment. What does the Defense Department foresee about 2009 that they aren’t sharing? The El Paso Times chimed in last week when it reported that “the International Monetary Fund’s managing director, Dominique Strauss-Khan, said social unrest could spread to advanced countries if the global economic crisis worsens,” and that, “Javier Sambrano, spokesman for the El Paso Police Department, said city police have trained for years so they can address any contingency, but not with the military.”

The QueQue starts fingering our worry beads when a New World Order stalwart like the IMF begins waving the red flag. See for more details.

Sweet water, TX

The recent announcement by SAWS that the water utility will switch its downtown pumping station’s disinfectant from potentially hazardous chlorine gas to liquid bleach may have come as a surprise to those who attended the District 3 holiday meeting, where new SAWS CEO Robert Puente spread the yuletide cheer with plans for a 3.9-percent rate hike.

The rate-hike proposal, coincidentally, was met by an alarming study from the Center for American Progress which reported that three of San Antonio’s pumping stations are among hundreds nationwide which should quit the chlorine, since an accidental release could adversely affect hundreds of thousands of people. But when queried by the QueQue at that meeting about switching those three pumping stations to a less terror- and accident-friendly cleaner, Puente demurred, and said doing so would necessitate a 20-percent rate hike.  

About-face, then? Nope, says SAWS. “We’ve been improving that pumping station for some time,” spokeswoman Anne Hayden informed the QueQue. The change at the Market Street Pumping Station, the utility’s oldest such facility, was already in the, uh, pipeline, along with a pipe upgrade begun in 2007. The $891,000 price tag for the bleach swap is covered by the utility’s 2008 Capital Improvements Program, Hayden said. The Mission Road and 34th Street Stations will continue to use chlorine for now. Hayden says changing all three stations would be very expensive because SAWS does not have a centralized distribution system such as those in Los Angeles or New York.

Plastic woman

When all visible trace of humanity has left the building, two reminders of our time on earth will malinger: plastics and radioactive waste — neither of which is beneficial to the life forms destined to outlast us.

While you could go hoarse trying to get nuke seekers within CPS Energy to discuss the long-lived concerns about radioactive waste, the curtain appears to be going down on plastic. You know the stuff: It’s most of the litter in your city parks and roads, and as much as 90 percent of the crap floating in the oceans.

According to there are more than 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean. After they soak up all those lovely PCBs and other deadly agents, marine creatures chomp on them, sicken, die, and decay — freeing the chemicals to kill again.

So, is State Senator Leticia Van de Putte’s effort to reduce the amount of plastic passing from our convenience stores into consumer grips a mad dash at marine protection? Yes, but it’s also about economics and the health of our aquifer. Each year, area water systems spend thousands of dollars unclogging plastic buildup at their treatment plants.

Senator Van de Putte’s legislation, Senate Bill 338, would require every commercial retailer using plastic bags (including non-profits) to  

1) sell and verbally offer customers reusable bags in place of plastic, and  

2) provide a plastic-bag recycling service

Van de Putte plans on coming back within five years to ban the bags completely.

The Senator first stirred to anti-plastic sentiment when she achieved a lifelong dream of visiting the Galapagos Islands a year ago. As a supremely protected site, no plastic was allowed on the islands, she said. 

More recently, she was unwrapping some meat that had been first wrapped in plastic before it was placed in her reusable shopping bag and her son, an environmental sciences major, yelped. 

Mom! Those take a thousand years to break down!” he objected. 

And with a new grandchild in the world, she said she is doubly motivated to do good by the environment. Otherwise, “In 20 years, he’s going to ask me, ‘Why did you let this happen?’


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