City could go to court over Canadians' case
The City has about three weeks to settle out of court with two Canadian tourists who allege two San Antonio Park Rangers called them "fags" before roughing them up on the River Walk last summer. If the City doesn't settle, said attorney Ed Piña, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Canadians, then the case will go to court.

As the Current reported last summer `"Park ranger danger," August 2-8`, Canadian tourists Joey Abbruzzese, 20, and Gregory Malezyk, 19, were strolling the River Walk at about 1:30 am when two park rangers approached them. The rangers allegedly called them "fags," then choked, beat, and scraped the men's heads on the cement before arresting them and taking them to jail. The Canadians were charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The Bexar County District Attorney eventually dropped all the charges.

According to FBI spokesman Rene Salinas, the FBI investigated the incident, and forwarded its report to the Department of Justice. Salinas said the DOJ would notify the FBI only if it wants the bureau to continue investigating the case; the DOJ hasn't contacted the FBI to do so.

Arresting officer Armando Vidales no longer works for the park rangers. According to an Office of Municipal Integrity report, Vidales pulled some cybergender-bending - he admitted to investigators that he sent an email under the name "Mary Jo Hicks" to gay activists and at least one other park ranger to strengthen his case and mislead investigators.

Local activist Dan Castor received an email from "Mary Jo Hicks" who claims to have witnessed the incident from near the Hyatt. The email language strongly resembled the words in the police report.

"You can't fucken arrest me you assholes" and "your just fucken park rangers" stated Vidales in his report; the Hicks version claimed she witnessed the Canadians saying: "Ya fucken park ranger faggots" and used police jargon such as "subject."

Although the investigation revealed Vidales faked the email, it cleared the Park Rangers of any other misconduct, including gay slurs or excessive force.

Look for a follow-up in the Current within the next few weeks.

Time to badger Congress
Space is not the place: House Resolution 3616, also referred to as the Space Preservation Act of 2002, would ban research and development of space-based weapons.

If passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, the bill would also work toward a global ban on stratospheric warfare.

The bill has been referred to the House International Relations and Armed Services committees, and the Space and Aeronautics subcommittee. There are several Texas representatives on these committees including Ciro Rodriguez, who is on Armed Services, and Lamar Smith, who serves on Space.

Closer to the ground, House Bill 1494, also known as the National Forest Protection and Restoration Act of 2001 would end commercial logging in national forests. It would also require the U.S. Forest Service to restore these public lands to their pre-logging conditions and fund an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency for non-wood paper and alternative construction materials. Money for job retraining and worker relocation is included in the proposed legislation.

Not surprisingly, the timber industry, which gets less than 3 percent of its wood from national forests, opposes the bill.

Yet there are environmental and financial reasons.

Clearcutting and logging roads (there are 440,000 logging roads in national forests, more than the federal highway system) both ruin ecosystems and spoil the beauty of federal lands. Nor does logging make financial sense. According to the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, the U.S. Forest Service loses $1 billion a year to build roads for logging companies.

About 120 representatives have signed onto the bill, including only two Texas Congresswomen, Eddie Bernice Johnson and Sheila Jackson-Lee.

In Texas, there are 638,000 acres of national forests - many of which have already endured logging - concentrated in the eastern portion of the state. In addition, there is a San Antonio connection to the logging industry: Austin-based Temple Inland company is one of the state's largest timber companies (but logs its own private lands) and owns Lumbermen's - which is developing the PGA Village - and Guaranty Financial Services, which has several bank branches in San Antonio.

Kelly seeking public input on proposed cleanup
The Air Force has put a plan on the table to clean up contaminated soil and groundwater from some areas at the former Kelly Air Force Base. Now it's time for the public to chime in.

The targeted areas are the former Building 301, a structure that once held a plating shop, but has since been demolished; Building 360, a maintenance facility that housed cleaning lines; and Site E-1, which contained waste disposal pits for sludges, fuels, and oils.

These areas contain cancer-causing chemicals PCE, DCE, and TCE.

The plan calls for the Air Force to build a specially treated wall around the contamination in Building 360 that would allow clean water to pass through, while keeping contaminants from leeching out.

The same process would be used at Building 301 and Site E-1, plus any remaining contaminated soil would be heated to remove contaminated vapors.

This portion of the Kelly cleanup is scheduled to begin this summer, but according to the Air Force, will take about 20 years to complete.

More info is at the Web site:

The public comment period for both proposed cleanup methods runs through March 7. Interested citizens can mail their comments to Community Involvement Office, "Attention Former Building 301 and Building 360," Air Force Base Conversion Agency, 143 Billy Mitchell Blvd. Suite 1, San Antonio, TX 78226-1816.

Comments may also be faxed to 210-925-3636 or emailed to [email protected]