The Que Que

LULAC’s Hutto connection

As a growing coalition of activists prepares for what they hope will be the most high-profile protest yet at the immigrant-family detention center in Taylor, Texas, fellow activists are challenging LULAC over sponsorship monies received from the private company that runs the prison.

Corrections Corporation of America, the private-prison vanguard and government partner — which opened the T. Don Hutto facility in May 2006 and continues to operate it as a contractor with the Federal government — sponsored the LULAC national convention in 2005, 2006, and 2007, according to electronic versions of the convention programs available online. CCA is listed at the Patron level each year, which requires a minimum donation of $10,000, for a total of $30,000 over the three-year period. Critics Antonio Diaz of the Texas Indigenous Council and Pedro Ruiz believe CCA was sponsoring LULAC events as early as 2002.

An unknown number of men, women (including pregnant women), children, and infants are housed at the facility, which was originally built as a maximum-security prison. LULAC, the highly influential Latino advocacy organization, has organized local and national campaigns to close the prison and participated in numerous vigils held in Taylor.

LULAC National Treasurer Jaime Martinez, a longtime San Antonio labor activist, says that when he was made aware of the sponsorship, he and President Rosa Rosales immediately initiated the return of the $10,000 that year.

LULAC National Executive Director Brent Wilkes confirms Martinez’s account, and says he believes the CCA money was returned in 2007, the last year that LULAC accepted sponsorship money from CCA for its conference. Previous years’ funds were not returned, he said, in part because they were probably already spent.

Wilkes says it’s simply an oversight that CCA was still included as of June 5 on’s Buy America list, the tagline for which is “Support American Jobs and Workers. Companies That Support Our Communities.”

Martinez and Hutto activist Jay Johnson-Castro worry that raising the CCA controversy will undo three years of coalition-building on the Hutto issue, which will culminate in a June 20 vigil in Taylor in honor of World Refugee Day. “It hurt all of us,” Johnson-Castro says. “It hurt our cause that somebody would be so indiscreet as to publicly scam an ally.”

TV wasteland

With the date of the analog-to-digital television Armageddon now penciled in for June 12, millions of unused analog televisions have the potential to wind up in Lone Star landfills in the near future. Given this threat, TV recycling has risen higher on many individuals’ to-do lists, including the Texas Legislature’s.

The Texas Senate approved the TV TakeBack bill on May 27, and it currently awaits the signature of Governor Rick Perry. If it becomes law, TV TakeBack will obligate all TV manufacturers to provide a free television recycling plan for their customers if they want to be able to sell their products inside Texas borders, says Rob Borja, chief of staff for San Antonio Representative David Leibowitz.

“The enforcement mechanism `for this bill` is that retailers are not allowed to sell any TVs from manufacturers that do not have a recycling plan,” Borja says.

Activists welcome the legislature’s action, but wish it had come sooner.

“The problems with the legislation are that the bill will not be enforced until after the switch from analog to digital `and that` there are no incentives in the bill for manufacturers to begin their programs early,” says Jeffery Jacoby, Texas Campaign for the Environment program director for Dallas/Fort Worth.

Youth gone mild

It’s been 18 years since SA last addressed the issue of youth curfews, and by most accounts (including those of Police Chief William McManus and City Manager Sheryl Sculley) the City’s existing ordinance — much ballyhooed when it was rolled out in the summer of 1991 — has not worked particularly well.

One reason cited by Sculley: Officers have been reluctant to pick up apparent violators, because those officers will be stuck with the kids for long, indefinite stretches, forced to hear how friggin’ awesome Paramore is, rather than doing “the work they’re trained to do” — patrolling the doughnut shops, er, streets.

City Staff recommended that the Council tweak its existing ordinance by moving the evening curfew time from 10:30 to midnight, allowing kids to bend curfew rules if their parents send them on emergency errands, and stipulating that children whose parents can’t be located will be sent to SAPD’s Youth Services Office. The final provision frees officers from having to be de-facto babysitters whenever they pick up a curfew violator.

Things got thorny, however, when outgoing District 2 Council member Sheila McNeil and District 10’s John Clamp fretted at the thought that 10-year-old children would be allowed to be out until midnight. Diane Cibrian expressed similar concerns, and suggested an 11 p.m.-6 a.m.
curfew. The Concil unanimously passed the compromise ordinance.

Before the deluge

Al Gore’s decision to hinge An Inconvenient Truth on the fear-inducing hurricane hasn’t served the prophets of climate change. While researchers across the planet have reached deep consensus on issues of planetary warming, desertification, rising seas, and melting ice, the question of how hurricanes will respond to global warming is still being vigorously debated.

It may not matter much.

We’ve already entered a natural cycle of increased storm activity that could last into the 2020s — a change driven by the heat transferred by the Atlantic Ocean known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, or AMO.

Last week, researchers at Texas A&M University released a study suggesting that minor increases in sea levels already under way and damages to protective barrier islands will exacerbate coastal flooding and intensify the impact of hurricanes on coastal development.

The cumulative impact of our warmer Gulf of Mexico, barrier island damage, and storm activity could more than double flooding levels in Corpus Christi by 2080, the report found.

Speaking to a gathering of environmental journalists attending the Scripps Howard Institute on the Environment last week, Asbury Sallenger, author of the just-released book Island in a Storm, said the dramatic coastal subsidence across Louisiana made the area a perfect model for forecasting what other coastal areas will see in coming decades as the sea level rises.

The result of hurricanes riding taller seas: barrier islands like the Chandeleur Islands being overwashed by storm surge. (Hurricane Katrina took a full 85 percent of the Chandeleur.)

“You flew over this thing and — first of all — the pilots couldn’t find it,” Sallenger said. “Ten kilometers was gone. A lighthouse that used to be at the northern end was gone. The sand is completely gone. You couldn’t find sand anywhere.”

Second only to Florida, Texas has 350 miles of barrier-island beaches along its coast.

City on the lege

Last week’s Council B-session not only offered the preliminary unveiling of the 2009-2011 model (featuring new Mayor Julián Castro, District 6’s Ray Lopez, and District 9’s Elisa Chan, with three more seats waiting on runoff results), it also provided a “preliminary post-session report” on how the City was affected by the Texas Legislature’s 81st Legislative Session.

Carlos Contreras, director of Intergovernmental Relations, noted that seven of the City’s eight biggest priorities passed the lege, but conceded that political jockeying over Voter ID had left many bills waiting at the altar.

Among the SA-related legislation that passed: The Military Installation Protection Act, which included an amendment creating a commission to ensure a buffer around Camp Bullis; $4 million in funding for UTSA’s Life Science Institute; recognition of Texas A&M-San Antonio as a stand-alone institution; $10 million in grant money for BRAC projects; $20 million for big-city initiatives that will enable SA to apply for more Haven for Hope funding; and a graffiti bill that requires restitution/community service for taggers, but does not include stiff new criminal penalties sought by Council members.

On Monday, June 8, a group of local leaders (Castro, County Judge Nelson Wolff, businessman Tom Frost, and COPS/Metro reps) gathered for a City Hall press conference to celebrate the passage of another bill expected to impact the city: the creation of a $25-million Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) Fund, including $10 million in grants to job-training programs such as SA’s Project QUEST.

“This breaks ground, because it gets, for the first time, a foothold into the state budget,” says State Representative Mike Villarreal, the bill’s author. “It says that ever year we’re going to have to reconsider how much we spend on adult education in this way. Before, it never even came up.”

U.S. Military deaths: 4,311 /Civilian deaths: 92,311-100,786 /Cost in U.S. currency: $676,684,145,000 as of 5:15 p.m., CDT, June 9, 2009

Sources: National Priorities Project, Iraq Body Count,