The Queque - October 6, 2010

Toxic Dems -

Last night, the virtually irrelevant “official” Bexar County Democratic Party was scheduled to gather in a warehouse space across Highway 90 from Lackland AFB. Only many precinct chairs the QueQue spoke with on Monday and Tuesday weren’t planning on showing up for the Executive Committee meeting. They were fearful of fumes, and not the ones so often expressed by the sometimes-bullying leadership of County Chair Dan Ramos. The fear is about toxic chemicals stored at the site that several precinct chairs say made them sick at a May committee meeting. It was months after the Party had been thrown into disarray by revelations that more than $200,000 had been siphoned out of the group’s bank accounts. Several precinct chairs claim they had to seek medical attention for suspected toxic poisoning from chemicals stored at the building. Though many have since expressed their concerns with Ramos, he’s done nothing to help move the meeting, they say. One woman said she passed out in her car following the meeting. Another said she received chemical burns to her lungs. Another told the Que2 this week: “It’s disgusting it. It is absolutely disgusting. … Last time I went I was sick for a week. Disgustingly sick. Ever since that meeting my health has gone down. … My lungs were just torn up.”

Complaints have since gone out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Investigations by the San Antonio Fire Department’s Hazmat teams prompted by complaints lodged more than a week after the meeting confirmed a strong odor but failed to turn up a possible chemical culprit, said Kyle Cunningham, health program manager with San Antonio Metro Health. “They did find, I think, one 55-gallon drum with some oily residue in the bottom of it, but everything — good gosh — you’re talking 10 days later,” Cunningham said.

Several of those who claim they were sickened at the site planned to attend Tuesday night’s meeting. “We’re trying to get it killed as a location,” one precinct chair told the QueQue. So you can bet we’ll be there waiting for the Fire Marshal and watching a lot of agitated chatter taking place behind white allergy masks.

The troubles are just the latest to seize the long-unraveling former force in Bexar County politics. The real Democratic muscle these days is being exerted by Bexar County United Democrats, operating off Broadway with tough campaign strategist Christian Archer at the helm. Meanwhile, loyal Dems are waiting nervously for DA Susan Reed — herself facing a tough challenger in the young would-be Nico LaHood — to file a possibly politically timed lawsuit naming former Bexar County Democratic Party Treasurer Dwayne Adams as defendant in the embezzlement case. Hang on tight. •

Hagee’s Testicling

We’re pretty sure they’re just getting back at us for tying up their increasingly icy ski slopes, these funny people we call Coloradoans. After all, what’s not to like about straight-talkin’, clear-sighted, deeply stoic Texans … Texans like San Antonio-based unabashed religio-nutter John Hagee? A giant in contemporary evangelical circles (OK, at least he hasn’t been taken down in a scandal involving preemie sex slaves and violated kittens!), Hagee had packed up his trunkload of puffy tacos to head up to the Allied Jewish Federation to give a talk at the Federation’s Annual Men’s Event in Denver next month when he got the bad news. Despite the Federation’s main money bundler’s insistence that Hagee keynote, our pudgy portent of queer doom and Israeli End Times’ elevation has been officially disinvited, according to the Denver Post. It appears the thinking/feeling wing of Colorado Jewry grew a pair and mobilized in dissent, objecting, we imagine, to the pastor’s suggestion that Hurricane Katrina was actually God’s fiery (heterosexual) testicle sent to wipe out the New Sodomites of New Orleans. (See “Zionist in Winter,” November 12, 2008.) Or was it his outright anti-Semitism, blaming centuries of racist persecution on their failure to mass convert. Oy vey! Keeping Israel weaponized makes for the strangest bedfellows! As of Tuesday, the November 18 male-only gathering will instead feature U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee and senior Jewish member of the Senate. Calls to the Federation were not returned by press deadline. Calls to Hagee’s office got the QueQue tortuous praise muzak and a promotional spiel about a new book.

Reaching QueQue from Israel on the dimming side of our press deadline, Hagee spokesperson Ari Morgenstern said that Hagee’s team had a scheduling conflict from the get-go, but when protest sprouted they decided “now is not the right time” for Colorado.•

Déjà Blue

We so thought BexarMet was on the upswing. Then General Manager Victor Mercado gave the utility’s board members the silent treatment at last week’s gathering when questioned about an ongoing federal investigation into multimillion-dollar contracts awarded during his six-year stint as director of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department. “Mr. Mercado declined to say anything because he was subpoenaed to testify in court, but essentially the board has hired a lawyer to look at `Mercado’s` contractual obligations that must be fulfilled,” said BexarMet public affairs specialist Hernan Rozemberg. “The board didn’t know anything about this when they hired him.”

Though his contract would expire December 7, 2012, some board members aren’t happy with his “mum’s the word” attitude, especially with their former GM Gil Olivares indicted on four counts of wiretapping and misappropriation of funds just last September. “I have some problems with him not being able to answer questions that he should be able to answer,” said Andy Carr, BexarMet District 2 director. “We hired him, gave him a $190,000 a year salary, and it’s our job to set standards for him.”

Deja blues, anyone?

It was such a heated debate that even the five-panel bigwig Bexar Metropolitan Water District Oversight Committee established two sessions ago stepped in and unanimously voted to adopt legislation to dissolve the water utility altogether, a decision taxpayers may have to make by November 2011.

“They’ve had four years to get things right,” State Senator Carlos Uresti told QueQue. “It’s our job to assess their progress, see how they’re performing and offer guidance, but with a dysfunctional board and financial mishaps, it was time to step in.”

Yes, we’ve heard this one before too. Uresti tried once to dissolve BexarMet’s elected board, until an outspoken attorney argued in favor of voters’ right. (See “Bexar Met’s secret soldiers,” July 18, 2007.)

While the referendum would turn the Met over to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality if such a referendum passes, the TCEQ would also be charged with negotiating the transfer of utility operations if anyone were interested in stepping in, Uresti said.

San Antonio Water System, which operates by appointed board members, may be a viable candidate, with some reservations. “You have a voting right issue here,” Uresti said. “It’s just not that simple so we have to go through all the committee hearings and expert testimonies to get through this process.”

While some board members welcome renewed scrutiny of BexarMet’s operations, not everyone is for change. “If we get re-elected, we should deal with current situations,” Carr said. “If the public votes to keep BexarMet it would be a vote of confidence and I want people to affirm their support for us.”

Man’s got his work cut out for him. •