| Stuart Moore, a war casualty (Photo by Lisa Sorg) |
The Iraqi war: putting faces to numbers
Inside the Broadway Tack and Feed Shop, among 50-caliber shells, American flags, and fatigues, are the headshots and names of the more than 1,550 Americans' killed in the Iraq War. Innocent faces, wizened faces, faces of all colors.
FACES: The Iraq Veterans Memorial Wall is an exhibit honoring those who have died during the war. As soldiers continue to die, the exhibit grows as staffers cut new photos from a list of casualties distributed once a week.
Sponsored by the Vietnam War Museum, the photo exhibit is part of a mobile tour program to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in Iraq, as well as increase public awareness for soldiers' efforts.
The photo memorial, located at 2122 Broadway, is on display through this week. Volunteer Steven Stevens said many people are unsure about what the exhibit is until they come inside. "Many people come in here mistaking this for an anti-war display, when in fact it's simply a memorial," said Stevens.
Some of the photos are obtained from families or activists, while the rest are taken from web postings by the Department of Defense.
Jesse Marmolejo, another volunteer, reinforced the importance of humanizing the casualty statistics. "What's in a name?" Marmolejo asked. "You really don't know until you look into the face of the person who died."
- Nicole Chavez
COPS puts candidates on hot seat
In 2003, ABC launched a reality television program, Are You Hot?, in which actor Lorenzo Lamas used a laser pointer to chisel at the physical flaws - flabby abs, fleshy thighs, skinny legs - of scantily-clad contestants.
A similar grilling happened at COPS/Metro Alliance's candidates' forum last Sunday, where 1,500 likely voters from about 40 San Antonio churches jammed into steamy St. Henry's Hall. But instead of using laser pointers to detect the candidates' vulnerabilities, COPS/Metro representatives directed refreshingly combative comments and questions at those running for Districts 2, 3, 9, and mayor.
"We're fighting developers who are pouring money into hotels and golf courses," said Irma Fernandez of St. Leonard's. "We love our neighborhoods too much to make them part of your amusement park."
"COPS/Metro does not endorse candidates," said Shirley Ellis of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. "You will be given the opportunity to endorse our agenda."
Based on their answers, the candidates were promptly scored on their support for COPS/Metro's issues: On a large banner, candidates received grades of yes, no, or wishy-washy on human development, crime, streets, and accountability. Audience members kept score as well.
By the end of the mayoral round, Julián Castro had earned all "Y"s by supporting a November ballot measure that would ask voters to approve 1/8-cent sales tax increase for educational initiatives and using parking lot revenues to fund $40 million in new infrastructure. He also promised to allot $3 million toward Project Quest without requiring the job training program to obtain matching money, to commit to community policing, and meet monthly with COPS leaders, if necessary, to address neighborhood issues.
Hardberger's report card was dented by an "N" he received for saying he would allocate $1 million to educational partnerships and $1.5 to after-school programs, but preferred to use a sales tax increase for a crime and control district. The former judge agreed to ensure street improvements, fund Project Quest, work on community policing, and meet with COPS.
After scoring three consecutive "N"s on the sales tax, Project Quest, and significantly improving infrastructure within a year, Carroll Schubert was on the hot seat. While he rebounded with "Y"s on community policing and meeting with COPS, it became apparent that inner-city community activists are not Carroll Schubert's constituency.
Candidates for Districts 2, 3, and 9 were quizzed on the same topics.
District 2 incumbent Joel Williams and challenger David Arevalo said they completely supported COPS/Metro's agenda, while Sheila McNeil, one of the few women running for Council, agreed with all the proposals except the 1/8-cent sales tax increase. "The working class will pay for it," she said.
Roland Gutierrez, who is running against incumbent Ron Segovia in District 3 received "Y"s on all four questions. Segovia supported meeting with the chief of police and COPS, but opposed the sales-tax increase and lifting the matching funds requirement for Project Quest.
Compared to his fellow candidates, District 9's Kevin Wolff, son of Nelson Wolff had a cakewalk: His opponent Weston Martinez didn't show up. Wolff said he is in favor of combating crime and meeting with COPS, but received "N"s for opposing the Project Quest's request and the tax increase. "It's a regressive tax; it hurts the people you're trying to help," he said.
Amendment guts women's health bill
Senate Bill 747, authored by Senator John Carona (R-Dallas), would expand Medicaid eligibility to provide an additional 500,000 low-income Texas women with family-planning health care. Yet, last week, Senator Bob Duelle (R-Greenville) amended the bill, adding language that restricts women eligible under SB 747 from receiving services from health-care providers who either "perform or promote elective abortion," or "contract or affiliate with entities" that do.
"It is mean spirited, bad policy and bad medicine," says Jeffrey Hons, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of San Antonio and South Texas. "The whole point is to create greater access for low-income women to family planning services. In its current form, the amendment disqualifies all Planned Parenthood clinics from participating. There are doctors in Methodist Hospital who perform abortions, so does that mean the Methodist Hospital System can't participate? What about the City's Health Department?"
In Texas, women must make $3,300 a year to qualify for Medicaid family planning services. SB 747 extends those services to women who make $34,873 or less a year for a family of four. The Medicaid Waiver will cover contraception counseling and provision - except for emergency contraception - screening for diabetes, breast and cervical cancer, STDs, and other health issues, including referrals to other doctors and specialists. Most of the women served would otherwise see a doctor only in an emergency.
That may remain the case in San Antonio. Hons admits he doesn't know "where the impact of the `SB 747` amendments ends," because of its vagueness. Many health-care providers in San Antonio receive Title X federal funds that require them to provide women who face unintended pregnancies with unbiased counseling on all of their legal and medical options, including abortion. Low-income women seeking health care under the Medicaid Waiver may not be able to receive family planning services from or referral to any of the eight Planned Parenthood clinics, the University Health System, Community Action Council of South Central Texas, and San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, among others.
According to the SB 747 fiscal note, preventing Medicaid births by providing birth control to women will save the state of Texas more than $139.5 million in revenue in the bill's first five years.
To contact your legislator about SB747, go to "Yak at Your Rep" here at sacurrent.com.
KLRN snubs mayoral hopefuls
Take it for nearly granted that the Express-News will endorse Phil Hardberger for mayor, as the newspaper's columnists have subtly (and not so) been talking him up since last year.
The paper that endorsed George Bush for president in 2000 and 2004, has become predictable to the point that it's no surprise that columnist Bruce Davidson points out the merits of four District 6 alpha males who are running for the council post, and omitting information about Delicia Herrera, a woman running for the seat.
Herrera is challenging the male-dominated world of City Hall politics. She's a lifelong resident of District 6 and holds a bachelor's degree in political science. She's a regular at San Antonio Housing Authority meetings, and is well-known in her community. According to a questionnaire she answered for Smart Growth, she would work to "make enforcement of environmental regulations over the Edwards Aquifer a priority if we are to truly protect our water."
For more omissions, look at the scheduled live broadcast of a mayoral debate this Friday at 9 p.m. on KLRN, the city's public broadcasting station.
Mayoral candidates Rhett Smith and Julie Iris "Mama Bexar" Oldham says that only three candidates were invited to participate in the debate. KLRN did not return a telephone call.
Besides Smith and Oldham, the list of candidates includes Everett Caldwell and Michael Idrogo, but none of them will participate in the hour-long debate.
It might be legal. It might be status quo for San Antonio politics, but Rhett Smith doesn't appreciate the decision of a publicly funded television station to exclude him. He says he has filed a complaint with the FCC (hold your breath), and he believes his civil freedoms have been violated. Furthermore, Smith and Oldham were left off the invitation list of COPS/Metro Alliance for its Sunday afternoon debate.
If KLRN and the Express-News are choosing winners for San Antonio voters, then May 7 might be a good day for that fishing trip to the coast.
State schools, hospitals to stay open
San Antonio State School and San Antonio State Hospital will remain open,according to a study conducted by a consultant on behalf of Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
Released last week, the report concluded that state facilities are necessary for certain populations, including the medically fragile. Since it is expensive to care for these individuals, "institutional services can become a lightning rod for many consumers and advocates," the report said.
The savings from closing state hospitals or schools would not be realized for at least five to 15 years.
As part of a measure known as Rider 55, in 2001 the legislature directed HHS to study the feasibility of closing or consolidating state schools and hospitals in order to save money. Last year, consultants and state officials held nine public meetings where hundreds of caregivers, parents, and siblings opposed closure or consolidation, saying a choice of services - public or private - is necessary. Other groups lobbied for closures, saying group homes better serve those with mental retardation or illness.
"The dominant view in the public meetings and among most advocates and consumers is that they should have a fair and free choice among institutional care, residential options, and home and community-based services."
As for state hospitals, the report concluded the State should better meet the needs of the mentally ill living in rural areas, while communities should provide more support and services.
To see the full report, go to hhs.state.tx.us/pubs/2005_03_Rider55.html.
Gust of bad bills blowing in
State Senator Ken Armbrister, who earned the disdain of environmental activists last session for introducing legislation that would have stripped the Edwards Aquifer Authority of much of its regulatory power, is again trying to pass bills that undermine environmental laws and protective ordinances.
SB 1362 would prohibit a municipality from regulating land use in its extraterritorial jurisdiction. ETJ is defined as areas outside the city limits, but still subject to some, but not all, planning and zoning regulations. An example is the corner of Scenic Loop and Bandera roads, which lies within the Helotes ETJ.
If passed, a city or town couldn't regulate building or property use, the density of a development, the size of a building, or the amount of impervious cover, such as buildings and parking lots. The City of San Antonio limits impervious cover to 30 percent of a development. The greater the amount of impervious cover, the more urban runoff, which degrades water quality.
SB 1542, also an Armbrister brainchild, limits public participation in contested case hearings before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. A contested case hearing is similar to trial in that it is overseen by and administrative law judge and opponents and proponents are allowed to hire lawyers and call witnesses. Many opponents of City Public Service's proposed coal-fired power plant have requested that TCEQ commissioners grant a contested case hearing on that issue.
Under this bill, only people who are deemed to be "affected" by a plan, such as a power plant, quarry, or landfill, can request a contested case hearing. "Affected" people are often those who live within a certain proximity to the proposed site. Environmental groups oppose that designation because they say pollution, contamination, and other environmental problems can impact people beyond those geographic boundaries.
If passed, the law would prohibit TCEQ Commissioners from referring an issue to the State Office of Administrative Hearings for a contested case hearing unless the dispute is based on fact and is not a broad or generalized objection.
Moreover, SB 1542 states that public notice of a contested case hearing wouldn't be required; only the applicant, TCEQ's public interest lawyers, the TCEQ executive director, and the affected person would have to be notified.
The TCEQ Commission could also grant permit applications and renew applications without a public hearing if the applicant doesn't plan to increase the amount of discharge, such as air or water pollution, or change the nature of the pollution. Although the Commission would be required to grant the permits during a regular meeting, it would not be a public hearing in which citizens could petition the TCEQ. •