News Briefs

News flash: African Americans spotted on SAs North Side

Youd think if youre going to put on something for the African-American community ... said a woman to her friend.

... youd invite some African Americans, the friend replied.

About 70 people, most of them African American, showed up at an August 4 public discussion, The Media and the African-American Community, hosted by KLRN-TV, but many had heard about it through word-of-mouth rather than through the local PBS affiliate.

The discussion was part of the Preview Forum, a project of the Massachusetts-based Roundtable Media, which holds public meetings about social issues including diversity and democracy. Comments from the meeting will be forwarded to Roundtable and used as part of a research project.

Attendees lambasted the media, including the Express-News whose Northeast Neighbors Editor Lorna Stafford drew the short straw to appear on the panel for its biased coverage of African Americans. TV and newspapers portray blacks as criminals, sports idols, or rap stars (or all of the above), the attendees said, while neglecting to show stories of successful, educated African Americans.

District 2 City Councilwoman Sheila McNeil cited the example of the East Terrace neighborhood, where the media used to camp out because of the high crime rate. Through the efforts of neighborhood leaders, McNeil said, the area has been revitalized and crime has sharply decreased, as has the media coverage.

And Kathy Clay-Little, who publishes the newspaper African-American Reflections, writes a column for the Express-News, and hosts a talk-radio show on KSJL, noted that when District Attorney Susan Reed recently announced a new gang-free zone on the East Side, she had five Negroes behind her.

Panelist Fred Williams, a government professor at Northwest Vista College, criticized local African-American publications, which are free, for a lack of substantive news coverage. Its just advertisements, who got married and who died. Also taken to task were the National Enquirer leanings of the San Antonio Observer, which on one cover featured a doctored photo of Mayor Phil Hardberger sitting on a toilet with his pants around his knees.

One of the discussion topics was What is the one thing you would like the outside world to know about your community?

The answer: There are African Americans in San Antonio and they dont all live on the East Side.

- Lisa Sorg

Telesur fuels US-Venezuela row

CARACAS, Venezuela The Spanish-language television channel Telesur has been on the air for only two weeks, but its become ammunition in a the war of words brewing between Washington and Caracas.

Directors of the news and cultural channel, which is supported by the Venezulean government, say its objective is to provide a distinctly Latin American voice among large media powers `See related story, Telegenda? July 28-August 3, 2005`. Telesur argues that channels such as CNN offer biased coverage of the region and prevent Latin Americans from seeing accurate coverage of their own cultures. Telesurs news director Enrique Botero said last week that while the new multi-state television channel doesnt want to "enter a war with CNN," it was ready to wage an "information battle" with the Atlanta-based channel.

Apparently, U.S. lawmakers didnt like the sound of that. Telesur hadnt even hit the airwaves when the House of Representatives approved an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2005 that authorizes U.S.-financed broadcasts in Venezuela to counteract Telesur. Congressman Connie Mack, a Florida Republican who spearheaded the amendment, accused the channel of being patterned after Al-Jazeera and claimed that in (President) Hugo Chavez Venezuela there is no free press, just state controlled, anti-American propaganda. He said U.S. broadcasts would be a consistently accurate, objective, and comprehensive source of news to Venezuela." For the amendment to pass, the House and Senate must agree to it in a joint conference committee; the Senate has passed a version of the bill without the amendment.

Chávez, a vocal critic of the U.S. government, responded to Macks amendment by warning that U.S. broadcasts would provoke an electronic war between the two countries. As for the Al-Jazeera reference, Telesur president Andrés Izarra announced last week that the channel could seek affiliation with the Arab station.

Bernardo Álvarez, Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S., alleged that Macks amendment reflects a total lack of knowledge about Venezuelan reality. Pro-government pundits in Venezuela emphasize that all but one of the nations main television stations are privately owned and support opponents of the government.

Telesur critics accused the channel of being a mouthpiece for Chávez agenda because Izarra doubled as Telesurs president and Venezuelas communications minister. Yet Izarra announced last week that he would resign his government post. Pakistani novelist and historian Tariq Ali, who is on Telesur's advisory council, said in a press conference before the resignation that the channel needed to be independent and able to criticize the governments that fund it.

- Jens Erik Gould

ACCD Citizens Committees proposes $450M bond

On August 1, the Alamo Community College District Citizens Capital Improvement Bond Committee held a public hearing to solicit community feedback on its $450 million bond proposal package, which will fund improvements to the four ACCD campuses and construction of a new Northeast campus.

The bond proposal drops the controversial North Side consolidated nursing and allied-health center, but otherwise leaves in place much of the original bond, which was shot down by voters last February `see Unbreakable Bond, June 23-29`. With the presidents of the five campuses, COPS/Metro Alliance leaders cautiously endorsed the Committees proposal. We recognize and commend the work and time the citizens committee has dedicated to this bond package,said Joseph Oubré, COPS/Metro Alliance spokesman, but, ultimately, only the board has the final say in how the bond moves forward.

Daniel Naranjo, facilitator for the Citizens Committee, said it will present the bond package to the ACCD Board on August 15. I think they will adopt the Committees recommendations wholesale because thats what they said theyd do.

The Citizens Committee proposes a bond that would double the nursing and allied-health programming at the four existing campuses, limiting all ACCD nursing training to St. Philips and SAC. The bond would increase Bexar Countys applied property taxes by $30 per $100,000 in appraised value.

Although most at the hearing spoke in favor of the proposed bond package, some voiced doubts. While she opposed placing the nursing and allied health programs on the North Side, community activist Nettie Hinton wondered what became of the plan to consolidate the health programs at a single campus. The Committee should not abandon that concept; it was fiscally and educationally correct, she said. They said the only problem was the location, so what happened? This bond was formulated for political expediency; they are buying votes rather than asking the hard questions.

Community Churches for Social Action, which in the last bond election coined the phrase vote it down, send it back, do it right, urged the ACCD Board to decide quickly so that the long overdue bond could make it onto the November ballot. Yet they cautioned that its success would depend on the boards ability to communicate with the people affected by the bond. Daniel Watford, CCSA representative, promised to help get out the vote, saying, If it goes forward as proposed with the support of the ACCD board, we will fight to pass it as passionately as we fought to defeat the last bond.

- Susan Pagani

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