Wanted: Someone To Return Calls

County Commissioners Precinct 1
Incumbent: Robert Tejeda

Challengers: Chico Rodriguez, Roland Gutierrez

Precinct 1 has ragged borders, with the northern frontier running along Durango to Hwy 90 to 151 and Culebra outside of Loop 410 to the Medina County line. To the east at Durango and I-37, the boundary runs south along Hackberry to Wilson County.
Roland Gutierrez

Chico Rodriguez

Rodriguez, Gutierrez seek to unseat Precinct 1 incumbent

Back in the 1960s, a new kid showed up in classes at Rayburn Elementary on the South Side. He had failed a grade or two, and was bigger than the rest of the kids in the fifth grade.

Instead of making friends in the neighborhood, he caught several students on their way home, and kicked the shit out of them. He was the neighborhood bully, and very few wanted to stand up to him.

With one exception: Sergio "Chico" Rodriguez.

"I complained about him to my brothers (one of whom is Congressman Ciro Rodriguez). And they said 'Do something about it."'

Rodriguez challenged the bully and won the fight, earning the rank of No. 1 vato bien partido at Rayburn Elementary.

From then on, Rodriguez was the mediator in other neighborhood skirmishes, and the great protector of the downtrodden.

One could argue that when Rodriguez took on the bully and made the world safer for elementary kids in the Harlandale-McCollum school district, he became a public servant. That was almost 40 years ago.

Today, Rodriguez, who still lives in the heart of the South Side, a few blocks from Military Drive, wants to serve the public in a bigger way. He is again campaigning for Bexar County Commissioner, Precinct 1 - the same seat he sought in 2000.

"I scraped past (Walter) Martinez in the primary and lost to (Robert) Tejeda by 768 votes," he recalls.

Rodriguez again is the underdog in a three-way race against Commissioner Tejeda and challenger Roland Gutierrez. His campaign contribution report shows he raised $6,150 from July to December 2003.

His message: "We need sensible growth on the South Side. Taxing the elderly is a bandwagon that has got to stop. I would push to enact Proposition 13 right away. There is a lack of law enforcement on the South Side. We need someone to answer constituents' phone calls."

Rodriguez worked as a lineman for City Public Service until he suffered a serious heart attack a few years ago; he has since recovered. He anticipates what his opponents will say about his campaign: "They will say I'm running on my brother's coattails."

That's not so unusual. Tejeda is a cousin of the late Senator Frank Tejeda. Lots of people have family connections on the South Side, and they use them.

Rodriguez is using printed material from his 2000 campaign, "when I had more hair." He is working with a shoestring budget, but he believes he can win. "I believe that I'm going to pull it off, but it's tough without money."

Gutierrez pushes petition

Roland Gutierrez, a 1998 graduate of St. Mary's University Law School, maintains a law office near downtown and lives on South Presa Street, on the eastern edge of Precinct 1.

He says he received 1,000 calls after the Express-News published his telephone number and endorsed him - but some consider it bad form to elect lawyers to public office.

Nonetheless, Gutierrez has made Proposition 13, a significant tax break for senior citizens that received more than 80 percent support from Bexar County voters last September, a major platform in his campaign.

"This is an issue that people have asked for. If it passed by 88 percent, it was not a suggestion, it is a mandate," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez appears to be well on the road to forcing Proposition 13 onto the ballot in Bexar County, an idea the Precinct 1 incumbent has resisted.

"The second issue, which should be at the forefront, is we need campaign finance reform in Bexar County and in the city," Gutierrez said. "There is something wrong with one company giving the current Precinct 1 commissioner $25,000 in one month. There is a tremendous problem with developers buying votes.

Gutierrez said he was going to set a $1,000 contribution limit from his attorney friends and other supporters, but one pal had already donated $1,200. Yet, Gutierrez has not raised one-third of what Tejeda has collected from corporations that do business with Bexar County - and from a political action committee called the Friends for Nelson Wolff.

"I have to be able to keep competitive with this guy, and frankly I can't. I've raised $20,000 to his $100,000. I have spent about $60,000 of my personal savings because this man (Tejeda) has hurt our community, and it's time to get someone who will advocate for the people. Tejeda was against the South Side Initiative, but Toyota is here despite Mr. Tejeda. We need someone who will have an eye for progress in our community."

Tejeda mum on campaign

Precinct 1 Bexar County Commissioner Robert Tejeda received his third telephone call from the Current a couple of hours before deadline, but he did not return any messages.

The E-N, which endorses political candidates, has recommended ousting Tejeda.

Tejeda reported $18,450 in contributions in his 30-day report. He spent $13,594, and listed $44,800 in loans.

Contributors include $1,500 from Houston law firm Fulbright and Jaworski; $7,500 from Friends for Nelson Wolff. The Linebarger et. al. law firm that collects delinquent taxes for Bexar County ponied up $5,000, and paid $528.88 for lunch - the buffet must have been awesome.

And Tejeda's contribution report from January 2003 to June 2003 shows that Nelson Wolff's "Friends" shelled out another $2,500, and Linebarger put up an additional $5,000.

Somebody in the rarified area of county government likes Robert Tejeda, and they have the money to back him - just keep those lucrative county government contracts coming.

Tejeda reportedly opposed the South Side Initiative. On October 3, 2002, he was quoted in the E-N as saying, "We like our way of life. We like our guns. We like our hunting."

Tejeda appears to be out of touch with the South Side, the heart of Bexar County Precinct 1. Residents want the sound of gunfire silenced, because when a weapon goes off in their community, it usually means that somebody is shooting at them. •

The Texas primary is Tuesday, March 9

Run-off elections, if necessary, are April 13. You can find out the names of your elected officials by clicking on a link at the Bexar County Elections Office website at www.co.bexar.tx.us/elections and typing in your street name.

This site also contains a list of Early Voting sites and sample ballots for the Republican and Democratic parties. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open these files.

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