April 20


The big chill

District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan. Illustration by Jeremiah TeutschThere was never a North-South love affair on Castro's Council, but lately the mismatch has become overtly partisan and very public

Last month, Mike Beldon arranged a breakfast meeting at El Mirador between District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan and Christian Archer, the campaign strategist behind the election and national rocket launch of Mayor Julian Castro. So what? you might think. Before he worked for Castro, Archer engineered the surprise win and successful City Hall career of Mayor Phil Hardberger – an early champion of Chan. Beldon, a successful businessman and popular campaign treasurer who’s served that role for both mayors, was also Chan’s first treasurer.

The meeting, however, was anything but a happy reunion of old allies. Chan has aggressively questioned Castro and City Manager Sheryl Sculley on a number of high-profile initiatives in the past two years, including the Mayor’s Pre-K program, the Nexolon solar-manufacturing incentive, and the recent SAWS rate increase. But the relationship between Chan, who represents the city’s most reliably conservative political district, and the popular Democratic mayor, has deteriorated rapidly and publicly in recent weeks, as Chan became the unhappy poster child for the Mayor’s proposed ethics reform. Those reforms would increase the list of public entities with which elected City officials are prohibited from doing business – a direct poke at Chan, whose engineering firm has worked on contracts with VIA, the public transit agency for San Antonio and Bexar County.

Chan’s firm had nothing to do with the Convention Center ethics breakdown that theoretically inspired this latest round of reform. And it wasn’t lost on her that the newspaper reports linking her name and business, Unintech, with the need for additional ethics rules appeared around the same time that at least one member of the Mayor’s political team was talking to potential Chan opponents for the May elections.


The infamous revue, 2012

Illustration by Jeremiah TeutschSan Antonio loves a good public scandal and 2012 did not disappoint. From expensive meals fueled by public dollars to political candidates caught living out-of-bounds by hidden cameras, it’s worth taking one last sniff of the old year's biggest stinkers before we shovel the yard and wait for the next politico to step in it. Here are some of the top fails of 2012, and my predictions for what the New Year may bring.


The old-school politics of JoAnn Ramon

Illustration by Jeremiah TeutschPolitical operative JoAnn Ramon was climbing into her car to leave a campaign event at a San Antonio hotel when her cell phone started ringing. The call was from a candidate she'd recently helped elect to the Texas House of Representatives.

"He said, 'Help me!' I said, 'Where are you?'" Ramon recalled. "He said, 'Look up.' And I went 'Oh, my god.' I said, 'I'm coming.'"

The official was sitting in his car in the hotel parking lot with the doors locked. A woman was splayed across the hood, screaming for him to get out of the car. The official, who was married, was having an affair, and the woman he was cheating with had shown up to confront him over a lovers' quarrel.

A state representative who was riding with Ramon offered to handle the situation. "And I said, 'No, I don't need two of you in trouble,'" Ramon said. She peeled the woman off the other representatives' car and told her candidate to get out of there. He sped off.


Practicing the political dark arts

Illustration by Jeremiah TeutschIt was a hot lazy Sunday in the middle of July when Democratic candidate for House District 117 Tina Torres and her boyfriend returned to the house she owns in Gold Canyon near Stone Oak. As Torres stepped out of her car holding a shopping bag and wearing sweat pants with a white T-shirt, a private investigator hired by her political opponent was sitting in a car across the street, shooting video.

“We just followed her on public streets, everything we did was in public,” said Kelly Riddle, a licensed PI and owner of Kelmar and Associates, the company hired by Torres’s opponent, former San Antonio Councilman Philip Cortez.

The week-long surveillance cost Cortez around $5,000. It was apparently money well spent. Torres was officially "residing" in the district in a rented apartment, but the video of Torres staying at her home outside House District 117 contributed to her resounding loss in the July 31 runoff election, according to political consultant Colin Strother.

“It was a godsend and it won the race for him. There’s no doubt about it,” Strother said. “Her biggest mistake was assuming that no one was watching. And that it didn’t matter.”


Ciro on the block

Illustration by Jeremiah TeutschIt didn't take Ciro Rodriguez long to figure out why so few doors were opening for him Saturday morning on Sorocco Street. He had to look no further than the woman and her two young children standing on the sidewalk.

The mother and daughter wore bright floral dresses, and the boy's dress shirt was buttoned to the top and he had on a skinny tie. They peered expectantly over the fence at the former Congressman as he knocked on somebody's front door. No answer. Rodriguez exchanged a few pleasant words in Spanish with the family after turning to leave.

When there was a little distance between us and them, he whispered, "They're Jehovah's Witnesses.


Entropy and anarchy in the ETJ

Photo by Justin ParrThe entrance to Camelot II sits directly across from Montgomery Elementary School, which is quiet over the summer break. Few cars go in or out of the small subdivision, and there’s almost no sign that a couple hundred yards down Winsford Street the First World is in full retreat.

On Neston Drive, a family is chatting in the bare front yard of a house, and a white pickup truck maneuvers impatiently through the obstacles in an alleyway behind Stockport. A couple streets over, a tall woman picks her way through an overgrown public easement with two small children in tow. These are the only indications at 10:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning that the area isn’t abandoned. On several blocks, boarded-up windows seem to outnumber those with glass. Which might be a futile gesture. Broken windows are common enough, but vandals and thieves find it just as easy to go straight through the walls, leaving studs and insulation exposed where the copper has been ripped out. In one alleyway, palm trunks and empty carports are charred from a mini arson crime wave, and a tour guide will point out the addresses of recent murders: the man who was killed by his lover; a shooting that hit a baby. But it’s the trash that’s made the local news again: couches, mattresses, and old toilets, and endless stinking heaps of plastic bags and loose garbage piled in garages and strewn across roadways. Camelot II has become an open landfill.


Run-offs & Showdowns: the video

Kelton Morgan, Christian Anderson, Christian Archer, and Greg Jefferson. Photo by Phillip KentIt's too late to ask your own questions of local political consultants Christian Anderson, Christian Archer and Kelton Morgan, but pour another cup of coffee and enjoy the video of our June 28 Readers Forum, thanks to Moderated by PdA's Greg Jefferson.

Our next Readers Forum is scheduled for July 24 at Aldaco's. Inspired in part by the Pecha Kucha model, it will feature nine food revolutionaries who are changing the way San Antonio eats and thinks about food. Get info and RSVP here.

Watch live streaming video from nowcastsa at
Copyright 2012 Plaza de Armas TX. All rights reserved.