Requiem for a Lost City....San Antonio

Overheard at a San Antonio restaurant, “We’re visiting my daughter who lives here and I find it to be such a lovely city, so very conservative.”  On June 10, 2017 with some hope still remaining, the last remnants of a ‘conservative’ city died and became the ‘progressive’ city.   

It’s been a long time coming: a ‘progressive’ San Antonio. Henry Cisneros was elected mayor in 1981 at the age of 33 winning by a landslide.  Electing Cisneros as the first Hispanic mayor was a very good thing for the Hispanic community and basically he did not show overt signs of liberal or progressive leanings.  There were problems even before Cisneros came to ‘power’ when he was elected with 63 percent of the vote. The Alamo City was a small town with an eye on the future and Cisneros won over his supporters with his ‘charisma’ and promises of economic growth.  He received 94 percent of the vote in 1983 and 73 percent in 1985.  The future for San Antonio looked promising.  He aimed for revitalization of neighborhoods, job growth, new businesses which included technology.

But alas his dreams were unsuccessful.  In an article written by Bruce Davidson for the Sunday Express News, May 28, 1989, Davidson wrote that, “A review of the Cisneros years reveals several proposals and plans that never reached fruition – Such as his 1982 call for turning San Antonio into a high-technology center.”  By the time San Antonio graduates were considering job opportunities in the technology field at home, there were none to be found, other than in the lowest paying positions.  So, many San Antonians migrated north where the big paying jobs existed and San Antonio lost future leaders in technology.  

One of Cisneros' biggest dreams was to revitalize the downtown area. Who can ever forget the ‘pink elephant’, the Fiesta Plaza Mall, planted right in the middle of downtown San Antonio’s Westside? Eventually the pink elephant was bought by Bill Miller, a believer in education, in 1993 for $1 million and promptly donated it to the University of Texas for a downtown campus.  Cisneros greatest effort was launching San Antonio into becoming the capital for the ‘domestic workforce’ and a tourist attraction even to this day.   Cisneros political career plummeted after his marital affair.

The Mayor that failed conservative San Antonians miserably was Julian Castro. He was elected mayor in 2009 and reelected in 2011 with 82 percent of the vote and again in 2013 with only 67% of the vote.  He left office when Barack Obama appointed him to be the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 2014, the same position that Cisneros held in 1992.  Castro’s liberal agenda overpowered his ability to serve the people. He established SA2020, a ‘movement’ that would increase development with low environmental impact, that is, environmental sustainability. He intentionally used his ‘Catholicism’ to gain support for his candidacy and liberal agenda.   In a city that is historically Catholic, it is astounding how little Catholics know about their faith and how blindly they follow politicians who by their actions are “anti-Catholic.” Castro believes in abortion and is unabashedly an advocate for LGBT rights.  In 2013 Castro was instrumental in passing the Non-Discrimination Ordinance, NDO, 8-3 in spite of the fact that the City of St Anthony has historically been a conservative town and religious groups outnumbered the LGBT supporters. 

In 2014, Mayor Ivy Taylor became the first black woman to be elected mayor of San Antonio. The main reason was the fact that San Antonians agreed that Leticia van de Putte was not fit to be the mayor. Her extreme liberal politics had shown just how biased she was indicating she would not serve all of the citizens.  Her stance on abortion was totally unacceptable to the Christian community. There was a glimmer of hope with Taylor as she was one of three council members that voted no on the NDO and was willing to speak to the Christian Community. So the pastors took a unified interest making sure she would win.  It was an election of passion, unsurmountable energy and determination. The outcome was a gratifying win for Taylor. 

What happened on June 10 could have been predicted. Taylor was not a ‘true’ conservative and did not follow through with some of her promises to the ‘Christian’ community. Planned Parenthood became a reality under her tenure and as she proudly mentioned at her watch party she was able to pass the $850M bond issue that so irritated most fiscal conservatives. Her negative stance on the Texas Privacy Act SB6, aka bathroom bill, was also not the response the pastors wanted to hear. BUT she definitely was the lesser of two evils. It was late in the game when the pastors and some of the Christian community decided to lend their support to her campaign. Nevertheless, the Christian community was not cohesive in supporting her.  

Taylor had been elected not only by her black community but the white community had also embraced her in 2014, but not so in June. Taylor failed to reach out to the conservative white districts 9 and 10, leaving room for her opponent to garner enough votes to win.   In a city of only 135,907 blacks vs 1,196,125 Hispanics and 521,539 Anglos there was no room for error.  Taylor’s weak stance on issues the Christians wanted should have been strong; after all they had brought her to the dance.  Given the fact that she had won the primary, perhaps Mayor Taylor was overconfident. 

Ron Nirenberg, a strong progressive, won the mayoral election with 54.59% of the vote, 9,000 votes over Taylor. Bexar County’s growth has surpassed all expectations from under 1 million 988,971 in 1981 to almost double in 36 years to approximately 1,953,028.  Nirenberg was astute and understood that the future had to be addressed.   He worked quietly behind the scenes and helped conservative groups from Bexar and Comal counties to preserve Bracken Cave.  This alone was worth its weight in votes. He did plenty of personal hand shaking and met as many voters as possible.  He supported the NDO and most recently voted to sue the state, Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton over Sanctuary City SB4 and voted against the Texas Privacy Act aka bathroom bill.  These actions only confirm just how progressive he is. In an interview with KENS reporter, Phil Anaya, Nirenberg said he will seek a modern transportation system, affordable cost of living and fight crime by hiring more police officers. His grandiose ideas won over the voters. 

Cisneros gave his assessment of Nirenberg’s win on KENS with Debra Knapp. He did not hold back when describing Nirenberg as a “progressive” and an “activist.” Needless to say Cisneros understands completely those words. The headline of the Express News for Tuesday, June 13 summed it up, ‘Council seeing progressive shift’.

For those that believe there is hope for San Antonio to turn around need a genuine openness to what happened on June 10th.  If conservatives haven’t been able to obtain 4 council seats in the last several city elections, then we should know that it will be an uphill battle. Hope can only come by way of an educated, well-funded, well-spoken conservative who will have the motivation to unify the conservatives that may still exist and to form a coalition of churches, pastors and the Christian community.  Until then it will be progressivism at its best at city hall.

I write this knowing that there is always hope but unless the voters actually get out and vote it is futile. Voter turnout for the Run-Off election was 13.15%.  Districts 8 and 9 should have gone to a conservative like Cynthia Brehm and moderate Marco Barros.  Instead, they went for Manny Pelaez in D8 and John Courage D9.  On a very interesting note, Pelaez received 55.07% of the vote over Brehm’s 44.93% and claims to have received strong support from the 30,000 or so Muslims in the district.   Courage a school teacher and a Democratic activist and who according to Gilbert Garcia, a writer for Express News in his column, ‘Finding Courage in District 9 council race’ was quoted as saying, “incentivizing growth on the South Side,” to reduce overcrowding at North Side schools and create more balance in school-district funding.

If conservatives think that these energetic ‘progressive’ thinking individuals can be beat, then it’s time for not only a reality check but some solid critical make over in how conservatives address and attack the issues necessary to win elections. 

Fight, Never Give UP!

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