Mike Kueber's Blog

June 9, 2015

One person, one vote – San Antonio

Filed under: Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:49 am
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When I was running for the San Antonio city council a couple of years ago, I discovered that the city had apparently violated the one-person, one-vote requirement in its Charter to the detriment of the Northside citizens when it redistricted following the 2010 census.  During the campaign I tried to make this a big issue because it exemplified how (a) minorities in San Antonio (Anglo northsiders) were being shortchanged by the majority (Hispanic south and westsiders), and (b) the city was becoming like a banana republic in its disregard for Charter constraints.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the resources to create a “big issue,” and the media was not interested.

After the election, I tried to get city officials to fix the redistricting, but the mayor and my councilman ignored me, and although the asst. city attorney admitted that the redistricting was problematic, she refused to do anything about it.  That left my only recourse a lawsuit.

For months, I procrastinated about filing the suit myself, but I wasn’t confident of my litigation skills, so I found a lawyer at my gym who was willing to take on the matter for a discounted fee.  I gave him the money a year ago, but because of numerous distractions he didn’t get around to filing the lawsuit in state court until a couple of months ago.  Then, just as we were preparing to filing a Motion for Summary Judgment, the City removed the lawsuit to federal court, probably because the vast majority of Bexar County judges are Republicans based in and sympathetic to the Northside.  The City might have also been concerned that a Republican judge would halt the current council/mayoral election.

In any event, we are now litigating to return the lawsuit to state court.  In my opinion, the city’s attempt to make a federal case out of this lawsuit is not only wrong, but also frivolous.

Time will tell.

May 23, 2013

What is diversity in San Antonio?

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:04 pm
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Diversity is a term that is much bandied about today, with dramatically different meanings depending on whether you live in the academic world or the real world.  In the academic world, it is defined as follows:

  • The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.  It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.” 

In the real world, however, people know that the term diversity was created to replace the politically-incorrect term affirmative action, which was created to replace the even more politically-incorrect terms of quotas and reverse discrimination.  In the real world, a person who refers to diversity is not talking about recognizing individuals as unique, but rather is talking about expanded  minority (and possibly gender) involvement. 

I recently encountered the term diversity when I was studying SA2020, which is Mayor Castro’s 11-part vision for creating a better San Antonio.  The part in SA2020 that I was interested in – Civic Engagement – established two goals: (1) increase voter participation by 2% every two years from its baseline of 34% in 2010, and (2) increase the activity level and diversity level of city boards.  Unfortunately, the SA2020 goal for diversity is TBD – to be determined. 

This undetermined goal for San Antonio creates an interesting question.  San Antonio, according to the 2010 census, is 63% Hispanic, 27% Anglo, 7% African-American, and 3% Asian/Pacific.  So, in a city that is almost 75% minority – what is diversity?  Should an ideally diverse board or commission have percentages the same as SA’s population or should it have 25% for each of the four major groupings?  Or is there some other sort of objective? 

On one hand, most proponents of diversity, with their mindset mired in a world of quotas, probably crave percentages that mirror the population.  One of their favorite expressions is that every collection of representations needs to “look like” those they represent.  For these people, an ideal San Antonio commission or board would have six Hispanics, three Anglos, and one African-Asian American.

On the other hand, one of my campaign opponents, Ron Nirenberg, delighted in telling candidate forums that District 8 was the most diverse in town, with 43% Hispanic, 42% Anglo, 8% African-American, and 5% Asian/Pacific.  Because our district is significantly under-represented in Hispanics compared to the rest of SA, he seems to be taking the position that the ideal diversity would be 25% of each.    

Implicit, perhaps, in all of these formulations, is the consensus that there are too many Anglos in positions of power, but that is certainly false with respect to the City Council.  There are currently eleven politicians on the Council, with eight Hispanics, two Anglos, one African-American, and 1 Asian.  Thus, every ethnic group is over-represented except for the Anglos, and depending on the results of the District 8 runoff, there will be one more Hispanic or Asian, and certainly one less Anglo. 

The City Council’s minority-dominated composition explains why SA2020’s quest for diversity is limited to boards and commissions and fails to mention the most powerful political body in town, the City Council.  Although these facts reveal a blatant inconsistency, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”        

Incidentally, the minority-dominated City Council recently initiated a program to give scoring preferences to minorities bidding on city contracts.  According to the Council’s rationale, too many contracts were going to Anglos and not enough to minorities.  And if the scoring preferences didn’t sufficiently “move the needle,” the next step was going to be quotas.

What world are these people living in?  They are living in a world where quotas and affirmative action were honorable objectives smeared by hegemonic Anglos.         

After several phone calls and emails to the SA2020 bureaucracy about their TBD goals on diversity, I was informed by an email from the Chief of Engagement:

  • In response to the above question, I just wanted to let you know that we were, in fact, able to baseline the information. We will be releasing a complete data report on June 4 and are currently finalizing all indicators.”

I can’t wait.

May 16, 2013

District 8 run-off

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:17 pm
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Although I only collected 382 votes (5.3%) in my City Council race, those votes were enough to prevent either of the other two candidates from obtaining a majority – 49% and 45%.  Without a majority, the other candidates must participate in a run-off election on June 15th, which is five weeks after the initial election on May 11th.

Although I would have loved to have been in the run-off, I don’t envy the additional effort that Rolando Briones and Ron Nirenberg will have to put into their campaigns.  They have already been running aggressively for a year or so and must be exhausted.  Now they have to persuade their exhausted voters to go to the polls once more.

Actually, there are two ways for one of the candidates to prevail in the run-off: (1) get more of his voters back to polls, or (2) get more of my voters to switch to him.  The conventional wisdom is that older, conservative voters are more reliable, and that would portend well for Rolando Briones, who is more conservative than Ron Nirenberg.  Plus, Rolando has more campaign money left over, but he also has to make up for a deficit in excess of 300 votes.

With respect to the direction my 382 voters will take, I initially thought they would migrate to Rolando because he and I tended toward conservative positions and were fighting for the same conservative voters.  Upon further reflection, however, I now believe that they will gravitate toward Ron Nirenberg because that is what happened to me. 

Earlier this week, after discussing a possible endorsement with Rolando, I sent the following email to Ron’s campaign: 

  • “I have decided to vote for Ron Nirenberg in the District 8 run-off because of his campaign’s focus on transparency and ethics.  Although I believe the Express-News coverage of Rolando’s Briones’s campaign has been grossly unfair, that factual basis for the coverage has not been refuted.  Ron Nirenberg appears to be the right person to minimize the influence of special interests and restore confidence in the City Council, and he will have my vote.”  

June 15th will be an interesting night.

May 10, 2013

Doing something about voter apathy

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:13 pm
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Gilbert Garcia penned a column today in the San Antonio Express-News suggesting that, because of the abysmal turnout in recent municipal elections, it is “Time to shake up S.A.’s municipal election system.”   

Because increasing voter participation was an important component in Mayor Castro’s visionary SA 2020 program, you might think Garcia’s first point of inquiry would be to ask Hizzoner about this failure and what he proposes to do in the future.  But you would be wrong.  The media in San Antonio is just as infatuated with Mayor Castro as is the mainstream media in D.C. with President Obama, and thus discussing Castro failures is considered unseemly and excessively partisan.

Instead of posing any questions to Mayor Castro, columnist Garcia makes several sundry points:

  1. Increased voter apathy is not isolated to San Antonio; Austin is afflicted, too. [Your point?]
  2. Increasing pay for serving on the Council might enrich the field of candidates.  [This suggestion is belied by the well-paid county commissioners.]
  3. Redistricting should be better communicated.  [So?  This has nothing to do with the declining number of voters.]
  4. Lengthening term limits seems to have reduced community interest instead of raising it.  [Which sane person would have thought that lengthening term limits would raise community interest?]

Garcia’s solutions are as follows:

  • Copy the city of Austin and move elections to November.
  • Copy Joaquin Castro and Rey Saldana by putting more effort into reaching voters who don’t historically vote.

Although I appreciate Garcia’s attempt to examine this problem, I don’t think he did a very good job of executing, so I provided him with the following on-line comment:

  • Gilbert, you may be aware that The Rivard Report addressed this issue a few days ago.  According to Rivard, the problem is due to apathy or disillusionment, and he suggests that we increase turnout by making voting more convenient – i.e., on mobile devices.  Your suggestion – i.e., November voting – could also be characterized as a convenience strategy.  Both suggestions are superficial and don’t address the underlying problems of apathy and disillusionment.  Although Rey Saldana’s strategy for pursuing low-interest voters is substantive instead of superficial (I think you previously commended Joaquin Castro for deploying the same strategy), it is a luxury that only candidates in dominant positions are likely to use.
  • Another of your suggestions is to enrich the field of candidates by paying members of the City Council a living wage.  That is inconsistent with a previous finding by your editorial board that the low pay for the City Council has not prevented it from having representatives who are at least as capable as the well-paid county commissioners.  Instead of spending money on Council pay, I suggest using the same amount of money to provide for public financing of Council campaigns.  That not only would enrich the field of with candidates who are averse to begging for campaign money, but also would decrease voter cynicism because they wouldn’t be forced to vote for candidates who have already sold out to the establishment and special interests.
  • Another suggestion – the media has done a pretty good job of shaming the residents of San Antonio for not voting.  After the election this year, it might be a good idea to do some positive reinforcement by commending those precincts, Districts, and demographic groups that performed their civic duty.  Such publicity can result in increased peer pressure, both positive and negative, and that can be a force for good.

As you may recall, I have blogged in the past few days ago about public financing of political campaigns and voter apathy.

May 8, 2013

Public financing of City Council campaigns

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:11 am
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A posting in local blog Concerned Citizens recently analyzed the District 8 race and endorsed Ron Nirenberg.    The posting elicited comments from several readers, including the following one from Alone Star that seemed especially perspicacious:   

  • Ron Nirenberg knocked on my door one Saturday in February and made a strong first impression with his claim of not being a politician and saying what I wanted to hear about focusing on basic city services. Unfortunately everything I’ve seen him do since then has been the epitome of a politician…the polished web site and videos, heavy hitting endorsements, disingenuous e-mail surveys, etc. He turned me off pretty quick.
  • Rolando Briones has all the baggage already cited, so I don’t consider him credible either.
  • That leaves Mike Kueber, who I will vote for. I wish he was putting more effort into his campaign. All he is doing is Facebook, his blog, and sending in candidate questionnaires. I didn’t even know he was running until I answered a phone survey and they gave me a choice of “other” besides Briones and Nirenberg. Sadly, most of the electorate will base their vote solely on name recognition. Without a single sign up anywhere in the district and his resolve to not raise or spend any money, Mike’s campaign is bypassing an opportunity to make a real difference in this race.

Alone Star not only correctly perceived that Nirenberg’s kumbaya campaign of transparency and accountability (a resident at the Oak Meadow HOA forum called it a campaign in favor of Mom and apple pie) was nothing more than a superficial marketing ploy, but also correctly noted that my campaign had resolved not to raise or spend money.  As I have previously blogged, my three-pronged campaign theme has been (1) experience (a private sector job with lots of responsibility), (2) political philosophy (a genuine fiscal conservative and a social libertarian), and finally (3) the absence of campaign money.    

But, as Alone Star points outs, the consequence of not spending money is that a lot of voters don’t know you exist.  When this campaign started, I was hopeful that the small number of voters in a City Council race (5,000 or about 7% of the city’s eligible voters) were high-information voters who did not need to be hand-fed information.  These voters would base their vote not on street signs, hijacked websites, or negative flyers, but rather on information from websites and the nonpartisan free media.        

There is, however, an option to relying on civic-minded people who are interested enough to do their own research on candidates, and that is public financing of political campaigns.  Despite being a fiscal conservative, I supported public financing in my blog almost three years ago in a post titled, “Is San Antonio Ready for Public Financing of Political Campaigns.”  The post was prompted by an Express-News editorial endorsing a bill that provided for public financing of congressional campaigns.  In the post, I said, I agreed wholeheartedly with the premise of the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA) – i.e., that the corrupting influence of money in politics will be reduced by public financing of campaigns. 

  • The issue of public financing of campaigns was fading from my radar until I saw an article in the NYTimes about NYC’s Campaign Finance Program.  The article prompted an obvious question – why not adopt public financing of campaigns for local elections in San Antonio?  Voters in San Antonio are so cynical about corruption in city government that they have adopted a draconian term-limits ordinance.  Although this has helped some, there is still a prevailing view that people with money have too much influence in San Antonio government.  Public financing of political campaigns would potentially minimize that influence.”

At that time, I recall contacting my Councilman Reed Williams about this subject.  As is his wont, Reed expressed general agreement with the concept, but indicated there would not be any broad support by the Council. 

Since that post, I haven’t heard a lot about public financing of political campaigns.  To the contrary, a year and a half ago I blogged about the tendency of the media to elevate candidates who could raise a lot of money: 

  • Earlier this week an article in Politico.com reported on the crop of promising political stars who were looking to make a big move up in the next election.  What were the criteria for earning a place in this prestigious grouping?  Actually there was only one criterion – how much money the candidate had been able obtain raise in the past few months.  Thus, Politico could have labeled this group as the greatest money grubbers, but instead it generously adorned them as promising stars.”

Last week, the NY Times reminded its readers of a proposal in New York state for the public financing of political campaigns.  The NY proposal calls for the state to multiply private contributions by 6 x 1.  By contrast, most of the existing state and local laws provide for public financing to be based on $5 contributions from individuals. 

According to various websites, the FENA was reintroduced in 2013, but there does not seem to be any reason that fiscal conservatives will accept this sort of spending.  Based on my experience in running for the San Antonio City Council, public financing seems like an excellent means of reducing the influence of moneyed special interests and leveling the playing field for those candidates who are not a part of the establishment.

May 7, 2013

The low voter turn-out in San Antonio

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:46 pm
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According to an article in today’s SA Express-News, early voting for the City Council races has been abysmal, especially from young people.  Going into the last day of early voting, only 25,466 people have voted.  That’s not very many out of 600,000 eligible voters – about 4%.  Unfortunately, that number and percentage is very comparable to the results in the previous city election in 2011, when the election-day votes pushed the final numbers to 42,000 votes or 7% of the eligible voters.

Naturally, this abysmal performance induces hand-wringing.  Both of my opponents in District 8 were quoted in the Express-News article as expressing concern and disappointment about the low turnout, but they apparently weren’t pressed for a solution.

An article on the same subject appeared today in The Rivard Report, and Rivard has a solution, especially for young people.  According to Rivard, young people are variously apathetic, too busy, or disillusioned by negative campaigning, but they might be persuaded to vote it if were more convenient – i.e., voting through a mobile device. 

After making this suggestion, Rivard felt it necessary to add, “Seriously,” as if we might think he was only joking.  I didn’t for an instant think he was joking.  For mostly partisan reasons, progressives have traditionally wanted to make voting easier while conservatives have wanted to make it more difficult.  We can deduce from these respective positions that the people who are easily discouraged from voting tend to vote Democratic.      

Because I am mostly a conservative, I understand that I might be favoring the stricter voting requirements because I’m being partisan.  But my nonpartisan political philosophy is also in favor of strict voting requirements.  I like motivated, informed voters.  I don’t want to respond to apathetic, too busy, disillusioned voters with a band-aid that merely masks the symptoms of an underlying problem.

So, how do we solve the underlying problem, how do we get people wanting to vote?  Although the Express-News reporter did not see fit to press Nirenberg or Briones on this issue, they were asked that question by a student at a candidate forum at UTSA about a month ago.  In fact, the student specifically asked what we candidates planned to do to address young-voter apathy. 

The student’s question fits the category of what I call left-field questions – i.e., ones that we hadn’t previously received and about which we probably haven’t given much, if any, thought.  After the UTSA forum, I remember commenting that we received more left-field questions than at any other forum.  Although I don’t remember how the other candidates responded, I think Briones might have made a solid conservative reference to personal responsibility.  And when it was my turn to answer, I said something about offering the young voters a choice who is different than the typical establishment candidates who have mortgaged their campaigns to special interests.

In hindsight, I realize that my answer was, at best, a response to the disillusionment issue mentioned by Rivard.  It does not address the problem of apathetic people.  I have lots of friends who don’t vote because (a) they don’t care very much about government issues or (b), according to them, their votes don’t make a difference.

I can’t think of any simple lever to pull to change that attitude.  I like to say that the unexamined life is not worth living, but it is a long-term process in getting more people to live examined lives.   With respect to voting, the best we can do is encourage people to maintain or develop the sort of attitude that Rivard refers to – i.e., the attitude that you will vote because that is what good citizens do.  And before going into a voting booth, good citizens take it upon themselves to understand the issues and develop opinions.

May 4, 2013

My last campaign forum – the Homeowners-Taxpayers Association and the Stonewall Democrats

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Law/justice,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:44 pm
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Earlier this morning, I attended my last candidate forum.  The downtown event was put on by the iconic Homeowners-Taxpayers Association of Bexar County, which was founded 30 years ago by the legendary C.A. Stubbs and is currently headed by the estimable Bob Martin. 

As suggested by the organization’s name, the HTA is in favor of smaller government and lower taxes.  On its website (HTASA.org) it claims credit for defeating tax increases, winning tax decreases, preserving term limits, and preventing a pay increase for City Council members.  These people are obviously kindred spirits to me.

Surprisingly, my campaign opponents failed to show up for the event.  Although the event was not specific to District 8, there was an excellent crowd of 60 intensely motivated fiscal conservatives, something my opponents each claim to be.  The strongest fiscal conservative on the current City Council, Carlton Soules, found time to attend, but Ron Nirenberg and Rolando Briones didn’t. 

Each candidate was given three minutes to give a stump speech and then take a question or two.  As I recently blogged, the stump-speech part of my campaign is getting much better.  Almost like the experience of a stand-up comic, I have gradually been able to sense those passages (sound bites) that resonate and those that don’t.  Of course, talking to these kindred spirits is like preaching to the choir.  For the first time, my spiel was interrupted by applause. 

One item that disappointed me was that there was a strong social-conservative current within the HTA.  As a social libertarian, I oppose moral dictates from either the Religious Right or Secular Left and was hopeful that the HTA followed TEA Party principles by focusing on fiscal issues and not getting distracted with a social/moral agenda.  But there was clearly a large contingent of advocates for the Religious Right as evidenced by an HTA Candidate Guide that revealed which candidates had sought the endorsement of the Stonewall Democrats, an organization of gay advocates in San Antonio.  When one mayoral candidate denied that he had sought the Stonewall endorsement, a lady responded that they had photos proving that the scarlet-letter candidates had actually attended the Stonewall endorsement forum. 

I previously blogged about my decision against seeking the Stonewall endorsement:       

  • I am probably going to decline an invitation from the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio (SDSA) to complete their questionnaire and attend their Candidate Forum this weekend on the 17th.  Based on their questionnaire, the SDSA wants a candidate who will support new ordinances relating to discrimination based on “real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression” in public accommodations, housing, and city contracting.  In another question, they want such an ordinance directed at all employers doing business in San Antonio.  And of course, they want to know if I support the Council’s recent action to extend employees benefits to same-sex couples.  While I am in favor of same-sex marriage, Texas doesn’t allow it and the Texas constitution might preclude the city from granting employee benefits to same-sex couples.  Plus they want the City to create a Human Rights Commission and provide LGBT training to all city employees.  Most of their positions are problematic, and it is probably not efficient for me at this time to determine if there are any that I can support, but I could decide to attend solely to learn more about their issues.  I will be interested to see if my liberal opponent Ron Nirenberg chooses to pursue the SDSA endorsement.

Coincidentally, I had a conversation yesterday with my son Tommy about my failure to seek the Stonewall endorsement.  Tommy has a co-worker friend who is active with the Stonewall group, and when Tommy told him that he should be supporting me for the Council, his friend responded that he wasn’t because I had blown off the Stonewall group by failing to respond to their questionnaire or attend their endorsing forum.  I explained to Tommy why I hadn’t responded, but I started feeling guilty about my inaction.  I now wish I had responded, but part of that thinking is based on having more time to think about the questions.  At the time, many of these questions were new to me, and I needed time for the answers to percolate. 

Two comments about my blog posting:

  1. I was prescient about the legality of same-sex employee benefits because recently the state’s Attorney General declared that cities granting such benefits violated the state’s constitution.  Mayor Castro and the City Attorney are currently deciding what the city’s options are.
  2. When the Stonewall Democrats failed to endorse any candidate for District 8, I assumed that meant that Ron Nirenberg had decided to stay away, too, but the flyer distributed at the HTA forum today indicated that Nirenberg had unsuccessfully sought the endorsement.  There must be more to that story.

May 1, 2013

A big day on the campaign trail

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 4:50 am
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Today was a big day for my campaign.  It started with an 8 am forum put on by the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, and immediately afterwards Eileen Gonzales of KSAT 12 interviewed the candidates.  Then this evening, I attended an Oak Meadow HOA forum with a full-house of constituents, plus reporter Baugh and columnist Chasnoff from the Express-News. 

Both forums went exceptionally well.  I think I’m finally finding my voice and, more importantly, am developing an appreciation of how the resident’s questions fit with my solutions.  There is an old saying about the failure to see the forest for the trees, and in earlier forums I would get a question and only see a tree.  Now I can see most questions as part of the forest and am able to respond to the question in that context. 

The morning forum was formatted like most forums, with a short one-minute intro followed by several questions before concluding with a short closing.  This format is typical and requires some skill to incorporate my talking points while still responding in the context of the question.

In the evening forum, I didn’t much need context because we were given 5-10 minutes for a combination speech and follow-up Q&A’s, and I used almost the entire 10 minutes to give my full stump speech – i.e., a short bio followed by my three distinctive traits (experience, political philosophy, and absence of money in my campaign) – before concluding with my two big issues (police/fire pension and illegal zoning of District 8).  The speech took so long that there was only enough time for a single follow-up question, which flowed naturally from my speech.

After my speech, I was pleased to visit with three different individuals who grew up in North Dakota, including one from my county seat of Lakota.  And a little, old lady came up to me and said she was definitely going to vote for me, but was concerned that she had never heard of me before tonight, even though she read the Express-News religiously.  Why hadn’t I sent her any flyers, she asked.  I responded that I wasn’t collecting or spending any money.  She was happy about that, but she was concerned that she hadn’t heard of me.          

The resulting article from the Express-News reporter, however, on the evening forum was very disappointing because it reported nothing of substance and instead focused exclusively on the feud.  He must not have been impressed with my stump speech because my name wasn’t mentioned in the article.  I noted the following on my campaign’s Facebook page: 

  • Although much of the Express-News reporting on Rolando Briones has been informative and relevant to the voters, this article seems to reveal Express-News bias because it ignores Nirenberg’s problematic conduct in building a website based on his opponent’s domain name.

When the little, old lady reads her paper tomorrow morning, she will probably realize why she had never heard of me.   

There is another forum Saturday morning, this one with the city-wide Homeowners-Taxpayers Association.  I’ll probably attend, but it doesn’t sound like the other guys will be there.  Although I prefer talking without them around, I suspect the listeners will be disappointed because Nirenberg and Briones are becoming minor celebrities due to all of the media coverage of them.

April 29, 2013

Reed Williams enters the fray

Filed under: Culture,Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:55 pm
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The District 8 race for the City Council was turned upside down this weekend, with Rolando Briones initially being hit by a broadside attack on Page One of the San Antonio Express-News.  Later in the day, however, Briones received the endorsement of perhaps the most influential politician in District 8, the incumbent Reed Williams.

According to an article published on-line by Texas Public Radio, Williams endorsed Briones because a negative mailer by Nirenberg unfairly maligned the integrity of the San Antonio City Council:

  • Mr. Nirenberg believes that our political personnel, political bodies, can be bought off for $6,500, and that’s just not acceptable,” he said.

Count me with Nirenberg on this one.  Whenever I’ve heard a politician or businessman say that they can’t be bought for a free Spurs ticket or a round of golf, I ask them why they thought the other person was giving them the freebie.  I would assure them that the freebies would disappear as soon as their position of influence was gone.

Furthermore, I am surprised that Williams would get so upset about Nirenberg’s ethical sensitivities because I thought Williams shared those sensitivities.  A few months ago I visited with Williams’s chief of staff, who incidentally is now a paid staffer for Briones, and she told me that whenever Williams had substantive meetings with a city supplicant, he made sure, in advance, to return any political contribution the supplicant had previously made. 

Why wouldn’t Williams’s care to avoid an appearance of impropriety cause him to be troubled by the intersection of Briones’s contributions and winning government business?

April 26, 2013

Cybersquatting in San Antonio

Filed under: Issues,Law/justice,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:09 pm
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About a month ago, one of my City Council opponents, Ron Nirenberg, earned some well-deserved notoriety because of his purchase of another candidate’s domain name – rolandobriones.com.  According to local columnist Brian Chasnoff:

  • The website that Nirenberg created “tars Briones as an unethical liar….  By hitting the ‘low road’ with such verve, Nirenberg’s actions certainly stray from his rhetoric [against taking the low road].”   

My reaction to this campaign development was that it hurt both Briones and Nirenberg.  About Briones, it confirmed that he was a prolific campaign contributor to Democrats prior to his City Council campaign and to Republicans after he initiated his campaign.  About Nirenberg, it revealed that despite his high-minded Good Government, anti-politics sales pitch, he is not above sleazy politics.  

Surprisingly, Chasnoff concluded his column by suggesting that Briones was partially to blame for this incident – “Not registering his name online definitely was a mistake.”  I responded on-line to the column by challenging Chasnoff’s suggestion:

  • “I don’t understand why Kelton Morgan and Ron Nirenberg would think that an unused domain name presents such an irresistible opportunity. Or why Brian Chasnoff would affirm that same position by suggesting that Rolando Briones was careless in not preempting the Nirenberg purchase. I think Kelton, Ron, and Brian need a reality check. Any politician who thinks it is a good idea to buy an opponent’s domain name would fit in well at the Nixon White House.”

This morning’s Express-New brought another example of domain-name mischief.  According to a Gilbert Garcia column titled “The Castro Internet takedown,” some unknown entity has purchased the domain name of JulianCastro.org. and has published unflattering stuff on the website.  Athough Garcia characterizes the stuff as “a brutal (albeit professionally designed) cybersquatting parade of attacks on Julián Castro… extremely slanted takedown,” he eventually concedes that it is “scrupulously sourced” and “backed by statistics.”  He concludes the column by saying:

  • While the info presented on the site is technically accurate, it also left me thinking about the deficiencies of facts when they’re presented without nuance, balance, or context. As Bob Dylan once put it: ‘All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.’”

All of which brings us to the issue of cybersquatting.  Yesterday, while watching a Nirenberg interview on-line, I heard him respond to a charge that he might be guilty of cybersquatting.  According to Nirenberg, he was not guilty of cybersquatting because he actually built a website instead of simply buying the domain name and then trying to sell it the person who by right should have access to it.  Because I was only vaguely familiar with the term cybersquatting, I decided to dig a little deeper to learn if there were cybersquatting issues with RolandoBriones.com or JulianCastro.org.

According to my Bible, a/k/a Wikipedia:

  • The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d), is an American law enacted in 1999 and that established a cause of action for registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name confusingly similar to, or dilutive of, a trademark or personal name.  The law was designed to thwart “cybersquatters” who register Internet domain names containing trademarks with no intention of creating a legitimate web site, but instead plan to sell the domain name to the trademark owner or a third party…..  Under the ACPA, a trademark owner may bring a cause of action against a domain name registrant who (1) has a bad faith intent to profit from the mark and (2) registers, traffics in, or uses a domain name that is (a) identical or confusingly similar to a distinctive mark.

Thus, although there appear to be a plethora of technical legal issues associated with trademarks, the spirit of the law appears directed toward “a bad faith intent to profit from the mark.”  In that sense, the JulianCastro.org conduct does not seem to violate the spirit of the law because the owner is not trying to profit from using Castro’s name.  If the site started advertising, however, that would change things.

But the case of the RolandoBriones.com site is more problematic.  Nirenberg is not only using the site to publicize his campaign, but he is also using his ownership of the site as leverage to force Briones to take specific actions – specifically, when asked on Talk Now SA whether he would be willing to sell the site for-cost to Briones, Nirenberg said he would do that only if Briones agreed to answer specific questions about his campaign contributions.

That sounds a lot like “bad faith intent to profit.”

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