Mike Kueber's Blog

April 20, 2013

Candidate questionnaire from KSAT

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:21 pm
Tags: ,

Yesterday, I received a candidate questionnaire from KSAT TV 12, which they are using “to profile candidates on air and on our website.”  This is just another example of how some in the media are trying to do the right, civic-minded thing.  In my opinion, this questionnaire is exceptionally well designed, and I found it challenging to complete.  My completed response is as follows:

KSAT questionnaire

Mike Kueber

Age: 59

Occupation: Insurance-compliance lawyer who retired from USAA in 2009

Education: Law degree from the University of Texas and B.A. in political science from the University of North Dakota

Family: father of four sons, all graduates of Clark HS – my oldest graduated from UTSA and is a captain in the Army in San Antonio, my second graduated from UT and St. Louis U Med School and is an E.R. doctor at the Mayo Clinic in MN, my third graduated from UTSA and works in acquisitions for Blackbrush Oil in San Antonio, and my baby is a student at Franciscan University in Ohio.

Why are you running for the city council?  Because I have the time, energy, finances, and inclination to serve and because my background, critical-thinking skills, and governing values (a fiscal conservative who will not mortgage this position to special interests) will enable me to effectively represent the residents of District 8.

Have you run for the City Council before?  No

What previous leadership experience do you have?  During my last five years at USAA, I was in its Executive Management Group.

What do you hope to accomplish if elected to the City Council?  Famed investor Warren Buffett once said, “Our experience has been that the manager of an already high-cost operation frequently is uncommonly resourceful in finding new ways to add overhead, while the manager of a tightly run operation usually continues to find additional methods to curtail costs, even when his costs are already well below those of his competitors.”  My view is that San Antonio government is a high-cost operation and my hope is help transform it into a tightly-run operation.

What are the most difficult challenges facing the city of San Antonio?  The City Council’s most difficult challenge will be converting the police-fire pensions from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans; the city of San Antonio’s most difficult challenge will be to enable socio-economic mobility for disadvantaged kids.

What are the biggest obstacles facing economic growth in San Antonio?  Adequate supply of water is a concern, but the biggest obstacle is an overweening city government that gets in the way of our vital, robust private sector.  If the city persists in using a heavy hand to direct private sector growth toward its southern districts, the private sector is likely to be less robust or it will migrate north of the San Antonio city limits (as this trend was recently reported in the Express-News).  

What can the city council do to help spur economic growth?  Aside from getting out of the way of our private sector and keeping taxes as low as possible, the City Council needs to ensure that San Antonio remains a destination of choice for people and businesses by providing a world-class infrastructure.  Out-of-town businesses should be solicited with incentives that are cost-effective to San Antonio.

Are there any decisions the current city council has made that you strongly disagree with?  (1) The redistricting of City Council districts violated the City Charter and was grossly inequitable; (2) The elimination of race-neutral contracting and implementation of race-based contracting was unjustified and inequitable; and (3) although I support a path to citizenship, San Antonio should not be a sanctuary city and the City Council should not have criticized Arizona for its actions to address illegal immigration.  

What items/programs would you cut from the current city budget?  The city should not be spending tax dollars on culture/arts. 

How did you vote on Pre-K 4 SA?  Although I am concerned with the diminished socio-economic mobility in America, I voted against Pre-K 4 SA because (1) local education policy should be left to our experts in the local school district, and (2) a recent study of the largest and oldest pre-k program (Head Start) revealed that all gains achieved by its students disappeared by the 3rd grade.  Instead of using the sales-tax money to create a 17th school district, I would have distributed it to the already-existing school districts in the form of a pre-k block grant.    

What more should the city do to lower gang activity and crime in San Antonio?  From a macro level, I believe that crime and gang activity are a reflection of declining morals in America and much of this is due to the growing culture of dependency on government and the resulting cycle of poverty.  Our challenge is to retain our safety net while breaking up the culture of dependency.  From a micro level, I as a City Councilperson will rely on the Chief of Police to develop initiatives that can lower gang activity and crime.  

Are there any major infrastructure improvements you would like to see the city undertake?  The city needs to direct additional resources to roads that are already needed instead of to street cars and light rail that are being proposed for the benefit of downtown developers.

April 19, 2013

Campaign update

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 10:56 pm
Tags: , , ,

The past week has been challenging.  There were two candidate forums on Tuesday, with the first sponsored by a group of real estate professional at the Sonterra Country Club and the second by a Dominion civic-awareness group.  On Thursday, there was another forum put on by the residents of Precinct 3074 (Woods of Shavano).  And between these events, I went downtown on Wednesday and recorded an interview with an on-line talk show titled “Talk Now SA” with Chris Duel.  The 20-minute segment was supposed to go on-line today, but for some reason it was not.  Chris mentioned that he will try to have a 3-person debate before the election. 

The forums are still a little stressful because we usually get unexpected questions about which I know nothing, but at least now I am developing some responses to deal with them.  At Sonterra, a realtor wanted to know what we could do about the conflict between gated communities and the realtors who want unlimited access.  Huh?  At the Dominion, someone wanted to know what we would do about Reed William’s broken promise to get a road-improvement done.  Huh?

I so much prefer knowing what the questions are in advance, which was the format in some of the early forums.  I doubt this is much value in being able to immediately articulate a response to a totally unexpected question.  And this is especially problematic to me because there are many areas of city policy that I am unfamiliar with, but can easily develop a position with a little research.  Of course, over time the questions become more predictable and my areas of ignorance become smaller.  But learning lessons in front of a crowd is stressful.

I’m getting much more comfortable with my stump speech.  Essentially, I suggest three factors that the voters use to distinguish the candidates:

  1. Experience.  We each claim that our experience qualifies us to serve, but mine is more substantive.  I have 22 years as a lawyer with USAA, getting promoted through the ranks, and ending with 5 years in USAA’s executive management group and being the lead attorney responsible for auto-insurance compliance. 
  2. Political philosophy.  We each claim to be fiscal conservatives, but if you drill down, you will find dramatically different fiscal philosophies.  Ron claims to be a fiscal conservative simply because he will carefully scrutinize the budget to eliminate waste.  How does this distinguish himself from anyone?  Rolando takes police, fire, and roads off the budget-cutting table.  With those off the table, there’s nothing left.  By contrast, I think a fiscal conservative wants to reduce the size of government and taxes, and that is what my mindset will be.  
  3. Money in politics.  My two opponents have raised obscene amounts of money (more than all the other candidates in the other nine district combined), and that money is bound to compromise their ability to make decisions based exclusively on the best interests of the District.  By accepting money, my opponents will be beholden to special interests.  Ron says his “special interests” are neighbors, but his latest financial filing indicates he has a lot of neighbors in 78209 (Alamo Heights) and 78205 (downtown business district).  Plus he has accepted $500 contributions (the maximum legally allowed) from three government-lobbying law firms.  By contrast I have accepted no contributions and this will allow me to make decisions based solely on the interests of our District.

As we head into the homestretch, the choice is getting clearer, at least to me.


April 11, 2013

Meet & Greet at SAWS

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:35 am
Tags: ,

Although I am often caught off-guard by unexpected questions at the campaign debates (How can the City achieve its no-kill objective?  What do you think about the City’s tree ordinance?), there are a few questions that are asked at virtually every debate:

  • Should the City have light-rail/streetcars?
  • Did you support Pre-K 4 SA?
  • What do you think about SAWS’s 8.4% rate increase?

Earlier today, SAWS (San Antonio Water System) held a Meet & Greet for City Council candidates.  The event was titled, “SAWS: What Every Leader Needs to Know.”  Although the event would have been more helpful if it had been scheduled earlier in the campaign, it’s better late than never.

Among the interesting things I learned:

  • Because of infrastructure deficiencies, the 8.4% rate increase this year might be followed by 13.5%, 9%, 6%, and 6.2% in the next four years.
  • The Wilcox aquifer provides great promise for water in the future, provided we are willing to process this brackish water with desalination and can get the legislature to approve more pumping.
  • SAWS will decide later this year whether any of four proposed water-pipeline projects are viable.
  • San Antonio has been acting unilaterally to acquire conservation easements covering almost 130,000 acres.
  • Because of conservation successes for the past 25 years, San Antonio’s total water usage has not increased even though its population has dramatically increased. 
  • Other than El Paso, San Antonio has cheaper water than any other large city in Texas.

Despite this additional information, however, my position with respect to the rate increases will remain the same in upcoming debates – namely, the increase suggests that SAWS management has made significant mistakes, but denying the requested rate increases will not correct those mistakes.  President Reagan tried to “starve the beast,” and that didn’t work.  Instead, the SAWS board, which is appointed by the City Council, needs to be held accountable.

April 8, 2013

Another banner day for the Express-News

Filed under: Business,Culture,Economics,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:06 pm
Tags: , , ,

As I was reading the San Antonio Express-News on Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised by three informative articles that were relevant to my campaign for the City Council:

  1. San Antonio’s immigration.  This fascinating article by Joe Yerardi describes population growth in Texas’s four largest cities in the past two years.  Although San Antonio has enjoyed robust growth (+91,495), that growth is less robust than Dallas (+274,781), Houston (+256,579), and Austin (+118,017).  And, of the three contributors to growth – natural growth (births), foreign migrants (legal and illegal), and interstate migrants – San Antonio and Austin depend mostly on interstate migrants, while Dallas and Houston depend more on natural growth and foreign migration.  These migration patterns are surprising because San Antonio has by far the largest concentration of Mexican-Americans (59%), so you’d think migrants from Mexico would make San Antonio their destination of choice, but instead they are choosing Dallas and Houston.  Unfortunately, the elephant in the room is the distinction between legal and illegal immigration from Mexico.  Although reporter Yerardi doesn’t discuss it, I have previous read that Dallas and Houston have a much larger percentage of illegal immigrants.
  2. San Antonio – Austin railroad.  The city of San Antonio is currently preoccupied with its effort to develop a downtown streetcar system, so this article served as a reminder that San Antonio has for decades dreamed of a railroad connecting it with Austin.  My position is that this inter-city railroad is just as impractical as the proposed intra-city light rail system that is planned as an extension of the controversial downtown streetcar system. 
  3. San Antonio’s problem with downtown-office vacancies.  This article reports that San Antonio’s downtown office vacancy rate is 33% even though rental rates are lower than outside of downtown.  Explanation – “In the suburbs, the office buildings generally are newer and come with up-to-date amenities and abundant parking….  Despite the higher lease prices, another advantage the suburbs have over downtown is the proximity to housing and ease of access.”  I love the politically-incorrect honesty of Ernest Brown, an EVP at a real estate firm:
  • The downtown San Antonio office market is tough.  Right now, the biggest hurt for downtown is what reason is there to be downtown versus the suburbs?”

Coincidentally, I recently responded to a candidate questionnaire from Current newsweekly, and one of its questions was, “What would you do to address the high vacancy rate in downtown buildings?”  I responded, “As a District 8 Councilman, my major focus will be on the development of District 8, not the downtown vacancy rate.  Of course, the entire City has an interest in downtown San Antonio remaining Texas’s premier tourist attraction.”  If I had read this article prior to responding to the questionnaire, I would have added that the City should not be spending millions of dollars to encourage businesses to move from one part of San Antonio to another part.

April 5, 2013

Getting to a lean, tightly-run city

Last week, I went to the downtown library to attend a VIA presentation on the status of its streetcar project.  While waiting for the presentation to begin, I decided to peruse the library’s New Book section.  That is where I encountered a new category called Express Collection for the most popular new books.  Each book in the Express Collection was stickered, “7 day checkout; no renewals or holds.”

Checking out a popular new book from the San Antonio library often requires placing a hold on the book and then waiting several weeks.  With this new category, I found many desirable new books just waiting to be grabbed. 

With the excitement of finding something free, I grabbed three even though there was no way I would be able to read them in seven days.  They were:

  1. The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver
  2. Tap Dancing to Work by Carol J. Loomis
  3. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor

Nate Silver is famous for his NT Times political column titled FiveThirtyEight (the number of people in Congress), but his signal skill is prognosticating.  In his book, Silver applies this skill to sports, poker, the financial world, weather, earthquakes, and global warming.  I just scratched the surface of the book during the seven-day checkout period, but Silver’s thinking, especially as related to poker, seems both brilliant and common-sensical.

Which is a perfect segue to Loomis’s book.  Her book is mostly a compilation of Fortune magazine articles on the most brilliant, common-sensical man, Warren Buffett.  Although Buffet is a veritable font of wisdom, something he said about running a lean operation seems expecially appropriate to my race for the San Antonio City Council:

  • Our experience has been that the manager of an already high-cost operation frequently is uncommonly resourceful in finding new ways to add overhead, while the manager of a tightly run operation usually continues to find additional methods to curtail costs, even when his costs are already well below those of his competitors.”

One of my Council opponents, Ron Nirenberg, reminds me of the high-cost operator.  In his campaign brochure, he says:

  • Emergency services are the single largest investment of our tax dollars, and we need to make sure that we don’t cut them in an effort to “get lean” during the budget process….  Police and fire should be our top budget priority even in lean years.

Does that sound like someone who will continually strive for a tightly run operation?  No, it sounds like someone who considers “getting lean” to be something of a last resort.  And that is not what San Antonio needs.

April 3, 2013

Questionnaire from Current

Filed under: Media,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 10:32 pm
Tags: , ,

I recently responded to a candidate questionnaire submitted to me by San Antonio’s Current, an alternative newsweekly.  The questions are significantly different (more liberal) than those in the Express-News questionnaire.  In fact, the Current questions remind me of those posed at the UTSA forum, while the Express-News questions are more like those posed by a political group.  Here, at least, I had time to think about the appropriate response, but at UTSA I didn’t.  UTSA was tough.

The Current promised that candidates’ answers will appear in an online voter guide and potentially in print in their April 17 issue.


Name as it will appear on ballot:  Mike Kueber

Current employment (if retired, please describe your previous career):  A lawyer who took early retirement in 2009 after almost 22 years with USAA.  As an executive attorney, I was responsible for ensuring that Auto Insurance operations (Claims, Underwriting, and Actuary) complied with ever-changing statutes, regulations, and caselaw in 50 states.  For the past three years, I have been an amateur current-affairs blogger at “Mike Kueber’s Blog.”

50-word (max) bio:  Grew up on a farm in North Dakota and obtained a political science degree from UND and a law degree from UT-Austin; lived and worked in District 8 for 25 years; put four boys through Northside schools, including Clark High School; ran for Congress in 2010.

50-word (max) reason for becoming a candidate in this election:  Because I have the time, energy, finances, and inclination to serve and because my background, critical-thinking skills, and governing values (fiscal conservative and equal-opportunity advocate) will enable me to effectively represent the residents of District 8. 


1)         Could the City’s recent ethics reforms be better enforced? Should there be more of a focus on potential conflicts of interest among City Council members as well as City staff?  Enforcement has been weak and should be strengthened.  And City Councilmen should be subject to stringent conflict-of-interest standards.

2)         What’s your opinion on encouraging economic development and cultural/nature programming via public/private partnerships, especially where public land, such as Hemisfair Park, is concerned?  Public/private partnerships should be utilized when available to accomplish important governmental objectives, but should not be used to effect private-sector objectives.

3)         Should the city establish an independent police monitor to better oversee the San Antonio Police Department? Why or why not?  The City has a Police Chief, and if the Council doesn’t have confidence that he can effectively monitor the police department, he should be replaced.

4)         Do you support the way the health department currently regulates food trucks? If not, how could the regulations be changed to better serve San Antonians?  I am not familiar with the program and am not aware of any deficiencies. 

5)         How can the City support sustainable transportation options?  I don’t see an important role for the City in developing sustainable transportation options, but would be amenable to cost-effective proposals.  Of course, VIA does have an important role.

6)         What value do you think the arts (visual, performing, literary, etc…) bring to San Antonio? In what ways can the City support local arts organizations and individual artists?  A thriving, vibrant arts community is important to San Antonio, but does not require taxpayer support.  Creating a culture of dependency on government is as corrosive to artists as it is to the poor

7)         Is it important for the City to strengthen its non-discrimination ordinances to protect LGBT citizens? Why or why not?  Yes, I support non-discrimination against LGBT citizens, but would need to analyze the language of any proposed ordinance.

8)         Is Animal Care Services doing enough to increase its live-release rate? Is ACS’ public-private partnership model is working? If not, what else could be done?  No, the ACS is not doing enough, and it can be more successful with more effective management.

9)         What would you do to address the high vacancy rate in downtown buildings?  As a District 8 Councilman, my major focus will be on the development of District 8, not the downtown vacancy rate.  Of course, the entire City has an interest in downtown San Antonio remaining Texas’s premier tourist attraction.

10)       Is the City’s million-dollar incentive for the creation of a downtown grocery store appropriate? Why or why not? Is there a better way to bring a grocery store downtown?  No, the incentive is not appropriate.  The location of grocery stores is something for the private sector to determine.  The downtown will have a grocery store as soon as there are enough residents/consumers downtown to cost-justify it.  And it is not the city’s job to produce those residents/consumers.

11)       How can San Antonio balance economic development with historic preservation?  Historic preservation is an important objective, provided it can be accomplished without causing San Antonio to be economically uncompetitive. 

12)       Do you support union organizers’ push for a Tip Integrity Act for the downtown hotel and restaurant industry?  I support the push in principle, but would need to see the language of any proposed ordinance

13)       What is the City’s role in making consumer solar power affordable for residents as well as local businesses?  I don’t see a significant role for the city, but would be amenable to cost-effective proposals.

14)       Is there more the City could do to protect the Edwards Aquifer in terms of building restrictions, funding conservation easements, or other means?  Building restrictions and conservation easements are promising, but would be much more effective if San Antonio didn’t have to act unilaterally.  Joint actions should be developed, either through cooperation with other jurisdictions or state legislation

15)       What are the most critical components to implementing Pre-K 4 SA? Are there any other opportunities for the City to support education?  This question reveals what is fundamentally wrong with Pre-K 4 SA.  A Councilperson should not be expected to become an expert on how to implement a “high quality” pre-K program.  After almost 50 years of trying, Head Start is still trying to figure it out, and San Antonio has 16 different school districts trying to figure it out.  The City should support pre-school education for all of its kids, not just disadvantaged kids, by supporting the efforts of the local school districts.  The Pre-K 4 SA money should have gone to those districts as block grants.         

Additional issues

  • Correcting the travesty committed by the 2012 re-districting.  The City Council violated the City Charter by approving districts with unequal populations.  While progressives become apoplectic about one elderly lady in a rural area who might have difficulty securing a photo ID, they are cavalier about packing an additional 55,000 people in Districts 6-10 as compared to Districts 1-5. 
  • Reforming the employee pensions.  Most of America has transitioned from defined-benefit pensions to defined-contribution pensions.  The American military is even in the process of doing this.  The city of San Antonio needs to move in that direction, too.
  • Eliminating the city’s affirmative action in contracting program.  Earlier this year, the City made a mistake in eliminating its race-neutral practice of awarding contracts and instead instituting a program for racial preferences.  Racial preferences, which rarely make sense, are especially inappropriate for a city government firmly controlled by minorities.
  • Stopping San Antonio’s status as a sanctuary city.  Immigration reform is needed, but in the meantime San Antonio should not be a scofflaw Sanctuary City.
  • Employer incentives.  Employer incentives should be utilized, provided their cost-effectiveness can be shown.  Although this is not a traditional governmental activity, it is now, ironically, a part of the free market and something that the City of San Antonio needs to do to compete with other cities.  But I reject Mayor Castro’s position that it is appropriate for the City to provide more generous abatements/incentives for Southside locations, which he admitted doing a few months ago with Nexolon.    
  • Professional politicians.  Professional politicians have no place on the City Council.  The voters want citizen volunteers.  Yet my opponents have not only compromised themselves by collecting tens of thousands of dollars from special interests, they have gone on record as supporting full-time pay for the Council.  I am not collecting any money from special interests and will oppose full-time pay for the Council.  
  • Experience.  Life experience is an important issue because it is the best way to develop the most important trait of a councilperson – good judgment – and the candidates in District 8 have starkly different life experiences.  My life experience includes raising four sons (three college grads and one in college) and having a high-responsibility career in law and insurance.  High-responsibility and its associated decision-making are essential to honing your good judgment, and in my career I made thousands of decisions affecting thousands of employees, and I never stopped learning from the decisions that turned out right and especially those that turned out wrong.  

April 2, 2013

Compton, California – a cautionary tale for San Antonio

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:04 pm
Tags: , , ,

Compton, California has been making news as the largest city in America (almost 300,000 people) to receive bankruptcy protection.  According to most reports, the bankruptcy was caused by a combination of extravagant pensions for city employees and declining tax revenues.  On Monday, a California judge held that the city would receive bankruptcy protection, but he deferred deciding whether the city would be allowed to continue paying 100% of its obligations to the state pension fund while forcing all other creditors to accept pennies-on-the-dollar.

From a practical state-wide and nation-wide perspective, this is an important issue because if the city is allowed to cut its payments to the state pension fund, that fund will be put in jeopardy.

From an individual pensioner’s perspective, this issue has reduced importance because most individual pension benefits are guaranteed by state and federal governments.

And finally, from San Antonio’s perspective, Stockton’s predicament is a cautionary tale of what can happen when a city is too generous in providing extravagant pensions. 

How much is extravagant?  Across California, as reported by Bloomberg News last year, cities were providing pensions that paid 90% of public-safety employees’ top salary after working 30 years, so they could retire and take jobs elsewhere while still in their 50s.   

San Antonio wouldn’t be so profligate, would it?  Yes, it would.  According to a city website:

  • The SA Fund‘s defined benefit structure provides benefits based upon the member’s earning history and length of service to the City of San Antonio. Current pension law indicates officers will be paid according to the following schedule:

                        Years of Service                      Percentage of Total Average Salary

                        20                                            45%

                        23                                            60%

                        25                                            70%

                        27                                            80%

                        30                                            86%

  • Keep in mind pension benefits are available regardless of age. A 21 year old can retire at 51 with 30 years of service and receive an 86 percent pension for the rest of his or her life.

How does this affect the City’s finances?  According to Sam Dawson, San Antonio’s 2011 Chamber of Commerce chairman, in a 2012 op-ed piece in the Express-News:

  • At present, police and fire personnel make up approximately 38 percent of our city’s workforce, but consume nearly 62 percent of its general fund. The average annual pension cost per civilian employee is approximately $6,800. The average annual pension cost per uniformed city employee is approximately $18,300. Health care costs and benefits are similarly disproportionate. Additionally, in 2012, the city will pay approximately $25 million toward the civilian pension plan for 6,000 employees and $65 million for 3,800 public safety employees. If these costs are not addressed sooner, rather than later, the end result will be less money to hire future qualified police officers and firefighters, fewer city services and a city that suffers economically. 

My sentiments exactly.

During my interview with the Express-News last week, I strongly expressed my position in favor of transitioning the City from defined-benefits pensions to defined-contribution pensions, which most of the City’s residents feel lucky to have.  As support for that position, I indicated that even the American military is in the process of shifting to a defined-contribution pension. 

When the Express-News asked my District 8 opponent Ron Nirenberg about my position, he lamely responded that the idea was worth exploring, but that it should not be discussed in the campaign because would politicize the subject.  Instead, he would consider quietly exploring the idea with a task force or study after the election.  

Nirenberg’s position reveals a lot about his political philosophy.  He thinks “politics” means something corrupted by special interests and that all disagreements will disappear if elected officials are transparent, accountable, and fair and they do their homework. 

By contrast, I think that conflicts are inevitable, even among elected officials who are acting with utmost honesty and integrity.  Principled differences can’t be resolved by task forces and doing your homework.  Instead, they need to be resolved by the ballot box.  That is what real transparency means.

March 28, 2013

The District 8 race gets dirty

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:07 pm
Tags: , , ,

With all of the money collected by my two opponents in the District 8 race, it was only a matter of time before the campaign got ugly.  But I am surprised at how quickly that time arrived.

A couple of weeks ago, Rolando Briones mailed a flyer pointing out the Ron Nirenberg wants city taxpayers to bail out financially troubled culture/arts groups.  When I brought this up at a forum, Nirenberg lamented, “Two months out [from the election] and the negative ads have already started.”  At about the same time, Nirenberg wrote the following on his campaign website:

  • It’s less than two months before Election Day, so rather than join my opponent on the low road of misleading attack ads, I believe you deserve honest discussion about issues facing our district and our city.”

That all sounds good.  A candidate under attack has two good options – (1) respond to the substance of the attack or (b) take the high road by ignoring the ad and pressing forward.  Because the attack ad was accurate, Nirenberg’s only good option was to take the high road.

But, according to an excellent Chasnoff column in today’s Express-News, Nirenberg apparently got spooked in the last two weeks and inexplicably decided to take the low road. 

In the column, Chasnoff reports that Nirenberg, because he was upset at being characterized as a Democrat, has published a list that showed Briones to be a prolific contributor to Democratic candidates.  (Nirenberg provided this explanation during the interview that he and I had yesterday with the Express-News editorial board.) 

This disclosure, which substantively appears to be accurate, becomes sleezy, however, because Nirenberg published it on a website with the domain name of RolandoBriones.com.  According to Chasnoff’s column, one of Nirenberg’s operators discovered that the domain name was unused and could be purchased for $50, and that was too big of an opportunity for them to pass up:

  • “Touting himself as a Republican probably was a mistake. Not registering his name online definitely was a mistake.  Take it from Kelton Morgan, who’s helping Nirenberg with his campaign.  ‘I just thought, I wonder what he’s got on rolandobriones.com?  And it was available. And I’m like, Are you kidding me?‘”

My response to Chasnoff and Morgan – Are you kidding me?  Do you think City Council candidates need to buy various domain names to prevent an opponent from misuing them.  Yes, I understand presidential candidates and big companies do this, but we should have to worry about things like that at this level.  You need to do a reality check.

As I read the Chasnoff column, I thought of three questions that I would have for Nirenberg – Why take such offense at being characterized as a Democrat? Why retaliate by accusing Briones of being a closet Democrat? But most troubling of all, why publicize the attack by buying a website called RolandoBriones.com

For a silver lining to this story, their shenanigans improve my chances.

March 24, 2013

Single-member districts in San Antonio and District 2

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:20 pm
Tags: ,

Single-member districts are often mandated by the federal courts to ensure that minorities are able to have representation.  The constitutional remedy is based on the fact that, generally, Anglos vote for other Anglos, African-Americans vote for African-Americans, Hispanics vote for Hispanics, etc.  Single-member districts will often enable a redistricting commission to create districts that have a majority of minority residents/voters, and thereby secure minority representation.  San Antonio converted from at-large voting to single-member districts in 1977.

While visiting with a friend in Austin last week, I learned that Austin had only recently converted from at-large voting to single-member districts.  But my friend told me that, even with at-large voting in Austin, there was a gentlemen’s agreement that certain districts were reserved for certain minorities.  E.g., Austin’s District Two was reserved for African-American candidates.

My first reaction was disbelief that such a gentlemen’s agreement would survive in the dog-eat-dog world of politics.  But then I remembered a statistical tidbit from my analysis of San Antonio’s recent redistricting:

  • San Antonio’s District Two is almost always represented by an African-American, but according to census statistics, the District residents are 54% Hispanic, 18% Anglo, and only 24% African-American.  Apparently, District Two can’t be drawn with a higher percentage of African-Americans because, of the other nine council districts, the highest percentage of African-American is only 7%.  Of San Antonio’s 1,326,721 residents, only 83,330 (6.28%) are African-American.

Despite this lack of electoral strength for African-Americans generally in San Antonio and specifically in District Two, the District has, to my recollection, been continuously represented by African-Americans.  This year, the incumbent African-American, Ivy Taylor, is running against another African-American and two men with Hispanic surnames, yet she is the heavy favorite. 

Sounds to me like the voters of San Antonio’s District Two are aware of a gentlemen’s agreement, even though two Hispanic candidates aren’t.

March 22, 2013

Local preference program

Filed under: Economics,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:56 pm
Tags: ,

Yesterday, the San Antonio City Council adopted the Local Preference Program, which grants a 3% preference to local companies in winning bids for selected city contracts.  As a conservative, my first thought was that this action reeks of protectionism, which is counter to my economic philosophy.  My second thought was that this action is consistent with the Council decision a couple of months ago to grant contracting preferences to minorities (75% of the city) and women (50% of the city).  Why does the City insist on tilting the playing field?

According to an article by Josh Baugh in the Express-News, the concept of a Local Preference Program had been approved by the legislature in 2011 (section 271.905), and Houston already had enacted such a program for their contracts.  Thus, it could accurately be argued that San Antonio was not starting a trade war, but rather was responding to one.

The article cited City economist Steve Nivin (a former co-worker) for the proposition that the program would help the San Antonio economy by facilitating the start-up of small businesses, which are the key to the city’s job growth.  I disagree with that proposition, not only because the program is not directed toward start-ups, but more importantly because, as I’ve previously blogged, job growth in San Antonio results primarily from mostly large businesses that export products and services, not those small businesses that service the exporters.      

Although the City Council unanimously adopted the Local Preference Program, I am troubled.  While we may be retaliating against Houston, what about all of the businesses in other cities, including the San Antonio suburbs, that have no such program?  And if this is such a good idea, why didn’t the City adopt the 5% preference, which is the maximum allowed by the state law? 

Texans would have been better off if the legislature hadn’t enacted the law.  Although I understand the Council’s yes vote, I would have voted no unless there was evidence that most other cities were adopting such an ordinance.

« Previous PageNext Page »