Mike Kueber's Blog

April 8, 2013

Another banner day for the Express-News

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

November 17, 2012

A downtown grocery store

Liberals tend to disparage the value of capital.  Remember how they jeered when Romney said, “Corporations are people, too.”  From the liberal perspective, labor is all that is important in the economic equation.  At least until liberals need capital for one of their pet projects.

I remember that shortly after I arrived in town, San Antonio’s liberals were railing and wailing against area bookstores for failing to locate a bookstore in south San Antonio.  When those with capital explained that the Southside would not support a bookstore, the liberals responded by accusing the capitalists of racism and bigotry. 

After years of pressure by Southside public officials, and with the support of San Antonio Express-News, Waldenbooks bravely opened a bookstore in South Park Mall, but it survived less than five years according to news reports.  As best I can determine, that part of town remains barren of bookstores.

As Yogi Berra once said, it’s Déjà vu all over again, except now the liberals want a downtown grocery store.  Despite years of pressure by local government officials, local grocery giant HEB has declined to put a store downtown.  In 2011 the San Antonio City Council even offered a $1 million reward to any grocer who located downtown, and still HEB and all other grocers declined. 

This morning, there is an article in the Express-News reporting that a consultant who was paid $50,000 by the city has concluded that the downtown can support a 20k-sq.-ft.-store.  You don’t have to be a cynic or a skeptic to question the validity of that report.  In fact, the newspaper article concedes that industry experts have previously advised that downtown won’t be ready for a grocery store until it has 8,000 apartments/condos and that it currently has fewer than 4,000.   

Aside from the folly of liberal noncapitalists advising capitalists on how to allocate their capital, the issue that most interests me here is the extent to which government should be providing financial incentives for capitalists to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do. 

As President Obama, quoting from A Lincoln, said in his State of the Union address – “Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.”  That makes perfect sense.

The $1 million reward suggests that the San Antonio City Council is better at development than private developers.  I’m not sure about that and will have to give it some more thought.