Friday, June 5, 2015

The San Antonio Water System, or SAWS, describes its own rate system as more complex than your average water systems.

And if the utility has its way, the system later this year will get a bit more complex – for a simple reason.

While San Antonians have been very good at conserving water – we have dropped per capita use from 225 gallons a day in 1982 to 140 gallons today – we could do even better.

So SAWS has developed a plan to encourage us to do just that.

It’s not just about charging more for people who use more water.

SAWS already does that.

It’s about doing it in a smarter way.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Recap of the latest Texas legislative session

These days, battles aren’t always fought in the field, and they don’t always feature weapons or even large armies. Protecting America’s interests now includes stiffening the nation’s cyber defenses. Last month, The University of Texas at San Antonio’s drive to expand a robust cybersecurity program won a key endorsement from Congress with House passage of major legislation.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Voters feel good about city's initiatives | Last Word

As San Antonians decide over the next two weeks whom to choose as our next mayor, it’s worth taking a closer look at what voters said in the first round.

First, some numbers:

Of 10 council incumbents running for re-election, nine won with totals ranging from 57 percent all the way up to 81 percent. 

The average was 70 percent.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How to cut Medicare costs and keep docs happy

Six years ago, the city of McAllen had the highest Medicare costs per capita in the nation. Since then, those costs have been drastically reduced. A physician/journalist writing in a recent New Yorker magazine gave a lot of credit to a San Antonio company that has changed how doctors get paid, making doctors happy while at the same time saving money.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Links for health care costs | May 22, 2015

The stuff of good exposes | Last Word

An article on the front page of the San Antonio Express-News’ business section Tuesday was headlined:

“Bid front-runner made campaign contributions.”

The story disclosed that three members of the Kowalski family gave thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to the mayor and City Council members who would vote Thursday to award the family’s RK Group a contract worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the next 10 years.

The contract would renew the RK Group’s decades-long exclusive right to cater events at the city’s Convention Center.

The headline, together with its prominent placement, suggested an exposé.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Taylor and Van De Putte in runoff | May 15, 2015

Last Saturday's election determined that San Antonio will be led by a woman, but the two contenders are women of contrasts. One is a consummate Latina politician who has spent 24 years in the Legislature. The other is a trained city planner, an African-American technocrat who has spent years in City Hall as a staffer, councilwoman and interim mayor. Both join us to talk about their plans.

Friday, May 8, 2015

15-year-old avoids murder conviction | Last Word

A jury in New Braunfels – hardly a liberal bastion -- this week added to evidence that Texas can be mature in the way we treat our children.

The case involved a horrible tragedy.

A 15-year-old boy was harassed by chemistry classmate Logan Davidson for two days. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

City struggles dealing with child abuse | May 1, 2015

Compared to other major cities in Texas, San Antonio fares badly in successfully dealing with child abuse. Nearly twice as many Bexar County families who have been cited and policed by Child Protective Services for child abuse are later returned to the system as in Dallas or Houston. Judge Peter Sakai is leading an effort to cut those numbers by making family courts more like drug courts.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The day San Antonio stood up to the feds | Last Word

Gov. Rick Perry ordered National Guard troops to the border to watch out for Mexican immigrants.

But this week Gov. Greg Abbott went him one better.

He ordered the National Guard to watch out for invading U.S. troops.

The order came in preparation for war-game exercises being planned by a number of U.S. military units for later this summer.

Called Operation Jade Helm 15, the exercises will involve 1,200 members of the military and take place across Texas and six other Western states.

The military says it is to “practice core special warfare tasks, which help protect the nation against foreign enemies.”

But some radio talk show hosts have been warning that the operation really will be in preparation for taking over the states and imposing martial law.

The Internet is lighting up with conspiracy theories, including statements that Walmart stores across the country are being renovated complete with interconnected tunnels for use by special forces for federal takeover.

On Monday more than 150 people turned out for a presentation by Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria of the U.S. Army Special Command to the Bastrop County Commissioners Court.

The crowd was not completely mollified.

“It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany,” the Austin American-Statesman quoted resident Bob Wells as saying.

“You get the people used to the troops on the street, the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police. They’re gathering intelligence … and moving logistics in place for martial law.”

Others carried signs such as “No Gestapo in Bastrop.”

Wednesday, Gov. Abbott issued a letter to the National Guard commander directing the Guard to monitor the federal military exercises so that “Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights, and civil liberties will not be infringed.”

This is not the first time exotic military exercises have met with resistance in Texas.

Seventeen years ago a black helicopter exercise that would drop special forces onto urban buildings was blocked by a mayor and police chief in – of all places – Military City USA.

That’s right, in 1998 San Antonio Mayor Howard Peak, with the backing of City Council and Police Chief Al Philippus, nixed a Delta Force exercise that would have had black helicopters flying low over East and West Side neighborhoods, dropping about 100 black-clad commandos onto selected rooftops.

One was to be the old Friedrich Building on the East Side.

The commandos would use explosives to enter buildings and possibly fire ceramic bullets as part of the exercise.

Peak was quoted in the Express-News as expressing concern for citizen safety.

“They ought to go out and look for a set in Hollywood or something,” he said.

The opposition wasn’t based on conspiracy theories.

An Express-News editorial summed it up, citing earlier exercises:

“Staging this urban counterterrorist training in heavily populated areas is insane. It's also dangerous, as reflected in $100,000 worth of property damage caused by an explosion in a similar training exercise in New Orleans and the stray bullet that found its way into an all-night restaurant in Miami.”

The editorial made another point:

“And why the East and West sides of town? That the Army would choose minority communities for such dangerous maneuvers is shameful at best and racist at worst. A certainty is that neither Alamo Heights nor the Greater Northwest were ever considered.”

Such rhetoric sounds almost quaint in these days of talk radio and internet paranoia.

But let the record show: San Antonio stood up to the Feds well before Abbott started suing them or ordering the National Guard to stand guard against them.