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June 22nd, 2006:

Away from my desk

I’ll be tied up with family business through the weekend, and will have limited time for any blog-related program activities. Fortunately, I have activated the Emergency Guest Blogger network, so there should be some new stuff here whether or not I can contribute on a given day. I’m sure as soon as I step away from the keyboard something big is going to happen (aren’t we due for a SCOTUS ruling on the Texas redistricting lawsuit this week?), but c’est la vie. I’ll be back at my usual pace on Monday. If I don’t see you before then, have a good weekend.

Grow, San Antonio

Way to go, San Antonio.

Only perpetually booming Phoenix added more people than San Antonio and Fort Worth in the year ending in July 2005, according to the Census Bureau’s annual city population estimates released Tuesday. However, the figures don’t reflect the demographic chaos caused weeks later by the Gulf Coast hurricanes.

San Antonio, which replaced San Diego as the seventh-largest city in the United States, and Fort Worth added about 21,000 people each, based on government estimates using housing statistics. Phoenix tacked nearly 44,500 people onto its tally.


“What is clearly a change is that San Antonio historically had been among the slower-growing of the major cities,” said Steve Murdock, the state demographer based at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “It’s become San Antonio’s turn, so to speak.”

When I was at Trinity in the 80s, San Antonio was the biggest sleepy little town I’ve ever been in. You could drive from the airport, which is just north of US281/Loop 410, the busiest interchange in the city, and see practically no development between there and the TU campus just north of downtown. It’s definitely grown since then, and I’m glad to see it get a little positive attention for it. If I couldn’t live in Houston, San Antonio would be high on my list of second choices.

A future stumbling block for San Antonio could be water. The area depends on the drought-sensitive Edwards Aquifer, and a recent engineering report prepared for the Texas Water Development Board indicates the area could lose 50,000 people by 2030 if water-supply needs go unmet.

“The San Antonio area is going to have to make some hard decisions, here and throughout the aquifer region,” said Annalisa Peace, executive director of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance. “If we pave over the recharge zone, we’ll reduce the amount of available water.”

Peace supports stronger limits on how much “impervious cover” – typically concrete slabs or pavement – can be built onto land that acts as a rainwater sponge to replenish the underground lake.

The good news is that the citizens of San Antonio seem to take that responsibility seriously. They’ll need to keep doing that.

The Red State has more.

Another dumb idea

I don’t really have much to say about this ugly plan to turn the Houston Police into an arm of the INS. Let’s put aside the question of why the movers behind this idea want to turn a federal problem into a local one. It’s always splashier to go for the cheap political stunt than it is to ask why Texas’s Senators and Congressfolk have been unable to provide sufficient funding for immigration enforcement in their home state, after all. And let’s ignore the question of where HPD will get the manpower and funding to pick up these new responsibilities, since those are tacky questions. And of course, we can just let the issue of how HPD can tell a citizen or legal immigrant from an illegal immigrant slide on past, since that opens a can of worms no one really wants to deal with.

But we can’t let this little exhibit of political fortitude slip away without comment. Here’s City Council member turned Congressional hopeful Shelley Sekula-Gibbs explaining her support for the movement:

“This has gone on long enough,” Sekula-Gibbs said. “It is time for Houston to stand up and assist the federal government in enforcing immigration laws.”

Sekula-Gibbs, who recently has tried to raise her profile on the border-security issue as she seeks to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, told the Houston Chronicle in November that she didn’t have a “strong opinion” on a similar measure posed by then-Councilman Mark Ellis. He tried to force a council vote on the issue when he was seeking a Republican state Senate nomination in a conservative district.

“It’s a political stunt,” she said then of Ellis’ measure, which would have similarly changed the police policy but also required people to show proof of U.S. citizenship to get “taxpayer-provided social services.”

Sekula-Gibbs said it would be impossible to verify someone’s immigration status before, for example, putting out a fire. She said she also disapproved of Ellis’ tactic of trying to force a council vote on a nonbinding resolution.

A charter referendum, by contrast, would be binding on city policy.

“The city’s sanctuary policy was wrong then, and it’s wrong now,” Sekula-Gibbs said Tuesday. “What he was trying to do was just political posturing.”

I hope you didn’t get whiplash from that turnabout on her part. Note that last November, Sekula-Gibbs lacked the huevos to sign on to a similar stunt by Mark Ellis, even though she clearly agreed with the sentiment. Of course, back then she needed the support of the entire city of Houston, even though she was running against a no-name crackpot perennial candidate. Now that it’s in her interest to whip up the nativists, and in particular now that she won’t be in a position to have to account for HPD’s financial and personnel needs when the bill for this travesty comes due, it’s anything goes. I think if I stayed up all night thinking about it, I couldn’t come up with a more fitting way to describe Sekula-Gibbs’ tenure on City Council. So congratulations, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. You really did yourself proud.