The Councilman who thinks for its constituents instead of wanting to hear from them, pushes council vote without time for community input...
You would think by now, politicians would learn the golden rule, you represent your constituents.
Councilman Art Hall was quoted by the Express-News editorial board meeting Wednesday “For me, this is a win-win-win across the board.” Readers please remember… “For me” as it is used.
In the controversial issue, City officials plan to trade $3.4 million worth of city of San Antonio owned property for land next to the historic Hays Street Bridge that’s being developed into an apartment complex.
The District 2 community to include local activists have long opposed developer Mitch Meyer’s plans to build a mixed-use apartment complex on the property . This is a 1.7-acre tract north of the bridge at 803 N. Cherry St. The Texas Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the activist who proved the city didn’t have the right to sell the land and that it was supposed to become a public space or park.
The city is looking for an out to the lawsuit battle. City Council members will vote on a land swap that would give Meyer two acres out of a 3.9-acre lot the city owns at 223 S. Cherry Street near the Alamodome on which to build the apartment complex. Meyer stated (not signed but stated) he would give the 1.7-acre property near the Hays Street Bridge back to the city.
At the center of the negotiations is Art Hall. After the controversy of being hand-picked to run District 2 by the City Council over very qualified people of District 2, Art has only a few days left to make his legacy.
(L-R) D2 Councilman Hall, City Manager Erick Walsh, City Employee Lori Houston talk land swap ‘deal’. Photo: C. Herring
On June 3, 2019, a closed meeting of the Denver Heights HOA was held at Tony G’s. I was alerted because citizens present stated they didn’t think something was right with how the Councilman was approaching getting this deal done. Who attended the meeting? Councilman Art Hall, City Manager Erik Walsh and his senior staff Lori Houston. Councilman Hall announced the land swap vote is going to occur at the June 13th City Council Meeting. The meeting on the 13th would be the Councilman’s last day in office to effect change. I fought traffic to get to the meeting to ask one fundamental question, “outside of the closed meetings that you (Mr. Hall) have had with Neighborhood Association leaders, and with the developers, WHEN would regular citizens of D2 hear from you and be able to communicate their concerns about the deal?” Councilman Hall’s statement was “on June 13th”.
During this election for District 2 – Art Hall supposedly had shadow days for the candidates where they would learn how to be a city councilman. It appeared to me that Jada Sullivan was privy to more information than any other shadow candidate. She was running on the fact, that she and Art Hall brokered a deal with the Hays Street Bridges, Mitch Meyer. Many of her debate questions and answers were about how she negotiated a deal with Hall. As a spectator of politics, I suspected the timing would be at the end of Art Hall’s term and before Voting Day on June 8, 2019, to enhance the enthusiasm for people going to the polls to vote. Not the case.
The Councilman’s response “For me” really says, he is more concerned with wanting to make history for himself without truly opening himself up to the D2 Constituents he represents. He has said in other reports that No councilman has ever been able to find a solution, in the past decade, and he was going to advance the issue for once. After I also reminded him that it appeared, he also voted in isolation of his constituency on the Chick-fil-A vote, that he flipped flopped on the issue to support Mayor Nirenberg, he said that was not true. Councilman Hall provided two statements to me per the request of the SA Observer. The first statement is here, printed while the longer statement can be seen online out of fairness for Mr. Hall. The sentiment of his first statement raises my concern with the process he is now using with the Hays Street Bridge.
He said after his historical deciding vote not to allow a Chick-fil-A re vote, “My position based on my original vote is solid and clear. Same for others. I asked re legal, I asked our attorneys, and I did so on the dais as well. I follow their guidance, even as an attorney. I vote on real policy and not games. Not one D2 person spoke on the issue at Citizens to be Heard on Wednesday and I don’t think we got calls or emails on the issue, if we did they were limited and/or few. U can send media my first message above.”
Since the re vote, with District 2’s leadership, the Attorney General of the State of Texas has filed a lawsuit against the City of San Antonio. The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1978 really as the state’s condemnation on San Antonio ban of Chick-fil-A . The City’s Airport is under FAA investigation… all because our elected officials didn’t want Councilman Greg Brockhouse to be right or be a part of a game? As a taxpayer, I expect the Council to discuss hard agenda items. Also Mr. Hall relies on the City Attorney’s positions like they are God versus his constituents’ positions which is much more disturbing. In my history of working with the city, what City Attorney is rallying against their boss, the City Manager? Maybe I am wrong, but salaried staff do not try to derail their bosses position. Politicians are supposed to know better.
Well, when I told Councilman about his vote, he said “Yes, you are entitled to your opinion.”
Councilman Hall meets with Denver Heights HOA about Hays Bridge Land swap ‘deal’. Photo: C. Herring
But here is the take away for the readers. The Hays Street Bridge solutions are encouraging to know the people MAY win. Any decision Councilman Art Hall pushes that the City Council members WILL support, the next Council person will have to live with the good or live with the bad. The facts are there are grey areas still not clearly understood. The fact is D2 politics to RUSH something to make history or to help someone else’s campaign is really the issue. But what about the people? I predict as in the example above, none of the D2 constituents will show up to City Hall to be heard. Why? Because the Councilman has learned through his longtime serving on Council, that it’s a personal sacrifice and burden for you to attend City Council meetings.
From my personal experiences standing up to bureaucrats at City Hall, it takes TIME, MONEY, and SACRIFICE to be at City Hall for an all-day session. It takes the D2 voters out of the East Side and forces them to have to navigate on VIA buses, and personal cars to make it to the downtown City Council meeting. The citizens, if they want to be heard on the issue also have to arrive much earlier than the elected officials and sign up under Citizens to be Heard. The Citizens can be called in the morning or late afternoon – with no pay (like your Councilman). This again puts the burdens on the people and allows a small gathering to be heard, and your voice is shut out.
My message to Mr. Art Hall – pull the agenda item for vote and extend the public engagement period to a place outside of City Hall within the District. Even if you aren’t the Councilman, your work, if it was sincere, will still be impactful. Some people who have heard Hall’s solutions say, “Compensation or restitution to Myer for the Hays Street Bridge property should be the owner who sold it to the him…not the city! That’s our protest cry!” Why Councilman Hall didn’t have one open town hall meeting on this seven year issue is not a positive view of how government should work. District 2 has been the victim of too many rushed and premature thoughts, seldom with happy endings. #FORME.
Call 210-207-7278 to speak to him or email the Councilman at email@example.com