Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Are crazy and dangerous people plotting the demise of elected officials supporting toll roads?"

Officials' statements hurt S.A.


Cary Clack
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2007

Having taken leave for a while, it was with great and trembling hesitation that I returned, frightened and ashamed at what might have become of my beloved city. Inexplicably, San Antonio had become the most lawless and violence-plagued city in the land. Somehow, the city always in search of a party had become Dodge City of the 1870s, Beirut of the 1980s and Baghdad of today, all rolled into one.

I was led to this assumption by comments made last month by two prominent public figures: San Antonio Police Officers Association President Teddy Stewart and County Judge Nelson Wolff. They made harrowing comments that suggested we had descended into Dante's violent seventh circle of hell.

In early October, in response to Chief Bill McManus ordering a review of SAPD training and procedures, Stewart said, "Chief, you want to find out where the training is lacking? Train your citizens to quit killing us."

Nowhere in McManus' job description is there the responsibility to train any citizens about anything. Nor should any free people submit to being trained by a police chief or any other government representative.

"Train your citizens to quit killing us."

Considering that Detective Mario Moreno had been killed in the line of duty three weeks earlier, it's understandable that Stewart would be emotional. But to cast an accusatory blanket over the entire community is unconscionable.

Moreno was the 48th San Antonio policeman killed in the line of duty. If it seems like there have been more, it's because each time an officer dies in the line of duty the pain cuts a little deeper and the grief hangs a little longer because of the job the police do, a job most of us wouldn't want. The largest funeral procession I've ever seen in this city, including the number of people lining the streets in respect, was in February 2001 for Officer John "Rocky" Riojas.

No, Detective Stewart, the "citizens" of San Antonio don't need to be trained to stop killing police officers because the "citizens" of San Antonio don't kill police officers. Legitimate questions and concerns from residents and the chief about the behavior of a very few officers does not translate into murderous intent toward the entire department. To suggest otherwise is offensive.

Then there was Wolff's State of the County speech last week. Wolff is among the most respected local politicians of the past 50 years. One of the reasons is that he's a wise man not given to intemperate comments.

In last week's speech, Wolff referred to toll road opponents as "crazy" and "dangerous."

He said, "We're barely holding on with a 3-to-2 vote on Commissioners Court supporting the project. I won't tell you who the other two commissioners are; I don't want to endanger their lives."

Hmmm, let's see. Tommy Adkisson and Lyle Larson are opposed to toll roads and Wolfe supports them. That leaves Paul Elizondo and Sergio "Chico" Rodriguez, so I'm guessing that they're the two commissioners supporting toll roads whom Wolff didn't want to name. I hope that by printing their names I'm not endangering them, but I think their covers are going to be blown in a few months when their names appear on the ballot.

Are crazy and dangerous people plotting the demise of elected officials supporting toll roads?

That the blood sport of San Antonio politics has devolved from the metaphorical to the literal is stunning.

That County Commissioners are now inspiring passion among citizens is startling.

That more than one dozen people can name all five members of commissioners court is incredulous.

Piqued by criticism and dissent from members of the community they serve, Stewart and Wolff resorted to hyperbole, painting a picture of San Antonio as a city of anarchic assassins. Thankfully, mercifully, the true portrait of this city is less disturbing.

Cary Clack's column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. To leave him a message, call (210) 250-3546 or e-mail

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