Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Lone Ranger or Don Quixote? Marcus Tullius Cicero Unmasked

Some of you have already figured this out, and have up to now respected my wish to remain temporally anonymous, and for that I thank you. For the rest of you, it would not have required the deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery. There were plenty of clues for those had the curiosity or initiative to find them.

Clue #1
The name. San Antonio Election 2005 sounds a lot like SAElections.com.

Clue #2
The first blog entry entitled “A Good Place to Start” just states http://www.saelections.com/

Clue #3
The first link under recommended Links is http://www.saelections.com/

Clue#4
In a city with precious little interest by its vast suburban populous, and even less by its City government, in its cultural institutions, San Antonio Election 2005 seemed to be virtually preoccupied with references to its museums and to have special knowledge about their workings.

Clue #5
It clearly states on http://www.saelections.com/ the identity of the producers of that site.

Clue#6
From http://www.saelections.com/ there is a link to my curriculum vitae and anyone who read it would find that I am an art historian and museum professional that has spent a good deal of his career working in various capacities at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Due to the contents of some of my posts, it is unlikely that I will ever be employed at my trade again in this town. This is something I sincerely regret, not that I retract one word of what I have said, but I have a profound affection for, and loyalty to the missions of, these institutions and would have loved to have spent the rest of my life serving in them in some way. But alas, one cannot bite the hand that feeds them and expect to continue to eat too, even when that hand has been bitten for its own good.

Clue#7
Late one night I made a comment post to The Red State where I directed readers to http://www.saelections,com/. In describing that site I referred to its producers as “we” and inadvertently signed the post “Cicero.”

Clue#8
The geekier among you might have trace routed my email address to determined the registrant of the domain and find my wife’s name. If I had been really up to mischief I would have secured this backdoor.

I promised I would reveal my identity and here it is:

Joseph Bravo, Media Coordinator for http://www.saelections.com/.

As most of you already know, this is the website that provided a “One-stop shop for San Antonio elections information.”

SAElections.com was produced single-handedly through the prodigious talents and heroic efforts of my wife Lori Bravo. Her website claims to be “non-partisan information for people who vote.” In fact, by all accounts from voters, candidates and their campaigns from all political persuasions throughout the city of San Antonio, it is just that.

For the record, although sponsorship to the http://www.saelections.com/ website was open to anyone except candidates and PACS, only one local businessman, T.J. Connolly, saw fit to actually come forward with $300 for an advertisement. For this he is to be commended. (Shame on the rest of you!) He bought it early in March after visiting the site. The transaction was done through his office and we never had contact with him again throughout the campaign season. We did not know Mr. Connolly before we produced this site. While he is active in San Antonio political circles, I suspect he, like others, occasionally found the information presented at http://www.saelections.com/ a little inconvenient to his own personal politics. He in no way had any input into the content presented at http://www.saelections.com/.

Other sponsors included Adam McManus at KSLR radio. This was an in-kind contribution where he agreed to mention http://www.saelections.com/ on his radio show and in return received and ad slot. Neither Lori Bravo or I are regular listeners to his radio show (or anyone else’s for that matter,) nor should his sponsorship be construed as our endorsement of the views expressed on his program. He had no input into the content of information provided at http://www.saelections.com/. As with others, I suspect that occasionally information provided there did not serve his political agenda either.

360 Degree Virtual Real-estate is a venture owned by the parents of the technician who operated our server. He is a lifelong friend, who offered his services for free, but we offered him an ad as remuneration and he requested we put up one for his parents’ Wisconsin-based real-estate photography services instead, so we obliged.

You don’t have to have earned a PHD from the Chicago School to gather from this, that Lori’s positive cash flow for this entire venture was a whopping total of $300. This is all the financial remuneration she received in return for well over a thousand hours of dedicated, highly skilled labor. (Again, my words, not hers, shame on the business community of San Antonio, I know thousands of you read her newsletters and burned up all the fiber in town accessing http://www.saelections.com/, her web stats prove it!) In addition to her time, she spent cash out of pocket to repeatedly contact candidates in writing who, for whatever reason, would not respond to her telephone or email requests for information about their candidacies. Initially this was most of them, until they began to look conspicuous by their absence from this well visited site.

On that note, special kudos for courage go out to Kevin Wolf and Cynthia Test, who were the only two candidates, out of the forty-four running for office, who linked to http://www.saelections.com/ from their campaign websites. None of the three frontrunners in the Mayor’s race ever personally acknowledged the existence of the site, even after Castro’s CFR debacle. What were all these free publicity-hunting politicians afraid of? Lori’s web statistics showed that the majority of the campaigns were hitting the site almost daily. I guess they, like their colleagues at the City Hall and at the local media outlets, who statistics also show extensively and regularly checked http://www.saelections.com/, thought it was their secret espionage tool, for checking out the opposition. Various media outlets used information they found at http://www.saelections.com/, including direct quotes from the site, as the basis for numerous articles and stories they published or broadcast with nary a citation. So much for journalistic ethics. It appears that Wackenhut is not the only cat watching canaries. Regardless, Lori assures me she has no regrets and believes the voters were entitled to her services, since nobody was going to provide them if she did not. I concur.

When she first started http://www.saelections.com/, Lori received email from various campaigns that presumed she must be a member of the politerati and was concealing some pernicious secret agenda. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and all information presented at http://www.saelections.com/ was on the level. Lori’s endeavors were solely motivated by a desire to assist the citizenry in voting. She believes sunlight is the best mechanism to achieve this goal. The only people that had an aversion to her efforts were, by definition, the more vampirically inclined among the political class.

I may be biased about this one issue, but I believe that the entire city of San Antonio owes Lori Bravo an enormous debt of gratitude and a three-cheer salute for her tireless and conscientious efforts on their behalf this election season.

I also think several of the media outlets owe her an apology for claiming credit for her impressive work as if it were their own. For these people all I have to say is, “May your intellectual property become popular in China.”

My role as Media Coordinator for http://www.saelections.com/ was simply as cheerleader. Lori is shy and her talents (like most people’s) lie in areas other than public speaking. I on the other hand…well you’ve read my postings. I was interviewed by Chris Duel on KTSA radio, by Jeff Coyle on WOAI television, and jointly with Lori by Jaime Castillo at the Express News. Shame on the rest of the local media, (that means you Fox News at 9, KSAT 12 and others), for your excellent impersonations of a flock of ostriches! These “News” outlets should realize that when they bury their heads, they leave the rest of us viewing their most flattering asset. Due to my relatively public role in promoting http://www.saelections.com/, revealing my identity earlier might have lead to misperceptions and the more cynically minded to cast unnecessary dispersions on Lori’s endeavors.

I could not sit by and listen to my wife’s discoveries night after night and not form any opinions on events taking place in this election. I’m an objective observer, not a mineral. But http://www.saelections.com/ is not a venue for opinion of any kind, even Lori’s or mine. I did not want her admirable efforts to get guilt by association with my personal views, which do not necessarily reflect her own. It is for this reason that I created my own blog to vent my growing frustrations with the embarrassing mess that generally constitutes a San Antonio election. I chose to remain anonymous so nobody would use what I said here to discredit the facts presented at http://www.saelections.com/ or impugn the integrity of Lori’s noble undertaking.

For me, the purpose of San Antonio Election 2005 was to provoke thought about the issues facing San Antonio this election season. I have tried to be objective, and an equal opportunity critic of the local political establishment. Undoubtedly, just about everybody found something here with which they would take exception. I did not endorse any candidacy because, as you might imagine, none of them would have been very likely to endorse the opinions offered on this blog. From this, one should not have construed that I thought all the candidates unfit to serve or equally inappropriate choices to hold office. My goal was to make voters think about their choices, not to make those choices for them.

I want to thank Cincinnatus at the Jeffersonian for his fine analysis and tolerance. Also shout out to the Red state and Off the Kuff for their attention to this blog as well as their fine work at their venues. Special heads up and good luck to Cernig at Newshog whose site is always provocative and insightful. Of course thanks to the rest of the blogosphere who dained to read the musings found here this season.

I hope you found the views expressed here interesting and occasionally a source of edification. Thank you for having taken the time to consider them. For now, Marcus Tullius Cicero/Joseph Bravo will be signing off in this venue, perhaps to appear elsewhere, who knows?

San Antonio Election 2005 will continue to exist as an archive as long as its server remains.

Thanks

Another One Bites the Dust

San Antonio’s election season has come to an end and to the surprise of no one and the dismay of some, Phil Hardberger is the next Mayor of the Alamo City. I wish him the best of luck, he’s about to learn that having a thing is not so nice as wanting it. A little late in the day for such lessons, but better late than never.

Regardless, I suspect for the next couple of years San Antone will muddle along much as we always do. Developers will continue to pave the aquifer with abated taxes, City staffers will continue to award contracts to insiders who pay to play, lobbyist will continue to deliver faite au completes to our elected officials who will continue to oblige if they want to raise funds for their reelection campaigns.

This is not Phil’s fault it is ours. The same would have been true if Julian had won, even if he might have hoped otherwise. Citizens in our historically underserved communities feel that they have heard it all before and they have little hope that our leadership is really going to come to their aid and do tangible things to improve their quality of life. Hence they are understandably disengaged, unregistered and apathetic. Northside Loop Landers feel no sense of place or civic loyalty. They are absorbed in their big box shopping and soccer mom universes. The only time they get activated is if they feel their property values are threatened or their taxes might be raised. They bought into the developers’ line of bull that any limitations on unrestricted paving of the aquifer constitutes a threat to homeowners’ property rights and undermines most families’ primary source of savings. This is of course hogwash, but is so widely accepted among Northsiders that it qualifies as a suburban myth.

San Antonians pretty much get the quality of government we deserve, and we don’t deserve much. We neglect our school children at rates that put our kids amongst the lowest performing in the nation. We acquiesce as for almost a third of our young men the Bexar County Jail is a more likely career path than UTSA. We pay our workers less than almost anywhere in the country and we expect less out of them so they remain compliant. We neglect our cultural institutions into oblivion when we are not running them directly into the ground. We let our leaders play Anglo off against Hispanic as if Justice was a zero sum game. Our leaders may not be the best and brightest amongst us, but most of them are typical representations of what constitutes a San Antonian and for the most part they accurately reflect our stated and unstated priorities. If things suck its because our priorities, not our votes, are misplaced.

San Antonio is the land of unfulfilled potential. We are geographically placed to become a center of trade and cultural exchange for the future. If we only had the right set of priorities our denstiny could be promising indeed. But in order to fulfill that destiny we must pull our heads out of our collective asses. We must realize that “our children are our future” is not just a pop lyric. We must demand that out of town corporations that come to our burg to exploit our cheap labor and export the profits they make in our community must at least pay their fair share of taxes for the privilege of punking us out. We must realize that sustainable development is not just some left-wing jargon but the only alternative to environmental and economic collapse. We must come to understand that economically integrated residential development is good for our property values, good for our community and essential to ensuring the health of the polity. We must invest in our cultural institutions to help establish our brand identity as a tourist destination not because the arts are touchy feely and pinko, but because they are essential to successful economic development. That they increase and intellectual and spiritual quality of life is just the icing on the cake. We must not be content to return to our homes and families as if our front doors were sufficient to keep the troubles of our community at bay. We must all become more activated politically and bring our ideas and values to our politicians as well as our money to their campaigns. We must demand more from our elected officials in terms of competency and accountability. We must insist on transparency at City Hall. But mostly would must demand more from ourselves.