Dec. 13, 2020. Today we are starting to add facts, one by one, for your reading
displeasure, leading up to the May 2021 election. Here's a doozy.
Question: I have heard of some unsavory people involved in
Vista Ridge. Who are they?
San Antonio Report) references facts the paper made public in 2006 about who procured
most of the water leases that underlie Vista Ridge. Former oil and gas landman, Scott
Carlson, went door-to-door in Burleson County, the source of Vista Ridge water, peddling
leases with a get-rich-quick pitch for landowners, the vast majority of whom rejected him.
Some told us they showed him their shotguns when he kept coming back to pressure them with statements like, “we’re going to get your water anyway, since your neighbor has signed.”
Carlson got caught violating probation by failing to disclose the fact of his probation to people he was pitching, having pled no-contest to stealing $2.4 million from his previous oil and gas employer. Procuring water leases for what became Vista Ridge was part of a deal made with Ross Cummings of Blue Water Vista Ridge LLC to bail Carlson out of jail. We kid you not.
Watch for More Questions and Answers to populate this page.
The SAWS Accountability Act Provisions (on Page 2 of the Petition)
The SAWS Accountability Act is an amendment to the City Charter proposed by a growing coalition of organizations from across the political spectrum. If at least 20,000 signatures are filed in early 2021, the SAWS Act will be voted on in May 2021 by San Antonio voters. Note: the second page of the petition lays out the provisions in the exact language proposed:
Problem: SAWS General Manager, currently Robert Puente, has served 12 years and is paid nearly 3 times that of any public water CEO in Texas and likely the US, approximately $600K, including his expected annual $100K bonus.
Solution - Paragraph 1 limits the term to 8 years, with a retention election for 4 more years, and the salary shall not exceed 10 times that of the lowest paid fulltime SAWS employee, similar to City Manager pay restrictions passed by voters in 2018.
Problem: SAWS Chair Berto Guerra, a key supporter of Vista Ridge, completed his second and last term in May 31, 2018 but was allowed, along with one other Trustee, to stay on the board two years past his term limit.
Solution: Paragraph 2: States SAWS Board of Trustees are appointed by the City Council and may be terminated. They are limited to two four-year terms and may not hold over more than 30 days.
Problem: City Council did not approve SAWS lobbying for House Bill 1806 which would have allowed SAWS to sell cheaper Edwards water outside the zones of the Edwards Aquifer Authority legal boundaries. The Governor had to finally veto this bill.
Solution: Paragraph 3: Prohibits SAWS lobbying without prior approval from Council.
Problem: Former SAWS Chair, Berto Guerra, contributed $35,000 to a PAC that worked to defeat three measures on the 2018 ballot. One of those measures (Prop A) was defeated. Prop A would have given citizens more reasonable petition requirements for measures seeking to reverse a council decision (“referendum”). In our view, Vista Ridge should have received a public vote, but petitioning for a referendum after it was rammed through City Council in 30 days, was far too difficult – 70,000 signatures in 40 days. Guerra’s mega-donation could have been challenged under ethics rules, if SAWS had been clearly subject to Local ethics rules.
Solution: Paragraph 4: Requires SAWS Board and General Manager be subject to Federal, State and Local ethics rules. This is a no-brainer. Warning: the City Council must give the City Ethics Commission real teeth.
Problem: Vista Ridge was rammed through the City Council in 30 days WITHOUT an independent audit before the contract was signed.
Solution: Paragraph 5: Requires an independent performance audit of contracts over $1B before contracts are signed. And, it will require an independent performance audit of Vista Ridge.