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The QueQue

The QueQue: Blood on the tracks, District 3 shuffle, Prisons and profits

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Eight candidates have lined up to fill the shoes of outgoing District 3 Councilwoman Jennifer Ramos, who’s leaving less than halfway through her second Council term to run for a spot on Bexar County Commissioners Court. We’ll see this week not only who’s tapped to lead D3 for the next year and four months, but also how Council test-drives its new system for picking interim council members, designed to quell complaints of cronyism or back-room dealing in replacing Council members who bow out early.

As per an ordinance pushed by Mayor Julián Castro halfway through his first term, candidates seeking interim appointments now file applications with the City Clerk’s office. Under the rule, members openly review and interview all applicants before voting in an interim member to fill out the term.

Council is set to interview Ramos’ potential replacements at Council’s “B” session today, the final vote coming during Thursday’s “A” session.

Before the new policy, outgoing Council members essentially handpicked their replacements, leaving the rest of Council to either approve or deny the request. Council passed the new policy on the heels of a controversial 2010 appointment, when then D4-Councilman Philip Cortez chose his then-fiancé Leticia Cantu to fill in while he left for a thee-month stint in Air Force Reserve training. Cantu tried her best to capitalize on the appointment, using her brief time on Council as a jumping-off point for her failed 2011 campaign for the D4 seat.

Proving the power of appointment, Ramos rose under the old system. Serving as an aid to then-Councilman Roland Gutierrez, she was appointed to the D3 seat in 2008 when Gutierrez left to run for the Lege. She ran unopposed in 2009, and won her second full term in 2011.

Her potential replacements sport varying ties to local politicos, some well-known faces around town or at City Hall, others more relatively unknown. Track Newsmonger later this week to see who gains Council’s favor.


Prisons and profits

In late December, Florida-based private prison contractor GEO Group announced the renewal of its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to run the 1,904-bed South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall, southwest of San Antonio. GEO, heralding the contract extension, effective through end of 2016, says its continued management of Pearsall should rake in $45 million each year for the next five years. In a statement, GEO chairman and CEO George Zoley praised ICE’s continued “confidence” in the private prison corporation, saying the Pearsall facility “plays a key role in helping meet the need for federal detention bed space.”

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