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The QueQue

The QueQue: Castro smooths way for solar rebate negotiations, SBOE voters and the name game, Salt in the wound for shoddy Overton trial

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Of Bond-age: Less than a month after voters approved a new $596 million bond package for city improvements, Council last week heard a proposal to issue $544 million in public facility corporation lease revenue bonds to fund a $325 million expansion/demo of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, including $254 million to refinance existing hotel occupancy tax debt taken on during the last Convention Center expansion. The expansion/demo will boost capacity at the center, while also paving the way for standing plans to revamp HemisFair into a bona fide park. Image Credit: HemisFair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation’s Report on Public Progress.

Castro smooths way for solar rebate negotiations

The confusion over solar rebates is a tad closer to a positive resolution — at least from the viewpoint of local solar installers who complained to Council recently that a perceived backtracking on money for installation rebates by CPS Energy was jeopardizing local business. Last week, Mayor Julián Castro asked CPS CEO Doyle Beneby to take another look at the STEP program's $40 million set-aside for solar rebates (of a total package of $849 million to by used by 2020) and see if there wasn't a "middle ground" to be reached, according to a source close to the negotiations. CPS Energy officials confirmed the Castro-Beneby discussion, suggesting that one scenario being considered, one advocated by Solar San Antonio Executive Director Lanny Sinkin, is "front-loading" all $40 million in rebates earmarked for solar rebates in STEP into the next three years, after which time the rebates would be cut off completely. "By that time we would hope there would be no need for a rebate," Sinkin said. But that's just one of several possible models being run at CPS, and the results probably won't be ready prior to June 12, the first of a raft of monthly meetings scheduled with CPS and SA's solar community, said CPS spokesperson Lisa Lewis.

SBOE voters and the name game

Who the hell is Marisa B. Perez? Perez's race for the State Board of Education's D3 seat proved one of the more shocking upsets in last week's Democratic primary, with her beating out well-liked, well-endorsed incumbent and Trinity University prof Michael Soto with a beastly 66.6 percent of the vote.

A usually sleepy corner of state government, the SBOE's tasked with writing state curriculum standards, approving textbooks, and keeping an eye on the state's Permanent School Fund. But SBOE seats started making headlines after hard-right San Antonio billionaire James "God's Sugar Daddy" Leininger dumped cash into candidates willing to toe the social conservative line in the '90s and the culture war battles that followed. (Even the Thomas B. Fordham Institute now worries over the SBOE's science standards for the shoddy teaching of evolution, calling the state's revised history standards evidence of the board's "evangelical Christian-right agenda.")

Elected in 2010, Soto gained support among teachers and reformers alike as a loud counterbalance to the board's social conservative bent, pushing for solid science and scholarship in textbooks and education standards. "Michael was one of the best State Board members we have ever worked with, period," said Dan Quinn with the Texas Freedom Network, an organization that closely watches the board for whenever sex ed or Darwin surface. Soto raised nearly $43,000 in his race for the D3 seat, while Perez, by all accounts, barely campaigned and didn't raise or spend a cent. A member of the Bexar County Democrats' communications committee told the QueQue he'd never heard of Perez, and Pat Galloway, a Bexar Democratic precinct chair, only recalled the candidate attempting to file for the race on the filing deadline in Bexar County. "We told her she had to file with the state," Galloway said. "She drove up to Austin at the last minute."

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