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The QueQue

The QueQue: Electric bill help in San Antonio, Open records fights in Alamo Heights, Smith protective of Canseco in redistricting, 152-0: CPS Energy’s Beneby lauded by Sierra Club

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Electric bill help in San Antonio

While we’re grateful local governments offer electric bill assistance to low-income, elderly, and disabled residents with federal funds and donations from CPS Energy customers, you may want to get it while you can. With the economic weather and Washington mood, those funds are most likely about to be greatly reduced.

Federal stimulus increased the county’s Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) annual funding to $10.3 million from $2.8 million in recent years. With that, the program helped 35,000 people pay utility bills last year. Now it’s bracing for cuts as Tea Partiers in Congress fight to reduce funding back to pre-stimulus levels. “We’re all on pins and needles about the budget decision,” said Linda Flores-Guerra, client services manager for the Bexar County Department of Community Resources. CEAP provides up to $800 per year to people whose income meets 200 percent of the poverty level. “We’ve been finding that bills are so high that we have to assist with their immediate need,” Flores-Guerra said. “Bills now are coming in three months behind, so you’re usually looking at a $600 utility bill.” Elderly and disabled residents receive a preference for assistance, and the program takes 150 appointments every Tuesday. But don’t expect to get in or qualify on the first try. While Bexar County also contributes, CPS earned some assistance from STP nuclear complex partner NRG Energy ($2.5 million per year over four years) as part of a settlement resulting from the botched nuclear expansion planned with Toshiba. And that assistance funding ends in 2013. Need help? Call (210) 335-6770 and have your name, telephone number and full address ready.

 

Open records fights in Alamo Heights

After a fractious battle over city spending in Alamo Heights, one that has since virtually remade the town’s council, Alamo Heights residents arrived at their City Hall in early 2011 to participate in the second meeting of the newly appointed facilities committee. However, they were told the meeting had been cancelled. Minutes later, Alamo Heights Neighborhood Association founder John Joseph, a local travel agent, wrote his fellow committee members: “Our private meeting at 4 p.m. is still on, as agreed with Fire Chief Buddy Kuhn. … It should take about an hour, then we can retire to Ed’s office for further discussion.” The post-closed-meeting meeting seems to be with another committee member, Ed Kopplow of Kopplow Construction. The group’s meetings have been held privately ever since.

Besides the bait-and-switch behind that second committee meeting, a series of emails released by the Texas Attorney General’s office in response to an open-records request by former mayoral candidate Sarah Reveley show that the committee charged with recommending construction policy for a new City Hall have a penchant for secrecy, an insistence to build on the cheap, and (most interestingly) selected an architectural firm approved by the Council last June without a competitive bidding process.

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