City Council Elections
3:38 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

Former Chan Staffer Salinas Challenging Her For District 9 Seat

San Antonio's District 9, which covers the city's North and Far North sides, has two candidates for city council. One of them is the incumbent for the seat, Elisa Chan, and the other is Chan’s former campaign worker and chief of constituency, Jason Salinas.

Chan would like to see a third term, but Salinas said he wanted to give voters an option, so he signed up for the race on the day of the deadline.

"Democracy works best when voters are given legitimate choices, and when citizens are heard and are properly represented," Salinas said.

Knowing District 9 needs

Working with constituents in Chan’s office, Salinas said he got a real sense of the people and neighborhoods in District 9.

"I got a real feel for what people are looking for as far as improvements and what their concerns are and so forth," he said. "I'm very in touch with those issues and that's why I'm running," Salinas said.

Self-employed general services consultant Salinas said the biggest problem on the north side, and the city in general, is traffic.

He said long-term traffic problems require a substantial solution, noting that tolls may not be out of the question because all options have to be considered.

"We're going to have to just look for a way to make things work better to get people moving to where they need to go," he said. "People need to go to work, they need to be able to travel in a timely fashion."

Incumbent Chan has strong record

Chan lauds many accomplishments during her four years on the council. She said she’s helped balance a budget without raising taxes, a feat that was particularly difficult during a recession, she said.

City-wide, she said 72 police officers were added while she’s been on council. She is a member of the public safety committee, and with her work as chair of the economic development committee, she said she’s helped oversee the addition of 13,000 jobs to the local economy.

One of her best attributes, she said, is her ability to meticulously pick apart topics and scrutinize wasting of time and money of city programs and policies.

"I think it is good to have diverse opinions, and I think that it's important that we look at the issues… based on its merits and not just rubber stamp," she said. "But also I think it's important that you have the courage and also the fortitude to speak up when necessary."

Ethics in the library vote

A recent ethics lapse has cast a shadow over the experienced councilwoman. Earlier this month, she failed to recuse herself from a council vote to build a library next to her north side business, Unitech, off East Evans Road.

City Manager Sheryl Sculley said after visiting with Chan at her business following the council meeting, the councilwoman notified her council colleagues that she would like to bring the item back before council, but not be a part of the vote.

The next week, on April 18, the council ultimately decided to rescind its previous approval and take up the matter again in early May. A conversation on ethics took the place of a vote as several council members felt the issue needed to be ironed out.

Salinas believes serious discussion needs to happen and thinks an ethics overhaul is needed at City Hall.

"The public is not happy about this stuff," he said. "We need to be a little bit more transparent. They talk about being transparent when we're talking about CPS and SAWS in knowing what they're doing. Well, apparently we need to know what's going on at City Hall."

Ethics reform on city council

Chan does not believe adding more rules to the already lengthy ethics code is necessary.

A memo she sent to her colleagues Monday emphasized education instead of piling on more rules, but she did say if that’s the direction Mayor Julián Castro and the council wants to take, she recommends various changes.

They include clarification of "the appearance of impropriety" standard, requesting that city employees with allegations of ethics violations also go through the public process, and altering the reporting requirement for all third-party travel to not include spouse, sibling, parent, child or other family members.

Chan said that all travel paid for by a third party should be reported, except for travel paid for by family members.

Chan stressed that adding to the 75 pages of the city’s ethics code increases "the layer of bureaucracy."

There is no word from her colleagues yet as to feelings about the memo.