The Poor vs. The Power on the top of the structure. One of the men is a lawyer, another a banker, another the owner of a manufacturing concern; there are probably one or two others. These men, who probably never get together in a formal meeting, decide the general direction that San Antonio is to take. For example, they have decided that San Antonio will not bring any heavy industry to our beautiful city. Why such a decision was ever made I can only guess: with their position and wealth, these men wouldn’t want to be challenged by the managers of, say, a Ford factory. That big, big business would also bring big unions to San Antonio, and better wages, but I assume this is only a secondary consideration. These men now decide how we shall get water and electric power, what kind of buses, what kind of city government. Below these few at the top are a group several times as large, climbing their own ladders. They are in business, at the bar, and in the other professions. These are the men who take care of political strategy and governmental details, and they point out the civic direction. They figure ways to block industrialization, go to Washington to seek more federal jobs, do the legal thinking, produce ideas for HemisFair. They make their living as errand boys for those at the topand a nice living it is. On the next level down, for the most part, are the office holders, who do what they are expected to most of the time without question. These are the men who make up the city council, the water board, the public service board, the transit board, the San Antonio Housing Authority, some school districts. They are little more than puppets as far as the power structure is concerned, even though they may have important positions in private life. Next down are the people on the various boards and advisory commissions of the city and its agencies. There are scores of these boards, most of them honorary. On the base of the power structure are just plain members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Good Government League, and some of the civic clubsthe little businessman; the young lawyer; the architect; all the others who provide a following for those at the top. Only a few of these people, one day, will move up a level, but few of them will stop hoping that they’ll be spotted and made vice president of a bank or assistant manager of an automobile dealership or city councilman. LET ME NAME SOME NAMES. On the top level certainly is Wilbur Matthews, whose law firm represents the $50-million-a-year Public Service Board and many of San Antonio’s most solid businesses. There are several others. Perhaps the mayor belongs up here, perhaps not. For many years, in the old days, he fought the power structure on various issues; now, though, he must have some say; it would be hard to keep him out. Down from this are such men as Bob Sawtelle, a lawyer for the City Water Board and political strategist for the GGL; John Daniels, attorney for the Housing Authority and HemisFair as well as County Democratic Chairman; public relations man Ellis Shapirc; City Manager Jack Shelley and the more important managers of the city’s agencies, as well as such people as Councilman John Gatti, Water Board Chairman Harold Keller, and Public Service Board Chairman Leroy G. Denman, Jr. The names of the ones on the next level read like a clipping out of San Antonio’s society pagesor, for the most part, a roll call at a Republican banquet. These are the Bob Joneses, the Mike Passurs, the Jack Lockes, the Lila Cockrells. There are probably 50 or 75. I don’t have to list the names of the bottom two rungs. That’s the structure, and you don’t have to be told which way the decision-making flows, do you? Or how effective this structure is? As you can readily see, it is the antithesis of democracy. Its power is based on the desire for recognition and for making money. I know it’s trite, but it’s true: this structure is an oligarchy. And it runs this city. THE POOR “MEJICANOS” in San Antonio can expect little help from this structure. They must look to the fed eral government for help; but thus far it has come only in dribbles. How can the federal government really help? Massive aid, a crash program, federally sponsored, is the only hope that the Mexican-American in San Antonio can break the vicious cycle of illiteracy, slum housing, disease, and unemployment. First he needs a job with decent wages, created by W.P.A.-type construction. In short, San Antonio needs a Marshall Plan for Mexican-Americans. With a job, a living wage, and the knowledge that his government cares, the Mexican-American will solve his own problems. President Lyndon B.,Johnson has recognized the plight of the Mexican-American. In delivering a civil rights message before a joint session of Congress, he noted that Mexican-Americans are also victims of prejudice. He said: “My first job after college was as a teacher in a small Mexican-American school. My students were poor, and often hungry, and they knew, even in their youth, the pain of prejudice. They didn’t understand why people disliked them. But they knew it was so. You could see it in their eyes. “I often walked home after classes wishing there was more I could do. . . . “I never thought then that I might be standing here. It never occurred to me that I might have the chance to help the sons of those studentsand people like them all over this country. “But now I do have that chance. And I’ll let you in on a secretI mean to use it.” Until now President Johnson has missed that chance, and his time is running out. But the Mexican-American, who votes 90% Democratic, has confidence in his President. He knows there’s still time. IN DALLAS, IN AN OLDSMOBILE gliding down the gray boulevard, windows up to guard the fragile climate, an easy easy ride. On the edge of a battered pickup truck pulling ahead is squatting a tan boy in a T-shirt, staring back our eyes lock: mine, American blue, waiting, naive; his eyes dark like razors Go ‘head, they say, your move, in a Spanish glitter slashing through my air-conditioned shell. Is this some glimmering mirage floating above my haunted certainty? Real, kid? Are you for real? He vanishes in traffic, the eyes still hanging in the air now grown to swords of Damocles dangling over the rocketing earthbound Olds.Be clear, kid! What are you trying to tell me? What could I do if I broke loose? How the hell would I say it and how would you know? The question marks snake together even as the narrow body recaptures those eyes too heavy for it, as they seize mine and shake them again without pity, hard.Look, kid, there’s nothing to do now, all I can give is my eyes, these seconds. I will not look away, I promise that at least. But the truck rattles straight ahead as the Olds skirts right and rushes away a million miles an hour. TODD GITLIN 4 The Texas Observer Chicago
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