New Towns … site to the Kuper-Negley interests, and they had plenty of good connections with Connally and Richard Nixon. Head, a leader in the business-politics of Corpus Christi, has backed Connally financially; he is a big Nixon contributor; and as a lawyer he is aligned with corporate interests in the Corpus Christi area. Sissy Farenthold calls him “the lawyer for the polluters,” Celanese foremost among them. The Head group went forward with the plan, notwithstanding the fact that they were planning to build a small city on the permeable rocks through which the Edwards Aquifer is fed, the aquifer’s “recharge area.” If the underground reservoir is polluted, so is the water supply for a million people. JOHN. PEACE and Blair Reeves are good friends. Blair “Bruzzie” Reeves is the county judge of Bexar County, within which the San Antonio Ranch is located. When Reeves beat liberal Charles Grace, there was much lamenting on the local left, but as time has passed this has died down. Reeves has become controversial in business-politics circles because he is not predictable and has aligned himself with good causes like county zoning and the protection of the environment. Nevertheless, in May, 1971 a year after Head had lost out on UT-SA Reeves wrote a short letter to HUD saying what a good thing for the community a new town at San Antonio Ranch would be. Subsequently, he fought to have Bexar County join the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Ranch, the suit brought to protect the aquifer by a coalition of environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club. Recently, in the federal courtroom of Judge Adrian Spears, Phil Hardberger, attorney for the defenders of the aquifer, asked Judge Reeves why he had written that letter in 1971, and Reeves, seated in the courtroom in the wheelchair to which he is confined by World War II wounds, faced up to it. “I would like to explain,” he said. “My good friend, and I have a lot of confidence in [him] , John Peace, came to my office he was chancellor of the Board of Regents at that time with Mr. Hayden Head.” Reeves had the title wrong. Peace has been the chairman of the regents; the chancellor is a lower officer. But that’s no matter. What matters is that one of the two or three most poWerful regents of the University of Texas System had come into his friend Judge Reeves’ office in company with Hayden Head to introduce Head to him. “And he told me about this New Town concept and asked me if I would write a letter,” Reeves continued, “and very frankly I did not know at that time the extent and distance of the New Ranch Town in its location from the downtown. I didn’t know it was 25 miles [from downtown] . They talked about a $50,000,000 development and that there would be much revenue on our tax rolls and things of this nature, and I thought it was close to the University of Texas, and it was just at that time and shortly after this time that this Edwards Aquifer thing really came to a head. “I am sure,” Judge Reeves told Judge Spears and the assembled lawyers, officials and developers, “they [Peace and Head] would have given me any explanation I would have asked and would have given me a full disclosure if I would have requested one, but based upon this information, I wrote the letter. “It was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done it.” Whether one regards San Antonio Ranch’s approval by the political power group John Peace represents as a deal, a trade, a mollification or a political payoff, Peace of UT bringing Hayden Head to Judge Reeves in 1971 tells a story. Interviewed in his office, Judge Reeves was careful not to hurt Peace any more than his testimony before Spears already may have. Peace, Reeves said, “just introduced him [Head] to me. He just said, `I want you to know him. He’s got something that might be beneficial to the county.’ John’s been awful good to Bexar County. I don’t know why he brolight him in. Head said, ‘We’re going to get a $50 million [federal] loan. This will mean jobs, put millions of dollars on your tax rolls.’ . . . I didn’t investigate thoroughly and ought not to have done it.” Fl ONTS, THE up-front man for the promoters, has a background in city government. \(The firm of Christian, Miller and Honts identifies itself, on its letterhead, as “Public Relations, source who knew Honts well before he became a man out front in San Antonio likes him and characterizes him as a person with a reasonable quantity of self-doubt and a complexity of character that might attract a literary person’s interest. Clearly he and his colleagues are into the new towns for money, as much as they can get. He also speaks of community benefits and helping get unskilled people qualified for jobs and ways that are available to get members of ethnic minorities 90 percent federal guarantees for cheap business-starter loans. Honts is represented, by several people who have been in meetings or relationships with him on the San Antonio new towns, as having big-dealed them about political influence. If he has said what these ‘sources say he has, one can take his remarks as bragging without substance, designed to dazzle the locals, or as the truth, but in either case he has turned some people against the new towns by claiming that they can’t be stopped. An important figure in San Antonio’s business community recalls, but only vaguely, “Honts has said that ‘This is wired all the way to the White House.’ ” Two local public officials recall, and definitely, that he has said substantially this. One of these officials says: “He’s said numerous times that he had it wired. I’ve been in meetings where he said it. The name he’s mentioned most frequently is his senior partner.” That would be George Christian. Honts also often mentioned Sam Jackson, a high official at HUD. The second local official says, “He [Honts] said in essence, ‘I can assure you that unless you get this project, San Antonio will not get any grants from HUD again.’ He said ‘We have this thing wired at HUD.’ source has an even more provocative recollection. “In a general meeting one time,” he says, “I know that he [Honts] mentioned either Ehrlichman or Haldeman that he had contact with them. He wanted the implication that they had connections all the way, that this is where they were dealing.” An Observer reporter was by chance present in an office when a figure in these matters received a call as the new city council neared making its decision on the downtown new town. Hanging up, the source said the caller had been a member of the city manager’s staff telling him that the staff were going to endorse the downtown new town because if it was not approved by the city council, San Antonio would never. get another dime from HUD. According to Bob Sohn, a local attorney, Honts tried to convince him that the environmentalists couldn’t stop the Ranch Town new town. At the time, the fall of 1972, Sohn was president of Citizens for a Better Environment, one of the organizations which, as Honts had heard, were considering bringing suit to protect the aquifer. “He bragged to me,” Sohn told the Observer, “in terms that I cannot remember, that the people whose money was being used to finance Ranch Town had adequate contacts in Austin and in Washington “adequate contacts? ” ” that’s what he said to assure that those who are espousing the environmental viewpoint could never win. He said, We’ve got the political clout. You’ll never beat us. He knew we had hired a lawyer. He was trying to get us not to file the lawsuit.” The Observer asked Honts if John Peace or Connally had any financial interest in either San Antonio new town, directly or through representatives. “No,” Honts replied. GORDON FULCHER, chairman of the Texas Water Quality Board, is a May 25, 1973 3
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