Page 1


anglo establishment still controls the economy and the technology. Twenty-seven people own 87 percent of the land in the county, Gutierrez said. \(In another panel, Jesus Salas, head of the county’s community development corporation, said that no chicano family in Zavala owns more than 300 acres of land, while anglo families own thousands and thousands of acres. They are currently reappraising land values and trying to force owners to cultivate their land or sell it. They may use bond money to create agricultural parks, similar to industrial parks. The anglos are also in control of most surface and underground water rights, which are just Crystal City is one of Lo-Vaca Gathering Company’s 400 customers in Texas and has been hit, along with everyone else, with gas curtailments and utility bills that have zoomed into the stratosphere. Last March the town council unilaterally rolled back the city’s gas bills to 1972 prices. There has since been a court fight and Crystal City has been ordered to pay Lo-Vaca $200,000 in back bills. The town does not intend to pay. Zavala County has sufficient gas wells to provide its own energy. Gutierrez wants to take the gas wells and the pipe lines by eminent domain. “We have an option to buy 5,000 to 10,000 acres of land but the hangup is to find engineers to run the damn thing,” he said. The problem is that the pipelines are old. When Lo-Vaca cuts off the gas the pressure will go down. When the pressure is turned on again, lots of the old pipes are going to blow, Gutierrez explained.’ He said Raza officials have yet to find competent engineers who will go to work for them. “There’s some racism involved, some classism involved,” the judge said. “When we took over the school board, 90 percent of the teachersthe anglos quit.” Gutierrez said they have a similar problem in the food industry. Many of the chicanos who live in Zavala County are migrants. They make their living by following the crops. In order to keep everybody at home, La Raza Unida is trying to encourage yearround agricultural production in the county. They’ve started a hog farm \(Great, said the Fisks, you can use the hog manure to generother co-operative farms. “The trouble is that after we grow the onions, how are we gonna get the little bastards to market?” Gutierrez asked. Del Monte owns the processing plant. Del Monte decides if the quality is Grade A or C or what, and uppity people may not get high grades for their produce. At this point some people involved with the Austin Community Project, an association of farmers, cooperatives, and collectives, spoke up and suggested that they and Gutierrez get together and talk about mutual problems. They set up a food workshop for the next day. The Observer missed that meeting, but word trickled back that the Austin co-op people and the Raza Unida people might be seeing more of one another in the future. That’s the way the conference worked. Jose Angel Gutierrez Local Tax & ‘Revenue Alternatives Ed Kirshner, who heads up the CommunOakland, and Leonel Castillo, Houston’s controller, gave the local tax and revenue workshop. Kirshner is an economic consultant who has worked with the radicals on the Berkeley City Council on schemes, as he says, to “recycle” power and wealth in the city. So far most of the COOP’s more grandiose ideas are still on paper. Contrary to popular belief, the Berkeley City Council does not have a radical majority. The Berkeley left has been able to implement only a few economic reforms, primarily through the use of initiative referendums, a tool that is included in many Texas city charters but is only rarely used in Texas \(the recent Austin referendum on late drinking was an initiative The Berkeley people have twice failed to pass initiatives to take over Pacific Gas & Electric. They did manage to use an initiative campaign to abolish a tax included in utility bills. “If you want to do a successful initiative,” Kirshner said, “do it on abolishing a tax.” Kirshner would like to get rid of the property tax and replace it with “an income tax on everybody and everything.” He said they have found in Berkeley that it is possible to bring small businessmen into a reform coalition because “small businesses usually get hit harder than large businesses. Even business taxes are regressive.” The Berkeley City Council has also adopted a “profit maximization” plan of increasing the income from leasing city-owned property. Kirshner said the idea at the Berkeley Marina was “to keep raising rates till there were vacancies.” It was presumed that yacht owners could afford to pay generously for berths or they wouldn’t own yachts in the first place. So far the marina’s rates have been almost doubled. There still aren’t any vacancies, but the city is making considerably more money on the deal. In Houston, the controller is an elective office and Leonel Castillo has held the post since 1972. He said he is trying what Buckminster Fuller calls “ephemeralizationgetting more and more out of less and less.” Castillo’s office operates as a general accounting office for the city. “I get into almost everything in the City of Houston,” he said. “I’m Houston’s official gadfly.” “When I took office, I started out doing urban guerrilla tax warfare,” Castillo explained. “I named the dirty citizen of the tax week. It got good press but I really didn’t accomplish much. So now I’m trying to do more complicated things. I developed an internal audit division that looks at the city tax department. I found out that the department had never hired anyone to assess individual property. Now the operation is more systematic. One thing we found out was that 30 percent of the dentists in Houston didn’t pay property taxes on their offices. We found lots of oil companies were exempt and we made some changes there. Last year we added $921 million to the city’s assessed valuation.” Castillo threw out a list of concrete ideas for getting more and more out of less and less. In Houston he is setting up an energy audit program to check out each city department for energy gluttony. The Houston police department oversees stolen property that has been retrieved. So Castillo’s office “watches the police to make sure they don’t steal the property in turn,” he said. The controller is trying to find out which city services pay.and which don’t. He’s asking questions like: “Should libraries be free? Should parks pay for themselves? He said he is thinking about installing metered lights at the city tennis courts. Players would get an hour of light for night playing for a quarter. He’s wondering why the city should pay parks and recreation employees to sit around the parks on weekdays when children are at school and adults are at work. One possibility is to convert the parks into day care centers during the week. Community Banks & Financing Sam Brown, the treasurer of Colorado, is trying to use new criteria for deciding how to distribute the state’s money among Colorado banks. Needless to say, he’s not very popular with the bankers. Under Brown’s system banks can get a percentage or so of interest rate credit above and beyond the interest rate they bid for the use of state money depending on how they rank’according to-four December 26, 1975 5