`Chavez inspiration’ Ernest Cortes Jr., one of the original organizers of C.O.P.S., called from Los Angeles to dispute one sentence in the first installment of Deck Yoes’ piece. It concerned an alleged falling-out with Cesar Chavez. “The inference that Chavez is a loser is a canard,” Cortes said. “In fact, Cesar Chavez has .been an inspiration for me for more than a decade. I’d always hoped that a Chavez-type organization could be built in urban areas, and that has had a great deal to do with my motivation in organizing Mexicanos in the urban area. I’ve always supported the efforts of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee and will continue to do so in any way possible, and no one can create any kind of schism between my organizing and that of the United Farm Workers. I’m extremely disappointed that this kind of reference appeared in this article.” Persistence Maybe one problem for the Englishlanguage media in San Antonio is C.O.P.S.’ sheer, numbing persistence. In its earliest days, when firebrand priests and little old ladies toed the microphone to talk back to the mighty or when the organization tied up business at the Frost Bank for two hours with a demonstration of “green-lining” \(C.O.P.S. appeared en masse to demand all members’ deposits, unless the bank stopped denying home-improvement loans on C.O.P.S. was great fun. After all, the media-consuming public loves confronta 8 The Texas Observer fect of these entertainments is probably confusion, both at home and abroad. That may explain how it was possible for Texas Monthly in its November issue to present an article about the News by Griffin Smith Jr. which never alludes to C.O.P.S. while touching most of the other political and social bases. The Monthly also ran a piece by Richard West on the San Antonio city council’s decisions about water and the firing of city manager Sam Granata which never even mentions C.O.P.S., though the organization was directly involved in both matters. If the San Antonio media were conspiring to keep C.O.P.S. a secret, they could hardly better the success they’ve had just by providing the barest of facts. The C.O.P.S. story is visible only to those diligent enough to save clippings, do a little nosing around, and put together a lot of two-plus-two. Does nothing redress this imbalance? Yes, radio station KCOR. Tune to 1350 kc. to learn where to find the current C.O.P.S. action, or for a public-affairs discussion that digs into some of the gut-issues with C.O.P.S. speakers as guests, or to hear a complete live pickup of the C.O.P.S. testimony at a public hearing of some city agency. But to understand what you hear, you have to know Spanish. Of particular interest is the station’s handling of paid political announcements. During the campaign preceding the Edwards Aquifer zoning referendum last winter, one could hear paid spots boosting the developer interests, proclaiming “Vote as though your jobs depended on it!” and conveying more than an implied threat that restriction of suburban growth meant unemployment. These spots would be followed by a live announcerDr. Mateo Camargo, for examplegiving locations of polling places and advising that C.O.P.S. would provide transportation for those who might otherwise be unable to vote . . . . In the outcome, the Mexican-American voters stopped the proposed shopping mall quite handily. So listen to KCOR to learn about C.O.P.S. You may also acquire a taste for ranchero music, Angelica Maria, and Freddy Fender. tion politics. There was a flash of heavy coverage of the new organization. But instead of remaining outrageous, or else drying up like standing water after weeks of hot weather, C.O.P.S. simply kept on the job, talking about the same old grievances, even moderating its tactics slightly in response to grudging official recognition that it would have to be negotiated with. Reporting C.O.P.S. sank into the routine of feeding the goat. Reporters tired of writing and editors of reading the same old lead: “C.O.P.S. today demanded . . . .” It’s come to the point that San Antonio editors apparently assume everyone knows what C.O.P.S. is. Stories sometimes.don’t bother to identify the organization until down in the fourth or fifth paragraph, if then. Thus for the benefit of mystified immigrants and foreign readers, we furnish the following translations: “Local groups” is C.O.P.S. “Protesters” is C.O.P.S. “Organizations opposed to . . .” is C.O.P.S. nine times out of ten. Meanwhile, San Antonio’s dailies continue their ride into the glorious future of ger Circulation for Newspapers. With now and then a glance back along the trail at the Story That Won’t Go Away. The power to tax is the power to destroy. To this we must add the modern corollaryactually as old as the Athenians, at leastthat the public subsidy is the margin of profitable development. Nobody understands this better than C.O.P.S.the predominantly MexicanAmerican, Alinsky-trained communityaction organization of San Antonio. Unless it’s their opponents, the predominantly anglo real-estate developers of the city, typified by the Greater San Antonio Builders’ Association, who crammed city council chambers during July, 1976, hearings on City Water Board subsidy policy, all wearing buttons with the slogan: “Let San Antonio Grow.” By zeroing in on all the different little service subsidieswater mains, electrical connections, storm drainage, streetpavingwhich the city. has been accustomed to extend to new subdivisions, What next? If, in addition, C.O.P.S. is able to invoke strict adherence to the anti-pollution laws, so that residential development over the Edwards Aquifer is subject to expensive pollution-control measures, or if it is able to prevent creation of more centrifugal transportation arteriessuch as the proposal to transform Culebra Road into a westnorthwestward expressway connecting the central city to the Ranch Town development in the Leon Valleythen C.O.P.S. will have got the suburban developers by their pursestrings. This is precisely C.O.P.S.’ objective, and the group in only two years has gone far toward achieving it. The final outcome is unknown, and opposition to C.O.P.S. is only starting to organize. But if C.O.P.S. keeps on as it has begun, big changes are in store for San Antonio. Contrary to charges by developer spokesmen, C.O.P.S. is not against growth. It’s just against growth that does not benefit its membership–the middle-class, homeowning Mexican-Americans who declined to move out of their older neighborhoods into newer sections of the city built in the last fifteen years. C.O.P.S. would agree that San Antonio needs growthin industry, jobs, and even populationbut would prefer to see it achieved by rebuilding the decaying center. In the past twenty years, San Antonio has become two cities: the old one downtownfull of new parking lots and vacant office buildings huddled between congested intersecting freeways along the picturesque San Antonio river; and, the shiny, dynamic new onespread out eastwest along the north segment of Loop 410. Development to the north, into the hills, has followed traditional U.S. patterns of C.O.P.S. has already grabbed the developers by their Achilles’ heel. Without such subsidies, the cost of building new uppermiddle-class suburban housingalready high and risingpushes hard against the profitable price one can get for it, or, reduces the size of its market, or both.
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