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… . ….. … San Antonio slum, 1997 instance, SAHA was managing roughly 5,100 units, half of which had been built nearly twenty years earlier. This creeping rate of construction was reflected in the long waiting lists each project had accumulated. Hemmed in by the GGL’s developmental politics, forced to locate projects so that they might only stem the spread of shacks and corrals rather than eliminate them and the horrid living conditions they spawned, the agency barely made a dent in the pressing need for good homes in San Antonio. The need has continued unabated. Despite a spurt of building in the 1970s and 1980s that added another 2,000 units, often through innovative partnerships with private developers, SAHA failed to keep pace with the steady demand for decent accommodations; the waiting lists were as lengthy as ever, suggesting that those clamoring for a place in the hardly luxurious city-controlled apartments or courts inhabited even more dismal housing. GOLDEN BOY Henry Cisneros, as mayor, was to have swept all this away. Charismatic son of the West Side, the first Hispanic to govern the city in the twentieth century, he seemed to represent a new, tough force in San Antonio’s hitherto genteel politics. In 1976, while on the city councilthen wrestling over whether to settle a $150 million lawsuit against Coastal. States Gas Corporation over the steep increase E. R. N. Reed in the price of natural gasCisneros had lashed out at developer Jim Dement, who was urging settlement. Cisneros brought a large audience of angry consumers to its feet when he yelled, “Mr. Dement, it’s people like you who have had their boot on the neck of my people for generations. Cisneros’ populist rhetoric, and his declared commitments to revitalize the blighted neighborhoods of the South and West Sides, were critical in generating a huge turnout of voters in those affected neighborhoodsa turnout that gave him an ample margin of victory in the 1981 mayoral campaign. Following that electoral triumph, as Cisneros’ biographers Kemper Diehl and Jan Jarboe described it, “The word went out across the land: The Battle of the Alamo was finally over.” But in retrospect, who had won? From Cisneros’ perspective, that’s the wrong question: it soon became evident that he much preferred consensus to conflict, and his budgets confirmed as much. While he directed considerable federal funds and local bond monies to street and drainage projects on the long-neglected West and South Sides, he also spread the funding around to other, much more affluent sections. Even as this equitable distribution of public spending helped sustain his political prospects, it cost him the support of aggressive grassroots organizations such as Communities Organized for Public Service. COPS activists came to believe that the mayor’s career ambitions often collided with the interests of THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11 APRIL 11, 1997