The fix is in at 3rd Street and Avenue E.
Five months ahead of the vote, San Antonio’s daily newspaper is already plumping for an $850 million city bond.
The record municipal spending package isn’t finalized, but that’s not stopping the Express-News.
“This bond’s greatest strength is balancing basic needs with a few aspirational projects,” the newspaper editorialized with a squishy mixture of statist cliches and civic cheerleading.
The Express-News is particularly eager for taxpayers to fund more than $100 million in various downtown park projects. Touting these ventures — whatever their cost — the newspaper makes no mention of the controversies bubbling over at Hemisfair Park.
Through wheeling and dealing by a shadowy public-private development corporation, Hemisfair’s parkland has actually shrunk, Watchdog reported last September.
The Babbitt-esqe Express-News prefers not to be troubled by facts; it builds its boosterism according to City Hall press releases.
This is a problem that goes beyond the echo chamber at 3rd and E.
Obsequious editorials and superficial news coverage have a corrosive, dumbing down effect on San Antonio’s civic conversation. City officials circulate the newspaper’s opinion to reinforce their agenda. TV and radio take their bond script from the daily. And low-information voters are led to the polls.
The city is determined to get to “yes.” A host of committees stage public hearings that have the appearance, but not the feel, of town-hall democracy. Politicians pledge that the bond will not raise taxes, cynically mindful that rising property appraisals mean bigger bills for everyone, every year.
Watchdog asked City Manager Sheryl Sculley’s press office how much taxes would go down if voters reject the bond.
“We don’t answer hypothetical questions,” we were curtly told.
Evidently, City Hall considers approval a slam dunk at the May 6 election. That’s fine with the city’s newspaper.
On downtown parks, the editorialists wax Emersonian about “public spaces for residents and visitors to dream, be inspired and to find refuge.”
San Antonio taxpayers could use the respite — perhaps to dream of a free press. If the bond passes, its $850 million principal will be piled onto previous unpaid debt and some $6 billion in interest costs already on the city’s books.
With the Express-News eschewing any substantive lines of inquiry, City Hall can at least bank on five more months of amplified cheerleading from its dutiful media partner.
Kenric Ward reports for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Kenricward
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