The Darsch Report: January 25 to 31

Ken Paxton Goes After San Antonio Mayor

According to KSAT, in an amended petition regarding an ongoing lawsuit on San Antonio’s sanctuary city’s status, Mayor Ron Nirenburg has been implicated for the first time in the case. The lawsuit accuses the city of defying a state law requiring local governments to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

In the petition Attorney General Ken Paxton accuses Nirenburg of instructing city staff not to contact federal authorities after 12 people believed to be immigrants without documentation were found inside a tractor-trailer in Dec. 2017.

The claims made in the petition state that the mayor told high-ranking officials that he “does not want ICE called,” and that releasing them without being handed over to federal immigration officials as a “Christmas gift” for their families.

This decision to release the suspected illegal immigrants by SAPD Chief William McManus’ has been described by Paxton as in violation of Senate Bill 4. Nirenburg called the criticism of the release as “nothing more than political theater based on a fictitious narrative.”

Texas vs Biden

On Tues., Jan. 26, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared “Victory” on Twitter after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to stop President Joe Biden’s deportation freeze.

According to U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton in the Southern District Court of Texas, the Biden Administration will not be allowed to pause deportations of illegal immigrants. Biden had tried to do so on his first day in office, but Paxton sued the administration, arguing the president’s move was “unlawful and perilous.”

In the order, Tipton wrote that the Biden Administration had failed to “provide any concrete, reasonable justification for a 100-day pause on deportations.”

“*This* [sic] was a seditious left-wing insurrection. And my team and I stopped it.” Paxton stated on Twitter.

This executive order was one of many the Biden Administration has signed attempting to overturn many Trump Administration policies. Other orders include stopping funding for border wall construction, reentering the Paris Climate Accord, and canceling the Keystone XL pipeline project.

After Tipton’s order, Paxton celebrated the decision to “prioritize the law and safety of our citizens.”

“The Court’s decision to stop the Biden Administration from casting aside congressionally enacted immigration laws is a much-needed remedy for DHS’s unlawful action. A near-complete suspension of deportations would only serve to endanger Texans and undermine federal law,” Paxton said in a press release.

Reddit Takes on the Stock Market

Over the past week, the internet and the stock market have both been on fire as thousands upon thousands of Reddit users from r/WallStreetBets (WSB) have decided to take on hedge fund Melvin Capital and save GameStop.

Investors from the Reddit page noticed that Melvin Capital was attempting to heavily drop the price of GameStop stock ($GME) by shorting around 140% of the $GME stock that they owned. In response, they gathered as many WSB users they could and told them to buy the stock as a meme with the potential of the rise in price hurting Melvin and leaving them with some capital gains in the end. This meme has now spread to all corners of the internet and $GME as of Friday closed at a price of $328.34 compared to the price from a month ago of around $17.

Short-selling hedge funds have suffered heavily from this buying of $GME with a year-to-date mark-to-market loss on the stock of around $19.75 billion, according to data from S3 Partners

In response to the dramatic increase in stock price, brokerage apps such as E*Trade, RobinHood, TD Ameritrade, etc halted and/or limited trading of dozens of different stocks with the heaviest limitations placed on stocks being targeted by WSB like $GME, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. ($AMC), Blackberry Ltd ($BB), Nokia ($NOK), etc.

Still, though, short-sellers are holding onto their bearing positions or are being bought by other short sellers willing to take the bet. However, WSB is still claiming to hold or buying more of the stock and will refuse to sell.

This new week may prove who has the greater resolve, who is more stubborn, or both.

US Economy

The stock market has not been responding well to the news of Reddit taking on hedge funds as over the week the Dow Jones decreased to 29,982.62 on Friday, decreasing by -977.38 points, or -3.16 percent over its Jan. 25 close of 30,960.00. The S&P 500 decreased by -141.12 points or -3.66 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq decreased on Friday by -4.15 percent.

Military Coup in Myanmar

As of this moment, a military coup is taking place in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Myanmar’s military has detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other elected leaders of the country and has declared a one-year state of emergency.

The move follows a landslide win by Suu Kyi’s party in an election the army claims was marred by fraud.

In a letter written in preparation for her impending detention, she said the military’s actions would put the country back under a dictatorship and has urged supporters to not accept this coup and to protest against it.

Aung San Suu Kyi was one of the leading voices pushing for democratic reforms in Myanmar during the military rule that ended in 2011. She was internationally hailed as a beacon of democracy and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. However, her reputation heavily suffered after an army crackdown on the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority that some have described as a genocide.

Time will tell how this will change Myanmar but for now, the military has replaced all of the ministers, arrested many leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD), and have installed former vice-president and retired Gen. Myint Swe as the temporary president.

San Antonio’s New City Manager

On Jan. 31, the San Antonio City Council unanimously approved the appointment of Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh as the new city manager for San Antonio replacing retiring incumbent Sheryl Sculley. Walsh will take over on March 1, the day after Sculley’s 13-year tenure ends.

Walsh was announced as the top candidate the evening of Jan. 30, after hours of interviews and hours more of council deliberation. He was among two applicants who made it to the final round of interviews. Assistant city manager María Villagómez was the other.

In a statement, Mayor Ron Nirenberg praised Walsh for the “strong leadership abilities” and “collaborative spirit,” in his two dozen years of working for the city.

“His skill and experience overseeing crucial public safety departments will enable him to serve San Antonio well,” Nirenberg’s statement said.

Although describing the runner up as a “rising star,” Nirenberg believes that Walsh brought a breadth of experience that was unparalleled.

“He knows, and is familiar with, and has high esteem from just virtually every constituency that is in this city … Erik slips into that position and represents us all very well,” said Nirenberg.

Walsh, 49, was born and raised in San Antonio and has wanted to become the city manager of his hometown since he was a student at Central Catholic High School. He has received two degrees from Trinity University and, until March 1, currently oversees a third of the city’s $2.8 billion budget in many of the city’s most important departments, including fire and police.

District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales, however, admitted she had her doubts at first when Walsh was named finalist.

“(It’s) no surprise to us that you were not my first choice for this job; you were not even my second choice for this job,” said Gonzales. “And then we had an opportunity to meet one on one and then I was absolutely convinced you were not the right person for this job.”

Gonzales said Walsh did not seem to be familiar with the priorities of her district, which contains most of San Antonio’s West Side.

After spending more time with him she went on to add that she believed he has all the skills necessary to represent her district as city manager and make sure that it does not get left behind.

This new job will also be coming with a hefty pay raise for Walsh who had a base salary of $256,733 during Sculley’s tenure. This will be increased to a maximum base salary of $312,000 with no bonuses and he will only be able to serve for 8 years as was chartered in the Proposition B charter amendment which was approved last November. Under the restrictions of the recently passed Proposition B, which amended the city charter, Walsh can only receive total financial compensation of 10 times the lowest-salaried employee. Walsh will also have to pay for his own healthcare premiums.

This is in comparison to his predecessor who had a salary of $475,000 with the ability to receive a bonus of up to $100,000.

During his public pitch Wednesday, Walsh reiterated that he thought he was the best man for the job.

“I applied for this position because I want San Antonio to be economically viable, safe, and culturally inspiring, and a place where people want to work, grow and raise a family,” Walsh said. “Personally, that’s important to me.”

Erik Walsh appears to be a well-qualified candidate that is highly respected by other San Antonio officials. With his experience, San Antonio residents can definitely expect him to carry out his position to the best of his abilities. However, residents should still continue to question why a city official is being paid $312,000 and if such a position in public office deserves a salary as high as his considering that the average salary for a city manager in America is $95,537 according to ZipRecruiter and $106,408 in 2007 according to the National League of Cities.

Photo by Paul Sableman. Flickr.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg Announces Bid for Reelection

On the morning of Jan. 19, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg officially announced his bid for reelection in the May 2019 election at Alamo Stadium. In front of family, friends, and supporters, he gave a speech about his work for a more equitable city, improvement of infrastructure and what he will go on to do in the future.

In wanting a more equitable city he said, “For the first time in our city’s history, we’re confronting the challenges of the past by allocating services and infrastructure based on need and impact. Equity, you see, is a process and a value.”

In 2018, Nirenberg’s tenure saw crime in San Antonio drop to a 30 year low and the city has added over 30,000 jobs. On top of this, he campaigned during his first term on affordable housing, climate action priorities and launched ConnectSA, which is aimed at developing a transportation plan for the city’s future.

“We are truly building a city you deserve – and in some cases, literally,” he said, “Those cranes mean growth, they mean jobs, they mean prosperity.”

On top of the work he has already done, Nirenberg hopes to create 70,000 new jobs for the city of San Antonio. He says that this can be achieved by building relationships and supporting local businesses. He also admitted that more work needs to be done to expand transportation and help relieve the city’s road congestion.

“I believe in San Antonio, do you?” Nirenberg said. “So join me and let’s continue building the city we deserve.”

Nirenberg will be up against Libertarian and former Texas Land Commissioner candidate Matt Pina. Both of them being from San Antonio may turn this into a competitive race with Nirenberg graduating from Trinity University with summa cum laude and Pina graduating from University of Texas San Antonio. Pina is also running on a campaign of greater transparency between the city and people of San Antonio as well as a greater ability of the people to determine where funds can be allocated with participatory budgeting.

The race will likely be a tight one, but at the moment only two out of what was a dozen candidates in the last election have declared so it is unknown how this race will turn out.

The Darsch Report: Jan. 14 – 20

San Antonio Housing Projects

On Wednesday, Jan 16th, San Antonio officials declared that the first applications for the city’s revamped Center City Housing Incentive Policy (CCHIP) are being received and reviewed. Four new housing developments, encompassing 515 units, will set aside 238 of the units for families making less than 60 percent of the area’s median income.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a written statement that the mix meets “the level of affordability that we need in San Antonio.” This comes after Nirenberg paused CCHIP so that the city could reevaluate its rules in order to combat fears of displacement,  rising rent and the incentives being used for luxury developments.

The new applicants include:

  • Museum Reach Lofts, a 95-unit, $17.5 million project at the corner of West Jones Avenue and North St. Mary’s Street. It’s one of two projects submitted by Alamo Community Group, a San Antonio based non-profit housing developer.
  • Cattleman Square Lofts, Alamo Community Group’s other submitted project, which will add 160 units west of downtown at 811 W. Houston St.
  • Augusta Apartments, a 260-unit development by Stillwater Capital at 819 Augusta St., near Central Catholic High School.
  • The Villas at Museum Reach, a $3.5 million townhouse project by MGS Museum Reach LLC on Dallas Street across from the Museum Reach Lofts.

Travis County v. the City of Austin

Earlier this week, the Travis County District Court ruled that the city of Austin violated Texas law when it refused to allow duly-licensed residents to lawfully carry firearms in City Hall. As punishment the city is to pay a fine for each day they prevented investigators from lawfully carrying concealed weapons in Austin City Hall, resulting in a total of $9,000 to the state of Texas.

In response, Attorney General Ken Paxton stated, “The district court’s ruling preserves and protects the Second Amendment rights of Texans and sends a strong message to the city of Austin that they are bound by the same laws as all other Texans. The city of Austin cannot violate the open carry law or any other law the Texas Legislature has enacted simply because they disagree with it. If the city of Austin appeals the district court’s decision, my office will continue to strongly defend the right of law-abiding Texans to keep and bear arms in accordance with our handgun laws.”

The degree to which Ken Paxton is willing to go to to protect every Texan’s Second Amendment rights is commendable. This is a clear victory for the gun owners of Austin.

Trump-Pelosi Showdown

As of Sunday, January 20th, the United States federal government will have gone through 29 days of a partial government shutdown, the longest in our nation’s history. The shutdown’s current cost exceeds an estimated $4.8 billion and is forcing about 800,000 federal workers to take leave of absence or work without pay.

On Saturday, Jan. 19th, Trump described a deal that he hopes will reopen the government. In exchange for $5.7 billion for a border barrier, Trump will grant a 3-year extension of protections for 700,000 DACA recipients and extend protections for 300,000 recipients of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. The deal would also allocate $800 million in funding for drug detection technology, 2,750 new border agents and law enforcement professionals, and 75 new immigration judges to reduce an immense backlog of asylum requests.

In the speech, Trump said “Our immigration system should be a source of pride, not a source of shame as it is all over the world,” and that “If we are successful in this effort, we will have the best chance in a long time at real, bipartisan immigration reform, and it won’t stop here, it will keep going until we do it all”.

However, both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have already denounced the deal, calling the provisions a “non-starter”.

This shutdown has gone on long enough. Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer need to start talking with Trump about a compromise instead of devolving into partisan bickering while thousands of families are left worrying if they can pay their bills.

US Economy

It was a good week for US stocks, with multiple gains in the stock market. The Dow Jones increased to 24,706.35 on Friday, increasing by +710.40 points, or +2.96 percent over its Jan 4th close of 23,995.95. The S&P 500 increased by +74.45 points or +2.87 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq had an increase on Friday by +2.66 percent.

This comes on the news of a potential end to the US-China trade war. The deal would have China ramping up imports for the United States over the next 6 years for a combined value of goods of more than $1 trillion and China closing their $323 billion surplus with the US to zero. The deal has met with skepticism from U.S. negotiators but if implemented would theoretically turn the US into an exporter rather than an importer nation, solving our $55.5 billion trade deficit.

Though the year is young, so far in 2019 the economy is looking great. If the Trump administration does actually strike a favorable deal with Beijing that can end the trade war and reduce the trade deficit with China, then we can have high hopes for the US economy in 2019.

Failed Brexit Vote

On Tuesday, Jan 15th, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected by historic margins with MPs voting to reject the deal 432 votes to 202 as well as barely surviving a no-confidence vote by 325 votes to 306. The deal in question received bipartisan rejection after criticism that it would leave the UK as a vassal state of the EU, having to obey EU laws and regulations while having absolutely no say in EU matters.

Now the British government has until March 29 to extend the deadline for when the UK leaves the EU under World Trade Organization (WTO) laws, renegotiate a new deal or hold a second referendum. It appears that a WTO Brexit is the most likely option, as the conservative government remains highly opposed to any consideration of a second referendum and MPs in the House of Commons cannot seem to come to an ideal compromise.

The UK government at this point needs to start preparing for a WTO Brexit in hopes to minimize any potential damage it may have. A WTO Brexit may also be their best bet for a better economy and country, granting them full control over their own sovereignty and the ability to negotiate better trade deals without the restrictive laws and tariffs that have left the EU stagnant for years.