The Alamo College District board of trustees.
The Alamo College District board of trustees. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Less than a week ago, the Alamo Colleges District board voted to delay trustee elections past Nov. 3, months after the election originally was scheduled to be held. On Monday afternoon, Alamo Colleges trustees reversed course, unanimously voting to place the races on the November ballot.

When the delay was initially broached, trustees didn’t name a new election date, and the postponement meant incumbents running for reelection would continue to hold their seats until voters could cast their ballots. Two of the incumbents running to win another term, trustees Joe Jesse Sanchez (D9) and Jose Macias, Jr. (D2), voted to delay the election.

Several trustees expressed regret over last week’s vote.

“I’m truly disappointed in my vote that I cast last week due to what I call misinformation shared in several executive sessions,” said Trustee Yvonne Katz (D7), who voted in favor of the delay last Tuesday. “We have been on the cutting edge as a national and international leader … while promoting what community colleges should be in terms of board policies, budgets, and student success.

“We cannot … allow any of these kinds of 1990s behaviors return to our board of trustees at the Alamo Colleges District.”

In the 1990s, the Alamo Colleges’ board frequently gained media attention for dysfunction and accusations of corruption.

Sanchez, who was one of the incumbents who voted to delay the election, noted that since last week’s vote, there have been significant developments that make a November election more attractive.

Bexar County Commissioner’s Court approved a resolution supporting mega-vote centers and mailing absentee ballot applications to all registered voters 65 and older ahead of the November election. Additionally, City Council approved a ballot measure to use a one-eighth-cent sales tax for workforce development and education.

“This item will be down-ballot along with the Alamo Colleges election,” Sanchez said. “This will induce a second and third glance at our election. … With these initiatives, many of my concerns have been assuaged. This election is not about me or my election.”

The other incumbent up for reelection, Macias, said he felt the board acted appropriately on the information it had in closed session and attempted to be careful by delaying the races.

“There is no regret,” Macias said. “What I hate though is there is a tendency for people to make it political. There is no political malice, or conspiracy, or anything else that may be out there. It was simply an analysis of what we thought the best direction to go.”

Trustee Gene Sprague (D6), who was one of two trustees to vote against the delay, said it was obvious from the communication of State officials that a further delay was never appropriate.

On July 30, Attorney General Ken Paxton addressed the issue of delaying elections in nonbinding guidance after the Round Rock City Council attempted to delay its elections past November. Paxton wrote to Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan that the City did not have the power to postpone voting again.

“It was the Round Rock City Council’s decision to move its local election to November, not the governor’s,” Paxton wrote. “Because the law does not allow the City Council to move its election a second time in these circumstances, the city must hold its election in November, as it said it would.”

Paxton’s guidance is not legally binding but could be used in a lawsuit if someone wanted to challenge the board’s decision.

Sprague questioned Alamo Colleges’ legal services for the advice it gave the board in voting for the election.

“We should have been on the ballot regardless,” Sprague said. “So I’m hoping that this is a lesson learned that we not try to circumvent what directive has been issued by the State. And [the directive] was clearly issued in this case. Nobody sees any doubt in it.”

The seats up for election include Districts 2, 4, and 9. Board Chair Marcelo Casillas currently represents District 4 but does not plan to seek another term.

The election initially was scheduled to take place in May, but Gov. Greg Abbott allowed local governmental entities to push their contests back to November to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. When the Alamo Colleges board voted to delay the May election, it also voted to ask Abbott for a non-November election date.

With Monday afternoon’s vote, the Alamo Colleges race will be on a lengthy November ballot that includes tax initiatives and other local, State, and national contests.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.