As our local elected officials return from the holidays to take up the people’s work, 2022 is shaping up to be a busy year for them — and voters. Below, we look at four critical dates for local government in the new year.
CPS Energy rate hike: The City Council will vote Jan. 13 whether to allow CPS Energy to raise its residential rate by 3.85%. The council will have to decide if the municipally owned utility has made its case. The utility’s own rate advisory committee approved the hike, and the council approved $20 million in federal coronavirus funds to help residents hit hard by the pandemic pay their past-due bills.
Will it be enough? It’s been a terrible year for the utility. Rating agencies gave it a negative outlook in October and warned that, without a rate increase, its good credit could further erode. CEO Paula Gold-Williams is stepping down after defending the utility’s poor performance and lack of communication during the winter storm failures, a flood of executive resignations and reports of lavish spending. A Bexar Facts poll that found more than half of residents disapprove of the utility’s performance. How the council votes also could affect the utility’s ability to attract a strong CEO.
Primary election: On March 1, Democrats, Republicans and independents will go to the polls to choose their candidates for the November election for Congress, Texas governor and, locally, for Bexar County judge. Nelson Wolff, who has held the seat for the past two decades, announced in October that he wouldn’t run for a sixth term.
In the Democratic primary for the county judge nomination, three candidates will square off. Ivalis Meza Gonzalez, daughter of the late Democratic organizer Choco Meza, most recently served as chief of staff to Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Peter Sakai, former judge of the 225th District Court, is staking his campaign on his judicial work dedicated to the welfare of children and families. Rep. Ina Minjarez, who was the first to file, said she believes she can get more done in Bexar County than in Austin.
Republicans will choose between Precinct 3 County Commissioner Trish DeBerry, who resigned the seat she’s held only since January to run, and Gerard Ponce, a perennial candidate who most recently attempted to run for Precinct 4 commissioner but was booted from the ballot for living outside the precinct.
City bond election: If history is any guide, a small fraction of eligible San Antonio voters will decide May 7 whether the city should borrow $1.2 billion to meet pressing municipal needs in six areas: streets and sidewalks, drainage, parks and open spaces, municipal facilities, public safety facilities and, in a first for San Antonio, affordable housing.
The City Council had the first chance to weigh in on staff’s recommendations for each category, pushing for more street and drainage repair — and more time to weigh in. Residents also volunteered their time to review projects and offer input through committees. The drainage committee voted to divert public art funding for more drainage projects; Texas Biomedical Research Institute pulled its request for funding after objections over its animal research — a reminder that not all bond funding goes to city projects. The parks committee voted to further reduce spending on the linear greenway, while the housing bond committee voted unanimously on the proposed $150 million spending package.
The council will finalize each bond package based on all the feedback.
General election: Bexar County voters will have the opportunity to go to the polls for the third time in 2022 on Nov. 8. In addition to the congressional midterms and Texas gubernatorial race, local voters will choose between the winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries for county judge. A subset of those voters, who live in the county’s Precinct 3, will also pick a new commissioner.
Because DeBerry chose at the last minute to run for county judge, the vacancy for the Precinct 3 seat occurred too late for candidates to compete in the March primary; instead, according to the state’s Election Code, party executive committees choose their candidates. It’s unclear when the parties will decide; Wolff has said he will name DeBerry’s temporary replacement by the end of January.