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Disagreements On Key Issues In Three-Candidate District 3 Race

Ryan Loyd
TPR News

Voters will head to the polls on  Saturday, May 11, and the race for the District 3 seat is getting tense. The seat's current occupant, Leticia Ozuna, did not win the seat by election. She was appointed in January 2012 to fulfill Jennifer Ramos' term.

Ramos left the city council to focus on a campaign for Bexar County Commissioner Precinct 1 a race that she ultimately lost.

Ozuna, a cyber security analyst, has taken her time on the council to move forward on technology initiatives. She recently announced a broadband network that will connect universities and medical institutions, both locally and regionally.

The project, she said, uses infrastructure that was built a decade ago. She is also working on adding Wi-Fi to public parks.

Rebecca Viagran and Gabriel Velasquez are challenging Ozuna for the seat. Viagran was one of the finalists in 2012 for the seat when she and a list of other candidates, including Ozuna, publicly interviewed for the position vacated by Ramos.

Velasquez said he didn't like the appointment process, even though he was one of the candidates to apply.

Credit StoryCorps.org
Gabriel Velasquez (right) stands next to artist Jessie Treviño, the two men were among those who opposed the city's design for the Mission Drive-In.

Velasquez and Ozuna have had a storied past

Ozuna dismissed Velasquez as a District 3 representative with the city's Cultural Arts Board last year after the council selected her for the position.

The story involves the project that restored the old Mission Drive-In marquee, that many people felt was offensive. The mural depicted two men wearing sombreros, one of them asleep against a wall. Velasquez said he and a handful of artists protested the city's proposals.

Ozuna said the project was moving forward, that Velasquez did not attend any public meetings, and that his demands to re-open the process were counterproductive and appeared self-serving.

Ozuna said she never met Velasquez before her appointment to the council, and only after taking the seat found out that they are distant cousins.

"I've got a lot of cousins," she said.

Velasquez is a designer who went to architecture school. He said he'd like a South Side convention center to help the area of town compete for tourism.

"My job would be to make a South Side that can compete with any part of town," he said.

Credit Rebecca Viagran Campaign Facebook Page
Rebecca Viagran is running against Ozuna and Gabriel Velasquez for the Dist. 3 city council seat.

Viagran not an underdog

Among the issues Viagran sees as important are streets, sidewalks and drainage. She does not think the city council did the right thing when it signed a deal with solar manufacturing company, Nexolon America.

Based on the agreement, the land at Brooks City Base is worth a reported $17 million. The company will put up $5 million, leaving the city with a $12 million bill to make up the difference.

The project was approved by the council, but Viagran believes the deal is bad for the South Side, and the city as a whole. Nexolon also agreed to provide 400 jobs to build the 400 megawatt solar energy project.

Even though the other two candidates have received steady exposure for past disagreements, Viagran is not playing the underdog card.

"I'm the candidate who's been out knocking on doors personally, making those personal phone calls and really tapping into my community networks as well; at my church, with my family, who've lived there for over four generations," Viagran said.

Still a ways to go before election day

Velasquez is outspoken about his opposition to Pre-K 4 SA, Mayor Julián Castro's early education measure that passed last November, and is also opposed to the downtown grocery store proposal currently being discussed at city hall. 

"The reality is we're being sold on stories that expect us to be excited about another area getting something that we never get," he said.

Ozuna, who will have served a year and a half by the time May arrives, isn't worried about the other candidates.

"I used to swim on the swim team," she said. "If you run obsessing about what lane 5 is doing, and what lane 9 is doing, you're not paying attention to your own form, your own speed, your own breathing."

Extended interviews with each candidate:

130304-Full Interview-Gabriel Velasquez.mp3
Full interview with Gabriel Velasquez

130304-full Interview Leticia Ozuna.mp3
Full interview with Leticia Ozuna

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.