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SAWS Board Appointment Angers Council Members Soules & Chan

Ryan Loyd
TPR News
Council members Carlton Soules and Elisa Chan are frustrated their SAWS board recommendation did not receive approval from their colleagues.

One of the most important jobs city leaders have is to appoint board members to CPS Energy and the San Antonio Water System. On Thursday they took up SAWS, and left two members walking away angered that their recommendation to represent the Northeast quadrant did not get approved by their colleagues.

District 10's Carlton Soules and District 9's Elisa Chan picked Kirk Francis for his knowledge and experience with water issues.

Chan said Francis would bring a certain characteristic that may be missing from the current SAWS board.

"He has a great financial background, which is needed on SAWS' board," Chan said.

The SAWS board, for the most part, has been operating with members on expired terms, but the board had to approve a recent rate increase request by SAWS before asking the city. According to a spokesperson in Soules' office, the law states that those members must remain until new members are appointed.

Mayor Julián Castro, who was backed by the majority of the city council, nominated and voted on Louis Rowe to serve in the Northeast sector seat.

"I'm supporting Louis Rowe today because I've had the opportunity to serve with him and know him to be a strong, effective board member," said Castro at Thursday's meeting.

"I'm obviously disappointed," said Chan in response to the direction the vote was headed.

Soules, in a letter to his constituents, used even harsher rhetoric.

"Regrettably, having a dependable 'yes man' trumped our desire to put an independent voice on the board," he wrote.

What's even more frustrating, according to Soules, was that District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg, a fellow North Side representative, made the motion to support Rowe.

Soules took exception to that by writing,

"We had asked Councilman Nirenberg for his support for our candidate and we pledged our support for his Northwest candidate, Reed Williams, whose leadership we welcome on the SAWS board."

Williams is the former District 8 councilman who decided not to run for re-election. Nirenberg won the seat in May.

District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor said she would not vote for or against Rowe because she previously had been approached by Soules to support Francis, and she had accepted.

Taylor felt like she was between a rock and a hard place.

"Even though I certainly respect the opinion and input of the governance committee and my colleagues, being that I had made a previous commitment, I would just prefer to abstain from the vote on that particular candidate," Taylor said.

SAWS is currently asking for approval for a 5.1 percent rate increase, which would mean an additional $2.58 on the average water customer's bill. The council is set to vote on that request in November.

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