Investigative Reporter for the San Antonio Express-News
Looking forward to the future of journalism
Local officials try closing loophole in San Antonio’s tree ordinance
Last week, state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, and Mayor Phil Hardberger announced an effort to fix a city ordinance that was meant to protect San Antonio’s diminishing tree canopy from urban sprawl. A loophole in the ordinance allows real estate developers to bulldoze trees for ranching and farming.
For those who want to learn more, here’s a YouTube video of the April 3, 2009, press conference, and a collection of news stories that followed the twists and turns of this issue:
The original news story illustrated how the owner of the Village at West Pointe leased his land to a rancher, who bulldozed thousands of trees. Then a company tied to the owner filed plans to develop the property. The story examined ties between the property owner, Hugo Gutierrez Jr., and mayoral candidate Diane Cibrian.
After days of questioning, Cibrian acknowledged going to Cancun at the invitation of Gutierrez’s daughter, who she described as a longtime friend. Reporter Guillermo Garcia wrote a story about Cibrian amending her financial disclosure form to reflect the trip.
Villarreal and Hardberger don’t think the bill has a very good chance of becoming law at the Texas Legislature, where the real estate industry has a strong lobby. You might ask them, why bother? And you might ask the journalists covering this issue, why bother writing about it if nothing is going to change?
As the reporter who learned about the loophole, I still think it’s a public service to figure out what’s going on at West Pointe, and share that information with a few hundred thousand of my closest friends who read the newspaper.
Really, that’s all journalism is about, despite what you may have heard from Rush Limbaugh. It’s about digging up facts, putting the pieces together, learning something new about how the world works, and telling people about it.