Activists in Helotes, Texas have been fighting Wal-Mart for months over an area of town called the Scenic Loop. They may have scored a crucial victory at the ballot box recently. Here’s a report from our contacts on the ground in Helotes: “We just got word from the city hall that the anti-Wal-Mart slate has won the place of mayor and 2 city council seats (of five). The pro-developer Mayor Steve Hodges had contested the election and may challenge the results in court, but it won’t stop the new administration from going forward. This effectively blocks the Mayor’s plan to create a developer agreement with Wal-Mart on environmentally sensitive land against the overwhelming opposition of residents. Here’s the email we sent out to our members: The Take Back Helotes Slate has been declared the winners in the Helotes City election! Jon Allan will be the new mayor, and Stuart Birnbaum will take a City Council seat. Earlier Take Back Helotes candidate Linda Boyer-Owens was declared a winner, but Allan and Birnbaum’s victories were challenged by former Helotes Mayor Steve Hodges. A recount today revealed that they had won by a larger margin than the original tally showed. They should be installed in office during next Thursday’s (May 26) Helotes City Council meeting at Helotes City Hall at 7 p.m. Stay tuned to the website www.helotes-heritage.org for confirmation of the swearing in and further updates. My last message giving a roundup of Hill Country election victories against the developers inadvertently omitted Bulverde, where a homeowners’ slate won. The message from the May 7th vote was unmistakeable. The community of Helotes overwhelmingly rejected Wal-Mart and the out-of-control development policies of the current Helotes City administration. Anti-Wal-Mart candidates Jon Allan, Stuart Birnbaum and Linda Boyer-Owens all beat incumbent candidates. It’s time for the community to move on and heal from the bitter divisions caused by over six months of fighting that this divisive project caused. Recounts and recriminations won’t change the fact that the people have spoken, and it’s not what the smiley face wants to hear. It’s time for Wal-Mart to release the land so that we can help protect the green space our aquifer so desperately needs. The smallest contribution by Wal-Mart towards preserving Scenic Loop could go along way in reversing their negative image in our community. It’s time to stop labeling people as outsiders and treat all residents as neighbors whose opinions matter, whether they live in Helotes, its extraterritorial jurisdiction, Grey Forest or San Antonio Ranch. It’s time for politicians who have clear conflicts of interest on the fate of Scenic Loop to recuse themselves and let the city make decisions untainted by personal gain. It’s time to move on.”
You can see from the tone of this correspondence that the battle in Helotes became very bitter, and very politicized. But the Mayor ignored his constituents, and they voted him — and the Wal-Mart project — out. For an earlier story on Helotes, search Newsflash by the name of the town. This Wal-Mart proposal is not dead until either the company withdraws, or the cilty votes it down. But the election of an anti-Wal-Mart slate of citizens casts a new shadow over Wal-Mart’s plans.