By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
Monday will mark the beginning of the end for at least 11 campaigns in San Benito, and with them the colorful signs that have dotted the Resaca City’s lush landscape over the last few months, the aggressiveness of block-walking hopefuls hoping to earn voters’ trust at their doorsteps and the opportunistic photo ops that the candidates indubitably seek.
That’s right, folks. Politicians are the original photobombers.
But what will we learn from this particularly-active election cycle that we didn’t already know? Before voters hit the polls on Monday, the first day of early voting in the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District and San Benito City Commission races, let’s recap much of what was discussed by the candidates when recently approached by the San Benito News for comment.
• Street repairs are still at the forefront of municipal concerns despite the obscene amount of money that has already been spent on repairs and the tax increase citizens incurred as a result – we knew that, so let’s move on to another matter.
• Business growth remains stymied due to San Benito’s quaint confines and its neighbors’ suffocating extraterritorial jurisdiction – gotcha… and just so we’re clear, we figured that one out when time began.
• Excessive spending continues to be a hallmark of school district leadership – no… really?
• Years of school board infighting has taken its toll on the community’s image and the spillover is beginning to adversely affect the district’s day-to-day operations and even the students’ academic performance – I won’t even dignify the palpable with a response; let’s just concede to the truth, shall we?
• Everything’s great with the city and school district – now our intelligence has been insulted.
Though imperative to address, it’s not enough that these matters have been acknowledged over the years. After all, candidates’ mere admission of existing problems doesn’t necessarily score them any points with the public. Consider the current state of discontent, in which the citizens of San Benito are no longer asking for answers but demanding them, and it becomes evident that public servants must evolve as the city’s infrastructure and school’s integrity continue to be compromised. Tantamount to current elected officials’ responsibility to grow in order to meet the ever-growing needs of a conflicted community, challengers vying for a seat at the decision makers’ proverbial table must also exhibit the ability to evolve as the problems that lie before them will surely do over time.
In the spirit of challenging local candidates, I presented two school district hopefuls who happened to be in the News office on Friday with the preliminary STAAR test results for fifth and eighth graders in San Benito. After observing that the passing percentages for a few campuses were in the 30s and 40s, one suggested solutions and refrained from attacking the current administration and school board – this despite being openly critical of them in the past – while the other sat with his colleague and exhibited genuine concern. The two discussed the scores at length and shared ideas on how to turn them around.
I must admit that I was impressed with their restraint. With two reporters in plain view, they could have easily seized the opportunity to publicly lambast their opponents – incumbents seeking reelection – by blaming them for leadership that led to substandard scores. And who would have blamed them? Instead, they opted for thoughtfulness and reflected on the situation at hand, and they did so privately. (Well, they tried. I’m a skilled eavesdropper.)
When Monday comes, it’ll be the public’s turn to reflect, and all that has plagued the city in recent years will be on the hearts and minds of voters who enter the polls. Still, I’m left with a sense of optimism that somehow, the controversies, scandals and outright strife San Benito has experienced in recent years may have actually served to push ourselves to be better; to put an end to what could have been the beginning of San Benito’s ruin.