Crystal City, Texas Forges Ahead

By Faye Higbee

Crystal City, Texas Forges Ahead

Crystal City, Texas had been having its share of problems. They are literally down to one City councilman, the only one who has NOT been indicted for corruption. Then Thursday a new problem cropped up – their water taps had a black sludge coming out instead of clear drinking water. And that’s not all…their school’s accreditation is at risk because they haven’t met standards for three years in a row.

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The tap water in Crystal City, Texas last week – photo by Ruby Jimenez Saucedo

Crystal City’s water was not crystal clear

On Thursday, reports of black water flowing through resident’s taps just added one more problem to a long list of issues. The city’s water tower was contaminated when workers pumped it out last week. They are having to drink water trucked into the city from outside sources.

“There are caring people in Southwest Texas. We really appreciate it, all of the residents of Crystal City.” Joel R. Barajas, the last remaining city councilman

Water has been brought in from The San Antonio Water System (SAWS), Carrizo Springs, and the San Antonio Food Bank, in addition to many others.

The Texas Environmental Department advised residents to boil it before drinking.

It has been slowly getting better, but some of the residents say they were not advised of the pumping, nor that it would cause a problem. By Friday, the water had regained some of its proper color.

They have been conducting tests to check the quality after the first taps showed black water. Bacteria tests are pending results before the boil order can be lifted.

An embattled city since April 2013

According to reports, these hardy Texans are forging ahead, and praying for a miracle. Their difficulties go back as far as 2013, when election fraud was at the top of the issue list. Since then, they’ve gone through hiring a city attorney for big bucks that fell out of favor after an ugly divorce and landing in the Bexar County jail.

So they hired a city manager to the tune of $216,000 per year (their population is only 7,200) as both city attorney and manager- a manager who was arrested and charged with assault in December, and lately indicted for corruption. It’s been a string of bad luck for the small Texas town. But that hasn’t stopped them.

ExpressNews reported,

“They worked smoothly together, chatting here and there, but there wasn’t any mention of City Manager James Jonas III, who was suspended after he was indicted on corruption charges earlier this month, or about indicted Mayor Ricardo Lopez’s sudden resignation Friday or about council members Rogelio Mata and Roel Mata, brothers who were indicted in the same case as Jonas and Lopez. Nor was there any talk about Marco Rodriguez, [Uncle Sams previously reported that issue] a councilman indicted on charges of human smuggling in an unrelated case…

You would think the people of this town, clearly under siege, would be too disheartened or angry to take positive action. But they seem to be working by the unwritten code of the battlefield: When a soldier falls, another steps up to fill the void.”

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The Mayor’s Resignation letter

The Crystal City Mayor suddenly resigned on Friday, after being indicted along with two other council members for corruption. That left one council member, Joel Barajas, who has worked hard to pick up the slack. Everyone in the city, all departments, are reporting to him. We suspect his head must be spinning, but he seems to be trying.

Schools in trouble – insult to injury

Just as the water situation began to abate on Friday, and the Mayor’s letter of resignation was received, the Texas Education Association arrived to warn their school district that they were in jeopardy of losing accreditation and placed them on probation.

The school has around 2,000 students, 98% of which are Hispanics. Seventy percent of those are considered “economically disadvantaged.” The problem lies in “performance gaps” and attempting to bring those disadvantaged students up to the State’s academic standards.

If they were to lose the accreditation, they would also lose State funding and recognition. The School Superintendent says they are working hard to place the school on a “positive trajectory” and believes that by next year things will have worked out.

Working together

All in all, the people of Crystal City seem to be quietly moving forward in spite of their troubles.

“This is just a storm passing by. We’re trying to have faith and that’s all we can do.” Police Chief Jesus Lopez