The League of Women Voters of South Texas presented the KLRN Bexar County Judge forum with host Randy Beamer on Oct. 21, 2022. Participants included candidates Trish DeBerry, Peter Sakai and Edgar Coyle.
Replay the video of the forum here, and see the full transcript below.
Domestic violence continues to rise in the county. What are your plans to combat that?
Trish DeBerry (2:48): “Women and children should not be living in fear. Despite the fact that we’ve had a collaborative commission on domestic violence it’s been roundly criticized that there was no data, no metrics, there was nothing associated with how that’s moving the needle. What we have to do is make sure we’re appropriating more money not just for the District Attorney’s office, but also for the courts. And we gotta have more advocates regarding women and children.”
Peter Sakai (4:22): “What we need to do and what I did do as district court judge was establish the collaborative commission on domestic violence, bringing all these entities together to figure out what the problems are and then coming up with solutions. That’s what we’re doing now and as your next county judge, that’s what I will continue to do.”
Edgar Coyle (6:00): “What we need to do is…understand how we got into this situation. I think when you look around at the state of the world today, there’s a lot of stressors going on right now and at the county level, I think we need to work as much as possible to reduce tax burdens on the citizens of Bexar county… and for repeat offenders…we need to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
How can the county prepare residents for the effects of climate change to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for everyone to thrive?
Peter Sakai (7:23): “Whether it’s droughts, whether it’s freezes, we need to be prepared. What we’ve learned is that we have a digital divide. We need to provide high speed internet connectivity throughout all parts of the community so that the seniors can get adequate warnings when their water or electricity is being cut off. We need to be prepared to have warming centers or cooling centers.”
Edgar Coyle (8:55): “At a county level, I think what we really need to put our priority on is electricity and making sure that we have a functional grid. As we’ve seen during the freeze of 2021, electricity is crucial and as we move forward, we’re going to continue to have extreme demand events whether it be from extremely hot summers or colder winters…I think we should be looking into nuclear power.”
Trish DeBerry (10:12): “What I have asked for is that we look at the utilities, whether it’s water, whether it’s electricity. What I’ve asked for is that the county has a seat at the table at CPS Energy and at San Antonio Water Systems because a third of CPS’s revenue comes from outside the City of San Antonio, yet we do not have a seat at the table regarding representation of the suburban cities, nor those who live outside the city limits. And what is that? If we don’t have a seat at the table, that is taxation without representation.”
What will you do to improve health outcomes, including mental health and women’s reproductive health, in the county?
Edgar Coyle (11:58): “I don’t think that the priority should be prosecution or anything like that, and as a Bexar County Judge, I wouldn’t seek anything like that but we definitely need to put the money where it’s going to be well-spent.”
Trish DeBerry (12:56): “I can’t do anything about the fact [of] Roe v. Wade and what the Supreme Court did. But what I can tell you today is there have to be exceptions for rape, incest, and health of the mother and I will advocate for that.”
Peter Sakai (14:39): “I want a back to basics budget, what I call Bexar necessities…which will focus in and be child-centered and family focused. And that is a…resolution…what we need to do is treat these issues as public health and embrace the public health entity.”
What resources are you willing to allocate to ensure that all voters have equal access to the polls and can obtain accurate information efficiently about voting in Bexar County?
Trish DeBerry (16:25): “Jacquelyn Callanen has indicated that she may retire within a couple of years, so there will be a very robust process at commissioner’s court regarding who that next person is to take over that elections office. We’ve got to have better security in that office. We’ve got to make sure that we prioritize it in the budget. And then regarding who is the next person…we’ve got to make sure it’s somebody who’s fair and even handed…whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, that you have accessibility to be able to go vote.”
Peter Sakai (18:04): “My commitment is…to enforce and make sure that the elections department is well funded and has the technology. And if Jacquelyn Callanen should decide to retire, I want a national search to make sure we get the next person in there that’s going to use technology and use the next resources available to deal with this issue of denial of access and suppression of the right to vote.”
Edgar Coyle (19:39): “I think that we should expand polling sites and put the money where it’s needed to get people out to vote…I think we really need to get back to normal and put the emphasis on polling sites, in-person voting, and making sure that absentee ballots are actually counted when they’re sent in.”
What remedy will you offer for homeowners who face increasing property taxes resulting from the rising property appraisals?
Peter Sakai (20:29): “We need to keep a lid on property taxes but we also have to deal with the appraisal district. I am committed to put a county commissioner on that Bexar County appraisal board that’s going to hold the chief appraiser and the Bexar County appraisal district accountable for the way they establish their evaluations.”
Edgar Coyle (22:01): “We’re at a 40-year high for inflation. It doesn’t look like it’s [ending] anytime soon. I think in the very near future we’re going to have a housing crisis on our hands if we don’t get this under control. And I think the best way is to get away from a property tax revenue generation model and try to switch to a sales tax as far as a county-wide revenue generation.”
Trish DeBerry (22:57): “I’ve already had conversations with the senior leadership of the state to tap into the $27 billion Rainy Day Fund…to wipe out the M&O (Maintenance and Operations) rate of school districts, which will decrease property taxes. But we also need more revenue streams so that education is not borne on the backs of homeowners. That’s why I’m advocating for…a revenue stream of legalized gambling or even legalized marijuana.”
How do you envision dealing with infrastructure and transportation issues with the steady influx of people in the county and how will you implement your plan?
Edgar Coyle (24:45): “I think we really need to put the emphasis on roads; all the roads that go throughout the county, not just San Antonio…We need to put the focus on where the congestion is and you see a lot of people now moving from inside 410 and 1604 to a little bit outside of 1604, so we really need to focus on 1604. I would definitely make that a high priority as far as the budget.”
Trish DeBerry (25:36): “We’re going to have to start looking at a third loop and that means we take a very close look at Highway 46…TxDOT is already doing investigative studies regarding what it would take to bring Highway 46 to fruition as a third loop, but we gotta have those counties at the table too and I’ve had conversations as a result of being on the Alamo Area Council of Governments. I have relationships with the judges and all of those surrounding counties.”
Peter Sakai (27:18): “I want to commit to make sure that we put those projects with the minimal disruption to the small businesses and to the cities that it will affect. But at the same time, what we need to recognize is it’s not a matter of building more lanes. What we need to do is look at advanced rapid transit and make sure that we are moving people in the best way.”
What measure will you support to control crime and to reduce the jail population?
Trish DeBerry (29:03): “One of the things that becomes very clear is that we’re gonna have to increase deputy pay. The other thing that becomes very clear is that what has not been a priority in the county budget is public safety and deputy sheriffs. We gotta make sure that…the county budget is devoted to community policing and public safety. We’ve got a lot of problems with the jail, inhuman conditions there.”
Peter Sakai (30:43): “The neighborhood associations and citizens have made it real clear [that] they want to feel safe and so we must always support our law enforcement officers…In regards to the jail, that is again like the stool analogy I give, the district attorney’s office that files charges and puts people in jail, the court system that disposes of cases and gets people out of jail, and the commissioners court that funds the jail along with the sheriff who operates the jail and all four entities must work together. I’m the unifier, not the divider, to bring all four entities together.”
Edgar Coyle (32:10): “I think we really need to stop prosecuting nonviolent drug offenders and we really need to put the focus on individuals who are committing acts of vandalism, destruction of property, and… need to focus on the violent drug offenders, carjackings, and domestic violence.”
How will you address the continuing high levels of poverty in Bexar County including improving affordable housing for homeless and for low income residents?
Peter Sakai (33:12): “As I indicated earlier under the Bexar necessities, a back to basics budget, I want to focus on affordable housing and the capacity of affordable housing… Many of those chronic homeless are veterans that have PTSD and have mental health issues. That’s why my commitment to mental health…drug, and alcohol rehabilitation is crucial that we deal with poverty from a public health perspective.”
Edgar Coyle (34:50): “I do think abolishing property taxes at the county level will go a long way to bringing down the cost of housing and rents. That will definitely ease the burden on the problem.”
Trish DeBerry (35:55): “One of my efforts and focuses has been on the west side of San Antonio, which by the way I feel like has been dumped upon and not focused on for far too long. The jail on the near west side is a barrier to economic development, it’s a barrier to bridging the wage gap…The opportunity to investigate and explore the possibility of moving the jail out of the near west side of San Antonio to enhance economic development and pull people out of poverty there is key.”
The Mayor of San Antonio serves as what’s called an ex-officio member of the CPS Board of Trustees. Should the County Judge be also included on the CPS board?
Edgar Coyle (37:28): “CPS doesn’t serve just San Antonio so obviously the county needs a voice at the board. I would be in favor of that as Bexar County Judge.”
Trish DeBerry (37:52): “So as we look at the opportunity, I’m not going to ask right now for a portion of the revenue that comes into the city of San Antonio regarding CPS Energy. But what I am gonna ask for is to represent taxpayers, because as I said before, if we don’t, it’s taxation without representation.”
Peter Sakai (39:22): “I also would echo and say that we need is to make sure that the county is represented on those boards, CPS and SAWS…But I think what needs to be recognized is the county has to also represent the unincorporated areas and the 26 other municipalities.”
How will you ensure that residents in the unincorporated areas of Bexar County receive adequate services like those that are provided by municipalities?
Trish DeBerry (40:58): “It’s an important conversation because those are the areas, as I’ve said before, that will continue to grow. We are a fast and thriving urban county. So if we’re not continual in the conversations that we’re having with the mayors of those cities, which I’ve said before, there are great relationships that I have with those folks, whether it was making sure they got through "snowmageddon"…that we have dialogue and that we’re bringing them to the table.”
Peter Sakai (42:43): “To communicate and collaborate, and to coordinate with the unincorporated areas and the 26 municipalities is that we have to have what we call town hall meetings, or we have to have open hearings in the community. Especially in the unincorporated areas. The City of San Antonio does it with their budget process, and I think that is a dynamic that what we need to bring to Bexar County is to make it more open and transparent.”
Edgar Coyle (44:13): “I wouldn’t want to supersede any local municipalities. I think what we need to focus on at the county wide level is infrastructure, roads…and emergency services…We need to make sure we keep the county government as lean as possible.”
If elected, what specifically will you do to involve deaf, hard of hearing, blind, and visually impaired individuals in your administration to ensure that the policies, programs, and services accurately reflect their needs, concerns, and the issues of citizens in Bexar County who have these issues?
Peter Sakai (45:00) “I want to make sure that Bexar County is providing the best customer service…especially to people with those types of disabilities, those types of handicaps, those types of issues that are mandated that we provide. We gotta make sure that our system is accessible, our courthouse is accessible, that our services are taking the needs of all the disabled. That’s why high speed internet connectivity is going to be a fundamental issue for me as County Judge. We’ve got to make sure that all our citizens are connected.”
Edgar Coyle (46:28): “I’m not too sure if there’s a deficit with that group that can’t get what they need, but I would definitely make sure that we have the adequate training…we would put whatever money that we need there.”
Trish DeBerry (47:08): “I was proud of the fact [that] when I came into office, I shook things up. I represented people who did not have a voice and couldn’t speak for themselves…And so the work, specifically regarding those with disabilities follow suit. We’ve got to work with Gordon Hartman, that multi-assistance center that he just opened, because the county has helped to fund that and we could do more for that community.”
Edgar Coyle (48:55): “I’m in this race because I want to stand for you. What I saw from leadership at the county-wide level as far as the emergency response to COVID-19 was atrocious. And I really think that we need bold leadership and someone who will fight for your freedoms and liberties if and when another emergency such as this happens.”
Peter Sakai (49:40): “I’ve been your public servant for the past 40 years, been in the district attorney’s office, been in private practice, being an associate judge of the nationally renowned children’s court, and four terms as the 225th district court… And I believe I am connected to this community. It’s about putting people together to find out what the problems are in our community.”
Trish DeBerry (51:20): “I think it’s important that we have somebody in the office managing as a CEO, not really a judge–the chief executive officer of the county–who’s managed budgets…signed in front of a paycheck and on the back of a paycheck, hired and fired people, make difficult decisions regarding healthcare insurance. Those are all difficult decisions that you make as a small business owner and it is what made me so effective.