District 5 incumbent elected for third term
Zárate disappointed with voter turnout.
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 16:05
In a narrow victory Saturday, District 5 incumbent Roberto Zárate kept his seat on the Alamo Colleges board of trustees with 185 more votes than challenger Ramiro Nava, principal of Neil Armstrong Elementary School.
Zárate received 1,452 to Nava’s 1,261 votes.
"I was settling an argument between my grandkids when I heard the results," Zárate said in a telephone interview from his home Saturday after the polls closed at 7 p.m.
When asked how he felt about the results of the election, Zárate said, “That’s not a very good question for a reporter to ask.”
He then said he’s pleased for the opportunity to continue his participation on the board and to continue working to make this community college system “best in the nation.”
Zárate said his focus this term is to deal with dwindling state funds and create a financial model that's viable.
“Coming out, we were clobbered by the Legislature last time,” he said. “We’re trying to stave off tuition increases and tax increases.”
The Ranger reported in 2011 that biennium recommendations from the Texas Legislature Budget Board estimated a $6.6 billion cut in education funding statewide for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.
The state fiscal year 2012 began Sept. 1, 2011, and ends Aug. 31, 2012.
Chancellor Bruce Leslie said the Alamo Colleges would have to cut $80 million in the next two years based on recommendations made in SB 1 and HB 1 in the Texas Legislature.
Zárate said the more the state Legislature reduces its appropriations, the more the burden falls on local taxpayers and students.
“Everybody keeps yelling at the board about why are you doing this,” he said. “The reason is that state government passing the burden down to the local governments.”
Zárate is part of the board of directors of the Association of Community College Trustees, a national organization that lobbies for community colleges and focuses on subjects that deal with community colleges at the state and national level.
Zárate commended President Barack Obama’s attention to community colleges.
“Before he took office, we were not even given any attention,” he said.
Obama announced a Community College to Career Fund during his state of the union address Jan. 24.
The fund gave $8 billion to developing partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train 2 million workers for jobs in high–growth and high–demand industries.
As part of the association, Zárate said that securing partnerships between higher education and the U.S. Department of Labor was a significant setup the association pushed forward.
“Being part of the board, we are going to continue to ensure that people respect the role that community colleges play in the country,” he said.
Zárate said community colleges were responsible for retraining and re-educating people who lost their jobs and needed to retrain for different fields.
“I firmly believe that in this horrid depression that we went through, if it was not for community colleges we wouldn’t have pulled out like we did,” he said.
Zárate said he's pleased with the progress the board of trustees has made in achieving its goal for workforce development.
"It's becoming a wonderful model of what government should be," he said.
Concerning his opponent, Zárate said, "It's a democracy; he ran a hard campaign. What was factored in was moving forward in success.”
Zárate was appointed as the District 5 trustee in 2003 after Jesse Gonzales was convicted of accepting a $5,000 bribe from district–contracted architect Louis Cruz.
District policy requires that an appointed candidate stand for election in the first scheduled election following appointment if they wish to remain on the board.
Zárate was elected in May 2004 for the remaining two years of Gonzales' term and re-elected in 2006.
During early voting March 31 to May 8, 26,464 ballots were cast while 21,366 ballots were cast Saturday according to the Bexar County Elections Department at www.bexar.org/el45A.HTM.
Early voting ended with Zarate in a lead of 809 to 606 while Nava attracted 12 more votes than Zárate on Saturday with 655 votes to Zárate’s 643.
Zárate visited polling locations throughout District 5 during the day to drum up support for his campaign with volunteers at each location, he said in the telephone interview.
“They’re very dedicated to what I stand for,” he said, “and they didn’t want anything to detract from the momentum of the board.”
Efforts by a Ranger reporter and photographer to catch up with him during polling hours to record his campaigning were unsuccessful.
Zárate stressed his disappointment in voter turnout and said he wants people to understand voting is an important part of democracy.
"If they don't come out to vote, then our country loses," he said.
According the elections department, 47,307 ballots, or 6.7 percent, were cast out of 714,238 registered voters Saturday. Alamo Colleges held the District 5 election in conjunction with a bond election for the city of San Antonio.
"I don't care how they vote, have a voice," he said.