Wolff for Bexar County Judge
Bexar County has benefited from Judge Nelson Wolff’s expansive vision and leadership, and voters should reward him with another term.
Wolff has served as county judge since an appointment in 2001. He’s also a former San Antonio mayor, and he has run the county in that spirit. Rather than simply focus on building roads and managing the criminal justice system, Wolff has been a leader in downtown’s revitalization. His signature accomplishment has been expanding the River Walk to include the Mission Reach and Museum Reach, but he was also a crucial player in landing the Toyota truck manufacturing plant in Bexar County.
Wolff is being challenged by Republican Probate Court Judge Tom Rickhoff, who has run a particularly acrimonious campaign. His chief concern appears to be the county’s level of debt.
The county does have a little more than $2 billion in debt backed by a variety of revenues, Wolff told us.
This includes $1.44 billion in debt for roads, facilities and flood control supported by property tax revenue. Another $243 million in debt is tied to road projects and supported with Advanced Transportation District sales tax revenues, as well as state funds. The hotel occupancy tax and a rental vehicle tax support another $381 million in debt for venue projects voters have approved.
Rickhoff’s rhetoric about this borders on apoplectic. It’s telling that the ratings agencies do not share his concerns. All three have given Bexar County Triple-A ratings, the highest possible, reflecting sound fiscal management.
Rickhoff has also shirked his duties as a probate court judge, refusing to hear mental health cases to “reduce angst and conflict” in his life. Instead of doing his job, he forced the county to hire an appointed judge, and he then took extended vacations.
He has offered no compelling vision for the county should he be elected. There is no sense of direction or clear purpose behind his candidacy.
On the other hand, Wolff does offer an expansive vision tethered to a sense of purpose for serving another term in office.
Part of this vision includes completing the San Pedro Creek improvement, which will provide critical flood control on downtown’s west end. It has also catalyzed development. This includes the new Frost Tower. The University of Texas at San Antonio also plans to expand its downtown campus in that same area, and Bexar County is an integral part of that plan.
At times, Wolff has taken political stands only to fall flat on his face. He championed the downtown streetcar only to see that project stall and then fail. Bexar County and the city of San Antonio split the $18 million bill on Toyota Field in an effort to lure Major League Soccer, only to see MLS place a team up the road in Austin. Some might find fault with these failures, but we see it as a natural part of being a leader with vision. Failure is often part of aspiration.
Bexar County and San Antonio would benefit from Wolff’s experience and tremendous expertise in local government. He should be a key voice in developing a meaningful transit plan for Bexar County and the city, and he is in a position to lead on local criminal justice reform. This would include expanding the county’s public defender’s office and bringing much-needed accountability to the private court-appointed attorney system.
If Wolff could hit the mark on transit and criminal justice in his next term, should he be re-elected, he will have made a tremendous difference in tens of thousands of people’s lives. He’s made a difference across his long political career.
We recommend Wolff for another term as Bexar County judge.