Loud Praise for a Mayor of Quiet Record
Meet the Democrats’ keynote speaker, Julián Castro of San Antonio.

San Antonio mayor Julian Castro


Jim Geraghty

When Democrats announced that San Antonio mayor Julián Castro would deliver the keynote address of the 2012 party convention, the media’s comparisons of the mayor to President Obama intensified: a little-known, charismatic member of a minority group, getting a big opportunity to address his party and the country — perhaps a steppingstone to the highest of offices.

In fact, Castro’s dramatic debut on the national stage seems almost preordained: In May 2010, The New York Times Magazine ran a lengthy profile portraying Castro as “The Post-Hispanic Hispanic Politician,” with explicit comparisons to President Obama and predictions that he will be the first Hispanic president of the United States. NPR notes he’s been called “the great Latino hope.” CNN’s Soledad O’Brien featured Castro in a documentary about Latinos in America. He’s given a TED talk on “The Power of Education: How It Changed My World.”

Castro is indeed a lot like the Barack Obama of 2004: a subject of endless glowing media profiles, touted as the voice of an entire ethnic group, charisma by the bucketful . . . and a short record of quite modest achievements. The vast majority of the discussion about Castro focuses on his enormous potential and what is to come, not on his accomplishments and what he has done.

That is not an accident. Castro was elected by a populace facing serious problems, and in his time in office, the city has made very little measurable progress in addressing those problems.

When Castro took office in June 2009, the city had, by one measure, the highest crime rate of any large city in the country. In his first winning bid for mayor, Castro declared, “Making our communities safe is my top priority.”

The good news for Castro is that in the most recent completed year, 2011, San Antonio had fewer reported incidents of most categories of crime compared with 2009. The bad news is that the declines are pretty modest: Homicides are down from 99 to 89, larceny theft down 13 percent to 59,644 reported incidents, burglaries down 16 percent to 15,334 reported incidents. Robberies are down by a third, to 1,785 incidents. But for some categories of crime, the numbers are moving in the wrong direction: Rapes are up 5.3 percent from the previous year, to 492 reported incidents; aggravated assaults are also up 5.3 percent from 2009, to 4,672 reported incidents; and motor-vehicle thefts are up 1.5 percent from 2009, to 5,893 reported incidents.

Local newspapers are noticing the disturbing development that more murders are going unsolved: “In 2010, about 24 percent of SAPD’s homicide cases weren’t solved. Last year, that figure jumped to 39 percent.”

Yet in his most recent state-of-the-city address, in March, Castro did not mention the issue of crime at all.