1912 GJ Sutton Building - Scandal abrew again at 321 N. Center Street
Named in honor of Liberal Democrat, Garlington Jerome (G.J.) Sutton (1909-1976) the building at 321 N. Center Street is no stranger to controversay.
G.J., with brother, Samuel, were mortuary opperators. A delegate to the Democrat National Convention and NAACP Board Member, in 1972 G.J. was the first black person elected to public office in San Antonio as representive for District 57-E. G.J. He is recognized as one of 15 siblijng decendants of first black people in Bexar County. Brother, Percy, owns the Apollo Theater in New York City and the attorney for Nation of Islam leader Malcom X.
As State Representative, G.J. proposed the State pay $750,000 to buy the building at 321 N. Center Street, 2 blocks from his morturary in District 57-E, and appropriate another $250,000 to renovate it to "revitalize the St. Paul Square neighbornood". In 1975 the fair market value for the building was on the tax rolls at $221,852.
33 years ago, on October 27, 1982, six years after his death, the 110,000 square foot building located at 321 N. Center Street had been bought, renovated and dedictated to honor G.J. Sutton. The chain of ownership prior to the State of Texas purchase has yet to be discoved, and the total cost of the original project is, as yet, unknown.
In the July 1975 issue of Texas Monthly, G.J. Sutton was described as "the worst" among legislators:
"The most appalling news of the 64th Legislature may be the fact that Tom Schieffer is soliciting pledges to be Speaker of the House.
G. J. Sutton, 66, Liberal Democrat, San Antonio. Scandalously bad member. Smokes little thin filter-tip cigars and wears natty black suits that make him look like an undertaker—which he is. Has buried, among other things, the morale of the Black Caucus, whose members elected him as chairman out of misplaced respect for his illustrious past leadership of the NAACP.
Was responsible for the single most odious maneuver in this year’s appropriations process: the approval, without a public hearing and in violation of parliamentary rules, of $750,000 to buy a run-down, vandalized foundry, and $250,000 to remodel it into a “state office building.” The foundry is located two blocks from Sutton’s funeral parlor in one of San Antonio’s most decayed neighborhoods, looks like something Generalissimo Trujillo might have designed as a joke, and is on the Bexar County tax rolls (at 100 per cent of fair market value) for $221,852—less than a third of what he expected the state to pay for it.
Had the full support of the Speaker in this nefarious enterprise because Clayton wanted to reward Sutton for his timely support in the Speaker’s race.
Still sees everything in poisoned 1950s battle-rhetoric terms, though old age is beginning to take its toll. Infuriates liberals and conservatives alike by trying to blame his own failures—and they are many—on the “racism” of everyone else. Said one white liberal: “He really thinks any time he doesn’t get exactly what he wants, race is the only reason. This place doesn’t work that way any more.” Even other blacks have nicknamed him “Papa Doc.”
Shocked the Black Caucus by his opportunistic readiness to pursue you-get-yours-I’m-getting-mine logrolling, instead of the team effort they had expected. Has been observed asleep for hours at his desk during House sessions; is periodically awakened by Houston Representative Senfronia Thompson. On the session’s most important issue for minorities—school finance—Sutton slept through large portions of the debate and then voted against the bill that would have most benefited minorities.
Introduced a bill to make his own birthday a state holiday (“Senior Citizens Day”)."
Curiously, the current on-line records at the Bexar County Appraisal District for 321 N. Center shows no land segments, buildings or improvements, no deed history, current "personal" ownership by a Limited Liability Corporation with a contact address in Irvine, California, and a value of $1,540. According to statements made by officials with the Bexar County Appraisal District, "We don't know where or what that property is...", and, the GIS service reported the "entire block where the G.J. Sutton Building is located is associated with a different address, 303 N. Center Street". (BCAD account number 106018, legal description NCB 581 BLK 10 LOT ALL BLK EXC LOT 20A)
During the 2015 Legislative Session, San Antonio city leaders crafted language that would appropriate $162,446,464 for another renovation of the building and engineered the insertion of the earmark into the despirately needed landmark budget bill. One hundred sixty-two million, four hundred fourty-six thousand, four hundred sixty-four dollars?
(1) From revenue bond proceeds deposited to the general revenue fund, increase the amounts appropriated to the Facilities Commission for Strategy A.2.1, Facilities Design and Construction (page I-38), by $162,223,232 for the state fiscal year beginning September 1, 2015, and by $223,232 for the state fiscal year beginning September 1, 2016.
(2) Reduce all Article I general revenue fund appropriations by $162,223,232 for the state fiscal year beginning September 1, 2015, and by $223,232 for the state fiscal year beginning September 1, 2016. The comptroller shall proportionately reduce each item of general revenue fund appropriation in Article I in the amount necessary to equal the reduction in appropriation provided by this subdivision.
(3) In Article I, following the appropriations to the Facilities Commission, add the following appropriately numbered rider:
____. G.J. Sutton State Office Complex Construction Project. The Facilities Commission shall allocate from Strategy A.2.1, Facilities Design and Construction, $162,223,232 for the state fiscal year beginning September 1, 2015, and $223,232 for the state fiscal year beginning September 1, 2016, for the purpose of managing a construction project for a state office building and associated parking facilities to be used for state purposes on state-owned property in Bexar County at the site of the existing G.J. Sutton State Office Complex. Any unexpended and unobligated balances out of the appropriations made by this Act remaining as of August 31, 2016, are appropriated to the commission for the same purposes for the state fiscal year beginning September 1, 2016.
(4) In Article I, increase the "Number of Full-Time-Equivalents (FTE)" in the Facilities Commission bill pattern (page I-38) by 3 full-time-equivalent employees in the state fiscal year beginning September 1, 2015, and in the state fiscal year beginning September 1, 2016.
(5) In Article XI, in the Article I appropriations to the Facilities Commission (page XI-2), strike the item of appropriation "G.J. Sutton Building $162,446,464".
Described by Democrat Representative, Martinez Fischer, as "badly hurting the interests of the City", Governor Abbott exercised a line item veto to remove the one hundred sixty-two million, four hundred fourty-six thousand, four hundred sixty-four dollar earmark. Those resources could go a long way to keeping Highways 281 and 1604 toll free.
One hundred sixty-two million, four hundred fourty-six thousand, four hundred sixty-four dollars to renovate a 110,000 square foot building. That's $1,477 per square foot. The place could be gold plated for that kind of money.
All this raises some serious questions about the current squabble over the "legality" of the Governor's veto. The Senate and Governor agree money would be better spent on transportation, but House Speaker and current representative of San Anotnio District 121, Joe Straus, is fighting to nullify the Govenor's veto of the $162,446,464 Democrat earmark. By any measure, the amount is exhorbitant. What is the basis for its calculation? Whose political supporter has the inside track on those contracts? What purpose would a state owned administration building fulfill that would boost the economy in this location? Why did the 220 former Health and Human Services Commission federal government employees abandon the property and where did they go? Asbestos abatement needed?