Sunday, April 17, 2005

City Manager Fiasco: Business as Usual for San Antonio’s Ruling Class

First we run a perfectly good organization, rich in potential, into the ground. Then we hire an expert from afar to fix our mess. When they endeavor to do what it takes to raise San Antonio’s administrative policies to a professional standard, we harass them mercilessly as they try to do their job. For a couple of years we make them focus all their energy on breaking ground to pour yet more concrete, beat them like a rented mule, hunt them like a patsy, and then acrimoniously run them off the reservation. All the problems remain plus a few more. We then engage in a two year “talent search” to find an appropriate candidate while entropy erodes our infrastructure. We try to find a second rate candidate to take the job on the cheap because “this is a second rate organization, and all we can reasonably expect is a second rate candidate.” Then we wonder why we don’t have a line of qualified prospects cueing up to oversee our local institutions. Our reputation precedes us so we eventually get a “second rate” candidate to fill the position, but they end up demanding more than a first rate salary to take the job due to the notorious liability inherent in playing with us.

Upon reading this, most people who have been following recent political events in San Antonio will presume I am referring to the City Manager fiasco. In fact the above scenario is taken from real life events at one of our local museums (right down to the quote from a museum board member at the time he voted to approve the last Director.) I leave you to guess which museum, but it doesn’t really matter because the same situation exists at all of them and at other local civic assets like the zoo and the botanical gardens among others. The reason it doesn’t matter which particular institution I am referring to is because the very same individuals sit on the respective Boards of Trustees of all of these organizations. They run these institutions as personal fiefdoms in the service of their own vanities rather than in the interest of the constituents they allegedly serve. But since these boards are self-appointed, self-perpetuating, self-policing and utterly unaccountable to anyone that is not a board member, why should they do anything else?

If you want to know who these people are this week they will be easy to spot, as they will be prancing around in full drag. Now I’m not talking about those folks you’ll see hanging around outside the Bonham Exchange (although you may find some of them there,) rather I’m talking about the aristocrats with delusions of grandeur dressed up like Maximilian’s courtiers. If memory serves correct, Maximilian was executed by his own people for bankrupting the country with spending on his image enhancements and his courtiers did not fair much better. So their choice to emulate his failed reign is a curious one. Fiesta my posterior, more like May Day with tacos and circuses for all the peasants. But then as Dave and Renee observed, sometimes the stupidity of San Antonio leadership is astounding.

The real problem in San Antonio is the consolidation of all local power in the hands of a select coterie of interbred families that pass it, as well as their not inconsiderable fortunes, down generation after generation. These are the same families that own large land parcels over the aquifer on which they speculate with developers. They are the same people who have poured more than $3,000,000 into local political campaigns this election season alone. Perhaps most appallingly, most of them don’t even reside in San Antonio proper. Instead they live in Alamo Heights, Terrell Hills and Olmos Park where most of the citizens of San Antonio have no say on how 09’ers live their lives, school their children or collect and spend their taxes. That our school system has one of the highest drop out rates in the civilzed world is not their problem since their offspring attend San Antonio Academy, St. Mary's Hall and Texas Military Institute. (After a century of inbreeding, most of them are too dumb to get into Keystone.) Instead of gangs, their scions join fraternities and sororities. Although judging by the way they behave when they inherit power, there is little diference. The hubris is indeed amazing.

When most positions of civic responsibility are the inherited prerogative of a Ruling Class who routinely hand over the reigns of power to their nephews and wayward sons and daughters, is it any wonder San Antonio suffers from a lack of self-respect let alone the respect of the rest of the nation? (Shucks, we can't even get mentioned on the Weather Channel.)

People complain about the apathy of the San Antonio voter since only 60,000 of them show up to vote in a city of over 1,000,000 inhabitants. But can anybody really blame them? The residents of San Antonio don’t vote because they’re not citizens, they’re subjects and this is the week that our rulers come out in full regalia to remind us of that fact.

If you want real power in San Antonio don’t run for City Council, instead just apply for membership in the San Antonio Country Club. But don’t hold your breath, because the last I checked there was a 30-year waiting list for admission. Of course I’m sure a legacy arrangement can be made if your last name is say, Adair, Barshop, Benson, Boyd, Calgaard, Cavender, Embrey, Greehey, Gross, Gunn, Halff, Kleeberg, Hamilton, Hasslocher, Hartman, Holt, Hunt, Marbut, Mays, McCombs, Maloney, Steves, Turner, Vaughn, Worth…Hell, you get the picture.


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