Saturday, April 16, 2005

Who Won the Debate?

Friday night WOAI and KLRN simulcast what was billed as the premier mayoral debate this campaign season. WOAI’s insta-poll pronounced the Judge the winner by a nearly 2:1 margin over both his competitors, but perhaps it was the citizens of San Antonio that were the losers overall. Goldilocks would find little to sustain herself in the porridge offered by the three major mayoral candidates last night. Julian Castro is too young, Phil Hardberger is too old, and Carroll Schubert is too cold.

Julian, while charismatic and optimistic seems to be both for and against development over the aquifer, the PGA Village, tax abatements for big business, the proposed candidate for City Manager, raising taxes and freezing them, balancing the budget and increasing spending. Those seeking clarity of message may feel a little frustrated with Julian’s rhetoric. But they probably grew accustomed to its style in the Fall of 2004. Julian may be a graduate of both Stanford and Harvard, but one cannot help but think that Barak Obama would have managed to get his Campaign Finance Reports filed with a little more aplomb. The real clincher for Julian in the debate came when he was asked whom he would vote for mayor, if not himself. His answer was telling. He alone among the candidates chose to not dodge the question. He said that after this week’s besmirching of his integrity by Hardberger, he would under no circumstance be able to support the Judge for mayor. It is at least ironic that the son of a candidate who ran on the La Raza Unida ticket would imply that he would rather support the purportedly conservative Schubert over the liberal Hardberger. When The Donald asks a candidate in the Boardroom whom they would fire, he tends to take a dim view of those who choose a colleague with whom they have a personal dispute. Julian’s indignation lacked a certain righteousness given his excuse for the innumerable (they were in the hundreds folks) CFR errors was that he was merely incompetent rather than crooked. Perhaps that is why the Judge clued him in to the fact that this is a little like the motorist who claimed that he did not see the pedestrian because he was drunk at the time of the accident. Julian’s choice to answer this question that grayer heads chose to evade, combined with his inelegant debut on the CFR’s he filed with the city, suggests a certain lack of maturity required to deal with the more cunning political movers and shakers down at City Hall.

Phil came off as glib and relatively unprepared for the questions he was posed. His universal answer seemed to be that he would bring diverse groups together in one room “whether they like it or not” and “make them listen to one another.” Maybe as a judge Phil is used to doing just that, but in his role as mayor he would certainly find this a greater challenge than he so glibly proposed. Like Julian he is also for increased spending and balanced budgets. While he acknowledged that there was no way to protect the aquifer short of halting development over it, he went on to say that the only way to prevent such development was to buy the land. This may serve the interests of various landowners and developers but it does not necessarily serve the interests of the general citizenry of San Antonio. When it came to the subject of the City’s One Stop Shop and the new computer system the City has had so much difficulty implementing, the Judge shows his age. He just doesn’t get the power and efficiency that an effective online City Services system would provide. Unless there is a photo op, the judge seems to be used to someone else going downtown to file his paperwork for him.

Carroll functioned in the debate much as he has throughout his campaign, as a bureaucratic deer caught in the headlights. He repeated his mantra of “essential city services” which in his mind translates to more cops, more firemen, more concrete pored over the aquifer until the last hole in the last piece of vesiculated limestone on the Northside is filled, and not one red cent for anything that would not meet the approval of a Philistine. When referring to the cultural institutions of San Antonio he could not think of a single art museum. Has anyone seen Carroll at any McNay or San Antonio Museum of Art openings lately? I seriously doubt it. What the Canaanite Carroll does not understand is that among Fortune 500 CEO’s, the highest priority they report when deciding where to relocate headquarters is not low wages, low taxes, or low property values, rather it is the quality of a city’s cultural amenities. If Carroll is really serious about bringing high paying jobs to San Antonio he better get out of the malls once in a while and head for a museum. Even the Judge got this one right when he observed that a “city’s museums and libraries make it smarter and that’s good for the economy.” Job training, according to Carroll, who needs it? It’s too expensive. Anyone want to bet whether its will be Southside drainage and road improvements that will be Carroll’s priority as mayor? Given his illustrious list of Concrete Mafia financial backers, I’ll wager that money gets set aside for infrastructure for new development on the Northside. Carroll knows the value of a buck, so he sees the value in the City’s One Stop Shop, but he admits no guilt by association with its abysmally incompetent deployment on his watch.

If Goldilocks is hungry for competence and integrity in City Government, I suggest she blow off these three bears and move on down the road to the Gingerbread House. It maybe inhabited by a witch, but at least Goldie may find something to eat.


At 4:35 PM, Blogger Jimmy K. said...

Excellent commentary.

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