Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Castro and Hardberger Aren’t That Bad

Sorry if that last post sounded, well a little strident, but Rattled Brains had it coming. His harassment has made me realize that in fact, the biggest jerks in town aren’t the one’s running for Mayor.

San Antonio will stumble down its mediocre road regardless of who wins the runoff. The developers will continue to pave the aquifer. The City services will be expensive and inefficient. The historically underserved communities will stay underserved.

Julian will come to learn the depressing fact that there is nothing this town resents so much as vision. It doesn’t matter what the relative merits or demerits of a particular vision are. In San Antonio it is vision itself that is universally viewed as at best suspicious and worst intrinsically pernicious.

In 1994 I came to the citizens, business and nonprofit community and shouted to anyone who would listen, “The Internet is coming! The Internet is coming!” San Antonio’s unanimous response was. “Go away kid you bother me. The Internet’s a fad. Nobody will use it.” Or the unfathomable,"OK, I'll take a one page website, but I don't need email." It might surprise some readers that at one time in 1994 and early 95 there was more information on the Internet about San Antonio than about New York City and Los Angeles combined. No Bull! It is true folks. But as usual San Antonio squandered its opportunities and waited until it was the last one to board the train. Anybody remember The Coffe Gallery down on Commerce St.? How many realize that the 3rd Internet Café in the world was opened in San Antonio less than one week after the first one opened in San Francisco and the second in London? Yeah, I didn’t think you knew that. But sad as these facts are, they are true, and they reflect the malaise that is San Antonio culture. Julian will inevitably learn what many who have come before him already know, “A prophet is never loved in his hometown.”

Phil is about to learn that San Antonians are not going to just do what they're told no matter what it is you tell them to do. You could command a bunch of San Antonians to evacuate a flaming theater, and they would hem and haw and shuffle until the last person burned alive. He’s also about to find out that they don’t play nice together either. San Antonio’s power base skipped kindergarten and headed straight for the Fiesta Balls. Hence sharing was a lesson most of them missed.

As a financial capital San Antonio ranks somewhere between El Paso and McAllen, yet we have more chambers of commerce than we have successful business ventures in this town. There’s the Greater Chamber, the Northside Chamber, the Hispanic Chamber, the Alamo City Chamber, the Women’s Chamber etc. etc. There are more chambers opening up constantly in the outlying areas. These are a lot of chambers for a town that’s claim to fame is that it is where successful businesses come to fail. Unless you’re selling tacos, automobiles or a new house, your business prospects in San Antonio are bleak at best. So why so many local chambers? Because divide and conquer is an effective strategy and it is the one that has been exploited for decades by San Antonio’s elite business and political power brokers to their own resounding success and extravagant profit. These folks already had a meeting, and they had it without Phil. Whatever policies he attempts to deploy will run into a concrete wall as they hand him a fate au complete. If his resistance is more than token, he will find himself a one term Mayor and his ultimate legacy will be that he was thanklessly thrown out of office by the same people who put him there.

It is not the uninspiring candidates that are going to be responsible for San Antonio’s continued slump into mediocrity; it is the fault of San Antonio itself. As long as we are determined to be a village of sheep rather than a city of lions, we will continued to be ruled rather than governed. Our destiny will be determined by the handful of elite power brokers who will continue to mismanage our prosperity into oblivion.


At 8:50 AM, Blogger Matt Glazer said...

I am glad some one is pointing out that the Mayor has little influence in the direction of the city.

We are both blessed and cursed by the fact that we live in a city that puts most of the power in the hands of a non-existent city planner. We are both blessed and cursed that the city council can easily override any mayoral decision.

Most importantly, we are both blessed and cursed that of our choices (Castro and Hardberger) neither of them will be in office long enough to do anything.

The lobbyists run the city and until there is charter reform the entire activist community out there, like you and me, are almost always going to be on the defense.

Great Post!

At 3:28 PM, Blogger Marcus Tullius Cicero said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:40 PM, Blogger Marcus Tullius Cicero said...

They say you can't fight City Hall. The special interests downtown don't have to, they are City Hall.

Part time unpaid Council members make for either amateurs or lawyer types, who are part of the development cabal, as the only people who seek office. Either way this is bad news. The amateurs come to rely on lobbyist to tell them what to think about complex issues. The lawyers, well they don't think, they operate.

Short terms of office are probably a good idea, but term limits are not. If a guy’s a bastard, wait a few months and vote him out, if not they should be allowed to serve with competence and integrity. If they lack these traits, it is the voter’s responsibility to go out and dump them, not just wait for their term limits to kick in.

Current ethics rules are a joke. They are designed to facilitate as much opacity as transparency. What passes for penalties for violations is an even bigger joke.

We need to demand the lobbyist report how much they receive from which clients, when they’re paid, and how they spend it, just like the candidates. When their clients come to see how, despite the fact they’re winning their City Hall battles, they’re still getting fleeced by these shysters, maybe they will be reluctant to keep paying those exorbitant retainers. This might even the odds downtown and reduce the power of the handful of lawyers who double as lobbyists.

I’m all for charter reform, but to ask for it is to open a can of worms. It’s a dangerous process, that can have unintended consequences. If these shysters get hold of the rewrite process, they might make a bad situation worse.


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