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Agent Sculley, the truth is here

Sometimes one can gauge how well an elected body works together by listening in on its conversation.

For instance, the City Council held a lengthy discussion last week about hiring Phoenix Assistant City Manager Sheryl Sculley as the City Manager of Alamotown, a subject that has long been batted about since Mayor Ed Garza tarred and feathered Terry Brechtel, figuratively speaking, during the summer of 2004.

District 3 City Councilman Roland Gutierrez stepped into the breach last Thursday, and blasted away at the proposal to hire Sculley as San Antonio's City Manager No. 19.

"We need to be able to investigate this candidate more ... San Antonio is a world-class city, we have a world-class staff. We didn't acquire Toyota by default ... `we're` not building the convention center hotel by default." Roland wanted to interview five candidates who work at City Hall. "We've all talked about open government."

Open government? So that's why the City Council goes into three hours or more of executive session right after lunch on Thursdays.

"We are unlikely to get a unanimous vote, the numerical odds are against it. Are the Dallas Cowboys a great team? There is some dispute."

- Mayor Phil Hardberger

Gutierrez tried to amend the motion to offer Sculley the top job, including erasing a severance package in case the relationship doesn't work out, and holding public hearings on the position. Mayor Phil Hardberger shot him down.

"The amendment is out of order," said Hardberger. "We vote it up or vote it down. The chair refuses to accept the amendment."

District 6 Councilwoman Delicia Herrera took her turn at the microphone. "We serve (on this council) because the previous council was business as usual. With trepidation I abstain because ... it's really about the process."

Question, Ms. Herrera. Do you really think it's wise to abstain on crucial votes? Will you abstain when it's time to adopt next year's fiscal budget? If you're really interested in changing the "business as usual" culture at City Hall, stand up and be counted.

District 9 Councilman Kevin Wolff revealed a bit of local vernacular when he weighed in on the matter. "We're fixin' to hire the most qualified candidate. I have done my due diligence. The previous council did not do a very good job. During the mayoral campaign it became a political football."

District 10's Chip Haass said he was impressed with City Hall staff, but he was willing to vote in favor of Sculley, and he also threw a little dig in Gutierrez' direction, as in he "was not available for any executive sessions, and has no clue as to what was discussed. I'm not willing to wait a whole 'nother year."

Gutierrez' feathers were ruffled, and he rumbled something about not having wavered from his position, even with a cell phone device attached to his ear during council sessions. "I'm not politically grandstanding. I'm disappointed by his comments. We make decisions, we shake hands, and we walk away at the end of the day."

District 5's Patti Radle expressed her "strong" support for hiring Sculley. "I objected to the very extreme financial package ... a hard pill for me to swallow in District 5. We have pockets of people in our district who are paid $12,000 per year. Her salary would pay 20 people in District 5. I support Sheryl Sculley and I hope she has a consciousness of the high expectations we will have."

District 1's Roger Flores admitted he tends to "wax emotional, as I did when we had to move forward from that situation." Indeed, he bawled when he cast his vote in the Garza/Brechtel fight. Not unexpectedly, Flores made a motion to table the vote.

Hardberger entertained a motion to delay the vote for two weeks, but "we've discussed this for two months."

"This is a tough decision," Hardberger said. "We are unlikely to get a unanimous vote, the numerical odds are against it. Are the Dallas Cowboys a great team? There is some dispute."

Hardberger continued scolding Council. "We stand on the threshold. More people are coming to San Antonio than they did in its history. We're going to grow, we're going to grow a lot."

The mayor pounded the threshold idea into Council's heads. San Antonio is on the edge of greatness, "but we're not there yet, and Sheryl Sculley will help us get there."

In the end, the vote was nine for, one against, and one abstention. Sheryl Sculley starts her new job in October.

By Michael Cary

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