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Former Mayor Garza gets a job

Congratulations to Mayor Emeritus Ed Garza. He now has a job that we hope pays more than the $200 monthly stipend he earned for his work in City Hall for four years.

These days, Garza, who earned a degree in landscape architecture and urban planning at Texas A&M, is a senior associate specializing in policy, planning, and development for EDAW's San Antonio office. The official party line at EDAW is that the San Francisco-based "land-based planning and design firm," specializes in urban design, and environmental, economic, and planning services worldwide.

"The biggest difference between my urban-planning work as mayor and my planning work is the public element," said Garza through a company press release. "EDAW's projects have significant public components, but definitely aren't subject to the scrutiny that goes along with being in office."

Gone are the battles over term limits or puny City Council salaries. Nor are we likely to hear about any Sunday night meetings during which the former mayor demands the city manager's resignation.

Garza says the skills he earned as mayor will translate to his work for EDAW. "What will a city look like 20 or 30 years from now? Civic pride comes from making an investment in our environment, not just expansion and sprawl beyond city borders."

Maybe the next announcement we'll hear from Garza is that he is moving into PGA Village, the city's poster child for urban sprawl.

A couple of weeks ago, we reported that Precinct 2 County Commissioner Paul Elizondo listed fall 2004 campaign contributions from a half-dozen upper-echelon Bexar County employees, including former budget director Marcus Jahns, programs office director David Marquez, chief information officer David Morgan, infrastructure services executive director Gabriel Perez, current budget officer David Smith, and human resources executive director Joe Castillo. These men earned, or currently earn, annual salaries ranging from $118,000 to $155,000.

Elizondo says that according to the City's ethics code, a city attorney, for example, is prohibited from plugging a mayoral or city council candidate.

Not so at the county. "We follow state law here," says Elizondo. County elections employees are prohibited from contributing money or volunteering on behalf of any candidate on the ballot, "but the rest of the employees have the same right as any citizen to participate in election campaigns. It's more of a practice than an exception."

Elizondo, who has represented Precinct 2 for 20 years, says he expects a difficult race against former District 6 City Councilman Enrique Barrera. "I will not let the tortoise and the hare happen to me. He is a lot more high-profile than my other opponents, and this race will require work."

Barrera says he hasn't uncovered contributions from county employees to his campaign war chest, but he wasn't surprised that Elizondo collected funds from courthouse employees. "You're not in office 21 years and not have those connections ... and it puts me at a disadvantage."

Considering recent reports that Elizondo has raised $150,000 for his reelection campaign, Barrera says, "I'm worried in terms of tapping into sources for my campaign. I will continue to do what I need to do, continue to ask people for money. If we can raise $80,000 to $100,000, I can run a very good campaign."

The former two-term councilman says he intends to take advantage of reports that Elizondo hasn't been responsive to his constituents. "A lot of people are concerned about that, concerned about accountability."

Meanwhile, at City Hall, Mayor Phil Hardberger welcomed new City Attorney Michael Bernard, saying change is in the wind.

Will Bernard clean house with the 56 attorneys on the City Hall payroll? Will the City handle more in-house litigation instead of hiring outside counsel as has been customary?

Consider some facts and figures: The City Attorney's office has 56 lawyers on staff. It assigned 41 cases, including six at the appellate level, to outside counsel in 2005. The City spent $1.98 million to hire outside counsel in 2003-04.

Austin, with 55 in-house attorneys, spent $2 million on outside law firms; El Paso, with 15 city attorneys, spent $457,790 on outside firms; Houston, with 93 in-house lawyers, had no information available on farmed-out litigation.

In Phoenix, there are 35 in-house attorneys; the city spent more than $7 million to hire outside counsel.

Since new City Manager Sheryl Sculley hails from Phoenix, where she was assistant city manager, it remains to be seen what she will say about cleaning out the legal department at City Hall.

By Michael Cary

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