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Paul Elizondo: Get off my cloud

Precinct 2 Commissioner Paul Elizondo appeared to be in a bad mood last week during the regular meeting of the Bexar County Commissioners Court.

Its hard to tell what set him off. Maybe his mood soured when Gabriel Perez, the countys director of infrastructure services, reported on the progress of the expansion of Applewhite Road from the entrance to the Toyota Manufacturing Co. site southward to Loop 1604. The old caliche-paved country road is now a four-lane highway with a middle turning lane. The renowned swimming hole at its intersection with the Medina River is history, as it now covered by a five-lane concrete bridge that masks a view of the river. And it all cost county taxpayers a mere $26.5 million.

But Toyota wants more.

The automotive company wants to change the name of Applewhite Road to Lone Star Pass and Watson Road to Tejas Pass.

Residents along Applewhite Road did not favor renaming Applewhite, Perez reported.

Elizondo mentioned the furor that erupted when activist groups wanted to rename Commerce Street after César Chavez. We dont want to get into that situation. (Actually, the east end of Commerce used to be Alameda, and the western end, near City Hall, was Presidio Street, but thats another story.)

Elizondo didnt appear to be angry at that point, although he might have been wondering why Toyota planned to manufacture Tundra pickup trucks, which get a measly 18 to 22 miles per gallon, instead of the hybrid Prius, which gets 56 mpg.

Was it Calvin Perrines short presentation on oil production that pissed off Elizondo? The peak (in worldwide oil production) will occur in 2006, next year. There are only 2 trillion barrels remaining. You should reconsider highway investment since it is unlikely traffic will be at todays level.

That comment got to County Judge Nelson Wolff, who was to depart that afternoon on a fuel-guzzling jet to Japan and China to rustle up some more manufacturing firms to relocate to San Antonio. We have a huge agenda today. We can try to conserve energy and move toward reusable fuel.

Nelsons adopted twin, Mayor Phil Hardberger, who meets with Wolff every Monday at 10 a.m., also traveled to the Far East to persuade more corporations to come to the desert where water is scarce. Hardberger was in Asia last Thursday night when KSAT-12 news aired footage of reporter Natalie Chandler strolling around City Hall with the mayor. Yes, the public was duped once again by television news, Hardberger was out of town that day, and wont return until August 9.

Elizondo appeared to remain calm through discussion of consolidating city and county public housing, but exploded when the commissioners began to discuss their own salaries.

Elizabeth Allen, he cried, reaching out to the Express-News reporter assigned to cover commissioners court. Elizabeth Allen, he repeated, violating the unwritten rule that you do not drag a reporter into the public discussion. His reasoning for violating that protocol, one may surmise, was to invoke her powers to protect him from criticism about feathering his nest with a hefty 6 percent salary hike.

The commissioners earn a mere $77,000 per year, with the exception of Lyle Larson, who froze his own annual salary at $49,000 in the late 1990s. If an elected official doesnt like his salary, then do something else, Larson said.

But Elizondo knew his constituents were likely watching on public- access TV, and he swore he would not accept a pay raise until he (hopes) is re-elected next year, even though the hike was recommended by a committee appointed to consider salaries for elected county officials.

The perceived public scrutiny was too much. Were going into executive session, Elizondo frothed at the unfortunate soul who moved just a little too slowly in departing the Commissioners Court chamber. Get out!

By Michael Cary

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