News : Party lines

If you can’t beat ’em...

Leon Thomas’s house was flooded by Salado Creek in 1998. He says the City piled dirt displaced by Alamodome construction in a field downstream, and several homes in two separate subdivisions were consequently flooded. Last Wednesday, Thomas stood before City Council and vowed that if the City is negligent again when it comes to drainage and flood control, they will hear from him, “especially the mayor.”

Instead of having Thomas ejected from the meeting, Mayor Phil Hardberger chuckled and acknowledged that certainty. Councilman Chip Haass said the first time he met the East Side resident, “I got a full lesson plan on flooding and drainage. Mr. Thomas is knowledgeable, and I know he will represent us well.”

“He has educated me on flood control,” District 2’s Sheila McNeil affirmed.

And Delicia Herrera of District 6 on the far west end credited Thomas for helping to address flood and drainage issues in her district. “He knows Leon Creek,” she said.

Councilmembers nodded approbation for appointing Thomas to the City’s Watershed Improvement Advisory Committee, but there will be no formal vote to appoint him or numerous other citizens who applied for board and commission posts until June.

Thomas said he is more encouraged now than ever before by the representation in City government, and he expressed his amazement that City Manager Sheryl Sculley has visited the East Side “more than once.”

Other notable citizens lined up for interviews with the Council. There are positions to fill on the Board of Adjustment, the South Fort Sam Houston Development Advisory Board, the Air Transportation Advisory Commission, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Charlie Conner sought a reappointment to the watershed committee. He is husband to former District 8 Councilwoman Bonnie Conner, and serves as chairman of the board of trustees of the Alamo Community College District. And does anybody remember Al Sturchio’s jazz band that once played the lounge at the now-converted-to-an-auto-sales-lot Pick Motor Inn near the airport? Sturchio is seeking reappointment to the air-transportation commission, along with Sam Steves II and Kelly Simmons.

“You only get one chance to make a first impression,” Steves, whose family has done business in San Antonio for many decades, told the Council. He explained that when the HQ home-improvement chain merged with the locally based Builders Square, HQ moved its headquarters to Maryland. As president of Steves & Sons, he inquired why and was told the San Antonio airport was “inadequate.”

“I want to be an involved citizen and not a complaining citizen,” he explained to the Council.

Siegfried Richter, general manager of the Hilton Palacio del Rio, has volunteered to serve on the air-transportation board and the Convention and Visitor’s Commission. Caryn Hasslocher, owner of Fresh Horizons Catering and Alamo City Events, also volunteered to work on the tourism board. Her family operates Frontier Enterprises, which owns the local Jim’s Restaurants.

The City Council periodically has to address appointments to approximately 80 boards, commissions, and committees. The City constantly seeks citizens to serve on these boards. Anyone who is interested can download an application from click on the City Clerk’s office under the “Government” tab, and look for the Boards and Commissions button.

Any resident not motivated enough should have attended the “Get Motivated” seminar last week at the Alamodome. After getting pumped up by super-salesman Zig Ziglar and other high-powered motivation consultants, the crowd of 18,000 that clogged the freeways earlier in the morning was treated to a leadership chat with former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Giuliani, who spoke about the horror of seeing a man jump from one of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, said one of the principles of leadership is to be prepared for disaster, and that emergency-management plans the City had in place helped in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. “We had to protect the city. We had plans, and every decision I made came from a plan,” Guiliani said. “If we’re as ready for as many things as possible, we’ll handle it better.”

The former mayor, who has been discussed as a possible Republican candidate for U.S. President in the next election, also said it is important to understand that as a leader, “you’re dealing with people, and you have to care about them.”

That’s exactly what Leon Thomas has been talking about since the Flood of 1998.

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