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Water works at Council 

By Gilbert Garcia

Maybe it was pre-election jitters, but things got pretty testy at Council this morning over the appointment of three new members to the SAWS Board of Trustees.

You might remember that the Council first pondered the SAWS appointments three weeks ago, but grassroots unrest over the wham-bam rubberstamp job that Mayor Phil Hardberger tried to pass off as an open application process led the mayor to push back the vote until today. While the cyncial among us expected the Council to follow their obligatory candidate interviews by affirming the choices Hardberger made from the get-go, a couple of surprises surfaced.

Bob Leonard had been the initial favorite for the Northwest Quadrant, but the Council ultimately chose local attorney Elizabeth Provencio, the wife of State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer.

While Provencio's selection was smooth, the same can't be said for the other two picks. Chris Martinez, the early favorite for the Southwest Quadrant, reluctantly withrew yesterday due to a possible conflict-of-interest situation with his parent's business. Councilman Phil Cortez went to bat for Sam Luna, the lone remaining applicant for the post, and said that Council calls for a continuance on the decision were insulting to Luna. District 2 Councilwoman Sheila McNeil said the Council needed to open up the process to find the most qualified candidate. "I'm not saying that Mr. Luna is not the most qualified candidate," McNeil said, to which Cortez shook his head and smiled sardonically.

Diane Cibrian and Delicia Herrera backed McNeil, while Lourdes Galvan urged Council to let Cortez pick the board member who'd represent his part of the city. That line stirred an irritated Herrera to say that several Councilmembers had made the opposite argument against discretionary funds for individual Councilmembers.

Ultimately, the Council approved Luna, but not without some hard feelings. Immediately after the vote, a visibly bummed-out Herrera commiserated on the dais with McNeil.

The biggest fireworks were saved for the final choice. John Clamp complained about the rush to pick Councilman Louis Rowe for the Northeast. While insisting "I love him to death," he said, "With all due respect to my Council colleague, it's an unfair advantage for someone to go from Council to the board."

Clamp noted that the districts represented by he and McNeil were most affected by the choice and asked: "Does this concern anyone but me that I represent District 10 and Councilwoman McNeil represents District 2 and `Rowe} is not on our lists."

While environmentalist had pushed for water expert Jerry Morrisey (the candidate favored by Galvan) and McNeil recommended former Councilman David Carpenter (also supported by Clamp), the Council went with Rowe. In an unintended slight that would make a paranoid person suspicious, County Clerk Leticia Vacek initially skipped Clamp when she asked each Councilmember for their vote. He simply asked, with some weariness, if he'd be able to cast his vote, well aware that the water had already escaped from the levee.

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