Friday, August 15, 2014

City Council establishes another first | Last Word

When Ivy Taylor was chosen by her City Council colleagues to serve as mayor last month, Henry Cisneros called it an “historic move.”

He noted that it made San Antonio the largest American city to choose an African-American mayor.

Cisneros is no strangers to “firsts.”

When he was elected mayor in 1981, it was the first time the position had been held by … an Aggie.

This week San Antonio City Council established another first.

In choosing two new members to replace vacancies it made this the first City Council on which just under half were originally appointed to their positions rather than elected.

And if Diego Bernal resigns, as expected, to run to replace mayoral candidate Mike Villarreal in the Legislature, it will be a majority.

The parade of appointees began last November, when former Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President Joe Krier was tapped by City Council to replace Elisa Chan to represent North Side District 9.

Chan had resigned in the hopes of turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

She had been caught on a secret recording making stunningly stupid remarks as she and her staff tried to hash out a politically palatable position on adding gays to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

Instead of apologizing for her remarks, Chan decided they might help her defeat State Sen. Donna Campbell in the Republican primary last spring.

It didn’t work. Campbell beat Chan by more than 2-1.

Chan didn’t hold much sway in choosing her successor.

Her preferred candidate wasn’t among three finalists chosen by her former colleagues.

Krier easily won, although then-Councilwoman Ivy Taylor and Carlton Soules voted for Art Downey, who had chaired the city’s Ethics Review Board.

Soules would then generate the next appointment by resigning in January to seek the Republican nomination to oppose County Judge Nelson Wolff in November.

Soules had strained relations with some of his council colleagues, but no controversies like Chan’s.

Mike Gallagher hardly needed the endorsement.

He was unanimously endorsed by the Northeast Neighborhood Alliance, which he had led.

And he was unanimously appointed by City Council.

Of course the latest appointment was Mayor Taylor’s.

It came last month as Julian Castro headed off to Washington to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Taylor led 5-3 in the first round of voting.

Six votes were required, but District 6 Councilman Ray Lopez, who received the other three votes, withdrew and threw his support to Taylor.

That’s three.

This week council appointed two more – Keith Toney to replace Mayor Taylor in District 2 and Mari Aguirre-Rodriguez to temporarily replace District 7 Councilman Cris Medina until October while Medina is on military duty.

While nobody is suggesting that we should give up on democracy, the three “veteran” appointees have so far acquitted themselves quite well.

Krier and Gallagher have effectively represented their conservative North Side districts – both demonstrating an amiable ability to get along with and influence their more liberal colleagues that Chan and Soules lacked.

In a special November election Krier easily defeated four opponents without a run-off, and Gallagher didn’t even draw an opponent.

And Taylor got off to such a strong start – most notably by shutting down the controversial street car project – that there are already suggestions that she renege on her promise not to seek election to her post next May.

One wag had a different suggestion.

Her early performance, he suggested indicates we should change the charter to provide for 10-month terms – with a one-term limit.

That won’t happen.

But it is good to see that the council has taken its role in appointing new members seriously.

Let’s hope our rookie appointees do as well as the veteran appointees.

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