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Sheryl Sculley: Beam her up

During the 2002-03 NBA season, the Portland Trailblazers had the highest payroll in basketball: $104 million. After bloating their roster with such high-flying players as Scottie Pippen, who earned $19.7 million that year, the Blazers finished nine games back in their division and failed to clinch an NBA title.

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Instead, the championship went to the San Antonio Spurs, whose payroll of a comparatively puny $52 million ranked 17th of 29 teams. Tim Duncan's $12 million annual salary barely cracked the list of Top 5 highest-paid Blazers.

Keep these statistics in mind when you hear Mayor Ed Garza, disgruntled Councilmen, and opportunistic political candidates bemoan the loss of city manager candidate Sheryl Sculley, who withdrew from contract negotiations after encountering opposition from Councilmembers Julián Castro and Patti Radle. "It would have been a real coup for San Antonio," District 4 Councilman Richard Perez was quoted as saying in the Express-News. "There would have been pain and angst because of the salary, but after six months or a year, her value would have been apparent."

Sculley had driven a hard bargain, demanding a sweetheart contract that included an annual salary of $265,000 and enough bonuses - car allowances, airfare, and house rental - to make her the public-servant equivalent of General Electric CEO Jack Welch. (What? No fresh flowers delivered daily to her doorstep?)

Had Council hired Sculley as the nation's highest-paid city manager, it is uncertain if she would have been the best person for San Antonio. A political reporter in Phoenix described Sculley as a hard-charger who likes to wheel and deal behind closed doors. If that reporter's assessment is accurate, then San Antonio does not need Sheryl Sculley. This city needs more transparency and accountability, not less.

The E-N has acted particularly noxiously on the Sculley issue. Columnist Roddy Stinson, who portrays himself as the great protector of San Antonians' tax dollars, bashed Castro for opposing the contract. Yet, Stinson failed to recognize there are better ways to spend the $100,000 difference between Sculley's pay and that of her predecessor, Terry Brechtel: after-school programs, crime prevention, and job training.

The E-N editorial page also took Castro to task for daring to disagree with Council's six Sculley proponents. (Radle, Roger Flores, and Chip Haass were the other "no" votes.) It's no secret that dissent is frowned upon at City Hall, where "building consensus" is code for "recruiting yes-men," but Sculley is suspect for demanding a unanimous Council vote on her agreement.

This city also needs to close the gap between rich and poor, not widen it. According to the National Community Development Initiative, San Antonio's poverty rate is 18.5 percent, about 50 percent higher than the national average. While the eighth-largest municipality in the U.S. should pay its manager a comparable salary, it should also adequately pay its employees. Council passed a Living Wage Ordinance requiring that full-time City employees earn a minimum hourly wage of $8.50; however, part-time or temporary employees (some of whom are "temporary" for as long as 10 years) don't qualify for a living wage. And one could argue that with higher gas prices and health-care costs, $8.50 an hour doesn't cut it anymore.

Given San Antonio's history of selling the farm to the Dallas Cowboys, the Miss USA Pageant, and Major League Soccer, it appears the Sculley contract was another act of desperation. Note to Council: The highest-paid player isn't necessarily the best one. Just ask Scottie Pippen. Or Tim Duncan.

By Lisa Sorg


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