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Night in old City Council

“I have word that the King is approaching,” said Alcalde Phil Hardberger last week as the Council wound down a day of ordinance adoptions, zoning changes, and contract awards. “I hear the herald of trumpets.”

Nope. That was somebody’s cell phone ringing, but let’s play along with the mayor anyway.

The strongest clue to the mystery’s solution was the presence of Barbara Johnson, president of the San Antonio Conservation Society, which produces the annual Night in Old San Antonio during Fiesta.

The doors swung open, and a contingent of Fiesta royalty waltzed into the council chamber. It was El Rey Feo (the Ugly King) and King Antonio of the Texas Cavaliers, with a troupe of footmen, aides de camp, and beautiful queens in tow. It was time for the annual proclamation by the mayor that the 10-day Fiesta in San Antonio is just around the corner: ¡Viva Fiesta!

This year’s El Rey Feo is liquor magnate Ronnie Gabriel, and King Antonio is Robert “Rick” Shaw of the Texas Cavaliers (not the shark movie), the organizers of the 65th-annual river parade. Rey Feo is sponsored by the League of United Latin American Citizens. Both groups work year-round to raise scholarship money for local children’s charities.

“Fiesta is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work,” Gabriel told a mesmerized City Council as his royal subjects passed out gift baskets, signaling the imminence of merriment and mirth along the banks of the San Antonio River.

The City Council hasn’t had as much fun since the PGA Village protest days.

In other business, Police Chief Albert Ortiz wore his uniform before Council for the last time to say goodbye. He retired to a standing ovation. He was the first Latino police chief in the city, at least since the republic days that began in 1836 when Anglos stole a huge chunk of México from President Antonio López de Santa Anna. “It’s been an honor and a dream come true,” said Ortiz of his 33-year tenure at SAPD. “I wanted to be an officer since I was in the sixth grade.”

William McManus, the new police chief from Minnesota, took over the office on Monday.

In a less-dramatic scenario, Parks and Recreation Director Malcolm Matthews presented the parks department’s strategic plan, which extends to the year 2016 and will be updated every two years.

To sum it up as your tax dollars at work, the City has completed 83 projects funded at $22.4 million from a 1994 bond issue, and 63 park projects funded from a $24.2 million bond issue passed in 1999.

A 2000 Proposition 3 sales tax authorized $65 million for purchase of property over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone and along Salado and Leon creeks.

A 2003 bond issue raised another $27.2 million for 54 park projects. In 2005, a HUD 108 loan program allotted $9.6 million for 14 projects, and in May 2005’s Proposition 1 and 2 election, $135 million was authorized to purchase more Edwards land and linear-creek property.

The City now owns more than 16,000 acres of park land, more than double the acreage in 1999. But there are no existing parks in a 35-square-mile area in Northwest San Antonio. “A lot of areas are underserved,” says Matthews. He presented Council with a list of proposed but unfunded projects.

Finally, District 10 City Councilman Chip Haass has gone a-blogging.

Nope, he hasn’t resigned his Council seat. He’s encouraging his constituents to log on to In “Conversations with Chip,” several of his neighbors (not verified) posted comments at the bottom of some of his essays.

“Kate” responded to Haass’s endorsement of the proposal to lure the Florida Marlins baseball team to San Antonio:

“Really not interested in sports and don’t appreciate spending tax money dollars on such,” she wrote. “Wonder why team feels it has to move? Read in paper that they are going back to the area they are in now to see if `Miami` will build them a new stadium. Are we just part of the politics? Has a study been done to see if other teams are also declining in revenue? Last year the papers were full of how expensive it was to see a game. Does the City of San Antonio just want to say we have a sports team?”

Go get him, Kate.

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