It’s the mayor’s penchant for action over reflection that’s caused some citizens first-term dyspepsia, not the actual initiatives, say Hardberger supporters. And it’s easy to imagine Hizzoner’s staff catching the hot potatoes as they fly unheralded from his hands, tossing them to a councilperson to cool (best, if not fastest, method: public hearings), and then wrapping them in pretty foil for consumption (patterns featuring the HDRC logo or picturesque parks are favored). So it was with last year’s proposal to retrofit Main Plaza for pedestrians. The four streets surrounding the downtown park would be closed, the mayor said, so that strollers could ambulate unmolested from river (please recycle that tallboy) to cathedral (light a candle to Saint Jude, patron of lost causes) to courthouse (do not make your public defender wait). But banker-to-the-trustfunders Tom Frost Jr. cried foul, and so did many citizens, who wanted historical monuments, more trees, and less traffic re-routing. Nonetheless, several months later, the council-approved plan already has raised $2 million in private money, including $100,000 from Mi Tierra’s Cortez family, and is slated to break ground in March.
Hardberger didn’t fare as well with his attempt to limit chain restaurants on the River Walk — which had strong populist backing from the likes of local jazz legend and restaurateur Jim Cullum and ice-cream man Justin Arrechi — in part because the first draft from the City Attorney’s office was a very blunt object where perhaps a scalpel is required. The mayor has since focused his and the public’s attention on economic development (he most recently visited Taiwan), and on the River North expansion, which breaks ground in roughly 45 days. (Watch for synergy in January when the Office of Cultural Affairs announces its top pick for another mayoral dream: a performing-arts complex. One little paesano sings “On the bank south of the San Antonio Museum of Art,” which would fit in nicely with the River North schema.)
Right-hand man Christian Archer argues that the mayor’s greatest contribution to date is “the confidence in City Hall. People believe in his leadership.” Which seems to still be true despite the council’s cave-in to Forestar, which allows the company to use Edwards Aquifer water for golf-course irrigation at its Northside PGA development. The Current also developed a mild case of indigestion when Hardberger endorsed a proposal to rename the Oakwell Branch Library after Robert L.B. Tobin — an unholy baptism that would have coincided with a six-figure gift from the Tobin Endowment, which has a longstanding relationship with SA’s First Lady, Linda Hardberger.
Still, we have to admit that he made good on his campaign promise to increase local arts funding, and we do like the way he speaks and thinks in terms of the entire city’s future — he turned in the most inspiring mayoral speech in decades at his August re-election campaign announcement. Judging by the lack of rumored bona-fide challengers for the spring contest, when a bevy of young term-limited studs are hitting the streets in search of honest work (including the Pocket Councilman Roger Flores, Chip Haass, and Art Hall) the politicos think San Antonio is hungry for a second helping of Phil.