Whatever you thought of this year’s term-limits-extension campaign, you can’t accuse Phil Hardberger of being ruled by self-interest.
Unlike New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who responded to the Wall Street meltdown by deciding that he was too indispensable to be term-limited out of office, Hardberger and his Council compatriots will not benefit from the voters’ decision to double the number of terms our CMs and Mayor can serve.
Even with Hardberger’s formidable popularity, prospects didn’t look good. SA voters had twice before voted down extensions by crushing landslide margins. With typical savvy, however, Hardberger learned from past failures and kept the initiative’s language simple: changing the City charter from two two-year to four two-year terms for our 11 elected representatives. He also pushed hard on the notion that tighter term limits make council members less, not more, accountable, because they don’t have to follow through with long-term city improvement projects. It worked, with term-limit extensions passing November 4 in an election that was decided well before San Antonians started heading for bed.
The flip side of Hardberger’s mayoral tenure came to the fore with his handling of Sheryl Sculley’s new contract. Determined to keep her in SA at any price tag, he rushed through a lavish agreement which only one Council member actually found time to read before voting on it (not that the Mayor or City Attorney encouraged them to). Not so coincidentally, that Council member, Justin Rodriguez, offered the only no vote. Hardberger and his ever-obedient Council essentially tore up Sculley’s existing contract and gift-wrapped a $20,000 raise for the City Manager, complete with a provision allowing her to teach at UT’s LBJ School and a generous severance package. No one asked, but maybe she would have settled for a Target gift card.