The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Monday, April 18, 2005

Why I'm Voting For Phil Hardberger

While having followed the mayoral race intensely since the end of 2004/beginning of 2005, it's only been fairly recently that I've come to decide on a candidate. Many, many things go into me choosing who to vote for, and they differ based on the different levels of government. But if there is one solid thread between all of them it is this- the staus quo isn't working at any level of government, anyone reading this blog knows this; we need, broad, bold leadership that is able to bring everyone to the table and challenge the status quo, someone who shows political courage when it is needed(not just as a sideshow), and a person who can help forge compromises- even if that means locking people in a room and kicking their asses until it gets done. Judge Phil Hardberger is the right person to do this as mayor of San Antonio.

Name another politician in the game today that can receive a large donation from Pastor John Hagee AND the endorsement of Congressmen Charlie Gonzalez and Ciro Rodriguez, or the support of Red McCombs AND Frank Herrera. Politicians and their surrogates would rather rail on the Judge for the amount of money he has received (process), rather than note the amazing, broadbased support that Phil has behind him (substance). In this highly polarized political atmosphere, we need public servants who can bridge the gap, not make it wider and deeper. Judge Hardberger is the only one running for mayor who can do that.

How did I get here? That's a long, winding story, but I'll sum it up as best as I can. As a young, educated, Latino male, I'm pretty sure that, demographically, I'm supposed to be safe in Castro's camp. And about a year ago, when I ran into one of the Castro volunteers after having voted in the Dem primary, I probably was. But with the November elections, the Mayoral election was put on a backburner and I thought very little of it until November/December. At that time, my vote was back up in the air and all three candidates had a shot.

I don't vote, and will never vote, solely on party affiliation. If I don't know the issues or the candidates in a race, I skip over it. Nor do I vote for someone because s/he is a potential rising star. Those are probably the two worst reasons to vote for someone in my book. Having said that, I'd have to say it's alot easier for a Dem to grab my vote than a Repub, but not unheard of. All candidates however, had some major questions to answer, not the least of which were:

Why did Julian feel he could do a better job than Schubert or Hardberger when his professional career consists of 4 years on City Council and part-time law work?
Why did Phil even want this job, and how would he be able to do this job without any council experience?
Does Carroll care enough about issues that affect Districts 1-7?

Through weeks and months of following the candidates in the newspapers, online, on TV, and by watching them at a handful of public forums, I got my answers. I will say this though, if I didn't follow as intensely as I did, I might not have been able to really gather my answers. Not one campaign has a very good message- Julian's seems to be: One City. My Destiny., Phil's is: I'm old and I'm not Carroll or Julian, and Carroll's is: I'm a Republican.

What I found though, is that all three men are qualified to run this city, but all three men would take the city in different directions. I like Schubert's message very, very much, and I think he probably has the message that best resonates to the East, West, and South Sides. Fixing potholes, putting more cops on the ground, giving firefighters better equipment to work with are basic services that a city should provide, but ridiculously enough, untold numbers of San Antonians don't receive adequate services. Unfortunately, the Schubert campaign hasn't even really attempted to engage these citizens. And because I am a big believer in that you campaign the way you will govern, there is no way that I could support someone who, really, refuses to engage such a large chunk of the populace. Still, whoever wins this election would be remiss if they did not make Schubert's mantra of basic services a key platform in their term. Because really, what good does a arts/theatre district or a new park downtown do for you if the only way you can get there on San Antonio streets is if you own a tank?

My feeling's for Castro are alot more complex. He's not just a young, charismatic guy, el esta de mi gente (he is of my people). And in a city that is 58% Hispanic and that has had only 2 Hispanic mayors in the past 140 plus years, this means alot. But I still had a bunch of questions. Why did Julian announce for Mayor only 6 months after he was re-elected to his final term? Why couldn't Julian raise more than $100,000 in 2004? How ambitous is Julian- is this merely a stepping stone, or will he be committed to truly serving every single year that he can as Mayor? When Ed Garza first ran for mayor in 2001, he publicly stated that he would rather serve on Council for another term or two rather than run for Mayor, and yet here is his District 7 successor- and possible Mayoral successor- announcing his run for mayor not even halfway into his 2nd term as councilman.

Every time I asked these questions, I kept on turning back to Phil. Hardberger has no greater ambitions, he sees this as a capstone to his life. A place where he can tap every life and professional experience he has compiled over the past 70 years to help govern the city of San Antonio over the next four years. How many different situations has he been in, and how many lessons has Hardberger learned as a pilot, working under Sargent Shriver, building his own law practice and serving as Chief Justice of a Texas Appeals Court? Julian's record appears to shrivel when compared next to Hardberger's.

Let me put this way. If I were to attend law school in the fall, graduate in three years, wait a year to run for City Council, serve on the City Council for 4 years, and then run for mayor, I would already be two years older than Julian is today and look at what my resume would be. Now this is in no way, shape, or form stating that I have the same intelligence as Julian or the same schooling that Julian has received, merely an observation.

Finally, the last week or two cemented my support for Phil. Castro's campaign finance report and his handling of the Sculley fiasco moved me solidly into the Judge's camp. From what I hear, Castro's campaign is trying to minimize the campaign finance report by having their blockwalkers call it a 'minor accounting/clerical error.' That's the way to take full responsibility for it. There's nothing minor about not accounting for over 20% of your cash flow and not reporting certain expenditures. Especially when it's a major part of your experience in government. Finally to take the Judge to task because you feel that your mistakes aren't as important as everyone else is making them out to be is immature.

In the Sculley incident, I'm in full agreement with Jaime Castillo. If Castro was so unsure about her, he should have said so last week during negotiations. Waiting until hours before the vote to kill the pick, when nothing was really said during negotiations is nothing but pandering and political hand-wringing because of some negative e-mails. Or Castro could have voiced concerns about the salary posted online- 200-300k. Good, principled, experienced leadershp could have helped us recruit Sculley AND negotiate a fair deal for both sides. Good leadership would have also explained to the people why we need her and helped turn public opinion. It would have not torpedoed the deal at the last moment. We lost a qualified, competent potential city manager, and now we'll have to go through the whole process all over again.

Finally, I believe Phil will just do a better job than Julian. This is it for him, this will be the last thing he does, and, because of its visibility, the thing that he will be most remembered for. For Julian, this could be just a stepping stone to a statewide position in 2010. Yes, he has an incentive to well at this job, but not the sort of incentive that comes with knowing this will be your last job that you will ever hold.

So that's my pick for Mayor. I'm sure we'll hear some responses today, so feel free to fire away.