Phone message suggests chamber involved in push poll, with Sculley’s blessing

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When news broke over the past week that someone was conducting a local push poll about public-safety benefits costs, representatives for both the city and the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce were quick to say they had no involvement with the poll and knew nothing about it.
But a voice message from city spokeswoman Di Galvan to chamber President (and former City Councilman) Richard Perez, obtained by the San Antonio Express-News, suggests the chamber was involved in the poll and that City Manager Sheryl Sculley was aware of the chamber’s efforts.

Push polls are telemarketing ploys used to alter public opinion in the guise of measuring it. The recent local poll angered police and fire union reps because its questions were based on presumptions that the unions were destroying the city’s fiscal equilibrium.

Public-safety costs consume more than 66 percent of the city’s general-fund budget, and Sculley has warned that rising health care costs for active-duty officers are not sustainable.

According to a North Side woman who said she received a push-poll call on Monday, these were among the loaded questions asked by the caller: Did she support or oppose the city having to increase property taxes to pay for public-safety health benefits? Did she agree or disagree with the union being able to negotiate specific benefits for its members, which could cause the city to lose its AAA bond rating and cost San Antonio business opportunities?

In a Friday interview with the Express-News, Perez, an outspoken Sculley supporter, said the chamber had nothing to do with this poll.

But Galvan’s voice message tells a different story.

“Councilman Perez, this is Di Galvan,” she says in her message. “I hope you’re doing well. Happy holidays. Hey, I just received an email from Dillon Collier at KENS, and he’s asking about a poll being conducted in the community regarding public-safety contract negotiations.

“And he was asking me for details about it and I didn’t know that the chamber was doing this. Sheryl did, but it was not communicated to me. I just wanted to connect with you and see if I can ask Dillon to call you about this, or how you want me to handle this.”

The push poll comes in the wake of Mayor Ivy Taylor’s Dec. 1 proposal for a “holiday truce” in the acrimonious collective-bargaining process between the city and the San Antonio Police Officers Association.

SAPOA has produced TV and radio advertisements blasting Sculley for her rich salary package (which in 2015 will be $400,000, plus a one-time $65,000 bonus) and for filing a lawsuit challenging the evergreen clause in police and fire contracts (which maintain the existing terms for 10 years after their contracts expire).

The ads also have called on Sculley to resign.

If, as the phone message suggests, the chamber was involved in the recent push poll with Sculley’s blessing, it would constitute a clear defiance of Taylor’s truce plan.

Galvan said Friday that she “misspoke” in the phone message if she gave the impression that the chamber sponsored the poll or that Sculley knew that it was being done.

“I didn’t have any details,” Galvan said. “I was just giving a friend (Perez) a heads-up.”

Galvan added, “Sheryl and I had never spoken about this. And that’s the honest truth. The city is not involved in any way.”

Perez has been one of Sculley’s most ardent backers since she came to San Antonio from Phoenix in 2005. As a council member, he served as then-Mayor Phil Hardberger’s go-between, meeting Sculley at International Airport when she came to San Antonio for a secret visit to meet with city leaders and consider whether she wanted to take the city manager job.

He drew boos from rank-and-file police and firefighters in September at the City Council’s annual budget session when he spoke in favor of Sculley’s tough stance on containing police and fire benefits costs.

“We would never do a push poll,” Perez said Friday. “That’s not the way we do things. We’re all about asking, and hoping, and praying that the unions will get back to the table with the city staff and work something out.”

ggarcia@express-news.net

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