Contreras Confident in Tricentennial Turnaround

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Tricentennial Commission Interim Executive Director Carlos Contreras, III, speaks to city council about the future of the Tricentennial.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Carlos Contreras, Tricentennial Commission interim chief executive officer, speaks to Council members during a recent meeting.

The City of San Antonio has initiated an audit process for the troubled Tricentennial Commission, Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras said Tuesday, and that effort will be independent from the rededicated focus on making the city’s yearlong 300th anniversary in 2018 a “once-in-a-lifetime” celebration.

“[I’m going to] roll up my sleeves,” Contreras told City Council committee members tasked with reviewing the commission’s progress. Contreras, who still serves as assistant city manager, took the helm of the commission exactly one week ago after Edward Benavides stepped down as chief executive officer amid community and Council concerns about fundraising and the commission’s handling of several contracts.

The commission is now less than $2.9 million away from its fundraising goal, thanks to reduced costs associated with the New Year’s Eve party, Contreras said, adding that he’s confident that sum can be raised throughout 2018.

After fielding several questions about commission transparency and structure, he assured the committee, chaired by Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), that he would provide the detailed budget and staff reports it had requested months ago.

“Let’s just get to it,” Treviño said, calling on his colleagues to not get sidetracked from the end goal. “We’re at a critical moment in our city’s history, and we’re all in it together.”

A more robust website that better outlines the Tricentennial mission statement will launch in mid-December, Contreras said. The commission brought on additional team members to “help them do something that’s something we can be proud of,” he added.

But Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) isn’t convinced that the City will follow through on determining the root cause of the Tricentennial’s mismanagement.

“What I just witnessed had to be the best ‘City Hall two-step’ I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Brockhouse said after Contreras’ brief presentation to the Arts, Culture, and Heritage Committee.

Brockhouse said he was expecting a more detailed explanation and update on how the Tricentennial was going to address what one commission member called “stumbles” that have already occurred.

“You have to fix what’s wrong with it and acknowledge it,” Brockhouse said. “Nobody wants to see this fall flat on its face and not be successful.”

Contreras gave an overview of the contracts that the commission awarded through the City’s competitive bid process and those granted through other processes – all of which will be reviewed during the audit.

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) asks questions regarding the future of Maverick Plaza.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) questions the accountability of the Tricentennial Commission.

Brockhouse said the City should “consider canceling the KSAT contract,” which the San Antonio Express-News found was awarded under suspicious circumstances.

Legal implications of such a move would need to be discussed in private, executive sessions with City Council, City Attorney Andy Segovia said.

“I would never recommend that we hide something improper,” Contreras said, adding that he has looked through hundreds of emails and documents regarding the Tricentennial. “But I haven’t seen anything that should give anybody any concern.”

Tricentennial Budget Update

About 87 percent of the total $21.7 million Tricentennial budget has been collected through City, County, in-kind, and private contributions. That budget includes salaries, promotional material, event planning, and more.

The original budget was $22.5 million, but the costs for the New Year’s Eve celebration – which will feature REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, and The Last Bandoleros – came in lower than expected, Contreras said, saving $400,000. The “Ignite 300” event, which was to be a premier Tricentennial fundraiser the same night, will instead be an invite-only event. A sponsor paid $400,000 to take over the event’s planning and execution, Contreras explained.

The commission set it sights on $10.3 million from private donations needed for various programming throughout the year. It now needs to raise $2.9 million.

“With the Tricentennial 41 days away, this was not just an update,” Treviño stated in an email after the meeting. “It was a work session where this committee, City staff, and Tricentennial Commission members rolled up their sleeves and took an honest, thoughtful look at the future and impact of the Tricentennial.”

 

This story was originally published on Nov. 21, 2017.

4 thoughts on “Contreras Confident in Tricentennial Turnaround

  1. Questions:
    1) Would there be representatives from CASA REAL for the SA300 Celebration (actual King and Queen of Spain) in YR 2018, just as Florida had their presence during the St. Augustine’s 450th commemoration back in September 2015?
    2) Who is THE sponsor that paid $400,000 to take over the Ignite 300 planning and execution?
    3)Does that mean that SA300 is getting tasks and planning of its plate and ”delegating” such planning to others (outside SA300)?
    4)Is the invite-only Ignite 300 an event to thank already secured sponsors?
    5) Who will be the guests invited to Ignite 300?
    6) How much in total will the Ignite 300 will cost? Aside for actual New Year Celebration costs?
    7) How much of the actually already collected budget (not pledged, but actually collected) is still available for New Year celebrations and how much is left after New Year Celebrations conclude? How much is truly left for YR 2018 activities? — Seeing the Commemorative Week in May celebration calendar, could not be too much still available https://www.sanantonio300.org/commemorative-week/

  2. Hold the phone just a minute, folks! WTF is this nonsense about the Ignite 300 event? Some anonymous entity basically bought it and turned into a private gathering?!?!? I’m beginning to agree more and more with Brockhouse and his “City Hall two-step” metaphor…

  3. Hahahaha. Ignite 300. Hahahaha wake up. Ask questions. Wake up. This is ridiculous. A sorry New Years ever patty and 365 days of mediocrity. What a piss poor execution of a fundamentally flawed “plan”.

  4. How is it in ANY WAY acceptable that KSAT should be allowed to keep a contract which has been proven to be a sneaky, crooked, unfair backroom deal? Clearly, the ethically-challenged Phil Lane at KSAT secretly conspired with the tricentennial commission to secure exclusive media rights to the year-long celebration, at the exclusion of all other media. Where is the outrage?! What message does it send when KSAT cheats, gets caught, but not punished? If the Ms. Scully and the city are serious about being honest and transparent, they must do the right thing and punish KSAT as they have the commissioners who participated with KSAT in this shameful scandal.

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