Help wanted: City Hall hiring another innovation specialist

Help wanted: City Hall hiring another innovation specialist

We Say: Another informative local story from Kenric Ward. The City of San Antonio needs to spend more money to become more efficient? Hmmm. Sounds like something out of Atlas Shrugged.

And we agree with former SATP director Jeff Judson’s take on the matter:  “The Office of Innovation looks like a hodgepodge of unrelated liberal agenda initiatives.”

Republished from, by Kenric Ward, December 19, 2016. Image credit: Kenric Ward photo

Just in time for Christmas, the city of San Antonio is hanging out a help-wanted sign at its Office of Innovation.

With a salary range of $62,490 to $93,735 – roughly three times the city’s median personal income – the new “innovation specialist” is “responsible for managing various aspects of San Antonio’s Smart City program,” according to the job posting.

But there won’t be too much heavy lifting; the specialist “exercises no supervision.”

Among his or her chief duties, the innovation specialist:

  • Conducts research and supports analytical research activities on Smart City initiatives in other cities.
  • Prepares briefing documents for executive management and the City Council.
  • Conducts research on available grants and assists in preparing grant proposals.

Qualification requirements are a bachelor’s degree and three years of “increasingly responsible experience in organizational performance review, human resources planning and statistical analysis.”

The specialist will work in the city’s Office of Innovation, newly spun off from the Budget Office. Including the new hire, the department lists eight positions earning between $62,490 and $120,449.

Its total budget for 2017 is $955,074.

The office says it has saved taxpayers $20.3 million since it was established in 2007. Its website cites improvements in municipal court and human-resource operations.

The office also acted as project manager in launching the city’s “Pre-K 4 SA” program.

Jeff Judson, a senior fellow with the market-oriented Heartland Institute, said, “Making the municipal courts and HR recruitment process more efficient sounds great.” He applauded the office’s implementation of “LEAN management practices,” which he called “excellent.”

But Judson channeled Scrooge by adding, “The Office of Innovation looks like a hodgepodge of unrelated liberal agenda initiatives.”

“Pre-K 4 SA has its own tax, but apparently needs another city department to help it get started,” he noted.

The new specialist will be tasked with shepherding San Antonio’s Smart City initiatives.

The City Council earmarked $7.9 million this year for such “smart” ventures as free wi-fi in parks, solar benches with charging docks, community kiosks and app development.

“The smartest thing liberal big-city politicians could do would be to reduce the size of government and its tax and regulatory drain on the local economy, provide core services like police, fire, streets and drainage,” said Judson, a former councilman in neighboring Olmos Park. “They must resist the temptation to pursue things the private sector can do best.”

James Quintero, director of the Center for Local Governance at the nonpartisan Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, agreed.

“Innovation is fine, but San Antonians would be better served if the city focused on getting the fundamentals right first,” he said.

Quintero and Judson spoke with Watchdog the day after a 7-year-old boy was run down by a car on a darkened city street. A pervasive lack of street lighting has been blamed for rising pedestrian fatalities in San Antonio, even as City Hall press releases bear the boilerplate boast of being “internationally connected and globally competitive.”

“Too often the core functions of government take a backseat to the city council’s pet projects, like its $60,000 trip to Spain, its $200,000 bathroom kiosk and its $232,500 spent lobbying the Legislature,” Quintero said.

“Eliminating these kinds of controversial spending is common sense and doesn’t require city government to take on any additional staff or added expense,” he concluded.

Kenric Ward reports for the Texas Bureau of Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Kenricward.

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