Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Atkins won't support the Natinsky plan

The more I get to know Dallas city councilman Tennell Atkins, the more I like the guy. In fact, he may be my first council "hero" since Ed Oakley left. I know. I know. The fashionable thing is to be an ardent follower of Angela Hunt, absorbing every word that comes out of her mouth as the gospel when it comes to city policy. I hate to tell you this, but that empress has no clothes.

Mr. Atkins, on the other hand, is the real deal. I wouldn't call him a "leader," because that would assume he has followers. Unfortunately, most of the other council members are nothing more than sheets, billowing in whatever direction the political wind is blowing at the time. Mr. Atkins, on the other hand, sees the problems, knows why they were caused and comes up with a way to fix them, even if those ways are not the most popular approaches.

Tonight I attended my -- oh, gosh, I haven't even kept count -- budget townhall meeting and my third hosted by Mr. Atkins. After it was over, I approached the easily approachable Mr. Atkins and asked him if he planned on supporting the Natinsky amendment, a $2.4 million plan devised by North Dallas Councilman Ron Natinsky (left) that will rely mainly on fee increases to raise the money needed to solve the Recreation Center Problem that has dominated these town hall gatherings. Mr. Atkins placed his hands on my shoulders, looked at me as though I had either just landed from another galaxy or had escaped from some institution for the politically wah-wah and said "Are you kidding? Do you think it's fair just to make the people who use the rec centers pay for them. These centers are for all the people of Dallas and all of them should be paying for it."

Really, all I wanted was a "yes" or "no" answer and I did not want to engage in a political discourse right there in the cafeteria of McNair Elementary School in far Southwest Dallas so I just stood there as Mr. Atkins then went into a recitation on why it was also wrong to tax Atmos Energy, but, by this time, my head was swimming (I have not had much sleep lately and I had not eaten all day), so I wasn't really following his logic on this one. Not only that, I still couldn't wrap my hands around Mr. Atkins first argument that it was wrong to have the people who use the rec centers pay to keep them open. I actually thought that was perfectly fair. It was only after I was back in my car to begin the 24-mile drive back home that I realized how right he was.

Our democratic form of government is based on the premise that we taxpayers pay for things whether we use them or not if it is believed, by the majority, to be in society's best interest. Let me give you an example. The only time in the last 25 years I have set foot inside a Dallas Public Library was to vote. Now, I have nothing against libraries. But when I want to read a book, I will simply buy it or borrow from My Hero who is dead-solid perfect on making recommendations for books I should read. I'm not saying that's the right way to do things; only that's my way. I have yet to find any research I needed to conduct that I couldn't perform from my home computer, as slow and as outdated as that computer may be.

Be that as it may, a portion of the taxes I pay go to support the Dallas library system. I doubt I would get very far if I walked into City Manager Mary Suhm's office and said "Listen, I really don't ever use the library, so let's say we just reduce my taxes by the same percentage as libraries get from the General Fund."

Natinsky's plan, when you really look at it closely, is the same thing as charging library patrons a major fee for every book they check out or an hourly fee for use of library facilities. While we're at it, let's only charge code violators the money required to keep Code Compliance operating. I have lived in Dallas a little more than 40 years now and I have never -- not once -- run into a Code Compliance person performing his or her duties. So why should I pay for them?

I pay for them because that's the way government works. That's the way government is funded, a principle Mr. Atkins understands, but most of his colleagues don't. I say most of his colleagues don't because I'm afraid Mr. Natinsky's undemocratic plan, which, like most taxation plans you'll find in Texas, hits hardest on those who can least afford to pay them, will pass. But, then, when it comes to the never-ending class-race warfare in Dallas, we all know which class and which race will win. It's always been that way and I don't see it changing anytime soon.


Sam Merten said...

Pete, read this:


Sam Merten said...

Here's a shorter URL: