Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Charter Barter

As I watched select members of the Charter Review Commission brief the Dallas City Council today, I gave silent thanks that no members of this council were around back when the U.S. Constitution was drafted. If they were, we’d be living in the States of America, because there would be nothing United in their efforts.

These small minds have no right determining what should be changed in the Dallas City Charter. The CRC’s recommendations should go right to the voters, bypassing the idiots on the council completely.

Here, in summation, was the basic argument each of the council members had to each of the commission’s recommendations: "That’s not in my best interest." The discussion was all about the wants of these self-centered egotists and had nothing to do with the best interests of the city at large. To his credit, Mayor Mike Rawlings recognized this and tried in vain a couple of times to change the subject from "me, me, me," but, ultimately, he realized his efforts were fruitless.

This was especially true when it came to the subject of redistricting — a process that is shameful because it is so politicized. But instead of considering changes that would de-politicize it ever so slightly, all the council members were interested in was protecting their turf, as if they were still going be representing that turf 30, 20, even 10 years from now. The pinnacle of this ridiculousness came when District 5 council member Rick Callahan, an anglo who represents a district that was created to elect an Hispanic, attempted to display how fair everything would be under the current system by announcing "I would appoint a Hispanic to represent District 5 on the redistricting committee." As if he’s even going to be around when the next redistricting committee is named. "You are term-limited, you jerk,"

Then there was District 3 representative Vonciel Jones Hill who argued against higher council pay because she was an attorney and no one was going to force her to give up her law practice just because she was on the City Council. That means, she argued, being on the City Council is not a full-time job. Again, all about "me."

I attended and even spoke to one meeting of the Charter Review Commission and watched most of the other sessions on television. I guess you could say I’m a city government wonk. From that vantage point, I can testify that the recommendations of the CRC mirrored the will of those Dallas residents who spoke to the commission. It’s therefore amazing to me that the appointed CRC is far more attuned to the will of the people than is the elected Dallas City Council.

I have lived in Dallas for 46 years now, all of them as a voting-age adult. I was a major supporter of the 14-1 City Council system because I saw the injustices that resulted when the city was ruled exclusively by white males who lived in North Dallas. The argument against 14-1 was that the result would be 14 individual mini-mayors who would only protect their own self-interests and would not be cognizant of the needs of the city as a whole. I thought those fears were exaggerated, but, sadly, they have come the reality. I will still argue, however, that it is not the system that’s to blame; it’s the small, closed minds we elect to the council in the name of that system.

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