While Dallas City Hall Debates Ethics Reform for the 72nd Time, Let's Storm the Castle, Eh?

Categories: Schutze

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So the city council is actually going to put itself through another ethics reform debate. They do this every year. It keeps coming around again on a regular cycle like some kind of unpleasant bodily function.

Ask me. I know why. It keeps coming up again because it's absolutely lipstick-on-a-pig futile. Ethics reform for Dallas City Hall is like ethics reform for the dogs in the colony cage at the city pound.

Ethics reform? Are you kidding? How about a stun grenade?

People try to cheat City Hall -- and usually succeed -- because they have to cheat City Hall. There's no other way for people to get it to do what people want. That's why they devote so much time, energy and resource to gaming Dallas City Hall -- gaming it in sneaky, dodgy ways.

Every once in a while, somebody calls me. They'll say, "Hey, Schutze. Our school or our church or our dancing ladies undergarment supply warehouse has a big problem at City Hall. You have been writing about this same crap for over 200 years. What would you do, oh Methuselah?"

Hire a hood.

Look, did you just ask me for advice? Did you just say it was important? Did you mention that I've been writing about this same crap for over 200 years? Did maybe I learn anything?

Hire a hood. Get a fixer. Take out your checkbook. Otherwise don't bother me, OK?

And if you're going to tell me, "Well, we're taxpayers and citizens, and we think we have a right to expect our City Hall to do the right thing by us," then, especially, adamantly, I really mean it, please never darken my path again. We pass on the street, we stare at our shoes.

Dallas City Hall is designed to work only for cheaters. If it were a car, you'd call it the Cheatmobile. If it were a world exposition, you'd call it the Cheat-O-Rama. An animal -- the Cheatah.

Here's a political science lecture you could put on a bubblegum wrapper: mayor has one vote on council and appointive powers equivalent to deciding seating at 1950s ladies bridge tournament. That's it.

Each council member has veto power over all zoning and key infrastructure decisions in his or her own district. This is the only real power held by elective officials at City Hall, rooted mainly in the ability to say no. And they will say no, unless you can make them happy. But you cannot. Only a hood can. Believe me.

The city manager supposedly runs the city but can be sacked at any given point in time by eight-vote majority of council. If the city manager doesn't get sacked, he or she collects fat pension. Otherwise, no. His or her life, then, is whack-a-mole in which she is the only mole and all 15 council members have mallets.

So the city manager keeps her finger in wind at all times to guess where eight votes are on any given issue. Wind shifts. A lot.

Only real power outside City Hall is in the hands of a small cabal of business leaders who are the only people who write big checks for city council campaign funds. They get their way when they need to. You don't. Unless you hire a hood.

I don't mean hood. Oh, my gosh, why did I even use such an infelicitous term? I mean very attractive ladies and gentlemen in highly expensive suits who attended good law schools, maybe have Ph.D.s in other topics like Greek love poetry -- who knows, who cares? They know how to get the job done. That's all you need to know.

You do not know how. Your city council person may not even return your calls. Your city council person's administrative assistant may not even take your calls. I have called over there -- I kid you not -- and sometimes they won't even play the recording for me.

I call those click-buzz calls. I call. I get a click-buzz on the other end. I whisper to myself, "Democracy at work."

So what happens when you hire a lady/gentleman hood-like person? The next thing you know, you and your hood are sitting in an office knee-to-knee with the key council person. Wow. Right in there. A miracle. Knee to knee.

You begin to explain your need to expand your dancing ladies undergarment warehouse. Your councilperson waves for you to shut up, squints at the hood-like person, and says, "Is this the one you told me about with the thing?"

"Yes, sir," the hood says. "This is the one with the thing."

"Did you do the other thing?"

"Yes, sir. The other thing has been done already. Now all we need is the thing."

"OK. The thing is done."

The council person waves for you to vacate. You start to express your thanks.

The hood puts fingers to her lips: "Oh, no," she says. "Thing done now. You no talkie-talkie. We go."

Now, that's democracy at work in Dallas City Hall. That's why I say, if you want to change something, think in terms of carpet-bombing, not ethics reform. Think in terms of rewriting the city charter so you can have a real mayor. Get rid of the whole city manager thing. That's the biggest dodge of all -- the heart of the matter, the seat of the problem.

Everybody wants to think in private-sector terms these days. OK. Let's think of it in terms of the private sector. If you owned a company, would you want to be limited to one vote on your own board and then you have to hire a "company manager," somebody you can't tell what to do unless eight votes on the board agree with you?

We own City Hall. We're not allowed to run it. That's a scam, set up by other people so other people can run things. If we want in, we have to buy in -- hire our own hood.

Ethics reform keeps coming up again on a regular cycle because every time they do it it's the same old sham. The only real reform is charter reform. Meanwhile, remember what I say. You got a problem?

Hire a lady or a gentleman in a nice suit. Do what they say. You no talkie. Welcome to Dallas City Hall. And, uh ... look, if you do get indicted, we never spoke. OK?

I hope it's worth it.

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19 comments
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bakedflounder
bakedflounder

I guess the "Ethics Reform" passed in 2009 http://cityhallblog.dallasnews... was a waste of time. At the time Mayor Leppert said: "We have to have checks and balances and unfortunately at times our checks and balances weren't what they needed to be". And apparently no one acts ethically now either.

So now more bureaucracy is put in place to "oversee" what really amounts to a moral compass. That is something that cannot be regulated; either you have it or you don't.

The answer is not retraining and oversight. The answer is a pre-employment personality test that discovers propensity for immoral/unethical behavior. Then we don't hire the bums that fail in the first place.

NewsDog
NewsDog

An animal -- the Cheatah.

Jim, you are being unfair to Acinonyx jubatus. They actually work to survive.

TW
TW

Does this mean that writing a check for the bike trails thing and the community gardens thing will get the loose dogs thing and the car break-ins thing taken care of? Or does that require another check to get another thing to take care of those things? Or would it be better to hire a hood to steal the bikes and let the dogs run loose shitting in the gardens so someone else would write a check for the thing needed to take care of those things?

youtalkin'tome?
youtalkin'tome?

ethics, schmethics...let's call the whole thing off.

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

There are no ethics,to ask Judge Brown to step down, from her job because she is candidate for District Judge, and Micha Phillips Dallas Fire Fighter, who puts his life on the line for us every time he makes a call, running for County Commissioner District 3, all because certain Council members are supporting John Price, and Judge Brown's opponent, is wrong. There are two City employees I know, are elected Officials and ran for Office as City employees.I was ask to step down from DFW Board because I am a candidate for commissioner also in District 3 now all of a sudden City Attorney is claiming  charter means partisan public office.How can that be true,when I have been an elected Democrat Precinct Chair since 2008.Dallas City Hall is so unethical it's almost like another world, and the sadest part is their are attorneyssitting there as waitness to it all.

Jay
Jay

Geezze Jim, if you take the profit out of holding public office, who the hell will we get to run? 

DCtooo
DCtooo

Amen.Sad that the only hope for watchdog is the FBI. And a whistleblower lawsuit out of WashingtonDC. Not ethics. Not policy. It is just that the system works marvelously for so many people, especially the Council members, North and South, who get to hand out all those unwatched HUD, bond, TIF, and other public dollars to their friends, pastors, neighbors, do-gooders, no-gooders and other pals.It pays to know the system and the City staff that keeps it all humming.

Mo
Mo

Because Politico's are getting busted by the FBI and Whistleblowers, is the very reason they know they have to institute ethics. They are doing it to protect themselves from themselves. They all dig their own grave..................now they are scared of digging, cuz they know what comes next. 

Paul
Paul

This just proves the outcome of the 14-1 council system ...

All of the shortcomings and problems of a ward political system with none of the benefits.

Our city council/city manager form of government no longer works because the city council no longer sets policy for the city manager and the city manager no longer makes any decisions.

Replay
Replay

They're handling this all wrong. They should hire a very, very expensive consultant, and spend lots of money commissionng a study on ths ethics thing. Do they have ethics in other Cities? What do they do differently than what we do? A proper study of this thing could take, well, years.

Face it, Dallasites. You have elected a bunch of 'em that have no ethics.

RTGolden
RTGolden

The problem is the council feels that somehow, someway, its just plain wrong to unethically give a good 'ol boy consulting gig to somebody to consult with them on etics.  Until they rectify their ..... guilt??... nah, they don't know what that is, until they somehow manage to equate under-the-table graft with ethical responsibility, they've formed a commission (which asked for this audit by the city, of the city) that has no reformative authority to deal with the ever-fruitless pursuit of ethics in city government.

They've even gone to school to learn about ethics, granted it was to SMU, so it's not like they were learning from the varsity, but still they made a gratuitous effort:http://blogs.dallasobserver.co... even heard rumors they're petitioning Webster to slightly change the definition of ethical to be inclusive of graft, back-stabbing, fraud and, of course, Equity.

Summaofthesumma
Summaofthesumma

Then lead the way, Jim. It's one thing to spew words from behind a digital-data-constructed wall. It's another to actually go out there and do something. Organize the storming of the castle, and I guarantee you we'll be there with you.  But until then it's all a bunch of talk. A movement needs a leader. You sure talk the talk; now walk it.

cp
cp

It's called running for office. I tried that. Unfortunately all the good people who run for office against these idiots end up losing. For whatever reason, these idiots keep getting elected by the bigger idiots who keep electing them. I don't think those people look at this website much. Jim's preaching to the choir here. 

JimS
JimS

I don't do windows.

Mo
Mo

Yeah Jimbo, lots of window dressing at City Hall!!!

Lots!!!!! 

The Derelict
The Derelict

how funny! the city forms an ethics panel and then delays discussing ethics

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

Isn't the city council writing ethics reform like wolves arguing over the kindest way to slaughter the sheep?

Mo
Mo

Well, at least they want to smile when they slaughter us! 

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