Take a Life Lesson from Dallas City Hall: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, Like Money or Audits

Categories: Buzz
A little mood music to get you in that City Hall frame of mind.

Earlier this week Jim Schutze racked his shotgun and unloaded some righteous thunder on City Hall's failure to adopt a whole bunch of auditor's recommendations aimed at helping the city do little things -- like making sure no one is walking off with fistfuls of cash or property or arranging to jail a bunch of innocents on fake drug charges.

Jim was way harsh, and sometimes I worry about him. All that rage can't be good for his spirit.

Jim and I have both lived in Texas and Dallas a long time. Jim's from Michigan; I'm from Illinois. People up there tend to get a little cranky about incompetence and corruption and lies. I used to be that way, too, but I've learned. Let go the anger. Nothing ever really changes, so why not lay back and learn to view life The Dallas Way.

It's very blissful. Almost like being comatose.

Don't misunderstand: Crime or corruption or lies or eating animals from the Dallas Zoo is wrong. But "wrong" is such a vague word, isn't it? There are white lies and big lies. Sins venal and mortal. For instance, filching a quarter out of the change return in a phone booth: Who cares? (Note to readers under age 50 -- as if we have any -- phone booths are a thing from before you lighted the world and Facebook with your existence and thus not important.)

The point is, if you paused to take responsibility for each of your actions, if you insisted on truth and accountability in your daily life, the stress would be very, very unpleasant. "You gotta let some shit slide" has long been my motto.

I learned it over the years by watching Dallas City Hall.

On Monday, City Auditor Craig Kinton's office released a report concerning 58 auditing and procedural changes his auditors had suggested be undertaken by seven major city departments between 2009 and 2011. The recommendations covered a variety of subjects: requiring cops to keep track of petty cash; making sure that former, possibly disgruntled employees can't access city computers or buildings once they're unemployed; counting the money collected by vendors at city parks; maintaining an up-to-date inventory of animals at the zoo; backing up the city's computers. City honchos said, "Sure thing. We're all over that shiz," and claimed they knocked out 53 of the 58 recommendations.

Auditors are an untrusting, anal bunch, however, and Kinton's office earlier this year ran some tests to see how well their recommendations were being adopted. They tested 46 of the 53. "Testing results indicated that 35 of the 46 (76 percent) were not sufficiently implemented to fully address the underlying areas of risks," Kinton reported.

Now some of you might be thinking, "Wow, those City Hall people LIED three out of four times." But that's a bit negative. In fact, they told the TRUTH 24 percent of the time, which among your basic government functionaries ain't bad. The glass is nearly a quarter full, and if you make it a big enough glass, fill it a quarter to the top with whiskey, drink and repeat, you'll soon find that you just don't care that much about basic municipal competence.

This being Dallas -- aka Mellow Town, USA -- nobody's head is going to roll over this. City Manager Mary Suhm says it's all no big thing. Nothing pricey is likely to be stolen, and City Hall is too short-staffed and overworked to go around dotting Is and crossing Ts and doing its damn job.

It's all good, so just relax, Jim, and fellow angry citizens. Learn to live by City Hall's philosophy. Owe the city a fine? Tell 'em you mailed them cash. They say they didn't get it? How odd.

Want to eat a gazelle? The zoo's crawling with 'em. Who's going to miss one?

Pay your green fees at a city golf course? Don't be a sucker.

Paying taxes, filing for permits, obeying city ordinances? In the great scheme of life, these are mere grains of sand in the bunker of the Great Semi-Private Golf Course of the Cosmos.

Life is busy and complicated. Time is short. Let go the anger and frustration and learn from City Hall. You gotta ... well, you know.

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12 comments
ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Just face the facts, chumps.  This town is run for, of, and by insiders who answer to no one.  Since cops can kill with impunity, and just get desk duty for a couple days, what makes you think financial matters are ever going to get addressed???  Maybe not so different from many other cities, but here the miscreants are shameless - even flaunting their flouting of laws and standards; and the local paper of record is not just asleep, it is cheerleader for the perfidy.

marianagriggs
marianagriggs

This article was very refreshing, thanks for being clear about what's going on in a very funny way. Using your approach I have made myself a few totally illegal things that are way more awesome than horse parks and fancy bridges, many people still ask about the dumpster pool for example. 

No matter who you are, when code comes by- offer them a nice cup of tea and sit for a spell to talk about all the other wrong things going on around your illegal thing, then take their card and call often for the stuff that really matters, like the releasing of cars from the Auto Pound to tow trucks idling outside waiting for business, or the pack of stray dogs that keeps you from walking your dog down the street. Eventually the attention to all the other things wrong totally negates your illegal thing, especially if its a benign thing like growing food. 

With the weekend and Christmas coming up, I agree, relax, another horse park or golf course? Think of it as entertainment, like a soap opera. 

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Patrick, you gotta hook me up with your hook up. He's supplying you righteously. I wanna live that same mellow for a while.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

Having lived in Chicago for 19 years, I can attest to the corruption in City Hall. It's out in the open, but the funny thing is that everyone knows about it and in a lot of ways, it makes the city work for everyone. Yeah, people bitch about everything you can think of, but depending on who you know or who you grease, it gets done pretty quick. The difference in Dallas, is that it's much more underground, it's confined to a much smaller group of connected people, and it's always wrapped in the American flag, or with a finger wag of 'doing it in your best interest'. That's a BIG difference. Mary Suhm is as powerful than Bloomberg or Rahm Immanuel. She and the DCC just don't want you to know that.

Daniel
Daniel

I love her. I honestly love her. Quelle coiffe!

domusplacet1
domusplacet1

Wow. I am all for cleaning up City Hall and the DISD and the Commissioner's Court. But to be lectured by a guy from ILLINOIS that City Hall here has problems and strongly imply ("People up there tend to get a little cranky about incompetence and corruption and lies.") that the fine folks of Chicago and Detroit would not put up with our City Hall? Oh my. Please go back. YOU need a serious history lesson on corruption. There is no dirtier operation through the years than Chicago's City Hall. Yes, we have problems here and they need to be cleaned up but the fine machines of Illinois and Michigan are not the examples to be learned from.

PatrickWilliams
PatrickWilliams moderator

@Montemalone Wish I could help you out, pal, but since my weight reached Jabba the Hut size and I developed a nasty cough, I've been on the straight-and-narrow. Luckily, THC is fat soluble, so I'm able to maintain a mild buzz by living off my hump, so to speak. Should be good until I lose 60 pounds or die, whichever comes first. (Odds on the latter.)

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@domusplacet1 Hey man, in Chicago they at least fix the potholes. And that's a lot of work because they reappear seasonally. They put planters on the streets, fill them with green and flowering plants, and keep them alive. 

Sure the aldermen are like little princes in their wards, or fiefdoms if you will, but they take ownership of getting shit done in those wards.

All in all, Chicago is a much better run city than Dallas.

PatrickWilliams
PatrickWilliams moderator

@TheCredibleHulk You know, if you made that motto into one of those cheesy motivational posters that usually feature eagles or wolves or something, I'd get one and hang it in my office. Maybe a tree sloth wearing and iPod? Think about it.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

@Montemalone @domusplacet1 There's nothing like living in the same 'hood as your alderman and being able to walk into his neighborhood office to complain about the crazy cat neighbor. The next day the cats and sometimes the neighbor are gone. Sweet.

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