Sunday, October 21, 2007

Trust or Consequences

In the course of discussing Prop 26, the appointed police chief, a recurring theme has been how much distrust voters have for the City Council, the City Manager, city gov't in general. Typical would be something like "It's all about the monied, old boy network that has always run San Angelo, they don't care about anything but themselves, can't be trusted", etc, etc and so forth.

Now it is understandable that the average citizen doesn't really pay attention to city gov't until they see utilities bills or taxes going up and it's check writing time. I have to remember, most people have a life and are not political junkies.

That said, let me point out a couple of "inconvenient truths". I have been following city affairs far more closely than most people for over twenty years. First thing, no Council ever took office by martial law, voters put them there, to the extent we are spreading blame, save a bit of that peanut butter for ourselves. Second, the "old boys" aren't there. City manager, Mayor, Councilmembers, no one has been there six years yet. In fairness, it took way longer than that for the pipes to rust out and the potholes cave in. The neglect that rose up and bit us in the nether regions last year was not the fault of the current city gov't, but it was definitely a steaming bowl of offal dumped in their laps.

Another inconvenient truth is that life ain't always fair, and nuttin's for free. We all want good streets and dependable water and by the way find a way to do $200 million of infrastructure without raising my bills. Sorry, the good infrastructure fairy seems to be out to lunch, and the money will eventually come from the same source as all gov't expenditures, our ass pocket. If you have some secret formula to make the necessary repairs at little or no cost, please share it with us.

The situation we are in is why I am especially proud of Prop 25, Capital Improvements. If we pass this measure, no future Manager or Council will be able to say "Gee, nobody told us", there will always be a detailed five year-out plan in effect, and future Councils will see it before anything else on the budget. Then they can fall out and fight for scraps going to tennis courts and lights.

The Charter Committe did not offer Prop 5, a pay raise by whatever name, to reward the oversights of Councils long gone, nor to "pay off" the existing Council. We hoped it might make it possible for knowledgable working folk to be able to afford to run and serve. As Thomas Jefferson observed, a periodic revolution is healthy for the body politic.

I know the bill just recently hit your mailbox, but the genesis of that bill pre-dates our existing city government. We are paying for mistakes made years ago, by people long gone.

Now before someone shouts "pollyanna", I don't claim the city has quite hit perfection, there are a few items left to be addressed. A $200,000 misunderstanding on water bills might be one detail, mind you that is just generating and mailing the bills, no pipes included. I think it would be nice to catch three green lights in a row on Bryant Raceway. Newest improvement there, going south from Harris, unless you floor it you get to stop at Beauregard. Then Washington. Then Av N. Then Knickerbocker.

Zoning is an ongoing nuisance for homeowners, entrepaneurs and developers. Keeping rendering plants out of residential neighborhoods is one thing, making honest businesses jump through hoops over details of fence heights and counting trees, or giving homeowners grief over two feet from right-of-way or adjoining property when no neighbors object is an impediment to growth.

More of the same, that's why government needs interested citizens looking over its shoulder, and making rude noises from time to time. that's part of what we try to do here, but we can use all the help we can get. I try to remember to give the city an "ataboy" when they get it right, this is not all negative.

All the above notwithstanding, on some items, blaming the current Council for problems handed off to them is like blaming the new driver when a thirty year old bus breaks down. We really do have new faces, new attitudes there. Try actually talking to your Councilmember, you might be surprised how receptive they are to new ideas.

By the way, KIDY is generously giving a half hour of valuable air time to a debate/discussion featuring yours truly and Councilman Dwain Morrison on the Charter Amendments. Although we deeply disagree on Prop 26, over the years I have agreed with Dwain more often than not, this should be an informative, respectful discussion of the issues. There will be a "questions" period and KIDY is soliciting questions from the public at If you care, please contribute and listen.

Above all, early voting starts Monday. Please, please, sometime between now and election day, get up and vote. This barkeep never objected to discussing politics in a bar; they don't teach it in civics class, but the two primary sources of the American Revolution were; Chuches and taverns. I do have one rule: if you didn't vote, I don't want to hear it; voting is your license to bitch.


  1. I'd really like to hear more about how Zoning is such an impediment. I have lived all over Texas, and the Development Services (including Planning & Zoning) assistance I've received here in my own endeavors with fences and zone changes have been very pleasant compared with the other cities I've conducted business in. Our zoning laws are rudimentary at best compared to the strictness of cities...which are LARGER, yes? So zoning must not really discourage development. The regulations are the same for everyone, are you upset that neighbors don't make the rules? Of course, then they could move out and the new neighbors could be left to deal with the consequences, yes? I'd like to commend the City on their efforts to make these rules easy to understand.

  2. A preacher once said, I've got both good news and bad news. The bad news is our new building is going to cost a few hundred thousand dollars.

    and the good news is, you have all the money we need in your pockets