Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day Ups and Downs

Labor Day has an interesting history. While New York City celebrated the day as early as 1882, It became a national holiday in 1894 under one of my favorite Presidents, Grover Cleveland. The Pullman Strike had just ended. This rather ugly event had seen a number of deaths of strikers at the hands of police and even military personel. Cleveland was anxious to ease the discord with a growing labor movement and Congress was only too happy to go along, making it a national holiday in short order.

Had it not been for Chicago's Haymarket affair, Labor Day would probably have been set on May 1. At Haymarket, Chicago police were moving in to disperse a peaceful pro-labor rally when anarchists tossed bombs, killing 8 police, with a number of civilians shot in the ensuing gunfire from the surviving officers. Probably good fortune for American labor unions. Though it hadn't come to pass in the 1890s, Mayday would later become inextricably tied to the Communist celebration of that name.

Being in a good mood, let's start with good news. City Council last week passed a budget that gives us another one cent reduction in property tax rate. Staff turned in a really good piece of work here. They had been given two weeks from the prior Council meeting to come up with savings to permit at least a half-cent reduction. Frankly, I went to last week's meeting thinking perhaps that half-cent was all we would see, but they had managed to scrounge over $330,000 and permit another full cent. That makes five years running. Not that we want to get too comfy; our tax rate is still on the high end of Texas cities. For instance, Tyler, a city about our size, has been at this since the mid-90s and with some creative use of its 4B sales tax has a rate of about 25 cents, I believe the lowest for a city above 25k in the state. Still, we didn't get here overnight, we can't undo it overnight, but we are steadily moving in the right direction. I hope Staff and Manager Dominguez are enjoying this fine day off, you guys earned it.

Nice rains across the Concho Valley. Save the applause, but I'll take credit for that thank you. See, I finally broke down and spent all night last week soaking my thirsty pecan trees. Donations to cover the water bill I will be afraid to open...Ah well, it was for the good of the community.

It wasn't such a good week for SAISD. They did pass a reasonable budget, but then came the now infamous Obama speech decision. Board member Max Parker was right, there simply was not time to convene a Board meeting, which might have allowed for a more thoughtful response. Not to be unduly harsh, indeed, overall I am still glad we have Bonds as Superintendent, but it looks as though in this case, she allowed a small vocal group to sway the decision not to air the President's comments where possible.

I do not recall a topic that generated the volume of posts on the Standard Times gosangelo site, overwhelmingly against the call. Even arch-conservative Charles Krauthammer of Fox News was saying that with the essay assignment, "How I can Help the President" struck from the package, he had no problem with having our first black President give American students a "Stay in school and study hard" message. You never know, it might actually help some of the kids.

It's hardly a secret that I did not vote for Obama, BUT..I've seen his short prime-time ad on the "stay-in-school" message, and it is just that. Nothing partisan, it isn't "stay-in-school-and-learn-how-to-be-a-good-Democrat", just stay in school and learn. I would be very surprised if this TV address is anything other than that message expanded. If even a small percentage of kids, especially disadvantaged kids react well to hearing that message from the man who proved even black children can grow up to be President, that will be a positive.

It is a fact of political life that the negative side of any topic will be expressed more quickly and noisily than the positive, thus the one-sided e-mails and calls the Superintendent fielded at first. For all the complaints about "negative campaigns" they are still widely used for one reason only: they work. Pure fact, a campaigner is more likely to stir an otherwise complacent voter off his duff to vote against something than to vote for something.

I dissent from Trustee Tim Archer's comment that this is not a "big deal". True, it will not be dominant in the context of a full year's education. Still, the symbolism, especially in the minority community that did vote heavily for the President, the symbolism is huge, and it will be remembered like a thorn in the side or a burr in the saddle. I have dabbled in matters political long enough to know, politically, symbolism IS reality. 'Nuff said on that.

Overall, I see a pretty good Labor Day for San Angelo. Economy is a bit down, sales tax revenues show that. Not quite boom time, but San Angelo has fared better than much of the country. We still have new construction going up, not the least the joint Martifer/Hirschfeld wind turbine tower plant.

I am thrilled about the turnout for the Mayor's race. Whatever one may think of him, J. W. Lown proved that though the Mayor is just one vote on Council, if someone is willing to work full time at this basically unpaid job (we need to correct that BTW) and build a city-wide coalition of support, the position can be quite effective. Conchoinfo does not, will not endorse candidates, but... I know some of the candidates, I intend to get to know the rest. I can say, we have a good field of qualified people running, the best I can recall. My thanks to all who have been willing to step up to the plate and run.

I will go this far out on a limb: I will not support any candidate who thinks people ought to raise fighting cocks in town. Another topic for another day.

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