Sunday, January 1, 2012

CCR 01-01-12: Buzzing and Butchering in 2012

the Controversial Committee Report

“We don’t raise sacred cows...we just butcher them.”

The staff* of the CCR doesn’t do resolutions. However, we can state and almost promise (with our fingers crossed) that 2012 might be a banner year for your reading enjoyment, or understanding of Irving’s political realities. We will use only the sharpest knives, dullest wit and unbelievable factoids to help slaughter Irving’s growing herd of sacred cows. Yes, herd thinning will be our top priority in 2012. Just think of the staff of the CCR as the ‘green’ butchers!

For all spectators on the sidelines, there will be, hopefully, a major herd thinning during the May, 2012, city council elections. Some of the herd, after all, have been in the feed lot way too long. And your sitting on the sidelines without participating in the election process only encourages these dogies to become fatter on perks and benefits at your expense.

While staff off the CCR hates to be redundant, there comes a time when this might be the only way to ensure that folks are paying attention. And the time for paying attention now is even more critical, as the city council begins another season of political shenanigans.

In previous reports, we have noted that the bee hive-skirmish should be long over, done away with and laid to rest as to who the actual Queen Bee is on the council. The election-expiration date has passed and the results will not change. Also, the Queen Bee-pretender should pack her stinger away and set about being constructive with what many voters have expressed as necessary and important for the betterment of the city. (It might even be helpful to make a New Year’s resolution to stay off the Kool-Aid while yakking ad nauseam about the Entertainment Center.)

However, the reigning Queen Bee should admonish all her supporters that the public does not need to be informed or reminded of the election results at every council meeting! Not only is this boring, but it does little to accomplish any specific goal. Council goals cannot be achieved unless there are five votes to approve, implement or pass an item. And this is not happening -- for the those who thought it would -- with the recent change in mayoral leadership. Buzzing around the hive in solo formation by the Queen Bee does little to build a consensus, improve team dialogue or address significant changes in how the city goes about its business.

Our suggestion for the Queen Bee: significantly less buzzing about the hive and more positive interaction with all the council Drones! Hopefully, her handlers (the financiers of the Queen Bee’s royal garments and campaign costs -- Simon and Ellis) would agree and support this concept. Otherwise, the public will be treated to two more years of bleeding-ear buzzing, snits and temper tantrums that accomplish little and do nothing for the city’s tax payers...the Worker bees. The Worker bees, it should be noted, provide all the bucks honey that is produced by the hive for the Drones to use and spend.

Likewise, it would be advisable if the eight Drones on the council reflected on what voters have expressed via the ballot box, correspondence and in open public forums. If perception is indeed reality, then there should be less droning by the Drones and certainly less pollinating of the chamber of commerce, campaign financiers, developers and other special interest groups at the Worker bee’s expense. Sadly, 2011 witnessed council Drones bending, bowing and kowtowing to nearly ever whim and fancy these string pullers desired! The kabuki dance and buzzing with special interest concerns is clearly evident in the council Drones voting records and campaign finance reports. Need we say more?

Here are a few additional reality moments that the Queen Bee and council Drones might want to focus on in 2012:

McDougalville (Heritage Crossing): This project is just not working. The city remains the private ATM for the developer. The project is currently destined to be a $23+ million exercise in bad judgement, poor oversight and scary growth of Irving’s branch of the Lubbock Mafia. And if the city assumes the entire bank note of the project by letting McDougal off the hook, where will the funds to make interest and principal payments come from? Since McDougal has already paid excessive amounts for the current inventory of property, how could the city expect to sell these parcels without increasing the potential loss that would be absorbed by tax payers?

Entertainment Center: When the financial information is received from the bonding agencies for the recent $170 million wrongheaded-vote by the council, the tipping point for this issue will be met. The Drones will have to either side with a developer who contributed over $1 million to council campaigns, or reduce the scope of the project. As the council was previously advised by their bond and financial consultants, the $250 million Entertainment Center -- in its current configuration -- is not financially feasible without undue additional cost and potential damage to the city’s bond ratings. And an Entertainment Center financing of $250 million -- without utilizing investment grade bonds -- is pure folly that could place tax payers in the crosshairs of underwriting future debt retirement cost! (This would be similar to what the city manager and council already have done for bonded indebtedness of the ICVB Convention Center facility.)

Some council members and city staff might want to change their cell phone numbers. This could slow down the calls from the ex-mayor who seems to be a lead burro in Billy Bob’s stable of political pimps pushing and pressuring council members for the $250 million facility. And since Billy Bob has a 99-year lease (unbelievable!!) built into his current agreement, the nuisance calls could be around for an awful long time!

Accountability: While this word means different things to different folks, staff of the CCR would like to witness the council holding the city manager more accountable. It often appears that the council is a rubber stamp and doesn’t know how to ask appropriate and penetrating questions, or interpret how actions will ultimately be imposed on all the “little people.” A few of the manager’s lesser achievements this past year were: the great trash bin ‘test’ that would have forced folks to buy the bins and lug them to the curb; the “let’s hide the dumpster” project that could have cost small businesses up to $10,000 to ‘hide’ their trash; three Water and Sewer rate hikes within a twelve month period of time; superfluous spending for non-functioning Irving Boulevard ‘green’ street lights that tend to be inoperable when needed during dark periods; constructing the south MacArthur Boulevard “Berlin” wall; all the expenses accumulated by changing the city’s logo to appease chamber officials; all the staff time squandered in attempts to achieve “awards” and other ‘back-patting,‘ ego-inflation recognition; multiple-staff organizational changes that beg the question of ‘who is actually on first’ as the front line defense of catching spears aimed at the city manager...which also depletes staff morale and creates job vacancies; and spinning previous bond re-financing savings so the convention center bonded debt payments appeared to be just another ‘normal’ expenditure (sure!) of the General fund.

If you are going to pay someone nearly ½ million dollars to run a city, then citizens should benefit and not be penalized by inane actions and costly decisions initiated at the manager’s direction or approval. And frankly, photo ops and ‘business’ lunches at La Cima Club do not a city manager make.

Consultants: Really, the sweetheart deals that seem to ooze from some of the city’s consultant contracts almost beg for criminal investigation. Seriously, the city staff and council have established an apparent pattern of favoritism and good ol’ boy dealings that cause many to wonder if integrity or ethics was included in the city’s mission statement. What exacerbates this problem is that council members and some city staffers oftentimes indirectly benefit from these arraignments via travel junkets (some even foreign), top shelf noshing soirees, sporting event ducats, and, of course, significantly large contributions to council campaign accounts. This all works out as a Win-Win situation for everyone except the tax paying “little people.” To add insult to injury, the city staff and council spins the use of some consultants as if these individuals were the actual second coming of the great 6-Sigma gods in the sky. Can you spell: horse hockey?

The CCR message for 2012: If you aren’t helping to thin the herd, then you must be employed by the feed lot to assist in fattening the already over-chunky sacred cows. Happy 2012, faithful readers!

  • Several folks have asked and wondered who the actual staff of the CCR might be. As a pledge to openness and transparency in 2012, the staff is identified as: Mark Holbrook, wordsmith; Mike Howard, report producer; and Dylan Westie sniffer of facts and other unmentionable things. (Only one of those named is a real human.)