Sunday, January 13, 2013

CCR 01-13-13: Lowering the Bar

the   Controversial  Committee   Report
“We don’t raise sacred cows...we just butcher them.”

     Happy (belated) New Year from the staff of the CCR.  Bowing to questions from all the folks wondering where the reports have been the past couple of weeks, the staff admits that we took a bit of time off to sharpen our barbs and prepare for the new stampede of sacred cows that will be herded through the city in 2013.  And after tuning in to the ‘drunken brawl’ at the last city council meeting, it appears that the first herd of dogies has arrived in the city’s stock pens for slaughter.

     In Irving, there is one constant regarding city issues.  When alcohol is on a city council agenda, one can guarantee that there will be a large crowd, emotions will be high and most of the elected politicos will spread a ton of torofeca* on the unsuspecting audience.  Not to disappoint those in attendance, the politicos did spread a gigantic load at the January 10th council meeting. 

     Once again, developers are stampeding the council chambers with their pie in the sky proposals and distributing enough free Kool-Aid to create a ‘zombie zone’ of followers in the Las Colinas business/social network.  The latest development schematic is seeking to have the city change the current 60/40% alcohol zoning ordinance (60% food sales, 40% alcohol sales) to 30/70% (more booze, less noshing) for a proposed urban center project.  While this proposal is fraught with wrongheadedness and financial realities, the real sticking point was that after nearly six hours of shrill debate the council went into their primary mode of decision making...they postponed the issue until January 24th.  Maybe it was hard for some members of the council to actually vote for the 30/70% proposal when they realized that 80% of the audience was comprised of voters who did not favor or support this calamitous proposal.  

     However, another aspect of the postponement was for the council to consider creating ‘overlay’ zones for enhanced beverage service in selected parts of the city.  What this means is that if an ‘overlay’ zone is created, an individual could get drunker in north Irving than they could in south Irving by not having to eat as much food.  Simply stated, the ‘overlay’ zones would allow 30/70% (food/alcohol) sales in the ‘overlay’ areas (mostly north Irving) and those not in an ‘overlay’ zone would still be required to maintain a 60/40% split for food/alcohol sales.

     The first question that should be asked is: How come in 2009 the city’s legal ‘eagle’ and other interested parties determined that an ‘overlay’ zone approach to food/alcohol sales percentages would not be legal, but suddenly it becomes legal in 2013?  While staff of the CCR cannot state with complete authority, we could speculate that a part of the reasoning in the shift of opinion from the city’s chief legal ‘pigeon’ might have to do with pressure by…(wait for it) the Lubbock Mafia. 

     Yes, you only thought that when Delbert McDougal took his bundle of bucks from the downtown McDougalville folly back to Lubbock that the Lubbock Mafia would fade into the sunset.  That didn’t happen.  The Lubbock Mafia is probably stronger now than when it was diddling with the $51 million Heritage District quackery and pay off.  Since $1.8 million city tax/revenue bucks prop up the local chamber of commerce, the ties between Irving’s city manager and the president of the chamber may have grown even stronger since McDougalville.  And this seemed to be apparent at the council meeting when the proposed changes to the alcohol zoning ordinance were presented.

     The chamber president utilized PowerPoint, paid consultants and a bevy of Kool-Aid sippers from the recently formed Irving Issues PAC to befuddle the audience with guilt, uncontested facts and figures and an air of superiority designed to belittle those who: might not have sipped their Kool-Aid or even possibly live south of Northgate Drive.  Actually, the chamber should be embarrassed by all the bucks probably spent to stage this slick and fanciful performance.  And that begs another question: Will the city be asked to pay for any of these chamber-hired consultants, or will the payments be from the city’s $1.8 million ‘donation’ to the chamber?  It wouldn’t be polite for the chamber to attempt a double dipping feint by forwarding any of their consulting bills directly to the city’s finance department!

     If all of this didn’t create a big enough mess and smoke screen at the council meeting, then the piece de resistance was delivered when the mayor launched her kamikaze ‘overlay’ attack on the council at the eleventh hour.  Of course, there was no way possible for the council to even consider a proposal of this magnitude at this stage of the game.  Prudent planning would have had the mayor include this alternative with other materials that the council was or would be considering when the issue was presented for consideration at their work session.  (And it should be noted that the mayor even attempted in 2009 to have a charter election reflect that restaurants not have more than 40% in alcohol sales.  Do times change, or is it the individual?)

     What hasn’t been expressed is that prior to the council meeting and long before the Planning and Zoning commission was hijacked by the Lubbock Mafia and some of their associates, some council members and restaurant representatives had reached a tentative understanding that: newly enacted alcohol limits for city owned facilities and the Entertainment Center could be amended and established with a 50/50% ratio of food/alcohol sales.  This is the proposal that was originally supposed to go to the Planning and Zoning commission.  As usual, when the Lubbock Mafia, city legal ‘pigeon,’ developers and others propping up council members decided to enter the fray, the 50/50% plan was converted to a self-interest proposal of 30/70% for a singular developer.  This was not considered a hijacking by these parties, but rather business as usual by string pullers of the community.  And this is how, in the CCRs opinion, the proposal appeared when the council met to vote on the issue.

     Voters should stay tuned to this issue and be ready to express their concerns if the ‘overlay‘ proposal is proved to be illegal and the council reverts to considering just a change of the food/alcohol ratio.  Those who stand to profit the most will not hesitate to mount a flaky PR campaign, lobby weak or controlled council members and have voters believe that the city is on the verge of collapse if the ratio is not changed to 30/70%.

     The best summary of this debate, perhaps, was by one outspoken citizen appearing before the council.  She stated that: “If an establishment needs to have 70% alcohol sales to be able to stay in business, then maybe what they really need is a new cook!”  How true, since 70% alcohol sales for any establishment does part the swinging doors for bars in Irving.  And with a beer and wine store now on most corners of south Irving, the last thing needed is a genuine bar on the opposite corner.

     And this would be a fact that the Lubbock Mafia, Irving Issues and avaricious developers couldn’t refute as a possible reality should 30/70% prevail.

…………………...Mark Holbrook

*  See the 12-21-12 CCR for a definition of torofeca on the blog site.