The following is a free political announcement, for the benefit of everyone who is already tired of the mayoral campaign.

This election is not about smoking ordinances or corruption at the convention bureau or banishing panhandlers to Tyler. It’s not about getting Dallas working again (whatever that means) or ending waste at City Hall by making employees give back their sick days. It’s not even about cutting property taxes, as much as everyone in Dallas – and especially all of those cranky homeowners north of LBJ whose lives seem to revolve around the idea – wants to cut property taxes.

This is an election about garbage pickup. And potholes. And abandoned cars. It’s about every unglamorous, uninteresting and unappealing part of urban life, every single one of which is guaranteed not to make the 10 o’clock news or the front page of Dallas’ Only Daily Newspaper. The mayoral candidates can sling mud and call each other names, which get them plenty of publicity. But I defy anyone to tell me how that will provide money to hire more code enforcement inspectors or pay for more books for the city’s libraries.

I have been watching Dallas elections for 20 years, and it still amazes me that hardly anyone who runs for office here understands what running for office on the municipal level is all about. Which is garbage and potholes. We want it picked up and we want them fixed. It’s that simple, and you don’t have to hire consultants and run focus groups to figure it out.

If you do, you get buzzwords and hype like quality of life. Everyone who runs for office wants to improve your quality of life. Hence, we get ordinances that require people to pick up after their dogs, that ban smoking in public places, and the mayor’s lastest inspiration, which would, with a wave of a municipal wand, turn street people into pixie dust.

There is a common thread to these kinds of things. They don’t cost money. The city, for example, is counting on disgruntled customers to enforce the smoking ordinance – in much the same way the city counts on residents to enforce its zoning and code enforcement ordinances by ratting on their neighbors. They also don’t address the larger issues, like the social costs of smoking and homelessness, but that’s just me being a killjoy, I suppose.

On the other hand, the real quality of life issues – picking up the garbage and fixing potholes – cost money. But the mayoral candidates, schooled in the post-modern political tantrum of “We’re never spending money, ever, for any reason, nyah, nyah, nyah” (which also includes holding their breath until they get a sound bite on TV), don’t want to talk about that. Does either candidate know that there’s a two-week wait to get a city garbage can if yours breaks? Does either candidate know that your garbage won’t be picked up if it’s not in the city-dispensed can? And if it’s broken, how can you use it to put the garbage out?

I do, actually, because mine did, and I spent a lovely two days dialing through the city bureacracy trying to find out how and when I could get my can replaced. The wheels fell off, which not only meant I couldn’t push it to the alley, but that it wouldn’t stand up so the automatic grapples on the truck could grab it. So I missed two garbage collections until the sanitation department sent out a supervisor to repair the can, which no doubt cost more than replacing the can would have. And they only sent the supervisor after I spent considerable effort nagging various city officials.

By itself, this was not the end of the world. But as an example of how wrongheaded the city’s priorities are, it speaks volumes. We can crack down on city employees whose crime is accruing vacation days, but we can’t fix a garbage can in 24 hours. Even the most corrupt and inefficient city goverment I ever saw, the infamous Richard J. Daley’s Chicago, could do that.

And what does that say about Dallas?


WANT MORE?
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.