The Midland, Texas, City Council spent many grueling hours yesterday listening to, arguing with, and explaining to citizens why the citizens should want higher taxes.
As everyone knows by now, when the clock struck 9:22 last night they closed the public hearing, made their speeches, and voted unanimously to raise our property taxes and garbage fees.
It was a gut wrenching experience for anyone who sat or stood through the whole thing, but it was rewarding in its own way. It was a reality show come to life. And some of the stars gave such outstanding performances that they deserve recognition. And now it's time to pass out the awards.
2010 Midland Budget Process Awards
Better Left Unsaid Award -- The winner is Jeff Sparks, the only Council member who voted "NO" to the motion to hold an evening session thereby telegraphing to the audience that he had already made up his mind. He sat silently throughout the entire proceeding, but wins this award hands down by saying to the citizens at the end: "Stay involved," leaving citizens thinking, "Fat lot of good it does."
Thinnest Skin Award -- The judges had a very hard time with this one as there were so many qualified candidates. But they finally settled on the Midland Reporter-Telegram, the official newspaper of the city of Midland -- it's in the Code -- for its editorial "Our View" in the 8/18/2010 print edition which chastised Jason Moore for his use of the word "cahoots" as a synonym for "agreement" in comparing the City Council's and MRT editorial board's attitude about the tax hike. The tipping point for the judges was the statement in the editorial that Mr. Moore's remark was "maybe even slanderous."
The Do As I Say Not As I Do Award -- To the City Council, for telling the citizens to read the budget, yet ducking all questions about the budget by handing them off to the Director of Finance or someone else to answer.
Tenacious Reporter Award -- This one goes to Midland Reporter-Telegram reporter Bob Campbell who patiently sat through almost 2/3 of the evening session surpassing all the TV crews by far.
Anger Mismanagement Award -- Councilman Scott Dufford, a self described "tax activist" who said, "I was angry when I first ran in 2001, but now I'm not so angry." He's still angry all right. Only now it's directed at people who disagree with him.
Think Inside the Box Award -- The award goes to Councilman John James. A citizen (me) tried to suggest to the Council that the public meetings could be broadcast on the government access channel without cost by using cameras the city already owns and city employees or volunteers to operate them. Mr. James, in a glib summation of the morning proceedings to attempt to explain why he wanted to raise taxes, put that citizen (me again) in the same category as another individual who went before the council asking for thousands of dollars in largess from the city. Tax payers would like to think the council members can, to use a phrase that got abundant usage at the hearings, "think outside the box" to find ways to cut expenses. The inability to distinguish a resourceful suggestion from a request for a handout earned Mr. James this award.
New Media Awareness Award -- Councilman Scott Dufford for making a begrudging acknowledgment of the existence of blogs. He proclaimed that he never reads blogs, but with one and only one exception: When they agree with him.
Sore Winner Award -- The Mayor and each of the Council members fought hard to defeat their political opponents and win enough votes to get to sit in governance of the rest of us. This prize goes to those members who belly ached about not getting enough thanks for all they've done for the city. Here's a tardy "Thank You." I guess you showed us.
You-Can't-Fight-City-Hall Award -- This one goes to all the people who patiently waited their turn, overcame their fears, faced possible humiliation and spoke out against higher taxes. Also known as the "The Don Quixote Award."
OK, all finished now. I'm sure any Council member who accidentally stumbles onto this blog post knows it's all in good fun. No hard feelings, and hopefully we can all laugh about it now. The Council members told us over and over again that they did the best they could, and we have to believe them. The same thing is probably true up and down the city hierarchy, from the three guys who screw in the stop signs all the way up to the financial wizards who produced the finished budget. Everyone performed at the maximum of their ability, and that's all we can ask. So thanks, City Council. See ya next time.