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Dancing With Myself: A Correction and a Call for Dallas City Council Pay Raises (No, Really)

Dancing With Myself: A Correction and a Call for Dallas City Council Pay Raises (No, Really)

What I like to say is I told you so. What I do not like to say is I'm full of it. I am not saying I am full of it. But I guess I might be at about a quarter tank. Possibly a third.

Yesterday I talked about how Dallas is run by the Dallas Citizens Council, and they all live in the Park Cities, and they all use the N-word. The N-word thing, which I brought up in the comments, was ill-advised. Well, no. It was stupid. White people shouldn't call out other white people for racism. All I need to do if I'm hunting for racism is look in the mirror and wait.

A commenter provided a link to the membership of the Dallas Citizens Council, and I spent some time this morning running some of those names through county property records. About a third of my sample consisted of Park Cities residents. The rest live in Dallas or other suburbs.

But there's a bigger question. Is it a good thing or a bad thing for the city's rich people to be engaged in local politics? I lived once in a city where the rich people simply vamoosed. Gone. You couldn't find their footprints.

That's not good. We are a diverse and open society. People at different wealth levels have different interests that they need to preserve and promote. Everybody needs to be on board. So, much as it pains me, rich people got rights too.

Of course the poor need to be at the table. I think we have that covered. What we haven't had in the past is a healthy representation of the middle class on the city council, and that was always because middle-class people could not afford to serve, especially back when the position was unpaid.

Imagine. You go home one day: "Dear, I feel called to serve my city as a member of the Dallas City Council."

"We have a kid in leg braces and another one about to start college," your spouse replies. "How much will you be making?"

"Why not a thing, my dear. 'Tis an uncompensated post that I seek, from the goodness of my heart and for the good of my community."

"OK, 'tis a phone number for a divorce lawyer that I seek."

Council pay now -- between $35,000 and $37,000 -- is money the rich members can afford to give to charity. It's money the poor members can scrape by on.

But put your own foot in that shoe. And please, please, just put out of your mind the notion that serving on the council can be a part-time job. It's a full-time job, and if you intend to keep the other one, the paying post, then that's your part-time job.

Some people can get away with that -- doing the council job and pushing the paying job off to weekends and evenings. But most of the truly middle-class members I have watched over the years get fired or lose their small businesses.

Sometimes it's not just about time. A lawyer who served on the council once told me that the head of his firm sidled up to him at a cocktail party and said, "Why is it that every time I run into someone important in this town now, they want to talk to me about you and not me?"

Just a joke, right? The lawyer was gone from that firm within months.

Or you have the school district member who worked for a furniture store. At one point, his boss wanted to sell some property to the school district. So next time the guy came to school headquarters, guess who he was working for?

At this moment, we probably have the best starter collection of smart middle-class people on the city council we've had in a very long time, with a basic core in Pauline Medrano, Tennell Atkins, Angela Hunt, Vonciel Hill, Scott Griggs and Sandy Greyson.

But they're all doing it at considerable personal sacrifice, and it's very hard to find more people who can or will make that sacrifice. The supply is thin.

So how do we recruit more members of the productive middle class to serve on the council and school board? This isn't really a hard question. Ask yourself: "How much would they have to pay me for me to give up my job, give up my seniority, give up my benefits and take a hiatus from my career? At what level of compensation would that be a responsible thing for me to do in my own interests and in the interests of my loved ones?"

That's the number. That's what we have to pay to get responsible middle-class people on the council.

The last note is this. You want to see what happens when you don't have a dominant middle-class component? You want to see what happens when all you have is very rich real-estate interests partnering with very poor people who need to get their cars fixed?

Keep watching that FBI investigation.


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