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Take a Life Lesson from Dallas City Hall: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, Like Money or Audits

A little mood music to get you in that City Hall frame of mind.

Earlier this week Jim Schutze racked his shotgun and unloaded some righteous thunder on City Hall's failure to adopt a whole bunch of auditor's recommendations aimed at helping the city do little things -- like making sure no one is walking off with fistfuls of cash or property or arranging to jail a bunch of innocents on fake drug charges.

Jim was way harsh, and sometimes I worry about him. All that rage can't be good for his spirit.

Jim and I have both lived in Texas and Dallas a long time. Jim's from Michigan; I'm from Illinois. People up there tend to get a little cranky about incompetence and corruption and lies. I used to be that way, too, but I've learned. Let go the anger. Nothing ever really changes, so why not lay back and learn to view life The Dallas Way.

It's very blissful. Almost like being comatose.

Don't misunderstand: Crime or corruption or lies or eating animals from the Dallas Zoo is wrong. But "wrong" is such a vague word, isn't it? There are white lies and big lies. Sins venal and mortal. For instance, filching a quarter out of the change return in a phone booth: Who cares? (Note to readers under age 50 -- as if we have any -- phone booths are a thing from before you lighted the world and Facebook with your existence and thus not important.)

The point is, if you paused to take responsibility for each of your actions, if you insisted on truth and accountability in your daily life, the stress would be very, very unpleasant. "You gotta let some shit slide" has long been my motto.

I learned it over the years by watching Dallas City Hall.

On Monday, City Auditor Craig Kinton's office released a report concerning 58 auditing and procedural changes his auditors had suggested be undertaken by seven major city departments between 2009 and 2011. The recommendations covered a variety of subjects: requiring cops to keep track of petty cash; making sure that former, possibly disgruntled employees can't access city computers or buildings once they're unemployed; counting the money collected by vendors at city parks; maintaining an up-to-date inventory of animals at the zoo; backing up the city's computers. City honchos said, "Sure thing. We're all over that shiz," and claimed they knocked out 53 of the 58 recommendations.

Auditors are an untrusting, anal bunch, however, and Kinton's office earlier this year ran some tests to see how well their recommendations were being adopted. They tested 46 of the 53. "Testing results indicated that 35 of the 46 (76 percent) were not sufficiently implemented to fully address the underlying areas of risks," Kinton reported.

Now some of you might be thinking, "Wow, those City Hall people LIED three out of four times." But that's a bit negative. In fact, they told the TRUTH 24 percent of the time, which among your basic government functionaries ain't bad. The glass is nearly a quarter full, and if you make it a big enough glass, fill it a quarter to the top with whiskey, drink and repeat, you'll soon find that you just don't care that much about basic municipal competence.

This being Dallas -- aka Mellow Town, USA -- nobody's head is going to roll over this. City Manager Mary Suhm says it's all no big thing. Nothing pricey is likely to be stolen, and City Hall is too short-staffed and overworked to go around dotting Is and crossing Ts and doing its damn job.

It's all good, so just relax, Jim, and fellow angry citizens. Learn to live by City Hall's philosophy. Owe the city a fine? Tell 'em you mailed them cash. They say they didn't get it? How odd.

Want to eat a gazelle? The zoo's crawling with 'em. Who's going to miss one?

Pay your green fees at a city golf course? Don't be a sucker.

Paying taxes, filing for permits, obeying city ordinances? In the great scheme of life, these are mere grains of sand in the bunker of the Great Semi-Private Golf Course of the Cosmos.

Life is busy and complicated. Time is short. Let go the anger and frustration and learn from City Hall. You gotta ... well, you know.


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