No Inspection, No Cry

Over the weekend Janet St. James of WFAA reported on the city of Arlington's intention to slash five of their seven restaurant inspectors. The article cites Deputy City Manager (roughly the equivalent of Rangers' player development scout, status-wise) Trey Yelverton, who blames the lay offs on current economic troubles. By cutting back on those pesky wage earners, Arlington will save $100,000...which they will then turn over to someone else in an outsourcing deal.

Brilliant.

So now two inspectors must protect citizens from the threat of bacteria, vermin and other nasty stuff at some 2,000 kitchens--including restaurants, school cafeterias, hospital lunch rooms and so on. A hasty survey of the results from 433 recent inspections show that 21 percent of sit down or fast food restaurants in Arlington flirted with (or even surpassed) the 're-inspection' zone...the point at which an establishment is shut down, barring immediate fixes.

Oh, well. If people keel over after dinner, it's not like they sue the city, right?

Inspecting kitchens is a thankless task. And city governments hardly blink at adding to the burdens of this under-appreciated group. For instance, when Dallas voted in the first smoking ban, the city's 26 inspectors were charged with enforcing the rule--which entailed checking in on potential violators after putting in a full day of work.

On the other hand, I spoke with an inspector years ago about the critical canine infestation issue. According to city regulations, dogs are not allowed in kitchens or dining areas (with certain exceptions) or places that serve even modest amounts of food. This ban included patios, of course, but at the time many restaurants openly advertised 'bring your dog' parties in Dallas papers (including the Observer).

So I asked this particular inspector about Paris Vendome (now Mi Cocina in Uptown) and their oft-reported, very popular patio service for dogs, which included home baked treats and water bowls--a service I read about that very day in the Dallas Morning News. He responded "if you hear of anyone allowing dogs on the patio, let us know."

Hmm...can't count on inspectors to pick up a paper. Looks like Arlington is in trouble.


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