Breathalyzers for the City Council, Now There's an Idea Worth $10 Million

I have a new idea for controlling costs at City Hall. Breathalyzers for the city council, because those people must be drunk.

The city is in the toilet, so broke it can't mow the parks. So broke it can't fix the streets. So broke it can't keep the rec centers open. On and on.

So tomorrow they're going to vote to spend $3.5 million more in taxpayer money -- the city's share of a $10 million fee -- to get Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to redesign his make-believe suspension bridge over the Trinity River so we can have a design that will cost almost $300 million more than the city can afford anyway.

No, not that one. That bridge, the one you see already going up when you drive downtown, the thing that looks like half a huge McDonald's arch made out of PVC pipe, that's the first one, already under construction. The city council thinks we need more fake suspension bridges. Why more? I do not know. So the first one won't be lonely, maybe.

Why does the Spanish architect need another $10 million to redesign the second pretend-suspension bridge? Wait, wait, wait. Better question. What is a pretend-suspension bridge? OK, we have to get across the river, right? We have highways, streets, rail lines, and they all have to get across the river. So we need bridges. In this case we are talking about the Interstate 30 freeway bridge from downtown to Oak Cliff. The state of Texas wants to spend $170 million to build a new bridge for I-30 because the old one, engineers claim, is falling apart.

But the new bridge the state wants to build is what the city council calls a "plain vanilla" freeway bridge. What is a plain vanilla freeway bridge? Oh, man. Just go along with this, OK? Maybe you'll get it. A plain vanilla freeway bridge is a bridge like all those other cities have. Just know, a freeway bridge. We want something special.

Our city council wants a fake suspension bridge, instead, which was going to cost $500 million. The city said it could cover its share of the extra cost with $92 million that it got from the Congress. But then the state said the $92 million was their money, not the city's, so now the city has zip.

And a fake suspension bridge is going to cost half a billion dollars instead of $170 million for the vanilla kind? No, that's why we have to spend $10 million more. To make it cost less. City Manager Mary Suhm said a week ago she could get it down to where it would cost only $350 million to $450 million. You know, give or take a hundred mil'. But we have to pay the Spanish architect $10 million to figure out how to get the cost down.

Oh, now, wait. We were going to answer the question: What is a fake suspension bridge?

OK, a fake suspension bridge is a tall bridge held up by cables that looks like a bridge over the San Francisco Bay or a bridge to Mackinac Island or a bridge somewhere in Europe. But this one is over the Trinity River, from one flat place to another, where you don't need a suspension bridge. So it's sort of, you know, make-believe. Just for looks.

Why do we want that? We just do. Shut up! We just want it. We want it!

But we already have one. So what? We want two! In fact, truth be told, we want three! Then we'll have the most fake suspension bridges of anywhere in the world. We'll rule, man!

So if we give the Spanish architect $10 million, and he can only get the fake suspension bridge down to a cost of $450 million, and the state intends to pay no more than $170 million, and the rest of the cost falls to the city, then the city will be short $280 million. And we will have spent $10 million, a third of it in tax money, to get there.

And you know what? I'll make you a prediction right here. This is exactly what the city council will vote to do tomorrow.

So my idea again? Before they vote on anything to do with money, we have a team from the Police Department come into the council chambers and give them all Breathalyzers. Or we could do it other ways. We could set it up so they have to blow in a tube before they can get their vote button to work.

I just don't have another explanation. I really do not.