But we've never been afflicted by envy--partly because we're pretty self-indulgent already, and partly because we take pains to avoid it. Take coworkers' salaries, for instance. We don't know them, and we don't want to know them. That's the sort of knowledge that makes no one happy. Whatever you're making isn't enough. Whatever that schmuck two cubicles away earns is way too much.
Ignorance sometimes is bliss. That's one of about 11 million reasons we're glad we don't work for the Dallas school district.
Say you're a teacher in the Dallas Independent School District and your curiosity burns in hopes of learning the salary of your colleague in the neighboring portable, or you're a central office paper shuffler who wonders how much take-home the new receptionist is getting.
In the past, if you were a typical DISD worker, such speculation would be confined to the realm of mystery and gossip unless you filed a public information request, in which case, let's face it, you're a jerk. But no longer. The wall of secrecy has fallen. For this we can thank Allen Gwinn, one of several prolific Internet gadflies in Dallas skilled in the art of guerrilla reporting. He recently added a feature to his dallasisd.com Web site that has the goods on everybody's paycheck, at least in DISD.
That Allen, he a mean sumbitch. God love him.
On the site, which attracts Web surfers looking for the real DISD Web page (which ends with .org), you can check salaries of more than 18,000 district employees for the 1999-2000 school year, from custodians to highly paid top officials. "I'm sure this is causing a stir," says Gwinn, who quickly received the voluminous heap of information through a simple public information request. "Everybody I have heard from has been completely positive."
Gwinn is one of three Internet operators targeted by City Hall after an unknown city council member asked the city attorney to investigate ways the city could unplug rogue political Web sites. (See last week's column by Jim Schutze.) An outside law firm happily took the city's $3,000 and reminded Dallas poobahs that the First Amendment is still in effect, even in North Texas. (Who knew?)
Meanwhile, Gwinn has found another group to piss off: restaurant owners who run unclean eateries. Another new database features health department inspection scores since May 1999. Already, one person has asked Gwinn to take his establishment's name off the site. But Gwinn told the owner to take up his beef with city health inspectors--or better yet, clean up the joint.
Yep, Allen, you are indeed a meanie. Maybe you'd be interested in filling this space. We could use the rest...
--Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams