City Hall, Where No Does Not Mean No

I failed to get on the elevator fast enough to avoid a big gross-out scene at City Hall this afternoon. Yuck! I was subjected to witnessing big hugs in the hallway between city staffers and the developer they had just helped beat the mayor on a tax cut deal. I'm not talking romantic hugs. More like jocks celebrating a touchdown.

The sick part of it was the staff's whole body language. It was like, "Oh, wow! We won, we won! We helped a guy get out of paying his taxes!"

Do you think they'd feel that way if you or I asked for permission not to pay our taxes? Do you know how to spell lien?

I was on my way out of the council chamber of horrors after Councilman Ed Oakley had persuaded the council to reverse a vote it had made about three hours earlier not to give a big tax cut to Doug Johnson of Industrial Development International for a new building at Pinnacle Park, a mixed-use development in southwest Dallas. Before lunch the council had agreed with Mayor Laura Miller that Johnson didn't need the tax cut. They figured he was going to do his deal anyway and just wanted to avoid paying his taxes.

Apparently, during lunch Oakley went around to the council and persuaded them they had done a horrible thing by not giving the developer everything he wanted. In the debate after lunch, Oakley even apologized to Johnson, who was sitting in the audience, for the council ever having questioned his request. Then they all put their little heads down and voted to reverse themselves and return to him $645,343 in our tax money. Voting against giving away the money were Miller, Mitchell Rasansky, Leo Chaney and Angela Hunt.

So I'm waiting for an elevator. Johnson, the developer, is in the hall checking his BlackBerry. And who rushes up and gives him a big game hug but Marilyn Avinger of the city's Economic Development staff? Then they have this big jaw session about how stupid the mayor is.

I'm just worried I'm going to see this stuff in my dreams. --Jim Schutze

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