If Pay as You Go Works for City Council, Why Not Everyone?

Immodest proposal: Buzz has yet to weigh in on the draconian budget cuts facing City Hall, which could spell layoffs for 840 city employees, because, frankly, no one at City Hall has offered us an exorbitant fee for our advice. Given the way city government operates, as revealed at the ongoing corruption trial of former city council member Don Hill, this hardly seems fair. Certainly, if a political consultant can bill developers thousands for their services—which apparently consist of arranging meetings—Buzz's consultation services are worth something.

But Buzz is a civic-minded sort, so we're going to ignore that slight and offer our fellow citizens a surefire way to cut the city budget and maintain the sort of service Dallasites have come to expect from City Hall. Our suggestion? First, fire all city employees. Second, hire them as private "consultants." Lastly, allow the consultants to bill the citizenry directly for their services.

Here's how that might work: Not long ago, Buzz's home had a leaky gas line. After a plumber fixed it, a city code inspector came by to check the work and make certain our house wouldn't blow up. This nice man arrived quickly and explained the procedure for getting our gas turned back on. He didn't charge us a dime.

What a chump. We would have readily paid him cold cash to get our hot water back.

Under Buzz's proposal, that same inspector would pay City Hall a franchise fee to become a city inspector, but he would be a private businessman who could charge whatever the market would bear. He would profit by taking advantage of anyone who needed city services. The same rules could be applied to other public services as well. Want to check out a library book? That'll be $5. Garbage collection? $100 a load. Need a cop because someone broke into your house? $2.95.

This isn't as farfetched as it sounds. Governments once engaged the services of privateers—legally licensed pirates who preyed on ships of enemy nations and kept whatever booty they could plunder. Legally certified piracy apparently is a good description of how the elected part of our government works. So why not extend the process to civil servants as well? This would unlock the power of entrepreneurship without lowering the ethical and moral standards currently in force at City Hall.

Of course, big ideas like this don't come cheap. Let's see, the typical consultant's fee of $575 an hour multiplied by the amount of time Buzz spent on this column...hmm. City Hall, you owe Buzz $1.75. —Patrick Williams

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams

Latest Stories