Look, How Much Regional Government Do We Need, Anyway?

The Dallas Morning News this afternoon posted an editorial urging people not to worry about so-called new extra levels of government and taxation being created to make their lives hell. The editorial also castigated Chicken Little types who spread rumors of new extra levels. My bumper sticker, incidentally, reads, "Chicken Little and Proud."

Yes, I have written about new extra levels of regional government that people want to create so we can have even more stuff like Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the Dallas school board in our lives -- you know, those really amazingly unresponsive local government entities that specialize in sleaze and high taxes? Yeah, we really want some more of that!

The immediate cause for concern at The News is that a taxpayer might balk at the latest regional government ploy to be tried into the next session of the Legislature -- a so-called "transportation district" for North Texas. This is an entity that would be authorized to levy a whole "menu" of new taxes on us, in exchange for which it would remove control over the expenditure of those taxes even further than it is already from our dirty little ballot-scratching fingers. The News' editorial is an exercise in rabbit-hole logic that would make Lewis Carroll proud.

It says, I think, that the new transportation district, which would have taxing and regulatory power and a charter of some kind, won't be a new government because it will all be turned over to the "Regional Transportation Council," which is more than 30 years old. In other words, the RTC will become the new Regional Ministry of Transportation or whatever it's going to be called.

The News concludes: "So if the existing RTC works with existing counties, where is this new layer of government?"

Ah, like maybe in the fact that you take what was supposed to be a harmless little planning body, arm it up with taxing and regulatory authority and give it life-and-death power over mass transit and highways? And there didn't used to be nuthin' like that? You think that might be a new layer of government? Huh?

I mean, maybe we need a new layer of government. But trying to peddle a new layer of government to voters by telling them it is not a new layer of government is disingenuous. And telling people not to even discuss it is despicable. So what else is new?

As for this image of regional government as the gentle milkmaid of politics, please see my column tomorrow about John Wiley Price and the inland port. One aspect -- sort of buried in the story, I'm afraid -- is about the North Central Texas Council of Governments, supposedly a planning agency, that has been going around at the commissioner's behest beating up on a major investor in Southern Dallas to make him sell off shares of his company to "minority investors."

The problem is: You give the man a big horse, a whip, a gun and money. You promise to feed his horse, and you tell him he can have a fling with your daughter. Later on when he starts getting horsy with you, it's a little late to ask him for the horse back. --Jim Schutze

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze