On Fracking and Building Roads Along the River, Who Are the Real Conservatives?

So today I put aside my morning paper after the customary two-minute encyclopedic read, and I think, "OK Lawners, you tell me." You work it out. I can't. I'm tired. So you give me the answer. Who is the "conservative" here?

On the one hand I have former City Council member Lois Finkelman in reporter Randy Lee Loftis' story telling me she thought the city's task force on gas drilling had sort of "covered" the whole gas-fracking-Trinity-River-downtown-flood-control-levees-collapsing-Biblical-flood-baby-carriages-and-wheelchairs-floating-off-to-the-Gulf-of-Mexico thing, because they had "included the (U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers) in the approval requirement."

Her thought is this: Let's approve fracking right up next to the levees, which are what stand between us and Noah, get some fees in our pockets, and then if turns out there's a problem, the corps can deal with it.

Stop me if I'm wrong. I believe Finkelman's position -- in the context of traditional bid'ness-friendly culture here in Dallas -- would be taken by most people as the "conservative" one.

Take a flier on this-here fracking deal. Scarf up some sweet drilling royalties for the city. If the babies ever do float off to Mexico, it'll be the federal government's fault.

Now, council member Scott Griggs, on the other hand, is in the same story saying that the Corps of Engineers is already scared to death of this idea, wants a 3,000-foot safety zone around the levees and therefore the city will be wildly imprudent if it gives its blessing to slant drilling and underground chemical explosions right next to and under the Noah wall. I believe most people in Dallas would take this position to be the crazy-hippie anti-bid'ness Nervous Nellie French-seeming position.

I make these generalizations about people, because I've only been watching this shit for about 100 years in Dallas, and it always works out the same way. Take East Dallas council member Angela Hunt, for example. She is the latest in a 30-year tradition of East Dallas council members who have crusaded to protect and bolster stable family neighborhoods -- a concept always taken by downtown Dallas business leaders as communism. Viva Che!

The opposition to Hunt and her predecessors all these decades has been from people who want to jam more freeways through East Dallas, load the area up with stick-built apartment blocks built to last 15 years before turning into tenements and then salt the ground liberally with puke-joint saloons. I believe that would be the traditional pro-bid'ness "conservative" position.

You see where I'm getting. I just want to know: Why does the so-called conservative position in Dallas always remind me of an elderly couple pushing a shopping cart down the alleys of Las Vegas collecting cans so they can have one more shot at the casinos? Or somebody living in a tin shack with a Mercedes parked out back?

Meanwhile the so-called liberal or hippie or anti-bid'ness position reminds me of people trying to take care of assets and what's important to them. Why is it liberal, for example, to want to go slow on the drilling fees until we're pretty damned sure the babies won't float off to Mexico?

On another topic, look at North Dallas council member Sandy Greyson. What she has been saying on the Trinity River Toll Road is simply that we need to count the money.

We're more than a billion dollars short of what it would cost to build new freeway on top of the river. We're about the same amount short of what it would cost to fix the freeway we already have downtown.

So before we commit to finding the money for either one, Greyson has said, let's make sure we know which project would do the most effective job per-dollar of relieving downtown congestion.

That's the crazy hippie position. In Dallas, the conservative position is that counting the money is a party-pooper thing. We need to just hurry up and sign the documents, give the toll-road people what they want, forget about it and have some Champagne like we did when they opened the Calatrava fake suspension bridge.

Sign over your assets and party like there's no tomorrow! That's what conservatives do. All those liberals ever do is drive around all sour-pussed shaking their heads because they never get invited to the cool-kids' parties. No kidding!

I'm not bitching. I get it. I could almost be happy with it, in fact, if I could just give in and agree to view Dallas not as a city in real life but as a one big living infomercial.

You know how it is with infomercials. It's not that you really believe cranking the hand-operated plastic vegetable dicing device they're selling you is truly going to flatten your abs or give you a total ass-transplant. You just enjoy watching them turn the crank over and over again. Hypnotism feels so much better than reality.

That's conservative, Dallas-style. Getting all sweaty-technical and truth-squady about it, saying, "No, it won't really give me an ass-transplant," that's a bunch of nerdy hippie a'ginner whining.

Here's where I need to get myself. The "conservative" Lois Finkelman position says: "No, obviously fracking under the levees is not safe, but everyone will just feel so much better if we continue to say it's safe and we're going to get rich and then we can all go to Mexico in our solar-powered water craft."

Scott Griggs is all worried about the babies floating off to Mexico, because he just doesn't get it. Conservative is the belief that being positive is more important than being real. Liberals are people who lack the willpower to rise above reality.

Right? Help me out with this, will you? I want to rise above. Really. I want to be positive all the time like those conservative guys. If I can't do it by actually being conservative because I lack the willpower to forget about the babies, should I take a short-cut and just start smoking pot as soon as I wake up every morning?

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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