So-called regionalism is a rip-off, a scam and a hoax designed to neuter cities and sell them down the river to the damned suburbs.
A few weeks from now the Dallas City Council will take up the issue of fracking, the kind of natural gas drilling in which drillers pump millions of gallons of water spiked with toxic chemicals into the ground to bust up rock formations and release trapped gas. Five council members have asked the full council to consider setting up a task force to find out about water, air and safety issues before Dallas starts letting energy companies drill inside the city limits.
There are two tracks going on this issue. One is the initiative started by East Dallas council member Angela Hunt to establish a city-only task force. The second is being pushed by North Dallas council member Linda Koop to turn the issue over to the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
The North Central What?
Yeah, my point exactly. NCTCOG is a federally mandated regional planning body. The line that we hear all the time now on issues like this one -- but also on transportation, water, air, everything big -- is that all of these things should be dealt with regionally by NCTCOG. There is a peculiar kind of nonsense-logic used to support the idea. Transportation, after all, should be a regional issue because people transport themselves all over the region. Air floats around willy-nilly. Water is very regional, especially when it rains.
But think about this part. What do they mean when they say "deal with it regionally?" Deal with it how regionally?
They mean the city should give up control of the issue to the region. But to whom in the region? What people?
Koop wants to turn the gas drilling thing over to NCTCOG. The governing board of NTCOG consists of the Tarrant County judge, the Dallas County judge, the Hunt County judge, the Wise County judge, one Dallas City Council member (Koop), a Grand Prairie city council member, a Denton County commissioner, a Cedar Hill city council member, a Fort Worth city council member, the mayor of Allen, the mayor of Grapevine, the mayor of Roanoke and the former mayor of Desoto.
The former mayor of DeSoto? Why not the former weather man on Channel 4?
I listened to a great lecture over the weekend by F. Scott McCown, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, about the state budget crisis. McCown painted the ongoing budget battle in the Legislature not as a contest between liberals and conservatives or Democrats and Republicans but as a fight between, on the one side cities and rural areas and on the other the suburbs.
Not time enough here to explain all of that, but suffice it to say the interests of the cities and the interests of the suburbs are not the same. Not one. Not shared. Often our interests are diametrically opposed.
What I have seen on major transportation and infrastructure issues is that the banner of regionalism is waved most fervently when somebody wants to cut the money-poor but vote-rich cities' legs from under them and slip some cards from the bottom of the deck to the 'burbs or some development interest.
If this issue went to NCTCOG, it would most likely be steered to NCTCOG's Water Resources Council. There has been controversy in the past about NCTCOG knocking citizen advocates off that body. I noticed when I went to the group's website last night that the WRC's member roster was grayed out, so you couldn't click on it and see a list. I found a recent list elsewhere in the Land of Google and did a rough count.
Of 27 members, 18 looked like municipal employees, five were on the staffs of the major water merchants, two looked like they were from developer MUDS -- those municipal utility districts that developers set up as private governments -- and the other two members had affiliations of which I could not make sense.
So does that sound like the gang you want to have control over fracking in your neighborhood in Dallas? Why? What's wrong with the Dallas City Council? At least when they sell us out to the gas drillers, we can vote those bastards out of office. I don't think we can do much about the former mayor of DeSoto.
Our city council got us into this gas drilling mess by selling leases to oil companies for wells on city-owned property and then taking 30 million bucks in payments from them. So our city council is the one that needs to get us out of the mess by devising sane safety rules. Tell you what. Whenever you hear that word, regional, look for the blade coming from behind you.