City Hall

The Greatest Sideshow on Earth: When The "Transparent" (Cough) City Council Talks Ethics

City council members Angela Hunt and Vonciel Jones Hill are kicking ass at today's contentious hearing on the city council's recent unethics reform, which is about to wrap up. (Or not.) The council voted last April 13 to gut its ethics policy and allow political contributions from representatives and employees of companies that have business before them.

Mayor Dwaine Caraway complained -- with great offended dignity -- about Hunt's characterization of the way the recent unethics vote unfolded. She said the mayor's proposed unethics reform had been "slipped in" to the council's consent agenda -- a wholesale list of relatively trivial issues that the council normally adopts without debate.

Caraway had made a big deal out of the fact that the council had voted "unanimously" to adopt the consent agenda with the unethics bomb hidden in it. But Hill said, "We unanimously screwed up." She also said "slipped in" was the right way to describe the way Caraway had put the item on the agenda.

All of this followed one of the more preposterous presentations in recent council history.

City Attorney Tom Perkins explained to the council that he had prepared the unethics proposition because of the council's great concern that prohibitions on donations to council members might limit people's free speech.

Can't you just see it? The council members sitting with heads on hands, weeping for the poor little people who are being oppressed by being denied the right to slip them some moolah.

Oh, please, Mr. City Attorney, please. Help us to find a way to free the little people. We must allow them to come forward and free themselves of the heavy burden of their purses.

Hunt asked Perkins which particular council member had done the weeping and pleading for these changes. He said it would "inappropriate" for him to give her those names.

Caraway said the item will go in front of the council for a vote again at a later date, "so that we can show the transparency of ethics for this city without agenda, without timing." After that, Carolyn Davis called it "distasteful" for council members not to go to Caraway before the April 13 vote and ask him how the item got on the agenda in the first place. "This is a transparent council," she said.

Since when?

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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