| Schutze |

The Price is Right -- Very Right!

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This day has started off about as badly as a day can start off for me. I just got politely chewed out by Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, which is not the bad thing. All my days start out with my getting chewed out. I lie in bed at 5 a.m. with eyes like saucers, waiting for my morning chew-out. If the chewing is done politely, well, that’s a big red-letter day for me.

No, it was that Commissioner Price politely pointed out to me that I’m in the same basket with The Dallas Morning News editorial page. Yikes! Lemme outta here!

The News has an editorial today lambasting the county commissioners for totally screwing up their own tax code in recent weeks by passing and then rescinding various tax breaks for geezers without ever stopping to see what the changes will do to the county’s purse-strings. That was also the topic of my last column.

It’s bad enough even to be on the same page with The News. But both of us also made the same glaring omission: Neither of us pointed out that all through the process of the recent serial screw-ups Commissioner Price was sitting right there telling the rest of the commissioner’s court exactly how and why they were screwing up.

What’s especially embarrassing for me is that the omission sort of puts me in the same white-boy trap with the editorialistos at The News. So hypnotized are we by Price’s more youthful image as the county’s first black firebrand that we tend to have trouble re-focusing on his more mature role as the fiscal smart-kid on the commission. When it comes to sharp-pencil numbers, he does tend to be the guy that gets it.

Back when the commission had this great (not!) idea of turning over medical care at the jail to the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Price was the one who looked at the numbers in the contract and said that UTMB would never be able to perform the contract. They weren’t. Eventually the county had to pay almost a million dollars in settlements to the families of three inmates who had sued claiming UTMB had shown “deliberate, callous and conscious indifference" to the civil rights of the inmates.

Big win for lawyer David Finn. A bad white eye for the county. Later UTMB was replaced as the jail’s medical provider by Parkland Memorial Hospital.

It turned out exactly as Price had said it would. Just like this more recent tax mess. So, I admit: He is real smart about money and contracts, even if he did break that lady’s windshield wiper in a street protest 100 years ago.

Now, please, if you do not mind: Remove me from the same page as The Dallas Morning News' editorial writers. I’m starting to itch like I’ve got some kind of real bad bites on my ankles and thighs or something. --Jim Schutze

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