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08/27/02  Leo Chaney's Budget Townhall Meeting


It would be a good idea for those who go to budget hearing to share some of the highlights of the meetings.  So, I'll start:
I went to a joint meeting with Councilmen Leo Chaney and John Loza at St. Luke's Community Methodist Church.  There were about as many staff members present as there were concerned citizens--maybe 30 or 40 total.
Concerns expressed were with streets, rec centers, recycling, drainage problems and cuts in library hours and service.  We were assured the cuts to rec centers, library and streets were being restored.
Councilman Loza kept bringing up the police pay raise.  He said it costs $70,000 to put a recruit through our police academy, and we are losing them to other cities after we train them.  I suggested that we need to charge these recruits for their training through some type of loan program (that's the way other professionals pay for their training) and then "forgive" $10,000 per year of service.  That way we'd have the officers we trained for at least seven years or get reimbursed for their training (if they go to work for a higher paying police dept then they can certainly afford to pay the taxpayers of Dallas back for training them).  Loza said the city attorney says we can't do that.   I asked why and he didn't know.  I told him I would like to know why--would also like to know how we can change this.  Several citizens there talked with me after the meeting and thought this is something we need to know.  It might be helpful if others asked this question at budget hearings.
The other question I asked was about that big "dog not barking" in the budget cuts---corporate welfare.   The example I used was that permitting fees charged to those invading our environmentally sensitive areas (floodplains and escarpments and heavily wooded areas) with fills and other highly destructive projects pay only a small fraction of the costs in staff time to monitor compliance with federal, state, and local environmental laws.  And that means that taxpayers are heavily subsidizing these projects.   Loza replied with a defense of tax abatements (everybody's doing it and so Dallas has to do it to compete).  While I do not agree that "everybody's doing it" or that "we have to do it, too"-- I did not tackle that subject since I have never really found that useful with my teenage daughter.  I just replied that his answer sounded exactly like something a developer would say.  And asked again for at least one example of  how they have reduced taxpayer funded corporate welfare---No example was given.  I think that this  is an important question that needs to be asked often and by many taxpayers. 
I hope you will share your budget hearings insights and look forward to knowing what is going on in other parts of our city.
Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts and experience.





  Ward politics is the Devil's key to the soul of the city council.  It is how some council members got themselves in trouble in the past.  It is the bait that will get others in trouble in the future. 4/6/8