Politics & Government

City Council Report: What Does the Word ‘Citywide’ Actually Mean?

Follow-up question: can you put it in your pipe and smoke it?


As expected, this week’s City Council meeting was jam-packed with actual city business and policy discussion both broad and nuanced — too much so for the liking of Councilman Lee Kleinman, who started off yesterday’s scheduled afternoon briefing on the crucial capital bond program by moving to postpone the presentation until “after recess,” meaning after the Council’s July vacation. The staffer who had been brought in to provide the bulk of the report explained why this wasn’t a particularly sound idea. “A November election requires that we call the election in August, right when you come back from the July break,” the staffer said. “That means that we’re really going to need to get the citywide projects selected in May. This briefing could wait until maybe after your spring break, but waiting until August is going to be really problematic.”

Councilman Philip Kingston added that the people of Dallas might prefer that the Council begin discussing the material to be presented then rather than right before the election so that, for instance, there would be sufficient time for public debate and input.

Councilwoman Sandy Greyson asked Kleinman to explain why he felt the need to postpone a presentation that had already been scheduled for yesterday.

“Because I’m exhausted from the bond stuff,” Kleinman actually replied.

His motion to delay was defeated 13 to 2.

The staffer proceeded with her report, detailing various nuances of the bond program and presenting details of a new designation known as “citywide” by which certain facilities, such as parks believed to be heavily visited by residents from across the city, are to be allotted money from the general fund, subject to up or down votes by the Council.

Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold proceeded to complain about the staffer’s use of the term “citywide,” which, again, is a technical designation that merely differentiates facilities that are funded via the city’s overall budget from district projects paid for by money designated to those Council districts. “On the citywide project, I think my concern is that there’s some gray areas when you come to defining what is citywide and it creates a cloud, if you will, in understanding the designation,” Arnold said. “When we talk about citywide or make the statement of it being, quote, a citywide project, my thinking is all projects that are paid by tax dollars are citywide. And you shouldn’t be restricted from going to any park regardless of race, creed, color or ZIP code. So when you tell me that Kiest Park is citywide, it [scoffs], it better be accessible for folks across the city! And so I think for me the connotation leaves a sour taste in my mouth when you say citywide. So, the next piece, when we get to citywide, I hope that when we move forward in the [upcoming City Council] retreat, perhaps we can discuss that even further.”

Kingston explained, again, what citywide actually means and how it actually works.

Greyson brought up some legitimate concerns about how the new designations are applied, citing specific examples by which to better illustrate those concerns and thus yield pertinent information from the staffers in response.

Arnold, who had followed up her nonsensical “citywide” monologue with complaints that parks in her district were insufficiently nice — indeed, that they looked like something out of “the Third World” (which they don’t) and needed additional funding — now complained that parks weren’t as important as poverty, homelessness, public safety, seniors, and streets. “So I’m going to continue to push for the most serious, mature approach to utilizing that designation,” she continued, nodding furiously. “I want to make sure that I go on the record being for the people,” whom she characterized as being opposed to paying for street maintenance via bond issue rather than from the general fund. “And I would like this government — and I can just go all the way back through history, of the people for the people and by the people, because we forget that sometime.”

Council Ricky Callahan announced that he’d looked up the word “compromise” in the dictionary. He proceeded to read the definition. From this unpromising beginning, he proceeded to make a series of concrete proposals regarding exactly how funding should be allotted and how this could be done in the context of future budgetary constraints. “So put that in your pipe and smoke it,” he summarized, prompting amused chatter from other council members.

“Let’s be respectful,” intoned Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo.

Said Callahan, “I’m not saying anything about drugs, Ms. Greyson, I’m just saying — it’s an old aphorism, a Southern aphorism.” Then he pointed out that interest rates are going up and that this would be another reason to do the bond sooner rather than later. (Full disclosure: I suspected that Callahan might be using the word “aphorism” incorrectly, so I looked it up and it turns out that it was I myself that have been using it incorrectly. You win this round, Callahan.)

Gates stated her continued opposition to the bond until such time as the city’s finances are in order.

Kleinman never weighed in, presumably due to exhaustion.

I’ll be back tomorrow with coverage of the rest of yesterday’s session.


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