Friday, June 22, 2007

Proposed Garbage Fee, Once Front-Page News, Hardly Noticed as Its Corpse is Dragged Off Public Stage Under Cover of Night

As predicted a while back in this very space, the monthly fee for garbage pick-up (or waste reduction, if you will) proposed a few months back by Mayor White’s Solid Waste Task Force has come to naught, at least for the time being (and forever, too), getting the heave-ho from city council before it adopted the budget for the upcoming year.

We believe we may have been apprised of this possibility a week or so ago by Channel 11 (although weren’t paying attention at the time, having been distracted by our Spanish-language translation of Critique of Pure Reason, and if we’re wrong we apologize to anyone who would care), but we learned of its official demise from a one-paragraph obituary tucked deep down in a story on the new budget that appeared in Thursday’s Houston Chronicle. This was quite a comedown from the newspaper’s first big report on the proposal, which appeared on page one as that day’s play story and was followed by a ringing endorsement from the mayor’s Auxiliary Pep Squad on the Chronicle’s editorial board (the paper should now promptly re-endorse the garbage fee, just to show it has the courage of its supposed convictions).

Although the reasons for the rejection were left unexplained in the Chronicle, we can safely surmise that council members heard not one approving word about the proposal, unless it hailed from a Solid Waste Department minion or Chronicle editorialist. We suppose its disappearance in the middle of the night will accrue to White’s benefit, although come to think of it the ever-cautious mayor didn’t exactly hop up and grab the task force’s report in a smothering embrace.

Then again, it was his task force.

The rejected garbage pick-up tax also rated late mention in a notable column on Friday by Kristen Mack, the daily's political writer---notable because it was the rare instance of a Chronicle tastemaker not falling all over his or her self to plant a big wet one on the mayor’s hind cheeks. Although the column started out in less-than-promising fashion, quoting once and probably future mayoral candidate Chris Bell to the effect that a budget is a “moral document” (a statement we find objectionable on several levels, starting with the unearned hauteur it betrays; we’d expound further but supper’s on the stove), Mack goes on to posit that White is in Chapter 7 when it comes to new ideas and his “unambitious” budget lacks an “overriding mission.”

It’s a trenchant analysis of White’s last years in office, although we personally are averse to overriding missions (Five-Year Plans, Great Leap Forwards, rail systems to nowhere, false-premised preemptive invasions of sovereign Middle Eastern nations, false-premised “comprehensive immigration reform,” etc.). All we ask from municipal government is prudent taxation and spending and effective delivery of basic services. So if the mayor indeed has no other “overriding mission,” we’re down with that.

Almost as interesting as Mack’s analysis was the comment affixed to the online version of her column by one D. Jones (hmmm … name sounds familiar), who writes, sans caps
well, i'm just amazed. kristin mack has actually written truth about mayor white. your insight clear, analysis solid and presentation unhedged. he has run out of ideas. he is a mean little micro-manager of the kathy whitmire variety and he is totally media-driven in his ill-conceived run for statewide office. this man who viciously savages employees in meetings is a timid little mouse before any public criticism. mark that down: houstons' only newspaper has one person who is man enough(??!!!) to tell the truth.
Funny, we’ve heard a couple of similar critiques of the mayor, although their presentation lacked the tang of D. Jones’s. It’s clear the Chronicle ought to make this guy one of its 16,141 bloggers: We detect potentially high reader interest in what he’s got to say.

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