Blame the Help: Why Lubbock can’t have nice stuff

The May 2018 City Council election is past and most appear eager to forget it as quickly as possible.

But there are lessons to be learned from a measure that was much touted as a 75 percent slam dunk ahead of time only to slide in with a mere 52 percent voter approval. No one expected 75 percent at the ballot box, but it should reasonably have settled to a 60-65 percent victory were it not for other factors influencing voter behavior. As someone who believes Prop. A should have passed, I’m fascinated it almost did not.

As someone who believes Prop. A should have passed, I’m fascinated by the fact it almost did not.

City councils are populated mostly by people we know, so any criticism quickly becomes personal, then someone reminds us of the pious sacrifice council members make for only $25 per month plus premium health insurance. Apparently the election packet for council doesn’t inform the candidate of the low pay or warn council will consume as much time as you choose to allow it.

For our purpose let’s call the City Council something different in order to depersonalize it. We call it public service; let’s just name them, “the Help.” It’s a fitting description for people we pay paltry amounts to do important work and from whom we generally expect more of than we do ourselves. That’s an accurate description of our expectations of council members, is it not?

The Help isn’t any one person or even a single group of people; the Help is in constant flux. The Help two years ago was different than today, and none the same as the Help 10 years ago. In fact, eight years is a long career for the help and few last longer. Mayors have an even shorter political lifespan. Only one has served a third term.

How did a can’t-lose, no-other-real-choice-but-to-pass, ballot proposition come within 500 or so votes of failing? Why did we almost end up keeping a run down 70 year building with a leaky roof?

Blame the Help.

We know what happened: the Help didn’t take care of the place.

We know what happened: the Help didn’t take care of the place. It’s not an accusation, it’s a fact. There’s no point in time we can single out as precisely when the Help quit taking care of the coliseum and auditorium; but it was the Help’s fault, nonetheless.

Lubbock voters knew this and weren’t happy. There aren’t many ways for voters to punish the Help, other than to fire them, but one is to say “no” and 48 percent of them did.

They blamed the Help.

In this trope, voters are the absentee employers of the Help.

Candor compels us to admit, part of the problem with the Help is its employers. They’re cheap and often don’t pay attention like they should. Those two characteristics encourage the Help to ignore problems on their watch, especially if the problem costs money. And when, at the city level, conservatism is often judged solely by budget, the Help has even less incentive to take care of our stuff.

But there’s nothing conservative about building something nice then living off of low taxes instead of taking care of your stuff. If the employer doesn’t pay attention, or is easily distracted by lower taxes and incomplete budgets, then our stuff begins to decay.

Perhaps the critical question is, why does the city have stuff at all?

Blame the employers, too. It’s why Lubbock can’t have nice stuff.

But perhaps the critical question is, why does the city have stuff at all? Patrol cars and fire engines are easy to justify, but is it beneficial to liberty-minded citizens for city government to accumulate assets not consistent with its core function of public health and safety?

City sponsored (a euphemism for taxpayer-funded) coliseums and auditoriums, like visitor centers and museums, not only distort the market with “businesses” that are not profit driven, they exist on the backs of the citizens in order to benefit some larger private enterprise or entity. If taxation is enslavement, and to the degree we are taxed we are enslaved, then we only enslave ourselves to such projects.

This is why the privately funded Buddy Holly Center for the Performing Arts is so exciting: we don’t have to worry about the Help not taking care of it.

This is why the privately funded Buddy Holly Center for the Performing Arts is so exciting …

Next time someone talks about the “need” for a new dirt arena paid for by the city, there is at least one question we must ask ourselves: Is this part of the core function of government? And if it is, do you believe the Help will take any better care of the next nice thing than it has the rest of our stuff?

If the answer is “no,” and in the more than 100 year history of Lubbock the Help’s record is clear and consistent, then perhaps we ought consider a solution that leaves government out of the equation.