Abuse of Plain English
A Nov. 14 “pre-council” meeting at Fort Worth city hall would make an interesting case study for a semantics class.
Assistant City Manager Joe Paniagua and Police Chief Ralph Mendoza warned city council members about using the word “abuse” to describe how some police officers nearing retirement have been racking up overtime hours to pad their incomes and vastly boost their retirement pay (pensions are determined by an employee’s three highest years of income).
After city council member Kathleen Hicks used the word “abuse” to describe the situation, Paniagua corrected her, suggesting the description “excessive use,” since the word “abuse” indicates the employees did something wrong. Mendoza said police were following the rules approved by city officials, which doesn’t constitute abuse. He used words such as “manipulate” and “using it to their advantage.” He said police officers nearing retirement sometimes move to the traffic division to earn overtime by directing traffic at Texas Motor Speedway, Bass Hall, or other events.
In other words, some of our most experienced and highest paid cops are getting time and a half – $30, $40, $50 an hour – to do the same job that county jail inmates do for free at Parker County street maintenance jobs. The hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay Fort Worth cops to wave at cars usually comes from the Crime Control and Prevention District, a special tax that Fort Worth taxpayers have willingly levied on themselves for the past dozen years. How nice that some emergency workers are showing their appreciation by screwing taxpayers both coming and going.
After a lengthy discussion, Mayor Mike Moncrief praised the police department for helping make Fort Worth one of the safest major cities in the country. But he forgot his semantics lesson: “I have serious questions about how much overtime is being abused,” he said.
Listening to city officials defend police officers for abusing, manipulating, and otherwise using to their advantage a retirement pay system that is now threatening to go broke and require a bailout by taxpayers left Static feeling like it needed a shower, figuratively speaking. A quick stroll outside left Static feeling like it needed a shower – literally. Little globs of sticky sap dotted cars, sidewalks, fences, and plants all over town.
At least, it looked and felt like sap. Turns out, the gooey stuff isn’t sap at all, but aphid poo, or so says the Tarrant County Agricultural Extension Service (actually, they said “secretions,” not “poo”). Aphid drizzle occurs every year, but it’s just worse this year – no, not because of the bumper crop of sapsuckers being discovered under every rock and leaf at city hall, but, you guessed it, because of the drought, the same one that, if it goes on much longer, is going to part Eagle Mountain Lake like the Red Sea under Moses’ staff. In this case, the lack of rain is just keeping the yucky stuff from getting washed away. Now if only one good rain could wash out the sludge at city hall.