By the time the dust cleared last week, Fort Worth city leaders had re-injected a modicum of humanity into a municipal budget that had seemingly been sucked dry of human kindness by the demands of a big deficit and a limping economy. There seemed little chance that evening programs at the city’s rec centers could be saved, for instance, but when people turned out in droves to beg for those late-night basketball programs and adult education classes, the council members found money for that, for a homeless initiative, and for keeping libraries open.

Council members listened to their consciences as well as to their campaign staffs and earned the appreciation they received.

So why was it so wrong for another council member to follow her conscience that day and reveal the emotional toll that the budget cutting had taken? Kathleen Hicks voted against the budget. When she realized she would be the only “no” ballot, she shed tears. A similar “no” vote on last year’s budget, she said, cost her the title of mayor pro tem. After the vote, Hicks said the financial plan disproportionately affects minority and low-income people, both among city staffers to be laid off and in the neighborhoods.

Hicks also said she is concerned about where the city is headed. “As one city employee told me recently, we need to decide if we are Corporation Fort Worth or City of Fort Worth, a most livable city for all, and I mean all of our citizens.”


Carter Burdette disagreed, saying Hicks’ comments about the ethnicity of those laid off were “quite disturbing to me personally.” But the icing on Hicks’ cake came from His Mayorship. Staring out at the audience, Mike Moncrief spoke in the tone of a stern father, or at least of a stage parent who pauses dramatically between sentences. “I was hoping for a unanimous vote because I think that shows leadership,” he said. “We need to realize what this city expects of us, and that is leadership.”

So what is leadership if it’s not standing up for what you think is right and pointing out what you think is wrong, even if you end up with the short end of the stick? Or trying to work with the powers that be, as Hicks has done, when it helped her constituents, and going it alone when it didn’t.

There’s leadership, then there’s bullying. You decide.


No Guts with Old Glory

When Sen. Ted Kennedy died last month, the nation mourned in a way it hadn’t since … well, since two months earlier when Jacko died (poor Farrah Fawcett died that same day but didn’t get as much media love). Flags were flown at half-staff in Tarrant and Dallas counties in Kennedy’s honor. Not so, however, in some other North Texas counties, including Parker, Collin, and Wise.

Lowering the flag, according to a local Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesman, is a sign of respect and gratitude for public servants – and is the very least a county or anyone with a flag can do. But Parker County Judge Mark Riley said that his decision to leave Old Glory flying at full staff wasn’t political. “I do not lower the flags in Parker County for the passing of individual senators from other states,” he said. Lowering to half-staff should be reserved for Texas leaders, national tragedies, “or the loss of a national leader like the president,” he said.

“The federal government does not control Parker County buildings,” Riley said in a remarkable non sequitur. Apparently the Party of the Teabag holds a lot of sway there, however.

Kennedy was more than just a member of Congress. Known as the “Lion of the Senate,” he helped craft some of the key legislative changes in this country in the last several decades. It’s a legacy that will continue for many years, long past the time when low-level politicians and their petty jabs have been forgotten.