Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett might consider consulting with Tarrant County Commissioners on his play-calling next year. The commissioners know a thing or two about clever end-around plays.

Remember when fuel prices were skyrocketing in 2008? The Internal Revenue Service upped its vehicle reimbursement rate to 58.5 cents per mile then to put more money in the pockets of drivers who use their cars for business. Locally, that meant more money to upper-echelon county employees and elected officials, including commissioners, who receive vehicle allowances as part of their salary. The IRS rate serves as a guideline for the county.

Last summer, a grim economy, sluggish property values, and rising health insurance costs prompted commissioners to freeze the wages of all county employees for the 2010 fiscal year. The mantra from commissioners was that county employees across the board needed to give up pay raises and such during these woefully difficult times.

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The level of sacrifice was touching, nay, inspirational.

But somehow, that spirit of sacrifice grew weak in certain areas. After gas prices went down in 2009, the IRS dropped its vehicle use reimbursement rate from 58.5 to 55 cents per mile. For the select few county employees and elected officials who receive vehicle reimbursement, dropping the county rate accordingly could have meant about a $1,000 loss per year. But despite a previous tendency to follow the IRS rates, the county didn’t lower its own rate accordingly.

“While the commissioners and county judge were grandstanding about not giving employees any raises because they were facing tough times with the budget, they were quietly avoiding a decrease in their own salaries of about $1,000 each,” a frustrated employee said. “For bigwigs to line their own pockets while telling employees they have to do without a raise goes against the common principles of fairness.”

County commissioners said the idea was to be fair to everybody by keeping everybody’s pay the same. “They didn’t want to decrease anybody’s salary and they didn’t want to increase anybody’s salary, so they just froze everything,” said county spokesman Marc Flake. “Nobody was going to lose, nobody was going to gain.”


Free To Be LGBT

The Weekly‘s Jan. 20 cover story (“Putting the Spurs to Cowtown”), about the group Queer LiberAction and its policy of taking gay rights issues to the streets, drew plenty of response on the web site. And while the story noted that the group had been relatively quiet in the last couple of months, one comment suggests that won’t last much longer. Queer LiberAction leader Blake Wilkinson posted a note saying the group is planning a “Freedom to Marry” demonstration on the Friday before Valentines Day.

What fun. Static, a romantic at the bottom of its somewhat leathery heart, is nonetheless already tired of the displays of chocolate boxes and red cardboard cupids. (Not, however, tired of chocolate itself. Never.) So what could Wilkinson be planning? Makes one think of those pictures of the mass marriage-blessings held by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon … so, perhaps a mass non-wedding held outside a courthouse? Or at Billy Bob’s? Followed by big wedding cakes topped by groom-and-groom or bride-and-bride dolls?

Stay tuned.