“Where’s the Money?”, “Who’s Making the Decisions?”, & Other Questions We Should Be Asking…

By Chase Rheinhardt Kempner

Have you ever wondered who made the decisions that make local headlines these days? Most of us remember waking up and reading about how an XFL expansion team would be coming to Arlington in the former Ranger ballpark. Did you ever wonder who negotiated that decision? Do you wonder if there was a ballot measure you forgot or overlooked one busy election day? Or perhaps a clause buried somewhere in the fine print, somewhere?

Did you ever stop and think about how the money for Texas Live was spent? What the decision-making process was? Did you ever wonder what the Arlington Tomorrow Fund had to with recent projects? Are there going to be increases in gas wells being drilled? How close can they be to my
home?

These are not obviously interesting questions, but as the ongoing debacle with Panther Island has shown sometimes these sorts of mundane questions can have very interesting answers. We tend to take for granted that our local governments are in the hands of true civil servants: trustworthy and commendable individuals selflessly giving of their time and energy to act as fiduciary stewards of the public’s funds, assets, and resources. We often trust our local leaders far more than federal or even
state ones: they are our neighbors, our colleagues, maybe even our friends or family. Why shouldn’t we extend them this greater benefit of the doubt?

Despite this temptation to assume the best of intentions at all times the very title “civil servant” itself is a reminder that ultimately these individuals, though entrusted with power and authority, still answer to the people. To answer a paraphrased form of the ancient question: Who watches the aldermen? We do. Or at least, we should. Many of us may have questions like the above, but it’s all too easy to shrug it aside, to not worry about it, to assume that the answers are as benign as they are boring. In a perfect world, these assumptions would prove monotonously correct no matter how closely you watched.

Still, you never know until you look. We here at the Chronicle had a list of such mundane questions we wanted to answer, and over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing with you some of the things we’ve learned and some questions we still have. With numerous city elections in Tarrant County coming up so soon, we feel it’s important that you know the answers to some of these questions yourself. Maybe you’ll have some questions of your own afterwards, and election season is the perfect time to try and get them if so. Something about it leaves our leaders much more responsive than any other time of their incumbency.

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