I read a fascinating story the other day detailing how researchers — after a two-year study — had made a shocking discovery concerning how dogs go about selecting which direction they will face when they go doody.

According to the study, the vast majority of dogs like to poop while in line with the north/south axis of the Earth’s magnetic field. Isn’t that amazing? That someone would spend years watching dogs defecate and noting which direction they face, I mean. I just thought my dogs liked pooping where there’s the highest likelihood I’ll step in it.

True, dog defecation direction is not one of mankind’s burning questions — “Is there life on other planets?” What’s at the bottom of the ocean?” and “What dummy disinvited the Prancing Elites from the MoonPie Drop?” all rate higher? But I’ll admit to wondering why my dogs like to spin around (like needles on a compass!!! Holy cow!) before doing their thing. So I can cross that one off my list. (My current dog is kind of a northwesterner it seems. However, my surveys are hardly statistically significant yet. I’ll keep you updated in an online blog I hope to have up and running soon.)

By now you’re probably thinking, “Man, I’m glad this paper is free,” but I am going somewhere with this. (Probably.) Such a brilliant discovery is just more proof that human curiosity is a wonderful thing. Some are content to know Fido goes in the flowerbed, but some want to know WHY.

Perhaps it’s that same intrepid human curiosity about (bad word for poop) that led Mayor Sandy Stimpson and his staff to go back and take a good look at the budget passed by his predecessor and figure out where it’s all going to hit the fan. Instead of being content to just try not to step in the piles left by former Mayor Sam Jones, Stimpson wanted to know how they got there.

Those not paying attention may be unaware of Stimpson’s announcement last week that he is going back and reworking Jones’ last budget because it is nowhere near balanced, as required by law. In fact, the new mayor says the old mayor’s budget may be more than $12 million in the red. Talk about stepping in it.

If you remember back to the election, Jones and his acolytes were always talking about his amazing fiscal leadership and how he kept the trains running during one of the worst recessions outside of John Travolta’s ever-growing forehead. We knew all along the city has a ridiculous amount of debt service, not all of which is Jones’, to be fair. But now the curtain is being pulled back on the Silent Sam budgeting process, and it makes less sense than conducting studies on dogs’ bathroom preferences.

Somehow, even as he got more and more sales tax money out of the citizens by warning of a dire future with no police or fire, Jones was still putting together budgets unbalanced as a one-legged tightrope walker. Remember all the battles over whether there was or wasn’t a $29 million deficit and the promises that “The Penny” would keep us solvent? Turns out the penny was always going to be smashed by the fiscal train running off the rails.

But even while the city burned through $15 million more than was expected last year as Jones ran for office did he tell us there were problems? Of course not. Instead he made a pandering promise of raises for all city employees, hoping it would somehow plug the holes in his sinking campaign.

Such a promise was bound to do nothing good for the city. It would only push the budget further into the red if Sam won, or leave Sandy with a pooper-scooper moment. Sure employees want and deserve raises, but borrowing money to pay for them is the kind of fiscally irresponsible thing they do in Congress.

Some of the goofiest things that have come out are the various ways Jones and his krewe were jacking the budget so it would legally be “balanced,” even though they had to know it wouldn’t be. According to Stimpson’s budget chief, most of the overruns in the last budget and projected overruns in the current budget come from “sunny day” projections. In other words budget for what things cost a couple of years ago, even though they haven’t been at that level in some time. Try that one in your household budget and see where you get. You’ll be eating cat food in no time.

One thing that really stood out was Sam’s projection that the city would somehow collect more than $3 million from weed liens and building demolitions. Sounds great, except that money’s been carried over on the books for years and no one is paying it. Seems reasonable. I have this guy named Curtis who’s owed me $700 for 12 years now, but I’ve budgeted for him to pay up in 2014 so I can use it take the kids to Disney World!

Jones ran amok with the city’s finances. The city’s capital fund — the money that might go towards making it so every alignment shop in town isn’t trying to figure out a way to locate on Ann Street — has been sucked dry. The city repeatedly drained money from that account to pay for overages in other areas. Keep that in mind next time you need new shocks.

Clearly there’s a mess to clean up and Stimpson seems interested in getting the house in order — if he can. But he still has to get any budget changes past the City Council, many of whom signed one broken Jones budget after another. At least one Councilor has already expressed unhappiness that the raises won’t go through, balanced budget or not — but he’s never shown any inclinations for wise spending, so why start now?

The Council owns some of this too. It’s true Jones withheld information and threatened their pet projects, but at the end of the day none of them had to vote for his budgets if they didn’t have the information. They all complained about not getting information, but never did anything about it. Maybe from now on the Council will be a little more interested in what’s really happening.

It’s good the current mayor isn’t resigned to just accepting the mess, but is also interested in finding out what happened, because regardless of whether it’s along the east/west or north/south magnetic poles, the city has some economic poop to scoop.