Coalition for Open Government
04/05/05 Why can't we have honest
campaigns in Dallas?
By now, you have received a mailing from the
"Stronger Mayor - Stronger Dallas" campaign that I'm calling her "green piece".
Did you read it? Did you agree with it? Did you toss it?
The middle page of her green piece starts with "Our
antiquated City Council-manager system dates back to the 1930's, ...".
If a system from the 1930's is "antiquated", then the system the Mayor covets
for Dallas is prehistoric. New York, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, et
al, are much older cities than Dallas, and they had strong mayor systems for
decades before Dallas switched from strong mayor to our council-manager system.
Compared to their strong mayor systems, our council-manager system is a very
Truth in Advertising -
The mayor as dictator form of
government is a leftover from feudal days, when the lord mayor was the
Crown's representative. It is the oldest form of municipal government, by no
form was part of a municipal reform movement that swept the country.
Older seaboard cities were too entrenched in
ward politics to adopt it.
As it is unmasked, the Blackwood
campaign is now dependent almost entirely on misrepresentations.
Her "green piece" is false campaign advertising.
Our Mayor campaigned on a platform of smooth streets, green parks and better pay
for cops and firefighters. We didn't know she only meant those
improvements for Downtown. That was false campaign advertising.
Her mayoral campaign pieces were prepared by her same handsome guru who is doing
this Stronger Mayor propaganda. We could have green parks and improved
streets in our neighborhoods if Our Mayor wasn't so hell bent on her Trinity
Project and Signature Bridges -- which she belittled in her mayoral campaign.
The green piece says "Civic volunteers,
business leaders, minority leaders and Dallas Mayors past and present agree:
It's time for a change." Our
Mayor confuses Park Cities tycoons with Dallas civic volunteers and business
leaders. Only Steve Bartlett (a 1-term wonder) and Our Mayor herself are
endorsing her "Stronger Mayor" power grab.
I'm going to refute her green piece, point by point, but here's what Pat Cotton
says about some of Our Mayor's claims in her green piece:
On a recent mailer, and in forums, the Mayor has made the following
misstatements about the proposal from the subcommittee putting together an
alternative to Blackwood:
Mayor: The council will never come up with an alternative!
Truth: They did, and will present it to the full council on April 13.
Mayor: The council wants their pay increased.
Truth: That idea was deleted by the subcommittee.
Mayor: The council wants district offices.
Truth: That idea was deleted by the subcommittee.
Mayor: The council wants longer terms.
Truth: That idea failed at the subcommittee level.
Mayor: The council wants a percentage of the city budget for each district.
Truth: That idea was withdrawn before being considered by the subcommittee.
Many ideas were presented to the subcommittee, but many were deleted, failed
to gain support, or were withdrawn.
Since none of these items mentioned above will be presented to the council
on April 13, why is the Mayor deliberately making false statements?
What else is she saying that we need to be wary of?
These are not insignificant
Let's go back to the green piece, to the center pages where she lists "Five
reasons why The Stronger Mayor Plan means a stronger Dallas" and take those
A stronger mayor will bring accountability to City Hall.
Like other great cities ...
"Dallas needs a stronger mayor system where the
mayor is accountable to citizens and voters, and high-level city staff is
accountable to the mayor. This is the surest way way to make City Hall
efficient and effective for taxpayers and citizens." Hon. Steve
Bartlett Former Dallas Mayor
Some of the cities Our Mayor
wants to emulate are a hundred or more years older than Dallas, dating back to
Colonial America. They have had time to work out their mistakes -- and
even more time to repeat their mistakes. For the average resident of those
cities, there is little or no access to City Hall. Those cities have
histories of corruption and crooked politicians who kept Police Chiefs from
doing their job.
I worked very hard to get Steve Bartlett elected because I thought he would be
strong and good for Dallas. He was neither. He doesn't even live
A stronger mayor can get taxpayers more for their money.
The proposed stronger mayor charter reform would give the mayor the
authority to oversee the $2 billion city budget. ... The City Manager splits
the city's resources to satisfy the whims and pet projects of 14 politicians
.... Giving the Mayor authority to oversee the budget will cut
"Improving basic services for every neighborhood is
my passion. ..." Laura Miller
There was a time when I
believed neighborhood issues would be important to Our Mayor. I don't hear
her talking about neighborhood issues. I see her trapping up to D.C. to
get money for bridges to nowhere, while we are losing funding for DART.
Dallas cannot continue to build roads to get people back and forth from work.
What those cities Our Mayor admires have that we need is an effective mass
transit system that moves people around quickly, efficiently and safely.
Those "14 politicians" she derides were elected by Dallas voters. She's a
politician, too. She was elected citywide, but they had their own tough
campaigns to get their council seat. She gets to speak at big, Downtown
gatherings, they get to speak to their constituents in weekly crime watch and
homeowner meetings. She's screened from the mundane. They hear
face-to-face what the people they represent want -- Dallas residents, not Park
A stronger mayor system will help fix what's wrong with
14-1. The council-manager system may have served Dallas well back in
the old days, when we were a small city with council members elected to
represent the whole city. ... Dallas today needs one chief executive to look
after the city as a whole, a stronger mayor who is accountable to all
neighborhoods and all taxpayers.
When Dallas had all at large
council members, the Mayor and council only looked North. Those were the
days of Mayor Robert Folsom, who annexed Renner and diverted city resources away
from Oak Cliff, South Dallas, Downtown, East Dallas and Oak Lawn to develop his
holdings in an area that should never have been part of Dallas and isn't even in
Dallas County. Until we had single-member districts, there was no one at
City Hall "accountable" to the neglected areas.
Why does the Mayor want to eliminate single member districts? Why would
anyone with a grain of sense run for the city council when they will have no
power and no ability to deliver services to their district, unless they are on
the Mayor's team?
Dallas needs a stronger Mayor, not a stronger council.
Most council members agree that we need to update our system of government,
but they would like to take us from a council-manager system to something
worse: a "council-council" form of government. If City Council
opponents of the stronger mayor charter get their way, their
stronger-council plan would give the City Council bigger salaries, district
offices and longer terms. Some Council members envision a plan giving
each member a percentage of the city budget to spend any way they want.
This is just an outright lie.
Some of the things she mentions in this 4th item of her green piece came out of
the Charter Review Commission. They were rejected by the council members
and are not being proposed by the council's plan. The council's plan
raises the mayor's salary, not their salaries. There is no recommendation
of district offices or longer terms or percentages of the city budget for each
district. This is false campaign advertising. This is
the section that Pat Cotton refers to in her comments above (in blue box).
I don't have a big problem with each district having some percentage of the
budget devoted to specific needs of that district. When you see how much
money has been spent on Downtown every year for one scheme or another that is
going to do what previous scams failed to do, the "big picture" stuff looks like
an empty bag of wind for those of us outside Downtown. When you see
how much of the tax revenue in this city comes from outside of Downtown, having
our council member look after our needs seems like not such a bad thing.
A stronger mayor will help Dallas compete economically.
Imagine that you were asked to run a $2 billion business with a million
customers and 14 different CEO's using systems designed for the 1930s.
That's what Dallas faces today as our city works to fight crime, improve
city services and compete economically with cities like Atlanta, San Diego,
Houston and Chicago...
San Diego just recently
switched from council-manager to strong mayor. We don't know if it will
work all that well for them. Chicago and Atlanta are much older cities
than Dallas, and things aren't going so swimmingly for them either.
Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia all have histories of corrupt mayors who
abused their office. The Blackwood plan gives the Dallas Mayor even more
power than those three cities.
What is is that phrase about "absolute power" and "absolute corruption"?
As for Houston, they have lots of problems that are beginning to surface -- like
a nearly bankrupt employee retirement fund and the following story:
Audit slams housing agency,
A report finds potential fraud, other problems widespread in city
By MIKE SNYDER
April 4, 2005 Copyright 2005 Houston
For more than a decade, Houston's Housing and Community
Development Department chose projects based on its directors' whims, allowed
for massive defaults on loans and created opportunities for conflicts of
interest and fraud, an independent review of the department concludes.
The report, prepared for the city by
the Jefferson Wells consulting firm, identifies fundamental deficiencies in
virtually every area of the department ? from a secretive, retaliatory
management culture to a shoddy system for checking on contractors'
performance and ensuring repayment of loans.
Sound business practices were
routinely disregarded, the report says, citing one instance when an
assistant director changed the interest rate on a loan for an apartment
project ? without modifying the loan agreement or securing City Council
approval ? to correct an erroneous calculation in a repayment schedule.
... Bingham, who headed the department from 1992
to 2002, is now a private housing consultant. She recently received $500,000
from the city to subsidize an apartment development, and she has
participated in projects that received low-income-housing tax credits from
the state housing agency, of which she is a former board chairwoman.
... In December, the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development froze $14.7 million of this year's funding, as
well as $33.3 million accumulated in previous years, because of
Imagine someone with no
management experience who is very attractive and glib getting elected to be
Mayor of Dallas. Imagine that person trying to fill all the management
positions necessary to run this city, when that same person doesn't know enough
qualified and willing people to fill her board and commission slots.
There are some council members who have absolutely no business holding public
office and thank goodness a couple of them are termed out this election.
At the same time, there are people on this council who are successful business
people who understand the process of managing and delivering. Dr. Elba
Garcia has a dental practice. Ed Oakley has a construction business.
Don Hill and Steve Salazar have their own law practices. Bill Blaydes and
Mitch Rasansky are successful businessmen.
Our Mayor was a very good journalist, but she is no business woman and certainly
has no management skills. Our Mayor told a business group recently about
how she dropped in on a civil service appeal hearing -- not only a bad
management decision, but an intrusion on that employee's rights to a fair
Our Mayor is a very smart woman, very attractive and very glib. She may
have some great ideas, but implementing them is not something they teach in
Our Mayor knows there are problems with the Blackwood plan.
She says "trust me", I will let the council appoint
Board and Commission members just like they do now and in two years I will get
the Charter amended again to fix the problems. She can't disregard the
existing Charter if Blackwood is approved, and she can't deliver on her promise
to amend or fix the charter in two years.
Despite the falsehoods in her green piece, Our Mayor knows what the council is
proposing for a November charter election is better than Blackwood, but
she says "you can't trust them" to do what they
say. Well, I disagree.
I ran unsuccessfully against Steve Salazar for city council from District 6.
I have learned over the past two years that I can trust him. He has been
proactive and focused on our district needs. He appointed me to the
Coalition for Open Government as his representative with one proviso -- we are
not against a stronger mayor, we are against Blackwood. Since that was and
is my position, it was certainly a condition that I could accept.
Our Mayor's green piece is false political advertising. I
cannot imagine that she did not agree to its content, but it was done by the
same guy who had sail boats and swans floating on the Trinity in the brochures
for the Trinity Bondoogle. Remember, some district judge said we can't
expect honesty in political mailings.
If you got the Mayor's green piece, then you likely got a mailer from the
Coalition for Open Government. Here are some statements on the COG mailer:
Jim Erwin says "Dallas is a $2 billion
corporation. This would completely eliminate requirements for professional
management from the charter."
Jack Lowe, Jr. says "A mayor will be
able to set construction standards for Dallas buildings. That power could
be used to pay off allies and endanger lives and property."
Former City Manager George Schrader says "A
mayor will be able to give jobs and contracts to political cronies."
Ebby Halliday Acers says "I won't be
able to sell Dallas unless it has clean, good government."
Attorney Darrell Jordan says "Our city
will be paralyzed for years by costly litigation."
These are real people who have real businesses and management experience in this
city, people who know what they are talking about.
None of them are saying we don't need to give the mayor more power, they are
saying the Blackwood plan goes too far, will do more harm than good and needs to
I agree with them. The Coalition's mailer is not campaign propaganda.
It is a collection of comments from Dallas business people who know what it
takes to run a big company successfully.
There is such a thing as truth in political advertising. It's just not
coming from the Stronger Mayor - Stronger Dallas campaign.