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Thread: Your Opinion of a Strong Mayor

  1. #1
    MustangMonkey
    Guest

    Your Opinion of a Strong Mayor


    Here is a recent article from the Dallas observer
    <a href=http://www.dallasobserver.com/issues/2002-05-23/schutze.html/1/index.html>Survival of the Flattest</a>


    BY JIM SCHUTZE

    The white-folks version of local history is that back in the Time of Genius, the great fathers wanted to protect the citizens from tension, so they agreed to do all the governing themselves. The African-American version is that back in the time of Colonel Sanders, rich white bigots invented the at-large council system in order to make sure black voters never achieved any influence at City Hall.

    The truth probably lies somewhere between these two extremes, but this much is certain: The system we have now--single-member council districts, a very weak mayor who is really only a beefed-up council member and an unelected city manager who runs the show--doesn't work. City Hall never gets around to doing what the voters want done, judging by the outcome of recent citywide elections (for mayor, on various propositions, etc.). But everybody's idea for reform depends on which version of local history he believes.

    People who think the wheels have come off City Hall, mainly the middle class, tend to like the idea of a strong-mayor government, because they want somebody out front who can be held accountable. People who see single-member council districts as a hard-fought civil rights victory, mainly minority or up-and-coming, tend to look with suspicion on the strong-mayor concept as an end run for Colonel Sanders.

    Then we get down in the whole swamp of personalities. Is this just Laura Miller trying to rule the world? Is it Councilman James Fantroy on his campaign of, "Nobody picks up my trash but me?" Didn't former Mayor Ron Kirk make the existing system work?

    One thing that can help us get across the swamp of personality is a recognition that the same winds of change blowing through Dallas are blowing through cities across the country. In Milwaukee, the urban debate in recent years has centered on downtown, on residential development, a river walk, public school reform and the nuts and bolts of making city government efficient. Debate in Buffalo, New Orleans and D.C. in the last few years has often turned on how well or how poorly city halls accommodate the middle class.

    In fact, Dallas' resurgent urban middle class is the philosopher's stone in all of this. They've been gone. Who knows where? The 'burbs. Maybe still here but raising babies. Point is, they're baaack! And they want the streets fixed.

    The recent battles over a second round of tax subsidies for the Perot/Hicks sports arena in downtown Dallas provide a spicy little window on what middle-class voters have encountered upon their return to the urban political marketplace.

    While they were gone, the deal guys had to deal with somebody. They cut their principal political agreements with minority leadership in the first Perot/Hicks campaign for tax subsidies for the new downtown arena four years ago, in the campaign for a multibillion-dollar public works project on the Trinity River in Dallas and in this second bite of the apple seeking more subsidies for Perot and Hicks.

    But now Laura Miller is the mayor, and her constituency is overwhelmingly middle class--north of the river, or south but well off. Her middle-class voters will not give their blessing to expensive public works projects or subsidies simply because the projects generate jobs and contracts. Miller thinks it is her job and duty as the elected steward of the public interest to sharpen her pencil and push for the best deal on stand-alone merits, before jobs or contracts ever come into play. She's here to put the wheels back on and make the trains run on time.

    It may not happen under the existing weak-mayor system.

    In a long interview in her City Hall conference room last week, Miller shared a series of insights she has gained since becoming mayor into the way City Hall really works, especially in the Palladium deal. Palladium is the company that will do the Perot/Hicks arena development. Her first remarks were to praise City Manager Ted Benavides for his cooperative attitude after she was elected and before Palladium went nuclear.

    But at a certain point in the Palladium debate, four minority council members, led by attorney Donald Hill, banded together with Northeast Dallas member Mary Poss, who has ties to Perot, and signed a petition that had the parliamentary effect of truncating the process and hastening a vote--a move designed to help Palladium in defiance of the mayor. Miller told me that from that point forward, Benavides and his staff went flat, lay down and began caving in to every demand Palladium made in negotiations.

    In one of several examples she gave me, Miller told how negotiators for the city had agreed to allow Palladium to vacate a key pledge to which the company had publicly and repeatedly committed itself, in exchange for which the city's negotiators asked for nothing and got nothing.

    "One thing Palladium always said to us verbally was, 'We don't get a penny back from the taxpayers [in city tax subsidy] until we have $600 million [in completed buildings and amenities] on the ground. Then we get reimbursed, but everything is up and running. So it's a sweet deal.'"

    But Miller says that after weeks of negotiations in which she and council member Mitchell Rasansky had been included--and after Donald Hill's petition--five city staffers held a negotiating session with Palladium to which she and Rasansky were not invited.

    "After this meeting in the dark in the conference room that no council members were aware of with Hillwood [the Perot company] and Palladium and our five straw men [the low-level staffers who did the negotiating]," she said, "the staff decided, 'Well, OK, I guess if they put $385 million on the ground, they can start getting reimbursed.'

    "This is the new part of the deal that they cut."

    Miller said she asked a city lawyer who had been in the meeting that day why he had agreed to allow Palladium to back out of a promise that could be viewed as the centerpiece of the whole deal. She asked why the staff would not have held Palladium to its original promise of $600 million before reimbursement, since the original pledge gave the city more leverage to ensure that the full $600 million would get built.

    She quoted the lawyer as replying, "'Well, yeah, we could have done that, we could have stayed there, but, you know, they just wouldn't do it. They just wouldn't do it.'"

    Assistant City Manager Ryan Evans, who had been in charge of the Palladium negotiations, left town in the middle of all this, Miller said, departing on a sudden leave to a part of Kansas where he could not be reached by telephone. (I called Benavides, who confirmed that Evans has been out of town because of "health problems.")

    Miller said the effect of all this was to basically neuter City Hall in negotiations. "It's just like it's always been. We get out-lawyered, we get out-dealed, we get out-worked, I mean everything. We just do, because nobody's in charge."

    The most interesting aspect of what she had to say, for me, was that she did not really blame City Manager Benavides personally for the lack of direction she sees in City Hall. She has come to understand his position.

    "I'll tell you, when I bring Ted in and say, 'How come Ryan hauled off and did a deal in the dark?' Hill's bringing him in over here and screaming at him and saying how come Palladium is telling me you're not doing this or this?"

    So who is Benavides' boss? The mayor? Or Donald Hill? Or nobody? And under those circumstances, why should Benavides stick his neck out?

    Did Ron Kirk make this system work? Yes. Mayors can always make it work if the game plan is for the staff to lie down and give it up to rich, powerful interests. They have that move down.

    But what happens when the new middle-class constituency wants City Hall to drive sharp-pencil deals for the taxpayer? Then Miller's right: Nobody's in charge. The city manager has to hedge his bets between the troublesome new mayor and the five-vote cabal. The staff goes back to its normal crisis mode: white flag, heave tax dollars out window, Kansas.

    That's why the end product of charter reform will have to include a strong mayor--a mayor who can hire and fire the city manager. Someone has to give focus and direction, and it needs to be a person, not a shifting majority on a committee, not a career manager trying to guess where the next majority will form. We need a red-light green-light person whom the voters can put in and out of office.

    We can still protect the gains of constituencies by also building a stronger city council, giving them an independent research bureau and full-time paid political staff. We also can have a truly strong city manager: If the mayor absorbs the political heat, then the city manager can concentrate on running a professional staff.

    Strong mayor, strong council, strong city manager. The only people I can think of who wouldn't like that formula might be Ross Perot Jr. and Tom Hicks, for the same reason I assume John Dillinger probably didn't like strong bank vaults.

    dallasobserver.com | originally published: May 23, 2002


    My opinoin is, we need to change the way our city government works today. It's rediculus. There are many things about government here in Texas that I think need to be changed as well, but as far as Dallas itself, I think a strong mayor form of government would be a definate step in the right direction. Today special interest rule, and the city is left fighting it'self without any power to look for the good of the whole. It is a lack of leadership and a presence of special interest that have brought many large corporations to its knees, as well as many other cities. I hope we can see the writing on the wall and change our current progression.

    I would also like to see us get away from the city line form of government and move to a metropolitain form of government. But that will require cooperation with many surrounding cities (however we have an example in DART)

  2. #2
    GarrettCarey
    Guest

    Re: Your Opinion of a Strong Mayor


    I agree Mustang.....I think Dallas needs a strong mayor.

  3. #3
    Axes
    Guest

    Regional Government


    I've been a proponent of regional government for years. Kansas City, Kan., and Indianapolis have had good luck with unified government. It makes a lot of sense, but it will never fly here. It is very "un-Texan."

    If you ever read the Forth Worth forum, 90-percent of the time they whine about Dallas. I don't ever see a consolidated government of Dallas, Forth Worth, Plano, Garland, Irving, Mesquite, Arlington, etc. It would be great for everyone, but it will never happen.

  4. #4
    GarrettCarey
    Guest

    Re: Regional Government


    Man, the Forth Worth forum does complain a lot about Dallas. The nature of competition between siblings I guess.

    I agree that the regional form of government would never ever pass here! There is no way that Arlington, Plano, Irving, and Fort Worth (not to mention all the other smaller suburbs) would buy into that idea.

    However, cosidering the growth of the cities within the region, a strong mayor system for each city may help progress the cooperation between the cities.

    Hell, i don't know....

  5. #5
    MustangMonkey
    Guest

    Re: Regional Government


    What do you think about a combined government (cooperation) with the cities of Dallas County. I think it would be in each of these cities interest to push development downtown, and develop a world-class features to maintain DT dallas as the center of economic-and social forces in the region.

    Of course this would require the sharing of property tax, so that not every city is fighting over were companies are going to locate (they go downtown, or whatever makes sense); this would be in the best interest of every dallas county property owner. I even belive that Plano would easily join, as they see some of their businesses leave for cheaper deals ofered by Allen, and Frisco.

    The reason Texas sprawls so much is because city councils have only one way of developing revenue for their cities; getting companies and people to move further out to were they are. They will offer any incentive to get the first wave of developers and then the cycle begins.

    Well I kind of rambeled there for a while, but I will see if you guys have any feedback.

  6. #6
    Axes
    Guest

    Agree


    I agree, but I just don't think it will work. We tend to be so provincial. I work in FND, and there are people I work with who live in Plano and have said "I've never been south of Frankford."

    People here don't realize, despite the Boeing example, that everyone depends on a healthy, vibrant city center. Instead of revitalizing downtown, all these little suburbs are making "strip mall" town squares.

  7. #7
    MustangMonkey
    Guest

    Agree



    Yes I belive we see eye to eye, I started a new thread on this topic, since it is different than the Strong Mayor Title.

    The new one is titled
    Central Dallas Gov't
    and gives some examples of why other municipalities might see a centralized gov't as the way to go.

    pub50.ezboard.com/fthedallasmetropolisfrm2.showMessage?topicID=124.t opic

  8. #8
    GarrettCarey
    Guest

    HTML Comments are not allowed


    This is an excerpt from the Houston Business Journal. Interesting to see what a city can do with a strong mayor leading the way for the entire city/region! Seems pretty visionary to me. Anyone else have any thoughts on this?
    ------------------

    Multimillion-dollar contract to be signed during China mission
    Jenna Colley Houston Business Journal

    Houston Mayor Lee Brown is leading a delegation of about 50 business and industry representatives on a high-level executive trade mission to the People's Republic of China.

    During the trip, a Houston-based engineering firm is expected to sign a multimillion-dollar contract to build two science-related facilities in China, although sources in the mayor's office would not disclose the company's identity.

    The trade mission left Houston on May 19 and is expected to return on May 31. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston; Assistant Texas Secretary of State Geoffrey Conner and Houston Port Commissioner Kase Lawal are among those accompanying the mayor.

    "China is a huge, continually emerging market for numerous industries," Brown says. "International air and sea links are well established, and China is a region that presents Houston corporations and organizations with many investment opportunities, not only in oil and natural gas, but also in technology, infrastructure, commerce and many other industries."

    Houston plans to set up in-kind trade centers in Beijing, Tianjin, Xi'an, Shanghai and Hangzhou. The city of Tianjin will provide free land to the city of Houston to build a "Houston Industrial Park."

    "These centers will help Houston businesses and corporations become more competitive in emerging Chinese markets," Brown says.

    Brown and members of the Houston delegation will meet with various government officials, including either the president or vice president of China.

    They expect to sign several cooperative agreements during the trip, including setting up sister university and high school exchanges and governmental personnel training agreements.

    A 20-person State of Texas delegation, which is conducting a business mission to China concurrently with the Houston mission, will join the Houston delegation for several meetings with Chinese leaders.

    Corporations attending the trade mission with the mayor include representatives from El Paso Energy; Merrill Lynch; Locke, Lidell & Sapp LLP; Nobellium Partners; American Eagles Foods; Radical Technology Ltd.; Frenchy's Sausage Co.; Spacehab Inc.; Montgomery Watson, and a host of other local companies.

    Educational institutions such as the University of Houston, Southwestern University and Texas A&M University also are represented in the delegation.

    jcolley@bizjournals.com · 713-960-5932




  9. #9
    MustangMonkey
    Guest

    HTML Comments are not allowed ???????????????




    This is a good example of a mayor taking a leadership role, which all mayors should be dooing. However the strong mayor form of gov't helps in accomplishing these goals since more of the citys resouces answer to the mayor; therefore owing their jobs to his/her satisfaction.

  10. #10
    GarrettCarey
    Guest

    Re: HTML Comments are not allowed ???????????????


    Did I miss something?

    Subject line reads: "HTML Comments are not allowed ???????????????"

  11. #11
    MustangMonkey
    Guest

    Re: HTML Comments are not allowed ???????????????




    This was just a follow on your previous post
    "HTML Comments are not allowed"

  12. #12
    GarrettCarey
    Guest

    Re: HTML Comments are not allowed ???????????????


    my bad...i was not paying attention....i must have pasted the wrong thing! Sorry

  13. #13
    GarrettCarey
    Guest

    Dallas Budget Woes


    Does the current Dallas Budget shortfall presents another argument for a strong mayor system in Dallas?

    - Would there be any budget issues if Dallas had a strong mayor system?
    - Could a strong mayor resolve the issue/issues more effectively than our current system?
    - Would a strong mayor face the same hurdles ( i.e. city council members, the city manager, etc)


    Regarding the Dallas Budget problem, what other advantages/disadvantages would a strong mayor system have in finding a resolution?

  14. #14
    Axes
    Guest

    Strong Mayor = More Corruption


    At least a city manager is not directly responsible to special interests like a Laura Miller. Just like she used her influence as a council member to further her and her husband's special interests, think what she would do as a strong mayor. She'd spend the entire budget paying off people like the council does now.

    What the city needs is a good, qualified, independent accountant and a council with the cojones to make some decisions. But, it will never happen.

  15. #15
    MustangMonkey
    Guest

    Enlighten Me


    I am curious what Laura Millers special interest are; could you give us that information.

    In a strong mayor system, the city manager is held responsible to the mayor. Right now the city manager is not held responsible to anyone (voters or council) it is just in his best interest to sway on individual issues according to what the majority of the council wants. The problem with this is that he cannot set up a definate plan on how to run the city since the target of what is considered important is always moving.

    Insted of developing a plan of what needs to be done, setting up the contracts to get things done in the most efficient way and at the least cost; he must constantly react (covering his ass) to swaying council desires. This forces unplanned projects to get pushed through wich are not well planned and thought through and lead to highr cost.

    I don't blame the city manager for this, since he is just trying to keep as many of his bosses satisfied as he can (we all like to keep our jobs) but an employe needs to have only one boss in order to act efficiently. He cannot do his job correctly if he has to be a city manager and a politician at the same time.

  16. #16
    Axes
    Guest

    Look at her campaign contributions


    Whoever paid for her campaign are her special interests. There was an interesting article in the Observer either last year or this year about how she uses her influence at city hall to affect her husband's law practice and their interests, i.e. clients, etc.

    This is not the exact article, but it gives you an idea:

    www.dallasobserver.com/is...index.html

    Granted, it is the Observer, which is about as reliable as a four year old.

    I see some advantages of a strong mayor, but I'm afraid they'd just be holden to special interests. I guess a drawback of democracy.

  17. #17
    MustangMonkey
    Guest

    Re: Look at her campaign contributions


    I had a hard time choosing between the two mayorial candidates in the last election, so I hope you don't paint me a someone who supports Laura Miller at all cost.

    However, her campaign contributions came from over 2000 individuals (those are allot of special interest to cover if you ask me) When you get that many contributions, it is usually from normal people who belive you will do what is best for the city, and not a few special interest groups.

    BTW: Special interest groups are far more powerful in non democratic nations. But it does seem to be a problem everywhere.


    In responce to the article: seems more like a personal issue between the columnist and LM. I see it both ways. I would assume I could ask a friend any quetion, but perhapse she souldn't have due to the surrounding issues. Otherwise allot of fluff talk in the article ( I think tey get payed by the word).



    I will try and read the Toxic article when I have time.

  18. #18
    Axes
    Guest

    Anti-Miller


    I did not mean for this to seem like a Mayor Pothole bash fest. I was just using her as an example. There are many pros and cons to strong and weak mayor systems.

  19. #19
    MustangMonkey
    Guest

    Re;Anti-Miller


    OK I understand you where only using an example.


    I seem to see more advantages in the City Manager being held accountable to the Mayor (elected at large) then not being held accountable to any idividual.

    Could you explain how you feel the week mayor system has advantages.

  20. #20
    GarrettCarey
    Guest

    Strong Mayor System in Dallas - Psyche!


    Strong-mayor idea isn't favored, panel finds
    Charter reviewers say residents still desire change at City Hall

    10/02/2002

    By VICTORIA LOE HICKS / The Dallas Morning News

    Dallas residents yearn for a more responsive City Hall, but they do not see giving the mayor more power as the way to get there, members of the city's Charter Review Commission said Tuesday.

    The 15-member panel, appointed by the City Council to weigh changes to the structure of city government, just finished more than a dozen hearings throughout the city. The panel was surprised by the lack of sentiment for shifting to a strong-mayor system, several members said.

    "There is no way we could come away with the impression that there is support for the strong-mayor form of government," said commissioner Michael Sorrell.

    In Dallas, executive authority – to prepare the budget and the weekly council agenda and to hire and fire key administrative personnel – rests with the city manager. In some other cities, some or all of those powers belong to the mayor.

    Residents' coolness to the idea of a major power shift does not mean they think the present system functions well, commissioners said.

    "There was a consistent theme about a lack of responsiveness," said commissioner David LaBrec. "There is a lot of frustration."

    Whether such complaints can be addressed through changes in the charter is not certain, he and other members said.

    "I don't know how to fix it," Mr. LaBrec said.

    Five commissioners who met with reporters Tuesday stressed that they have not made up their minds on the issues facing them. Nor, they said, have they ruled out any options, including enhancing the mayor's authority.

    "I am still going to listen to each and every witness who appears before us and to my fellow commission members," said DeMetris Sampson.

    "We need to give the council the benefit of full-scale discussions on a range of issues," said commissioner James Gerhardt. But panel members said the things they heard from ordinary people will help shape their thinking.

    "We've got to pay attention to that," Mr. Sorrell said. "It spoke volumes."

    Commissioners named a few specific items that merit serious consideration, including:

    • Whether the police and fire chiefs should be answerable directly to the City Council rather than to the city manager.

    • Whether the mayor and council members should have a greater hand in putting together the budget, perhaps each getting a modest sum to allocate to projects they deem important.

    • Whether council members should have staffs of policy analysts or other aides that they hire directly, rather than ones assigned to them by the city manager.

    In addition to listening to residents, the commission has received testimony from academic experts and former government officials from a variety of cities. The fact-finding phase will go on for another two weeks before the panel begins its deliberations.

    Any changes it suggests would be subject to approval first by the City Council and then by voters. The earliest that a charter election could be held is November 2003.

    Although commissioners acknowledged that the lack of sentiment for sweeping change has engendered questions about the need for such a process, they said their effort already has paid off.

    "I've got a distinct feeling that it's been cathartic for the people who came to the meetings," Mr. LaBrec said. "They felt like they were being heard."

    And although they said their schedule has been taxing – three evening meetings a week since mid-August – some panel members said the fact-finding process has probably been the easiest part of their job.

    "When we have to start speaking up and discussing issues and disagreeing with each other, it's going to get harder," said commissioner Rodolfo "Rudy" Rodriguez.



  21. #21
    MustangMonkey
    Guest

    Strong Mayor System in Dallas - Psyche!


    Interesting, this is the first time I heard of this secret pannel that, interestingly, was appointed by the CITY COUNCIL
    I sure don't remember anyone asking me about my oppinion, and I sure don't remember any public debates about the pros and cons of different forms of city government. At least outside a small article in the unbiased DMN.

  22. #22
    metrosteve
    Guest

    Re: Strong Mayor System in Dallas - Psyche!


    Couldn't agree more Mustang....I think the process was not only flawed in the manner it which it was carried out (creating the "panel" itself) to the timing of the whole issue. I like Laura Miller in many ways but sometimes you can try to "fix" too many things all at once and people who have become accustomed to be ignored over the past 15 years may take a little longer to jump back on board. This issue isn't dead permanently, I don't believe but I bet we don't hear much about it again until after the next Mayoral/Council election. And that's ok too....I want 'em to concentrate on downtown, the historic neighborhoods, Fair Park, the Trinity and expanding region-wide our successful light rail/commuter rail system.

  23. #23
    GarrettCarey
    Guest

    Re: Strong Mayor System in Dallas - Psyche!


    Could not have said it better myself metrosteve!

  24. #24
    MustangMonkey
    Guest

    Orlando offers case study of strong mayor


    Here is some info from the DMN on Orlando's use of a strong mayor. Like the article describes, all forms of government will result in someone having power; with a stronger mayor system, at least that person will be someone that the citizens elected.


    <a href="http://www.dallasnews.com/localnews/city/dallas/stories/100702dnmetorlando.9b331.html"> <h2>Orlando offers case study of strong mayor </h2></a>

    Dallas panel weighs merits of switch in form of government

    10/07/2002

    By VICTORIA LOE HICKS / The Dallas Morning News

    ORLANDO, Fla. – As befits a CEO, Glenda Hood sat at the head of the table. At her right hand were the corporation's chief administrator and chief financial officer. Arrayed along either side of the gleaming table were the heads of a half-dozen operational departments.

    One by one, they briefed her on the most pressing issues and projects in their respective shops. Often, the chief administrator chimed in, putting the individual issues in the context of the corporation's overall performance.

    When decisions were called for, Ms. Hood – Mayor Hood – asked for opinions, but the decisions were hers. She had every reason to believe that they would be carried out, because she can fire any person at the table.

    Dallas Mayor Laura Miller would never chair such a meeting. Under the city's charter, executive authority – to hire, fire and oversee top managers, to prepare the budget, to set the City Council's agenda – rests with the city manager.

    Whether that should change is one of the largest and thorniest issues being studied by Dallas' Charter Review Commission.

    Like Dallas' charter, Orlando's provides for a trained professional to manage the city's day-to-day operations. As in Dallas, that person is hired by a majority vote of the City Council.

    But in Orlando, that person is nominated by and reports to the mayor, who can fire him or her. In Dallas, the city manager reports to the entire council and can only be fired by a two-thirds vote of its members.

    "The joke around here is that there's only one person you have to keep happy, and that's me," Ms. Hood said. "But I'm accountable to 200,000 people out there."
    On the continuum between pure "council-manager" and pure "strong-mayor" government, Dallas and Orlando are near their respective ends of the spectrum. Elsewhere on that continuum are a dozen or more permutations of the two basic models.

    Similarities


    Orlando is like Dallas and unlike most strong-mayor cities in that the mayor is a member of the council and presides at council meetings. Dallas and Orlando both elect the mayor every four years, citywide, in a nonpartisan election.
    In both cities, the remaining council members – six in Orlando, 14 in Dallas – are elected from single-member districts.

    In practice, no two cities' governments function identically. Like any collection of human beings, cities are influenced by their histories, economic underpinnings and corporate cultures as well as by the personalities of their leaders.

    But the structure of a city's government – the rules of the game – does affect the way the game is played and even, sometimes, the outcome.

    Professional city managers "try to keep things very steady, stick with the tried and true. They're not risk-takers. I have the flexibility to dream and come up with ideas," Ms. Hood said, echoing an analysis that is common among political scientists.

    A strong-mayor system does not guarantee that the mayor will win on every issue.

    Like Ms. Miller, Ms. Hood must persuade a majority of council members to support her initiatives. It's just that she has a few more tools of persuasion at her disposal.

    She can, for instance, agree to put certain items on the agenda or put funds in the budget for projects in a particular council district. She can even threaten to exercise her veto power – although in 10 years as mayor she has never done so.

    In some instances, despite those tools, she has failed. Two years ago, the council defeated her years-long crusade to bring light rail to Orlando. Another pet project, a performing arts center, has yet to get off the ground.

    And the tools she employs with council members, they can employ with her as well. They can make their votes conditional on her agreeing to further their favorite causes.

    Although the council-manager system is designed to take the politics out of governance, some of the same dynamics apply: The city manager must be mindful to craft an agenda the council will support. But individual council members – including the mayor – have little leverage over the manager when it comes to specific items they want.

    "What's the same is that somebody is always counting votes," said Richard Levey, Orlando's chief administrative officer. "What's different is who's doing the counting and how much influence the counter has."

    Degrees of power


    Any mayor, regardless of the form of government, is likely to spend a good deal of his or her time being the public face of the city. On the same day that she chaired her twice-monthly department heads meeting, Ms. Hood – the former head of a small PR firm – appeared at a men's health summit, a photo op for the mental health association, an Urban League confab, a luncheon for a children's home and a grant award announcement at a senior citizens center.
    It was what happened in between that demonstrated how her job differs from Ms. Miller's – and perhaps why her salary of $130,000 is twice Ms. Miller's even though the city's population of 186,000 and its budget of $584 million are a fraction of the size of Dallas'.

    In the morning, Ms. Hood, Mr. Levey and the city's top labor negotiator honed their strategy for talks with the city's police union. In the afternoon, she convened a get-acquainted session between the police chief she had just hired – a white man replacing a well-liked black predecessor – and several black and Hispanic leaders.

    "We know we can go directly to the mayor," the Rev. Nelson Pinder Sr. told the incoming chief. "If Page and Daisy [the two black members of the seven-member council] didn't feel you were right, you wouldn't be sitting there."

    He wouldn't feel as easy, he said, if the chief reported to a city manager. "There's a great gulf between the people and a manager," Mr. Pinder said. "The manager isn't really responsible to anybody."

    That factor – accountability – is perhaps the top selling point for strong-mayor government. At the other end of the continuum, council-manager government is lauded as efficient and corruption-free.

    Although Orlando's experience does not define the nature of a strong-mayor system, it offers a case study in some of the supposed pros and cons – issues that have been raised time and again in hearings by Dallas' Charter Review Commission.

    Pros and cons


    Item: A multimillion-dollar corporation – or in Dallas' case, a $1.7 billion corporation – can't be run by amateurs.
    "I won't say I had all the expertise coming in," Ms. Hood said. "That's why we have a CAO." The city's "excellent" decision in 1990 to write the chief administrator's position into the charter, gives Orlando "the best of all worlds," she said.

    In practice, Ms. Hood and Mr. Levey said, the division of labor between them is not unlike that between Dallas' mayor and city manager: The mayor and the council set policy; the manager/administrator carries it out.

    "I feed her big issues, political concerns," Mr. Levey said, "not really management issues."

    That's how things shook out at the department heads meeting: Him, the detail guy, steeped in all the technicalities; her, the big-picture thinker, always with an eye to how the public would react.

    Item: If the managerial staff works for the mayor, other council members will be deprived of information and influence.

    Mr. Levey took issue with that notion. "I spend a lot of time taking care of council members," he said. "The reality is that if I don't maintain a close relationship with the council, I'm of no value to the mayor or the citizens."

    Among present and former council members, the reviews are mixed.

    Former council member Don Ammerman said that, on issues where he opposed the mayor, he found it prudent not to discuss his position with staff members. If he did, he said, the information they relayed to her gave her a tactical advantage.

    Unless council members demand to be kept informed, he said, the mayor "can treat them like mushrooms – keep them in the dark and feed them slop."

    But council member Ernest Page said he expects the staff to take care of him and his constituents – and that he counts on the mayor to see to it.

    If someone on the staff were to cross him, he said, "the mayor would be looking for them and their head would be lying on a desk."

    On major issues where he and Ms. Hood disagree, he said, "it gets to a point where staff has to step out of the way, and I deal directly with the mayor. That's government at work."

    Item: The strong-mayor system gives too much power to one person, especially to set the agenda and determine where money is – and is not – spent.

    Ms. Hood said she generally agrees to add or delete items from the agenda if asked to by a council member. "I'm not going to deny those requests," she said. "It doesn't make for very good relationships."

    However, council member Patty Sheehan recently accused the mayor of foot-dragging on a proposal to bring gays and lesbians under the umbrella of the city's anti-discrimination ordinance.

    On the matter of money, Mr. Levey said that council members who go along do get along. "Those that support the mayor's agenda will get the most," he said.

    Who gets what is generally thrashed out well before the budget comes to a vote. Passage of the 2003 fiscal year budget, which took place the night before Ms. Hood met with her department heads, took less than 10 minutes, with no discussion among council members.

    Mr. Page acknowledged that the mayor can use her budget-writing power as a stick as well as a carrot. "It happens sometimes," he said, "but only to those who allow it to happen."

    A council member can win, he said, as long as he or she can round up a majority on the council. "The question," he said, "is: How strong are you as a council member? How far are you willing to go for your district?"

    "A very strong council can hold a strong mayor in check," Mr. Ammerman agreed.

    Besides, Mr. Pinder said, power is concentrated in council-manager cities as well.

    "It's in the manager," he said.

    Types of mayors
    Political scientist Craig Wheeland divides mayors into two basic types, the mayor-as-executive and the mayor-as-facilitator, depending on the powers they wield. Within each group, he identifies several variations. A summary:
    EXECUTIVE
    Strong leader: Does not preside at City Council meetings. Has veto power. Prepares the budget and appoints department heads and other top city staff. Used by Philadelphia; New York; Nashville, Tenn.; Boston; Detroit; New Orleans; Denver; Columbus, Ohio; Oakland. Calif., and Cleveland.
    Constrained leader: Same as above, minus appointment power. Used by Memphis, Tenn.; Atlanta; Jacksonville, Fla.; Seattle; Pittsburgh; Baltimore; Indianapolis; St. Louis; Albuquerque, N.M.; San Francisco; and Washington.
    Legislative leader: Presides at council meetings and prepares the budget. May or may not have veto or appointment power. Used by El Paso, Houston and Chicago.
    Weak leader: Has veto power and prepares budget but lacks other powers. Used by Milwaukee and Los Angeles.
    FACILITATOR
    Council leader: Has a vote on the council and presides at council meetings. Does not propose legislation or have veto or appointment power. Used by Oklahoma City; Austin; San Antonio; Virginia Beach, Va.; and Fort Worth.
    Community leader: Same as above, but does propose legislation. Used by San Diego; Dallas; Tucson. Ariz.; and Phoenix.
    Partial executive: Presides at council and, in most cities, votes with the council and proposes legislation. In some cities, has veto or appointment power, in others not. Used by Charlotte, N.C.; Portland, Ore.; Long Beach, Calif; San Jose, Calif.; and Kansas City, Mo.



    E-mail vloe@dallasnews.com





  25. #25
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    Boy,this city is a mess


    I see alot problem with Dallas city government....First off, We have a "feel good" socialist-minded mayor("Frauline" Miller) who wants to fix the social ills of this city with a good steady dose of pothole repair and banning of smoking in resturants and bars.

    Next,we have a council of jokers and clowns who has no clue of what or how to do their jobs. Most seem to be on the council for the simple fact its some extra pay and some street "cred" in the hood(see: Maxine Thorton-Reese, "Dr." Elba Garcia, and folks of their "ilk").

    Lastly, we have a crooked city manager(Ted Benavides) who had the power to fire a even more crooked and inept police chief ("Terry" Terell Bolton) yet, he passes on the oppurtunity.

    The main problem I see in Dallas is a bunch of hoodrats and red commies running my city. Im not a closed minded individual...But I do have a problem of how my hometown is and has been run into the ground by thugs.

    Personally, Im thinking about running when the next mayors race begins. I think I have just about or more qualification to be mayor of this city...



  26. #26
    Administrator gc's Avatar
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    The Charter Review

    Stronger City Council proposed
    Charter review panel's preliminary draft seeks more accountability


    02/24/2003

    By VICTORIA LOE HICKS / The Dallas Morning News

    In the beginning was the question: Should the mayor of Dallas have more power and the city manager less?

    After six marathon months of hearings, the city's Charter Review Commission has a tentative answer: No, but it wouldn't hurt to give City Council members more influence – or at least more resources.

    Even though the panel did not arrive at the answer some expected, several commissioners said they did address the underlying issue: a perceived lack of responsiveness and accountability at City Hall.

    "The belief, I think, is that not just the mayor but all members of the council could use more tools to bring them closer to the voters and give them more effective input," said commissioner Rudy Rodriguez.

    One person not convinced that the commission achieved that goal is its chairman, David Laney, appointed by Mayor Laura Miller.

    "I'm not sure anything we're doing addresses any of those issues," he said. "It's all very, very tentative."

    The commission aims to forward its final recommendations to the council by the end of March. No item can become law without the approval of the council and then the voters. November is the earliest a charter election could be held.

    Among the proposals in a preliminary draft are:

    • Increasing the term of office for council members from two years to four years.

    • Giving council members authority to hire and fire their own staffs – potentially including professionals such as budget analysts as well as administrative assistants – rather than letting the city manager make the assignments.

    • Authorizing each council member to establish an office in his or her district.

    • Requiring the city manager to formally involve all council members in the budget process from its early stages.

    • Requiring the concurrence of only three – rather than five – council members to place an item on the council's agenda.

    Although those measures are designed to make the council more effective, they do not shift the city away from its council-manager form of government to a ward system, said commissioner Michael Jung.

    "We very clearly have not gone that direction," he said. "The empowering of the council was done within the framework of the council-manager system."

    For instance, commissioners have been unable to agree on a proposal to create "discretionary" funds within the budget that council members could allocate to pet projects in their districts. Although the measure is still under discussion, several commissioners said they don't expect it to make the final cut.

    Failed proposals

    Proposals to diminish the city manager's authority consistently failed, whether the power would have shifted to the council or the mayor. Among them:
    • Allowing the council to fire the city manager on a majority vote rather than a two-thirds vote, as the present charter requires.

    • Having the mayor rather than the city manager oversee the formulation of a comprehensive city plan.

    • Giving the council authority to hire and fire the police and fire chiefs.

    • Giving the council authority to hire and fire other department heads.

    • Having the city manager appointed for a specified term, rather than indefinitely.

    Throughout the process, opposition to substantive political change centered on two overlapping groups that constituted an informal coalition.

    Some commissioners simply believed it's better to have a city run by professional managers, in which elected officials are policy-makers and not administrators. For the second group, including the five black commissioners, an urgent test was whether any proposal laid on the table would tend to weaken the influence of council members from predominantly black or Hispanic districts.

    "I think the current structure has served us well," said commissioner Michael Sorrell.

    Given the makeup of the commission – one commissioner appointed by each council member – the outcome was predictable, said commissioner James Gerhardt. "This is where this thing was headed from day three or four," he said.

    In at least one instance, the mayor's own actions cemented the opposition to change. When Ms. Miller publicly denigrated City Manager Ted Benavides, black commissioners spoke passionately at a subsequent meeting in favor of retaining the requirement that, in order to fire a city manager, two-thirds of council members must agree. Otherwise, Mr. Sorrell warned, city managers could fall victim to "the whims of the majority."

    The controversy effectively made the issue moot, Mr. Jung said. "It's hard to debate what vote should be necessary to get rid of a city manager when there's a debate in progress about whether to get rid of the city manager," he said.

    Even on less obviously sensitive matters, many commissioners were loath to enhance the mayor's powers.

    A case in point was the question of who should oversee the production of a master plan for the city. In its original form, the proposal would have given responsibility to the mayor, on the theory that the plan is inherently a policy document, and setting policy is the role of the mayor and council.

    But other commissioners, including former Dallas City Manager George Schrader, objected vigorously that the measure undercut one of the manager's basic prerogatives. The fear, said Mr. Jung, was that a mayor could cite the planning duties as a rationale for usurping a large portion of the city manager's staff.

    Process vs. power

    Of all the commission's proposals, the most far-reaching may be those that address matters of process rather than questions of power, several commissioners agreed. Besides mandating that the city produce and periodically update a comprehensive plan to guide land use and development, they include:
    • Establishing a commission to regularly evaluate and recommend changes to the salaries paid to the mayor and council members – changes the council could enact in certain instances without voter approval.

    • Requiring the council to adopt a capital budget as well as an operating budget each year and setting out a detailed process and timetable for producing those budgets.

    • Institutionalizing charter review as a process that will take place at least every 10 years.

    • Mandating that the council always have in place a code of ethics.

    Even if the commission ultimately recommends those items, the council may decline to put them before the voters, some commissioners said.

    For instance, Mr. Laney called the compensation commission a "very bold step," but said he has "grave doubts" that the council will judge it politically viable.

    Similarly, he said, forcing the council to adopt a comprehensive plan would enforce a new level of accountability – and may fail for that reason.

    Timing

    Mr. Laney said he was frustrated from the outset that the debate became polarized around the "melodramatic" idea that only two alternatives – strong-mayor and council-manager – existed, with no permutations in between. Given that few council members seem to share Ms. Miller's appetite for change, he said, perhaps the commission was an idea whose time had not come.
    "Timing is everything," he said.

    However, other commissioners said the exercise has been worthwhile, if only because the charter got its first thorough review in more than a decade.

    "I feel a lot of people are going to be disappointed that we're not making any radical changes," said commissioner Julie Lowenberg.

    "But I don't think we're ready for that. I'm happy to leave it as it is. It's working OK."
    “We shape our Cities, thereafter they shape us.”

  27. #27
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    I'll be interested to see how effective these changes will be, if implemented. I've always had a slight problem with standard 'strong mayor' systems, seems to easy for one poor choice to screw up hundreds of years of a city's work. Hopefully this will work out the kinks we currently have without being too much of a shock to the region...

  28. #28
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    There needs to be council members elected at large as well as those elected from single member districts. An equitable arrangement of that can be found so that the good of the city is taken into better consideration. There is too much bickering among the council members as it is now.

  29. #29
    Supertall Skyscraper Member TexasStar's Avatar
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    Strong Mayor May be Wrong Mayor

    STRONG MAYOR GOVERMENT - Panacea or Swamp Gas?

    I was born and raised in a city with a strong mayor form of government and, frankly, I'm not sure the advantages outweigh the drawbacks.

    In New Orleans, the mayor is supremely powerful, controlling all city services, employees, and making appointments to influential positions such as the Aviation Board and Dock Board. What has been the result of all this power? Well, for one thing the loss of about 200,000 residents in the last 35 years.

    The ability to hand out plum contracts to large political contributors and brow beat and control a weak city council means that the strong Mayor is only superficially controlled by the will of the voters. The Machines that these systems can engender are nearly impossible to vote out of office. New Orleans has had decent mayors, but there have also been unbelievably incompetent ones. They, too, were reelected.

    Very soon, the main thrust of these administrations is not promoting the best interests of the city, but the business of maintaining their power.

    Can someone tell me what is so bad about Dallas' current system? Running a city of 1.2 million sprawled over 360 square miles is a daunting task. Why not relieve the mayor of the day-to-day chore of managing such a massive operation? It appears to me that would free the Mayor to concentrate on more strategic issues that can have the largest impact on the city's future.

    Sure, there will always be the challenge of managing the City Council. Maybe that is where the leadership and vision come in.
    With the strength residing in the Mayor, not the office.

    Well, just my 2 cents...
    Last edited by TexasStar; 18 February 2004 at 12:21 AM.

  30. #30
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    Is anyone else troubled that the bond program that I will be voting for in May (yes to every proposition) contains what appears to me to be a slush fund for every council person to spend on projects they designate? I find this very unsettling and an invitation to corruption. I think I remember reading that each one gets something like $5 million to direct as they wish.

  31. #31
    Administrator gc's Avatar
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    You have some good thoughts TexasStar. You have certainly presented some things to think about.

    and...JaeTex, I noticed that too and feel the same way....what can you do?
    “We shape our Cities, thereafter they shape us.”

  32. #32
    Administrator gc's Avatar
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    More reasons for a stroing mayor form of govt

    When Government Breaks Down
    People Newspapers
    http://www.peoplenewspapers.com/Edit...p?ArticleId=68

    The council/manager system is in disarray. Dallas needs to dump it.

    Last week brought more revelations from the police department of how poorly our City Hall functions. A survey of the rank and file, much like the one D Magazine conducted last spring, produced almost exactly the same picture of a department sinking under bad leadership. This quote from the Homeland Security and Investigations sums it up: “Throughout the bureau, there is a pervasive lack of confidence in the command leadership of the department.... There was a feeling that there is no direction or vision for the Dallas Police Department, and a lack of leadership ability in most command-level positions throughout the organization.”

    As the Chinese saying reminds us, “A fish rots from the head first.” The person at the top sets the tone of any organization. The person at the top of this pyramid is City Manager Ted Benavides. There’s not a management guru in America who wouldn’t say he has to be fired before our police problem and our crime problem can be fixed.

    There’s a reason he hasn’t been fired, and it goes to the heart of what’s wrong with Dallas city government under the court-imposed 14-1 system.

    The city elects a mayor, and in Laura Miller we’ve elected a bright, energetic, visionary leader. Council districts elect their members, and by happenstance or God’s grace, they’ve elected one of the best overall councils ever, composed mostly of intelligent and deeply committed members.

    So what’s wrong with this picture?

    Here’s what’s wrong. Under the 14-1 system, the city manager no longer works for Dallas as a whole. He works for eight members of the city council. As long as eight members are happy, the city manager is set. He can do no wrong. Our city can have the unhappiest police department, which it does, and the highest crime rate, which it does, and the city manager is still set, as long as eight members are happy.

    So if you are city manager, what do you do? You cater to eight members. Look at this tidbit from the police morale report: “Among patrol officers, a frequent complaint was that Dallas City Council members were abusing a system that allows them to request police action.” At the Northwest Patrol Division, for example, officers complained about a council member's request to "investigate an old toilet in the alley."

    Which council member made that request? The Northwest Division serves districts 11, 13, and 6, so it was Mitchell Rasansky, Lois Finkelman, or Steve Salazar. (If you’re wondering why the police are so slow to respond to your emergency calls, this may be one reason why.)

    The flaw is not just with these members. And it is not just with our city manager, who is an obvious incompetent. The flaw is with a system that allows an incompetent to create a shield of eight council members to hide behind. It is a system without accountability — and that lack of accountability is felt all the way down the chain of command to the officer patrolling your neighborhood tonight.

    The council/manager system is a relic of another time, before we had a 15-member city council. We can’t change the 15-member council, but we can change the division of power. We can also eliminate the job of city manager.

    What we need is a strong mayor system that puts accountability up front for everyone to see. Then if you like the direction the city is going, you re-elect the mayor. If you don’t, you bounce her. It’s as American as apple pie — and it’s time to put it into effect in Dallas.
    “We shape our Cities, thereafter they shape us.”

  33. #33
    The smartest gal in town! trolleygirl's Avatar
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    This is going to be long, but I have a real serious problem with this article.

    First, there's this:

    Council districts elect their members, and by happenstance or God’s grace, they’ve elected one of the best overall councils ever
    Then there's this:

    “Among patrol officers, a frequent complaint was that Dallas City Council members were abusing a system that allows them to request police action.” At the Northwest Patrol Division, for example, officers complained about a council member's request to "investigate an old toilet in the alley."
    This is a terrible essay. It's quoting one source from one city department as justification for canning the city manager system; it cites the problem being the 14-1 system, which has absolutely nothing to do with strong mayor vs. city manager forms of government- it's about how the people elect their representatives; and it contradicts itself in the quotes above. If we have one of the best councils then they would not be abusing their powers.

    Now for some history. The Citizens Charter Association, in the late '30's, and the Dallas Citizens Council lobbied very hard to protect the present system. These civic minded associations were made up of the most high profile, most successful business men and women in Dallas at the time. Their reasons for keeping the city manager form or government and for keeping it non partisan was because they believed that if anything good were to ever get done in Dallas, then it would have to be left up to the business people- and not to the politicians. We have run this city like a business for over 70 years..........during times when we had 2 million dollar bond packages for housing for the poor AND for a new civic center. We used to manage this city just fine. The problem now are the idiots in charge!

    I cannot understand why people who live in the Park Cities- and consequently don't note in Dallas- insist on shoving this line of garbage down our throats. We DO NOT have a good council. I can think of probably two council members who are actually doing their jobs- serving their constituents. The people elected them to serve their needs, to look out for them, and the City Manager balances the budget. I will agree that the city manager needs to go, but it's not because the city manager form of government should go.

    It's like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It's easy to blame the City's problems on one person, just like it's easy to blame the DPD's problems on one person, especially if you have'nt been around Dallas for very long, and/or you don't know Dallas' municipal history. So, it's easy to say "it's not working, so let's get rid of it", just because Schutze wrote it in the Observer, not because we actually know anything about how this City's government operates. In fact, the city manager form of city government is probably the strongest form.

    Hey, do you like Mayor Miller now? Want to give her MORE power? Do you like your City Council Representive? Want to give THAT person more power? It's a good system of checks and balances. It's also a shining example of how representative democracy works when not controlled by political parties. This city manager form of government can work- as it has in the past- but the city council needs to be better. And I'm sorry to have to admit this but we've had a pretty sorry bunch of people running for council and getting elected lately. It's sad when we are not partisan and only two or three people will run for a seat in their district. So, what do we have to choose from when so few people run? That's not the fault of the city manager form of government.

    Voter apathy is also a big problem. My district has 80,000 people, 20,000 of which are registered voters. Last year, 2,700 of them voted for the incumbent........500 voted for the other two perennial candidates.

    The difficult questions we should be asking are:
    * why do so few people run?
    * what are the current council members doing at City Hall?
    * why is voter turnout so terrible?
    * what do the citizens really want in their representative?

    I've been yelling for "Get out the Vote" drives on a local level for years. My problem is that I don't know many peole my age, and when I tried to organize one a couple of years ago, I didn't know what I was doing and needed some help. I hope that younger people- like myself- will step up and run and not be afraid. I think that this will happen soon, with younger people moving into the cool, hip urban areas of town and thus, being more connected to city government.

    But back to the city manager form of government. We run this City like a non-profit. We elect our board of directors and hire an Executive Director or CEO to run the organization. It's a good way to do it- to leave the politiking up to the polticians and the business up to the MBA. I just started a new non-profit and all of my friends are telling me that I should be the Executive Director. I wouldn't be very good at that- it's not what I know how to do, or it's not in the politics of my expertise. That's why we are hiring someone else.

    So, just because your elected officials are running around town acting like queens and kings of their little fifedoms, completely derilect of their duties to the people who elected them doesn't mean that the city manager system is flawed. It means our elected officials are flawed and should be replaced.

    Don't be fooled by this rhetoric- our city manager is not supposed to be accountable to the citizens, our elected body is. True if our city manager were doing his job, then we wouldn't be in such as mess. But our council needs to rake him over the coals. Yes he's a terrble city manager but also, our council is a terrible council. This is the reason why I DON'T want a strong mayor form of government.

    One last thing: 14-1 is flawed. However it was neccesary to an extent. We should have instead, one at-large mayor, 10 council districts, and four at-large council districts. This way, if your city council representative igores you- like John Loza did with those poeple in Owenwood, then you have some redress and can appeal to an at-large represebtative for help, instead of getting, "I'm sorry but that's not in my district and I don't want to step on my colleague's toes", like Leo Chaney did to those people in Owenwood, a neighborhood divided into two council districts.

  34. #34
    Supertall Skyscraper Member TexasStar's Avatar
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    Good points, and well stated.

  35. #35
    Smile... :) mikedsjr's Avatar
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    TroGirl,

    So who do you think are doing their job and why do you say they are?

    Who do you think are the worst council members and why?

    Since i don't live in Dallas, I don't know that much about the C-membs and what they are doing.

  36. #36
    The smartest gal in town! trolleygirl's Avatar
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    So who do you think are doing their job and why do you say they are?
    Who do you think are the worst council members and why?
    Since I have not yet fully served my time as a public official, I am not really in a position to elaborate about my opinions of council representatives. So I'll reserve commentary, however if you pay close attention to some things that I've said (and likely will say) in other posts on other threads, you'll get an idea.....sooner or later.

  37. #37
    The Urban Pragmatist Mballar's Avatar
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    Smile

    TrolleyGirl is right!!

    What a ridiculous and inarticulate article advocating a Strong -Mayor form of government in Dallas

  38. #38
    LH Copycat Columbus Civil's Avatar
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    Who do you think are the worst council members and why?
    I've always liked Mitchell Rasansky and Veletta Forsythe-Lill.

  39. #39
    Administrator gc's Avatar
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    trolleygirl,
    You have certainly stated very good points in your case. Are you completely against the strong-mayor form of city government or are you just saying that our current council-manager system could work effiiciently with the right council members?

    In your opinion, is there ever a right time to move to a strong -mayor system? If so, when is that time?

    Do you think a strong-mayor system resolve the issues more effectively than our current system? Why/Why not?

    Would a strong-mayor sytsem face the same hurdles as we currently do?

    To me, it comes down to accountability or the lack thereof. It does not exist. Everyone is equally powerless. Voters always want the mayor's head not knowing that he/she has no real power. So, the voters blame the mayor, the mayor blames the city manager, the city manager blames a clique of council members, the council members blame each other, the city manager calls the council gutless, and on and on.
    “We shape our Cities, thereafter they shape us.”

  40. #40
    The smartest gal in town! trolleygirl's Avatar
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    I'm not saying that strong -mayor systems don't work. They don't work well in large cities. They work better in smaller, bedroom communities where the citizens tend to be less active in community issues than their urban counterparts. Also, in smaller rural towns, where there are just no human capital resources to even entertain hiring a city manager. In a city the size of Dallas, the best and fairest way to handle city management is through the city manager. And Dallas isn't getting smaller.

    And yes, I think that that a strong mayor system will still see many of the same issues that this city faces under our current system. We will still have potholes. We will still have high crime. We will still have a broken budget. We will still have to find a place for the homeless assistance center. These issues aren't governing body issues, they are growing pains that any large city eventually faces.

    What happened here 14 years ago (yeah, thats right, in
    1990!) was that we had a really unfair system with all these at large city council districts, until two very smart people sued the City to change it. We had folks running around all over town electing everyone from anywhere so yeah, everyone on the council got along just fine- they were all hand-picked and no minorities, no troublmakers. The decade before that we had the big S&L melt-down. The decade before that, during a national recession, in the 70's when Laura Miller came to town and saw an "Emerald City", we really did have some great streets and green parks. Now let's move back up the timeline to today and we can see that in the last 20 years, this city has done nothing to maintain our basic infrastructure. No money in the 80's, 14-1 in the 90's- and we're still trying to adjust to that. We are playing catch-up from the last 20 years of non-action and in-fighting. None of that is city manager's faullt.

    As far as claiming that it's an accountability issue, or lack thereof, I think that's just plain naive. We are not equally powerless under this system. Our council is postering and building coalitions for their next job. Because there are term limits for the council, they will have to find something to do. I'm sure some will seek higher office and they're busily building their power-bases. So, no, they are not powerless, they choose to be politicians rather than public servants. Has nothing to do with the city manager form of government and aveything to do with lazy, inept and out-of-touch officials.

    Elected representatives should be accountable to their constituiencies first. But I guess that's difficult to do when only 3,000 people voted for you...........

    So what if everyone wants the Mayor's head when the masses are restless? So what if everyone's blaming each other all the time? That would still happen under a strong mayor system. We're not talking about doing away with the city council. We're talking about giving people more direct power to influence city staff. I don't know about you, but I want people who have a certain expertise working in those areas of expertise. A city council representaive has to gain public trust, weather they're a dentist, or a lawyer, or a self-made millionaire, or a housewife. But they don't have to know anything about environmental law. Or sanitation contracts. Or storm water maintenence.

    Schutze has been somewhat disingenuous at times in the past when referring to how terrible and screwed up this city manager system is. The fact is that staff do their jobs at their own levels of expertise. They put recommendations together and present them to council. Council generally says, "looks good, no objections." Then the floor is open to the public for objections. So, if the public lobbies the council and says, "hey we think this is stupid, we don't want a nature trail, we want streets", then this is where the public service part about serving the public comes into play. Having a strong mayor will do nothing to improve upon or otherwise change this operation.

    What I really like about the city manager is that, in a perfect world, no stone is left unturned. We don't have elected officials with a private agenda going around and threatening or influencing staff people. Instead, we have professionals doing their jobs. Staff people aren't biased to one park or neighbohood or street or a section of town, they just do their jobs. If you or I think they aren't doing a good enough job, we can challenge it.

    This business of the city manager only needing to make eight council members happy is just plain old-fashioned politics. In a strong mayor system, then it's the Mayor's job to keep those eight council members happy or else nothing will get done because there will never be consensus.

    And Ted's right, the council is gutless.

  41. #41
    Supertall Skyscraper Member aceplace's Avatar
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    Trolleygirl,

    One possible explanation for the deficiencies in the municipal government...

    The city of Dallas has a monopoly in providing public services in its area.

    Any monopoly becomes unresponsive... because they can.

    One alternative to monopoly rule that people constantly exercise is to move away to another muni in the Metroplex. Voting every couple of years and hoping things will change for the better is not as practical as moving to someplace better NOW.

    How we address this obvious fact of life is the question. Is there a valid reason to treat a municipality as a government, which has a natural right to govern territory, and to which we should be loyal... or do we treat it as just another business organization, that we trade with, or not, at our discretion?

  42. #42
    High-Rise Member Foucault's Avatar
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    Governments are needed for some things...garbage removal service, for example, does not work with a free market system because, unlike, say, organic kale, it's not really something you can do without when it gets too expensive. It is for this reason that electricity deregulation (a la California blackouts and Enron) was a bad idea.
    Government monopolies may not be great, but they are better than many likely alternatives. See how you like a free market of law.
    If the City of Dallas disbands itself (which would effectually happen if all municipal services ceased to be provided), tamtagon, and anarchy does not result (as some say the gov't has barinwashed us to think), then either homeowners' associations will form and the outcome will be contractors hired by the homeowners having a monopoly, which you say will be unresponsive, or people will flee to Plano, which takes care of its citizens' needs. Meanwhile, the private security guards hired by HP are going to turn a blind eye to drug cartels forming downtown.

  43. #43
    Smile... :) mikedsjr's Avatar
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    Laura Miller-KLIF-Thursdays at 7:30am

    Everyone needs to hear her. Such awesome radio.

    Laura Miller said this morning that she doesn't like the form of government.

    Boy did she go off on Ted Benavedis this morning. And you can tell Ted doesn't like having a mayor who is responsible and breathing down his neck when he decides to do something other than what the Mayor requests. WOW!

    Last edited by mikedsjr; 19 February 2004 at 09:41 AM.

  44. #44
    Mid-Rise Member evdallas's Avatar
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    I heard some clips of that ! she was quite angry.

  45. #45
    LH Copycat Columbus Civil's Avatar
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    Unhappy

    I heard they had to run it on a 10 second delay to edit out all the bad language.

  46. #46
    Smile... :) mikedsjr's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Columbus Civil
    I heard they had to run it on a 10 second delay to edit out all the bad language.
    umm...no.

    They did have to run through commercials while she was in a bad cell driving her kids to school.

  47. #47
    LH Copycat Columbus Civil's Avatar
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    I don't know mike. In my house, mother****** is a bad word.

  48. #48
    Supertall Skyscraper Member aceplace's Avatar
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    Government monopolies may not be great, but they are better than many likely alternatives
    And worse than a lot of others.

    The question is... which municipal services do you privatize for better consumer choice, which do you refer to a higher level of government, and which do you retain with a municipality.

    An even better question... is the "government model" an appropriate role for a municipal corporation?

    Is a municipality work best as a government, or as a private, although non-profit, corporation?

    The City of Dallas does not print the currency, maintain a foreign policy, or wage war. I think it should also not fight crime in the Metroplex, or fund a regional body like DART. Those things should be remanded to other levels of government.

    Should the City of Dallas have a monopoly on a downtown Dallas jurisdiction? We are seeing a municipal authority rise in Downtown that will effectively preempt much of its jurisdiction.

    As to the role of a monopoly, like Southwestern Bell or TXU... these bodies are regulated by government. The monopoly model falls apart when the monopoly IS a government. After all, TXU or Southwestern Bell do not have the legal right to eminent domain, to seize private property...

  49. #49
    Administrator gc's Avatar
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    Okay, I'll admit that I am not an expert in city government. So, I decided to do a little research. Here are some of my initial findings.

    Summary of Advantages and Disadvantages of Forms of Municipal Government

    Weak Mayor
    Advantages
    • Long historical tradition
    • Elected representative council to meet constituents'needs
    • Has worked well in small and rural localities

    Disadvantages
    • Power and responsibility diffused
    • Lack of strong leadership
    • Political vacuum may lead to "bossism" and "machine" politics

    Strong Mayor
    Advantages
    • Strong leadership with centralized responsibility
    • Facilitates policy formulation and implementation

    Disadvantages
    • Too much responsibility for one person
    • Mayor may not be a professional administrator

    Council-Manager
    Advantages
    • Professional manager in charge of managing city
    • Council retains policy control
    • City run in business-like manner

    Disadvantages
    • No strong, effective political leadership
    • Tendency for manager to usurp policy making functions
    • Manager may be a stranger to the city, seeking only to advance his or her own career

    Commission
    Advantages
    • Has worked well in emergency situations
    • Simple organizational structure
    • Swift direct implementation of policy

    Disadvantages
    • Legislative and policy functions held by one body
    • No checks and balances
    • No one person with overall administrative responsibility
    • Difficult to elect legislators with administrative abilities

    Town Meeting/Representative Town Meeting
    Advantages
    • "Purest" form of democracy
    • Allows all voters a say in how town is run
    • Deep historical tradition
    • Has worked well in small localities

    Disadvantages
    • Difficult to do long-range planning
    • Challenging to educate all citizens adequately
    • Preparing announce of meeting may be cumbersome process
    • Annual meetings poorly attended
    “We shape our Cities, thereafter they shape us.”

  50. #50
    Administrator gc's Avatar
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    Some more....

    Source: http://www.council-manager.org/form.php

    The Council-Manager form of government is used by more cities, villages, townships, and counties than any other form. It is a system of local government that combines the strong political leadership of elected officials in the form of a governing body, with the strong managerial experience of an appointed local government manager. The governing body, commonly known as the council, as a whole may also be referred to as the commission or the board. The Council-Manager form establishes a representative system where all power is concentrated in the elected council and where the council hires a professionally trained manager to oversee the delivery of public services.

    It’s Responsive
    In council-management government, the mayor or chairperson of the governing body and council members are the leaders and policy makers elected to represent the community. They focus on policy issues that are responsive to citizen’s needs and wishes. The manager is appointed by the governing body to carry out policy and ensure that the entire community is being served. If the manager is not responsive to the governing body’s wishes, the governing body has the authority to terminate the manager at any time. In that sense, a manager’s responsiveness is tested daily.
    --I disagree here, at least in Dallas.--

    It’s Adaptable
    Not all Council-Manager governments are structured the same way. One of the most attractive features is that the Council-Manager form is adaptable to local conditions and preferences. For example, some communities have councils that are elected at large while other councils are elected by district or by a combination of an at-large and by district structure. In some local governments, the mayor or chairperson is elected at large by the voters; others are elected by their colleagues on the governing body.
    --I disagree here, at least in Dallas.--

    It’s less expensive
    Local governments have found that overall costs actually have been reduced with competent management. Savings come in the form of reduced operating costs, increased efficiency and productivity, improved revenue collection, or effective use of technology.
    --I can see this point--

    Council-Manager vs. the Strong Mayor
    Nearly 90% of all communities use either the Council-Manager or the Strong Mayor form of government. When viewed together, the overwhelming advantages of the Council-Manager form become apparent. It encourages neighborhood input into the political process, diffuses the power of special interests, and eliminates partisan politics from municipal hiring, firing, and contracting decisions.

    Neighborhoods Strengthen Their Voice
    The Council-Manager form encourages open communication between citizens and their government. Under this form, each member of the governing body has an equal voice in policy development and administrative oversight. This gives neighborhoods and diverse groups a greater opportunity to influence policy.
    --I can see this point--

    Under the “strong Mayor” form, political power is concentrated in the mayor, which means that other members of the elected body relinquish at least some of their policy-making power and influence. This loss of decision-making power among council members can have a chilling effect on the voices of neighborhoods and city residents.

    The Power of Special Interests is Diffused
    Under the Council-Manager form of government, involvement of the entire elected body ensures a more balanced approach to community decision making, so that all interests can be expressed and heard – not just those that are well funded.

    Under the “strong-mayor” form, however, it’s easier for special interests to use money and political power to influence a single elected official, rather than having to secure a majority of the city council’s support for their agenda.
    --hmmmmmm--

    Merit-Based Decision Making Vs. Partisan Politics
    Under Council-Manager government, qualifications and performance- and not skillful navigation of the political election process - are the criteria the elected body uses to select a professional manager. The professional manager, in turn, uses his or her education, experience, and training to select department heads and other key managers to oversee the efficient delivery of services. In this way, Council-Manager government maintains critical checks and balances to ensure accountability at city hall.

    Under the “strong mayor” form of government, the day-to-day management of community operations shifts to the mayor, who often lacks the appropriate training, education, and experience in municipal administration and finance to oversee the delivery of essential community services. Also, under the “strong-mayor” form, there is the temptation to make decisions regarding the hiring and firing of key department head positions – such as the police chief, public works director, and finance director – based on the applicant’s political support rather than his or her professional qualifications.
    --This is why they appoint strong leaders to their respective positions--


    I'd really like to see some more information about this topic if anyone has time to do research.

    Has anyone heard any real complaints about this type of system in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, or Houston?
    “We shape our Cities, thereafter they shape us.”

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