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Thread: Your Opinion of a Strong Mayor

  1. #801
    The Urban Pragmatist Mballar's Avatar
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    Miller's nemesis, Ron Kirk, has thrown his hat into the ring now. It's all but over for her efforts to push the strong mayor ballot measure forward. I guarantee that Kirk has a lot more pull in this city than Miller does (her own base has abandoned her b/c they feel betrayed). He also has something else that Miller has never had. . .political savvy. If it's true that the business community is getting involved and aligning itself with Kirk (as the business community usually does), Miller might want to reconsider. . .oh I mean re-reconsider (she was originally against Blackwood's proposal, but has since changed her position in support - flip flopping is not uncommon for Miller).
    A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something. - Plato

  2. #802
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    If you have not voted or viewed the forum poll on the proposed amendment:

    http://forum.dallasmetropolis.com/showthread.php?t=3328

  3. #803
    Supertall Skyscraper Member aceplace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flaming Moderate
    I dare not read all the posts, but I favor a strong mayor. Right now no one is accountable to the city. Individual city council people grease the pockets of their special interest supporters, but no one has any vision. We need a mayor to lead the city with vision, which is something Dallas sorely lacks. A strong mayor can lead a city. Look what Daley's done in Chicago.
    Flame, I agree. There are no citywide elective offices in Dallas municipal governance at this time with any real executive power, and that means I have no real way to influence the governance. If we have a strong mayor, I can vote yea or nea on whether the municipality's behavior is satisfactory.

    Currently, I have no way to punish or reward the entire city council for their behavior. Yes, if the failures of municipal Dallas were entirely Rasansky's fault, I could modify the government by voting against him... but I can't pin the blame entirely on my own councilor. In fact, he might be acting in my interest but against the interests of the rest of the muni.

    What is needed is a way for any citizen to punish or reward the entire municipal administration, not just one city council member.

    But currently, we don't have that. No wonder people don't bother to vote. It is essentially futile.

  4. #804
    Supertall Skyscraper Member texman's Avatar
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    What exactly does Ron Kirk do now days? other than stir up trouble?
    "And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed."-"Farewell to Penn Station," New York Times Editorial, October 30, 1963

  5. #805
    High-Rise Member columbiasooner's Avatar
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    From the Dallas Morning News Blog

    Re: Strong Mayor
    Here's an interesting sidelight to Gromer Jeffers' story this morning on Ron Kirk and Big Biz trying to come up with a Blackwood alternative: We've invited Mr. Kirk and leaders from the Dallas Chamber and Citizens Council to come talk to the Editorial Board about their views and their plans. So far, no takers. Maybe they're not ready for prime time.

    My instinct says Blackwood opponents are already in deep mush. "Yes, you're in a hole, but don't grab this outstretched hand, cuz you'll only wind up in a deeper hole" is not exactly a galvanizing message. Further complicating that message with a promise -- which isn't legally binding -- to put some nebulous alternative on a future ballot doesn't seem any more appealing.

    posted by Victoria Loe Hicks @ Feb 15, 3:09 PM

  6. #806
    Administrator gc's Avatar
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    Loza opposes strong mayor
    Some thought he would back Miller in changing Dallas government
    09:52 AM CST on Wednesday, February 16, 2005
    By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News
    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcont...oza.a528a.html

    Mayor Pro Tem John Loza announced Tuesday that he will join his colleagues in opposition to Dallas' strong-mayor proposal, ending two months of speculation that he would be the lone council member to stand by Mayor Laura Miller in support of the measure. And while Mr. Loza often aligns with Ms. Miller politically, he took a swipe at her leadership skills Tuesday, saying it was council members – not the mayor – who have led the way for many of Dallas' recent successes. "There was a point where I was seriously considering lending support to that [strong mayor] campaign," Mr. Loza said. "But at the end of the day, I couldn't wrap my arms around it." Mayor Laura Miller said she considers Mr. Loza a friend and doesn't take his comments personally. And she said she wasn't surprised to learn he was joining the opposition.

    "The council members are united in their opposition to making a change," she said. "The campaign theme for the council members is, 'The council does a great job, things are terrific, and we should leave things alone.' I think ... [Mr. Loza] is putting forward that theme." Mr. Loza said he agrees with the concept of a strong mayor and understands "the frustration many Dallasites have with our form of government." But attorney Beth Ann Blackwood's proposal, which will appear on the May ballot, was poorly prepared and gives far too much unchecked authority to the mayor, Mr. Loza said, including the power to issue administrative orders and appoint nearly all board and commission members. "Above all, investing the mayor with this much power would ensure that entire communities will not have their voices heard," he said. Ms. Miller said a strong-mayor government would allow the top elected official to be more accountable to the public and to follow through on campaign goals. But even if the referendum fails, she said she plans to run again.

    "It certainly would be more exciting if the proposition passes in May," she said. But Mr. Loza said he's not sure average citizens would see the benefits of a strong-mayor system under Ms. Blackwood's plan. While Ms. Miller's personal achievements include an ethics ordinance and passage of the smoking and panhandling bans, Mr. Loza said on major issues like bond packages and low-income housing, the council had to work hard to bring her around. Until Tuesday, supporters of the strong-mayor proposal had thought Mr. Loza might go their way, said Laura Estrada, a member of the mayor's Stronger Mayor, Stronger Dallas campaign.

    And she said she wouldn't be surprised if peer pressure – particularly from Hispanic opponents of the measure – played a role in his decision. "That camp has every right to give their opinion," Ms. Estrada said. "But they do not speak for all Hispanics in the voting area of Dallas, Texas." Mr. Loza's announcement will send a strong message to the Hispanic community and to Dallas voters who are on the fence about strong mayor, said Brenda Reyes, a member of the Coalition for Open Government. "Now that we have all 14 council members, I think it's almost a slam dunk," she said. "There is no hesitance on any of the council members parts."

    E-mail eramshaw@dallasnews.com .
    “We shape our Cities, thereafter they shape us.”

  7. #807
    High-Rise Member columbiasooner's Avatar
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    Nothing like being the last one on the sinking ship.

  8. #808
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    I'm really not surprised. Why would the council want to give up all of their power?

  9. #809
    The Urban Pragmatist Mballar's Avatar
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    ^Loza has given new meaning to the term 14-1!
    A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something. - Plato

  10. #810
    Moderator jsoto3's Avatar
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    TREC: Dallas' Strong Mayor Referendum | Fire Side Chat

    Date: Wednesday, February, 23 2005
    Time: 5:00 - 7:00 PM
    Location: W Dallas Victory Hotel & Residences Sales Center | 1155 Broom St. | Dallas

    Cost: AIA & TREC Members: FREE | Guests of a member: $25

    Please click HERE for a full list of panelists and event information.

    Sponsored by: AIA Dallas, BECK, and W Dallas Victory Hotel & Residences.


    I am going if anyone wants to be my 'guest' (though I wouldn't pay $25 to attend). PM me.
    Last edited by jsoto3; 16 February 2005 at 05:53 PM.

  11. #811
    High-Rise Member columbiasooner's Avatar
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    The council would retain ALL power that it currently has. The only "power" it would lose would be the "power" to overrun the city manager and his/her staff, which the current charter expressly forbids.

  12. #812
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    Can anyone come or only 'guests of members'?

  13. #813
    All Purpose Moderator warlock55's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by columbiasooner
    First..this is not about Laura Miller. She only has one possible term left.

    Second..the entire Council will be overhauled over the next 2 years due to term limits.
    Well if you're already resigned to gridlock for at least two more years why not use that time to come up with a proposal that won't ensure the divisiveness will continue after that. The councilmembers may change, but the voters won't, and they'll keep electing the same kind of people to fight against perceived injustice.

  14. #814
    All Purpose Moderator warlock55's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by columbiasooner
    The council would retain ALL power that it currently has. The only "power" it would lose would be the "power" to overrun the city manager and his/her staff, which the current charter expressly forbids.
    Reminds me of the old gun-rights argument: we should enforce the laws we have now instead of adding new ones.

  15. #815
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    Miller can sway votes
    Experts: If she articulates case well, strong mayor plan has good chance
    By David Webb
    Staff Writer


    The ballot measure to strengthen the power of the Dallas mayor could easily pass May 7 because of the popularity of incumbent Laura Miller, some gay political observers said. “The mayor is still very popular, and if she can articulate it well, it is highly likely to win,” said Jeff Strater, co-chair of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance political action committee. "The mayor definitely has the political clout to pull it off.” Miller has endorsed the proposal slated to appear on the ballot during the upcoming municipal election. The proposal, which quickly gained sufficient signatures to be certified for the ballot, is the brainchild of Dallas lawyer Beth Ann Blackwood. The lawyer, who had planned a bid for the District 14 council seat, announced this week that she would abandon her personal campaign in order to devote all her time to campaigning for the the “strong mayor” form of government.

    Blackwood, who two years ago announced her plans to run for the council seat that includes representation of Oak Lawn, said her role as spokesperson for the Citizens for a Strong Mayor movement would prevent her from waging an effective campaign. All of the other candidates in the District 14 race have gone on record opposing the ballot proposal. “I commit my focus to being a strong advocate for increased accountability at City Hall,” Blackwood said. But although Blackwood has “made an interesting impact on the city,” she lacks the political power to get the proposal passed without Miller’s support, Strater said. “It’s really been a discussion at the water cooler,” Strater said. The collaboration of Miller and Blackwood could occur this week. Both were scheduled to appear before The Dallas Morning News editorial board to discuss their views on the need for a strong mayor form of government.

    The pair has not yet formed an alliance, but it is probably imminent, said Cannon Flowers, a former council candidate who arranged a recent forum where the GLBT community heard Blackwood speak in favor of the proposal. “There’s a possibility they could end up working together,” Flowers said. “Going before the editorial board will be the first time they’ve both discussed the same thing.” Blackwood’s petition drive that secured 30,000 signatures placing the proposal on the ballot followed Miller’s unsuccessful attempt last year to convince the council to amend the City Charter to strengthen the mayor’s power. The city manager now performs the duties that would be transferred to the mayor if the proposal is approved. Flowers said that about 20 people turned out last week at the forum to hear Blackwood speak about her proposal. Most of the questions posed to the attorney focused on how much power the mayor would enjoy under the proposal, particularly in regard to the hiring and firing of employees.

    Flowers said the answers he heard satisfied his concerns. "They are trying to set the mayor up as a CEO of a major corporation, which happens to be the City of Dallas,” Flowers said. “The CEO for any company would have that same authority, but as we know it’s used judiciously, not just as a whim.” Flowers said he would probably support the proposal because he believes a change is long overdue. “The only position I’ve taken is that we’ve got to do something, and I think we need to get a better system than we’ve got,” Flowers said. “Beth Ann Blackwood is the first who is getting even close to where we need to be.” Flowers said he believes voters will end up supporting the plan because of the interest it has generated. Numerous organizations have joined the campaign against the ballot proposal. “I personally think it is going to fly,” Flowers said. “I don’t think any kind of change happens without a huge discussion, and I think that is what is building here.” But other political observers fear the changes are too extreme and are being undertaken too quickly.

    Former councilman Craig McDaniel, who is gay, said he opposes the plan because of errors, contradictions and omissions in the proposal. He called large parts of the plan “ill-advised, goofy and flat-out wrong.” “I think it was a fairly crude effort at drafting changes,” McDaniel said. Many people who signed the petition,including his own partner, apparently misunderstood what they were signing, McDanielsaid. The former councilman noted that the proposed changes to the City Charter do not include adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s anti-discrimination clause. McDaniel said he believes the city is in better shape than the proponents of the proposal are claiming. The budget is balanced annually, and services are provided to the citizens, he said. Proponents of the plan, such as Flowers, are not worried about the possibility of abuse of power by a mayor because they maintain there are checks and balances in the proposal, such as two-thirds of the council being able to remove the mayor from office. Any possible conflicts with state law that are raising concerns among some critics could be rectified with modifications of the charter, Flowers said.

    “I really do think that with one abuse of power they’re going to jump on that,” Flowers said. McDaniel said he believes that for the council to remove the mayor it would demand substantial proof of malfeasance rather than simply the belief the city is headed in the wrong direction. And it makes little sense to approve a proposal that contains measures that would be invalidated by state law, he said. City Attorney Madeline Johnson has said she believes many of the changes in the proposal contradict state law. McDaniel said he believes that taking the power to appoint board and commission members from council members would decrease representation for some communities, including the gay community, McDaniel said. The former council member said he would favor another review of the charter and a better revision of it. “If they think it is broken and needs to be fixed, it didn’t get broken overnight and it won’t get fixed overnight,” McDaniel said. McDaniel said he believes that Miller would probably make judicial use of expanded mayoral powers, but that might not be true of her successors. “I just don’t think it is responsible,” McDaniel said.

    Flowers said he is planning another forum in mid-April featuring Blackwood. Strater, whose organization is also planning a forum this spring featuring both supporters and opponents of the ballot proposal, said he is less optimistic about the proposal. “I’m not real crazy about the proposal,” Strater said. “I think it was poorly constructed, and it could have been a better process.” Much of Blackwood’s support for the petition drive came from Park Cities residents, rather than Dallas citizens. Some critics claim the proposal is designed to benefit the wealthy business class at the expense of minority communities. Blackwood has denied having any motives other than improving the efficiency of the city.

    E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

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    Strong-mayor foes set up billboards

    12:29 PM CST on Thursday, February 17, 2005


    By CHRIS HEINBAUGH / WFAA-TV





    WFAA-TV
    Community leaders who oppose the strong-mayor initiative are lending their names to a billboard campaign. Opponents of the strong-mayor initiative in Dallas are taking the issue to the public.

    The first in a series of billboards went up Thursday morning near Loop 12 and Jim Miller Road.

    The signs will bear the names of community activists opposed to changing the city's charter to grant more power to the mayor.

    Opponents like Rev. H.J. Johnson fear a strong-mayor form of government will dilute the voices of council members in every part of the city.

    "We don't want to go back to the old way of doing business in Dallas," Johnson said. "We want to make sure that all parts of the community are at the table at all times, representing the thoughts and the desires of the people."

    Also Online

    Video: Michael Rey reports
    Some opponents of the strong-mayor proposal say they would rather give more power to City Council members.

    Earlier this week, some council members said former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk had joined efforts to defeat the strong-mayor initiative. Kirk, the city's first black mayor, would not comment publicly.

    E-mail cheinbaugh@wfaa.com

  17. #817
    LH Copycat Columbus Civil's Avatar
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    The first in a series of billboards went up Thursday morning near Loop 12 and Jim Miller Road.
    I wonder if they'll put any up in areas where people actually vote.
    Dallas uber alles

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    Probably not, because that is where the people that are in favor of the charter amendment live.

    Also, they should put up a billboard w/ a picture of Fantroy calling Laura a Nazi.
    Last edited by St-T; 17 February 2005 at 04:43 PM.

  19. #819
    The Urban Pragmatist Mballar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Columbus Civil
    I wonder if they'll put any up in areas where people actually vote.
    I think that after the November 2004 Presidential election, heightened awareness of the importance of voting will linger in those areas where voter turnout has been historically low.
    A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something. - Plato

  20. #820
    High-Rise Member columbiasooner's Avatar
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    Yeah you may actually get over 8% city wide which would be a record for a non-mayoral election. Definitely won't come close to 10%.

  21. #821
    The smartest gal in town! trolleygirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by St-T
    If you have not voted or viewed the forum poll on the proposed amendment:

    http://forum.dallasmetropolis.com/showthread.php?t=3328
    I'm not voting in your stupid poll. Everybody in here already knows how I feel anyway. I'll vote at the poll where it actually counts.

  22. #822
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    Quote Originally Posted by trolleygirl
    I'm not voting in your stupid. Everybody in here already knows how I feel anyway. I'll vote at the poll where it actually counts.
    "Not voting in your stupid."

    OK, TG... you go w/ your bad self.

  23. #823
    The smartest gal in town! trolleygirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by St-T
    Probably not, because that is where the people that are in favor of the charter amendment live.

    Also, they should put up a billboard w/ a picture of Fantroy calling Laura a Nazi.

    Well if they did that, then it would have to be an altered picture since JL never said that.

  24. #824
    The smartest gal in town! trolleygirl's Avatar
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    oops, how can you accidentally post the same thing twice?

  25. #825
    LH Copycat Columbus Civil's Avatar
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    JL?
    Dallas uber alles

  26. #826
    High-Rise Member columbiasooner's Avatar
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    He actually equated Laura Miller to Hitler, and he said it during the council meeting so it's on record. The upcoming issue of D Magazine has a great article on Strong Mayor and goes into some detail about Fantroy's comments and his participation with the opposition.

  27. #827
    The smartest gal in town! trolleygirl's Avatar
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    Y'all remember this article? Post # 599.

    The Juice
    If you got it, you can get what you want from City Hall
    BY JIM SCHUTZE
    jimschutze@mindspring.com
    http://www.dallasobserver.com/issue...ws/schutze.html

    Hate to do this to you. I don't like it when I read stories by other reporters based on unnamed sources. I have an ungenerous tendency to wonder if they made it all up. But in this case, the only people I could talk to were sources who would rather eat chalk than see their names in my column. In the next 16 weeks Dallas voters must ponder the biggest change in city politics since 1931--a charter election May 7 to abandon the city manager system in favor of much greater powers for the mayor. A standard cliché in this debate, one I probably have helped propagate in my own small way, is the notion that Dallas City Hall is broken, stuck in the mud, can't get anything done to save its life.

    Here's my secret dilemma: I know people--great sources, folks I have known for years--who work City Hall like a gumball machine every day of their lives, all day long. I'm talking about people who go to City Hall seeking deals: zoning changes, street closings, conservation districts, historic markers, tax breaks, whatever. And they would tell you City Hall works like a Swiss watch. For them. Some of them would disagree with what I'm going to say next, and some would agree. I would say next that City Hall works for a limited group of insiders--I think they would prefer the title "informed citizens"--who know how to work it. But not for the person who has a job or kids to take care of or who wants to go fishing and just doesn't have time to become a Ph.D. expert. Last week I spoke with several people who are Ph.D.s-times-10 at dealing with City Hall. I can't name them; I can't even characterize what they do, because they operate in a tiny universe, and someone would figure out who they are.

  28. #828
    The smartest gal in town! trolleygirl's Avatar
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    The Juicer

    Y'all remember this article? Post # 599.

    The Juice
    If you got it, you can get what you want from City Hall
    BY JIM SCHUTZE
    jimschutze@mindspring.com
    http://www.dallasobserver.com/issue...ws/schutze.html

    Hate to do this to you. I don't like it when I read stories by other reporters based on unnamed sources. I have an ungenerous tendency to wonder if they made it all up. But in this case, the only people I could talk to were sources who would rather eat chalk than see their names in my column. In the next 16 weeks Dallas voters must ponder the biggest change in city politics since 1931--a charter election May 7 to abandon the city manager system in favor of much greater powers for the mayor. A standard cliché in this debate, one I probably have helped propagate in my own small way, is the notion that Dallas City Hall is broken, stuck in the mud, can't get anything done to save its life.

    Here's my secret dilemma: I know people--great sources, folks I have known for years--who work City Hall like a gumball machine every day of their lives, all day long. I'm talking about people who go to City Hall seeking deals: zoning changes, street closings, conservation districts, historic markers, tax breaks, whatever. And they would tell you City Hall works like a Swiss watch. For them. Some of them would disagree with what I'm going to say next, and some would agree. I would say next that City Hall works for a limited group of insiders--I think they would prefer the title "informed citizens"--who know how to work it. But not for the person who has a job or kids to take care of or who wants to go fishing and just doesn't have time to become a Ph.D. expert. Last week I spoke with several people who are Ph.D.s-times-10 at dealing with City Hall. I can't name them; I can't even characterize what they do, because they operate in a tiny universe, and someone would figure out who they are...................

    This is what I've been doing all month, so it's why I've been mostly quiet on this forum, especially this page. And it's waering me out!

  29. #829
    The smartest gal in town! trolleygirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by columbiasooner
    He actually equated Laura Miller to Hitler, and he said it during the council meeting so it's on record. The upcoming issue of D Magazine has a great article on Strong Mayor and goes into some detail about Fantroy's comments and his participation with the opposition.
    No, James Fantroy did not. Former Councilman Al Lipscomb, who was sitting in the audience and was signed up to speak like a regular citizen, likened Laura to Hitler.

  30. #830
    The smartest gal in town! trolleygirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Columbus Civil
    JL?
    James Fantry's nic @ City Hall. His initials.

  31. #831
    The Urban Pragmatist Mballar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by columbiasooner
    He actually equated Laura Miller to Hitler, and he said it during the council meeting so it's on record. The upcoming issue of D Magazine has a great article on Strong Mayor and goes into some detail about Fantroy's comments and his participation with the opposition.
    I believe Al Lipscomb was the individual who compared Miller to Hitler.
    A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something. - Plato

  32. #832
    High-Rise Member columbiasooner's Avatar
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    Al Lipscomb likened the efforts to the rise of Nazi Germany, JL specifically compared Laura Miller to Hitler. Read the upcoming article by Brian Sweany in D Magazine. Even though JL denied it both Brian and Dave Levinthal have the transcript. I know you know how to get a copy of the transcript if you need to.

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    Sorry... but wasn't Mr. Libscomb accompanying Fontroy or was a guest of his?? I remember the two being connected.

  34. #834
    High-Rise Member columbiasooner's Avatar
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    No, it was just a regular city council meeting where ol' Al spoke as a "regular" citizen.

  35. #835
    The smartest gal in town! trolleygirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by St-T
    Sorry... but wasn't Mr. Libscomb accompanying Fontroy or was a guest of his?? I remember the two being connected.
    You might say they "share a brain", but Al always goes down tere on his own volition. If anyone's yanking anyone's strings, it's Al yanking JL.

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    Ahhh... thanks, TG.

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    Strong mayor or powerful mistake?

    Critics say plan lacks checks, balances; supporters say other cities give freer rein


    07:16 AM CST on Friday, February 18, 2005


    By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News



    Advocates of changing Dallas' form of government say the May ballot referendum is a textbook example of a strong-mayor system – one that transfers authority from the city manager and City Council to the mayor, but still gives Dallas' chief executive fewer powers than in many large cities.


    TOM FOX / DMN
    Dallas is divided. Some say the Blackwood proposal creates a mayor too strong for the city's good. Others point to the ultimate check: voters who can rehire or fire the CEO. "All you have to do is read it and compare it to other charters word for word," Mayor Laura Miller said. "This is exactly what we need to be able to compete with other cities that are bigger and farther ahead than we are in terms of revitalization."

    But opponents say a lack of checks and balances in the proposal could make Dallas' mayor the most powerful in the nation. If voters approve the measure, they foresee a city where constituents have little voice in local governance and elected officials must back-scratch to find favor with an omnipotent and possibly corrupt mayor.

    "It's a radical proposal," said Dr. Ruth Morgan, professor emeritus at Southern Methodist University and a longtime observer of Dallas politics. "When you take all the factors into consideration, and add up all the powers the mayor would have, ours would probably be the strongest one in the country."

    Under the proposal, designed by Dallas attorney Beth Ann Blackwood, the city manager position would be eliminated, and all his or her responsibilities – from preparing the budget to hiring and firing department heads – would be passed to the mayor. The mayor would appoint the members of most boards and commissions, subject to council confirmation. He or she would also hire nonelected officers, such as the city attorney, city secretary, and police and fire chiefs.

    The mayor would be a voting member of the City Council but have no veto power. The council could remove the mayor with a two-thirds vote of its members.

    Elsewhere, veto power
    Strong mayor supporters are quick to note that Ms. Blackwood's plan is more middle-of-the-road than many other city governments. New York and Los Angeles, for example, don't have a provision for the council to remove the mayor. Both cities provide the mayor with veto power, which can generally be overruled by a two-thirds vote of the council.

    But Dr. Morgan, who last year published a book on Dallas politics and the Voting Rights Act, said it's impossible to get a clear picture of a mayor's strength just by looking at a list of powers. In Chicago, for example, court decrees have put constraints on the mayor, she said. In New York, the system of borough presidents balances the mayor's authority. Los Angeles' charter calls for an elected city attorney who can be at odds with the mayor, while Houston's provides an elected controller. And cities with even a handful of at-large council members – a system Dallas did away with through a series of lawsuits – tend to have greater checks on the mayor's power, she said.

    "In this case, you can't compare apples to apples," council member Veletta Forsythe Lill said.

    Dr. Morgan said Ms. Blackwood and her supporters crafted the details of the strong-mayor proposal behind closed doors and without sufficient expertise and, in doing so, created a governance monster.

    "By crossing out the city manager and putting in the mayor, and crossing out the council and putting in the mayor, it effectively has destroyed a basic principle in government – the balance of power," Dr. Morgan said.

    Also Online

    Conflicts cited with mayor referendum

    Strong Mayors, From Coast to Coast

    Strong-Mayor Systems, a Comparison

    The Way We Are vs. The Way We Would Be
    Some may criticize the proposal for placing too much responsibility with the mayor, Ms. Blackwood said. But in the current council-manager system, she said, most of those powers are vested in the city manager, an individual who isn't elected.

    "Nothing is changing except the shift of power from the city manager to the mayor," she said. "It's so the voters can elect the person running the city and have some accountability."

    And Ms. Blackwood's proposal goes to great lengths to install the greatest possible check on power, Ms. Miller said, the ability of the council to remove the mayor with a two-thirds vote.

    "If a sitting council can remove the only citywide elected official among them with a two-thirds vote, that's extraordinary," Ms. Miller said. "And every four years, voters can decide if their CEO is doing a good job."

    'Inhumanly possible'
    Most strong mayors hire and fire department directors and oversee the city's administrative operations. But opponents of the proposal question how one mayor can do so much – and do it well.

    "It's asking the mayor to hire and fire all department heads, and to have a supervisory role over them, at the same time they're selling the city and working with the business community," council member Lois Finkelman said. "It's almost inhumanly possible to do it all and do it well."

    And they are quick to point out another shift in authority – from elected council members to the mayor. Under the proposal, the mayor would appoint nearly all members of boards and commissions, a giant task currently reserved for individual council members.

    "It centers so much power in the mayor that the council members will have almost no choice but to support them, or they won't have services and projects in their district," Ms. Finkelman said.

    In nearly all strong-mayor governments, Ms. Blackwood said, the mayor appoints board and commission members. He or she also generally hires an executive staff – a team of experts to help achieve mayoral goals. This is no different than the president deferring to his cabinet or the governor delegating to his staff, she said.

    But Ms. Finkelman said she worries the appointed group of mayoral assistants Ms. Blackwood referenced, as opposed to the elected mayor, would be making decisions impacting Dallas citizens. While the charters of some strong-mayor cities, including New York, provide for a chief administrative position, the Blackwood charter does not.

    "That removes accountability even farther than the current system," Ms. Finkelman said.

    Ms. Blackwood views a strong-mayor government as a way to give council members greater clout, not to strip them of their powers. They still pass the laws and control the budget, she said, but the mayor would also be held accountable to them.

    "The mayor is responsible for executing what the council says the policy is," she said. "And if that mayor isn't carrying out the policy, that's misconduct. They can be booted."

    But the provision in Ms. Blackwood's plan that would allow council members to remove the mayor is poorly written and open to interpretation, just like much of the document, Ms. Lill said.

    Many vocal opponents of the measure say they aren't closed-minded about the benefits of increasing mayoral power. They just disagree with this particular variation of strong mayor.

    But if Ms. Blackwood's proposal is voted down, Ms. Miller said, Dallas may not get another chance at a strong mayor for a long time.

    'Spark and energy'
    Ms. Miller said she found herself getting wistful last month at a conference in Washington, D.C., as she listened to Houston Mayor Bill White speaking excitedly about filling department-head positions, and about the momentum of his Cabinet.

    "There was a spark and energy and dynamism there that you can't duplicate here," she said.

    Certain cities have thrived under strong-mayor governance, Ms. Lill said. But they've all gone through periods of poor leadership, corruption and inefficient city services. Just this month, Chicago brought in a team of managers to battle the scandals and indictments plaguing City Hall.

    "It's just a snapshot in time," Ms. Lill said. "Houston works right now. Chicago works right now. If you look back through time, they work sometimes, and they don't work other times."

    A strong-mayor system adds a higher degree of accountability and allows citizens to hold the top elected officials responsible, said Allan Saxe, associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at Arlington. But leaving behind a council-manager government means losing a trained city administrator, and potentially, the professionalism that comes with the position.

    "Every town has a personality – what might not work in one town will work in another place," he said. "It all depends on the climate of the city and who the personalities are."

    E-mail eramshaw@dallasnews.com

    STRONG MAYORS, FROM COAST TO COAST

    It's difficult to get a clear picture of a mayor's strength just by looking at a list of powers. In Chicago, court decrees have put constraints on the mayor. In New York, borough presidents balance the mayor's authority. Los Angeles' charter calls for an elected city attorney, while Houston's provides an elected controller.

    DALLAS (Blackwood plan)
    Mayoral powers: Prepares a budget and submits it to the council; appoints all nonelected officers and members of most boards and commissions; appoints a mayor pro tem while the council appoints a vice mayor pro tem.
    Checks on power: The council can remove or suspend the mayor by a two-thirds vote for misconduct; the mayor has voting powers on the council but no veto.

    HOUSTON
    Mayoral powers: Prepares a budget and submits it to the council; appoints all nonelected officers and members of most boards and commissions; appoints a mayor pro tem while the council appoints a vice mayor pro tem.
    Checks on power: The council can remove or suspend the mayor by a two-thirds vote for misconduct; the mayor has voting powers on the council but no veto.

    NEW YORK
    Mayoral powers: Prepares a budget and submits it to the council; appoints all nonelected officers and the members of most boards and commissions; appoints one deputy mayor from the council; has veto power.
    Checks on power: The governor may remove or suspend the mayor. The mayor's veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the council.

    LOS ANGELES
    Mayoral powers: Prepares a budget and submits it to the council; appoints all nonelected officers and members of most boards and commissions; has veto power. The council elects one of its members as a presiding officer and one as president pro tem.
    Checks on power: The mayor is subject to voter recall; a mayoral veto can be overridden by a two-thirds or three-fourths vote of the council.

    STRONG-MAYOR SYSTEMS: A COMPARISON
    DALLAS (Blackwood proposal) HOUSTON NEW YORK LOS ANGELES
    The city, population 1.2 million, has used the council-manager system since the 1930s. The city, population 2 million, tried the council-manager system from 1942 to '47 before switching to strong mayor. The city, population 8 million, has never used the council-manager system. The city, population 3.8 million, has never used the council-manager system.
    The mayor is the chief executive officer of the city. The mayor is the chief executive officer of the city. The mayor is the chief executive officer of the city. The mayor is the chief executive officer of the city.
    The mayor has a four-year term and is limited to two terms. Annual salary: $60,000. The mayor has a two-year term and is limited to three terms. Annual salary: $165,817. The mayor has a four-year term and is limited to two terms. Annual salary: $195,000. The mayor has a four-year term and is limited to two terms. Annual salary: $186,989.
    The mayor prepares the budget and submits it to the City Council for approval. The mayor prepares the budget and submits it to the City Council for approval. The mayor prepares the budget and submits it to the City Council for approval. The mayor prepares the budget and submits it to the City Council for approval.
    The mayor appoints and removes all nonelected officers. Some are subject to council confirmation. The mayor appoints members of most boards and commissions, with council confirmation. The mayor appoints and removes all non-elected officers. The mayor appoints members of most boards and commissions, with council confirmation The mayor appoints and removes all non-elected officers. Some are subject to council confirmation. The mayor appoints members of most boards and commissions, with council confirmation The mayor appoints and removes all non-elected officers. Some are subject to council confirmation. The mayor appoints members of most boards and commissions, with council confirmation
    The mayor appoints the city attorney. The mayor appoints the city attorney The mayor appoints the city attorney The city attorney is elected.
    The mayor appoints a mayor pro tem, subject to council confirmation. The council elects a vice mayor pro tem. The mayor appoints a mayor pro tem, subject to council confirmation. The council elects a vice mayor pro tem. The mayor appoints one deputy mayor from the council. The council elects one of its members as presiding officer and one as president pro tem.
    The mayor can create and abolish city departments and hire and fire all department heads. The mayor can create and abolish city departments and hire and fire all department heads. The mayor can create and abolish city departments and hire and fire all department heads. The mayor can create and abolish city departments and hire and fire all department heads.
    The mayor has emergency powers. The mayor has emergency powers. The mayor has emergency powers. The mayor has emergency powers.
    In case of misconduct, the council can remove or suspend the mayor with a two-thirds vote. In case of misconduct, the council can remove or suspend the mayor with a two-thirds vote. The governor may remove or suspend the mayor. The mayor is subject to voter recall.
    The 14-member City Council has the power to adopt local laws. The mayor has voting privileges but no veto power. The 14-member City Council has the power to adopt local laws. The mayor has voting privileges but no veto power. The 51-member City Council has the power to adopt local laws, subject to mayoral veto. The council can override a veto with two-thirds vote. The 15-member city council has the power to adopt local laws, subject to mayoral veto. The council can override a veto with two-thirds or three-fourths vote.
    Council members have two-year terms and are limited to four terms. Annual salary: $37,500. Council members have two-year terms and are limited to three terms. Annual salary: $44,218. Council members have four-year terms and are limited to two terms. Annual salary: $90,000. Council members have four-year terms and are limited to two terms. Annual salary: $143,838.
    A chief administrator is not provided by the charter. A chief administrator is not provided by the charter. A chief administrator is provided by the charter and appointed by the mayor. A chief administrator is not provided by the charter.



    THE WAY WE ARE VS. THE WAY WE WOULD BE
    CURRENT DALLAS CHARTER BLACKWOOD PROPOSAL
    CITY MANAGER
    The city manager, appointed by the City Council, is the chief executive officer of the city. The city manager position is eliminated. The mayor is the chief executive officer of the city.
    APPOINTMENTS
    The police chief and fire chief are employed by and report to the city manager. The mayor appoints and may discharge the police chief and fire chief at any time. The police chief and fire chief report to the mayor.
    The city attorney and city secretary are appointed by and can be removed by the City Council. The city attorney and city secretary are appointed by the mayor for two-year terms and can be removed by the mayor.
    All directors of departments are employed and appointed by the city manager. All department directors are hired and can be fired by the mayor.
    The City Council appoints all members of city boards and commissions. The mayor appoints most members of board and commissions, subject to confirmation by the City Council.
    The City Council appoints all municipal judges for a two-year term. The mayor appoints all municipal court judges for a two-year term, subject to council confirmation.
    The city auditor is appointed by the City Council. No change.
    The City Council is prohibited from interfering with the appointments or firing of employees who answer to the city manager. The City Council is prohibited from interfering with the appointments or firing of employees who answer to the mayor.
    POWERS
    The city manager prepares and submits the annual budget. The mayor prepares and submits the annual city budget.
    The city manager is authorized to take disciplinary action against employees and hear disciplinary appeals. The mayor is authorized to take disciplinary action against employees and hear disciplinary appeals.
    All contracts must be signed by the city manager and approved by the city attorney. All contracts must be signed by the mayor and approved by the city attorney. The mayor shall execute all contracts, deeds of trust and other legal instruments.
    The City Council has the power to establish new departments and offices, which fall under the supervision of the city manager. The mayor has the power to establish new departments and offices and will have control over all city departments
    The City Council has the authority to condemn all dangerous buildings. The mayor has the authority to condemn all dangerous buildings.
    The City Council has the authority to establish and maintain a public library. The mayor has the authority to establish and maintain a public library.
    The city is responsible for regulating building permit fees, inspections, construction and repairs. The mayor is responsible for regulating building fees, inspections, construction and repairs.
    The City Council is authorized to determine how the city's radio station may be used. The mayor is authorized to determine how the city's radio station may be used.
    The City Council elects one of its members as mayor pro tem and one as deputy mayor pro tem. The mayor nominates the mayor pro tem, subject to council confirmation. The City Council elects the vice mayor pro tem.
    The city manager provides professional and secretarial assistance to the City Council. The mayor provides professional and secretarial assistance to the City Council.
    TERM LIMITS
    A term-limited City Council member may not become a candidate for or serve in any place on the City Council except for mayor until at least one term has elapsed. A term-limited City Council member may not become a candidate for or serve in any place on the City Council, including mayor, until at least one term has expired. (This interpretation is subject to dispute.)
    COMPENSATION
    Each member of the City Council other than the mayor makes $37,500 annually. The mayor makes $60,000 annually. No change.
    If any City Council member, including the mayor, misses more than 10 percent of a year's regular meetings, compensation will be reduced. There is no compensation penalty if the mayor misses more than 10 percent of a year's regular meetings.
    MAYOR'S REMOVAL
    No provision. In case of misconduct or inability, the mayor may be removed from office by a vote of two-thirds of the City Council.

  38. #838
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    Also, I got the new D Mag yesterday. They have a very interesting/good article about the Amendment. It's not on the web yet. I would recommend everyone reading both of the articles.

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    High-Rise Member columbiasooner's Avatar
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  40. #840
    High-Rise Member columbiasooner's Avatar
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    Dallas Voice Article

    Dallas needs ‘strong mayor’ changes

    Blackwood amendments to the City Charter aren’t perfect, but they are good enough to pass

    By Rick Leggio
    Political Animals


    There are many reasons to support a strong-mayor form of city government in Dallas. Voters will be asked on May 7 whether to approve one such group of changes, commonly called the Blackwood amendments, to the City Charter.

    Though the particular form of strong-mayor government entailed by the Blackwood amendments is not 100 percent to my liking, I have held my nose enough times in voting booths to happily support it come May 7 for the 80 percent of things I think it gets right. Its flaws, I believe, can be overcome by mayors and city councils working together for the common good of all Dallasites.

    Why do we need a change at all? Because Dallas is failing, fast and with heavy casualties.
    Ranked No. 1 in crime among cities of similar population and first or second in violent crime, Dallas is — by comparison — not safe for your person, business, car or residence.

    Anyone walking between Maple Street and Cedar Springs Road at night knows this painfully. My district’s beloved Plan Commissioner, Larry Wheat, was beaten to death in his south-of-downtown loft last year, and there’s been little or no progress in solving his murder although several months have gone by.
    Property taxes are up and more property taxes are currently paid by us on our residences than by commercial interests in town. Businesses are fleeing Dallas or shrinking if they stay.

    City services are slow and poor. Last November I called to report a pack of dogs living on a vacant lot next to my home (freaking out my dogs) and just this week was left a note by Dallas Animal Control asking if I wanted a dog trap to install — by myself I guess. The last time I saw Animal Control was on a friend’s front lawn as they insisted on taking the puppy at his feet to the pound because it wasn’t leashed. The logic of city services today seems like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

    Code enforcement in Dallas stinks, hurting property owners, businesses and residents in the city. Homeowners in my neighborhood volunteered to write up code violations and turn them in to the bureaucrats who are paid to do this. Unfortunately, some of my neighbors just viewed it as an opportunity to turn all the other homeowners they didn’t like in for fence violations, 79 of them. We need professional, objective Code Enforcement employees who actually do their jobs, managed by a department head who ensures results or is quickly replaced by our mayor with someone who will.

    Many of the members of the Dallas City Council are friends of mine, and I respect their commitment and sacrifice to make Dallas better. They all oppose this proposed diminution of their authority and increase in the mayor’s.

    Our current form of government results in ward politics. Ward politics handles very specific hot spots within individual districts well, while working against itself for solutions to ubiquitous problems such as crime, code enforcement, and so on. It was council infighting (not this council but previous ones) that saw a do-nothing city manager kept in the post years too long and a failing police chief propped up, both to the detriment of Dallas.

    Having an empowered, strong mayor by charter would help solve these problems. Critics complain — and a few of these have been against every new thing Dallas has tried since Reconstruction — that we could get a tyrant if we adopt this form of government. I say it prevents weakness and no results. The probability (read: history) that we elect do-nothing mayors or infighting councils outweighs the risk. If we don’t solve our crime problem right now, no businesses will move or stay here over the long run. No conventions means fewer hotels and restaurants and bars. The resulting drastically lower tax base would mean even fewer cops, city services and jobs. In short, Dallas would get poorer and its crime would simply spiral out of control.

    The Blackwood amendments would help Dallas get stronger, more effective leadership at City Hall. Think about it. Candidates would run promising to solve specific problems and move ahead on particular projects. If the winning candidate, the mayor, didn’t get the job done, then the mayor would be voted out by the electorate in four years. The Council will still be able to impeach the mayor for misconduct, inability, or willful neglect. On the other hand, each new mayor would have more resources and authority to make his or her solutions a reality in which all of us would share.

    Voting yes in May to the Blackwood Charter amendments won’t breed tyrants. It will breed accountability, from the mayor to the beat cop and neighborhood code enforcers, and sector new economic development personnel.

    Rick Leggio’s column appears the first and third Fridays of each month.
    E-mailRfleggio@aol.com
    Last edited by columbiasooner; 18 February 2005 at 03:38 PM.

  41. #841
    All Purpose Moderator warlock55's Avatar
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    All of those problems he mentions could be solved just as well with a good city manager. Actually, they could probably be solved at the departmental level. Just take this sentence: "We need professional, objective Code Enforcement employees who actually do their jobs, managed by a department head who ensures results or is quickly replaced by our mayor with someone who will" and replace mayor with city manager and you see how easy it is.

    And assuming that the flaws will be solved by the mayor and council working together...isn't that they don't part of the problem? How does the charter amendment fix that? It won't.

  42. #842
    Supertall Skyscraper Member aceplace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by warlock55
    All of those problems he mentions could be solved just as well with a good city manager.
    Your reasoning is circular.

    You claim that a "good" city manager could solve those problems.

    What is the definition of a "good" city manager? Obviously, one who can solve the problems.

    Since the problems haven't been solved for years, if not decades, we have to wonder... how come the system always promotes bad city managers? Is this a coincidence, or is there some underlying process in place?

    Insanity... doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. In this case, doing the council-manager form of government over and over and waiting for a string of "good city managers" to occur... sort of like flipping 14 heads in a row.

    The alternative? Let the voters decide who the good city manager, er mayor, is. That is called "democracy".

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    ^word

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    All Purpose Moderator warlock55's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aceplace
    Your reasoning is circular.

    You claim that a "good" city manager could solve those problems.

    What is the definition of a "good" city manager? Obviously, one who can solve the problems.

    Since the problems haven't been solved for years, if not decades, we have to wonder... how come the system always promotes bad city managers? Is this a coincidence, or is there some underlying process in place?

    Insanity... doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. In this case, doing the council-manager form of government over and over and waiting for a string of "good city managers" to occur... sort of like flipping 14 heads in a row.

    The alternative? Let the voters decide who the good city manager, er mayor, is. That is called "democracy".
    First of all, these kind of problems never really get "solved" because they are extremely complex, often are zero-sum (there's never enough money or political capitol to address everything at once), and as you would point out ace, often tied to factors external to city boundaries. They can be managed though, and throughout Dallas' history they have been managed well at times, and managed poorly at times. Obviously this isn't a period of time where they are being managed well, but it's just plain wrong to say that Dallas has always been this bad.

    Secondly, my reasoning is not circular because a good city manager is not a prerequisite to solve political problems that prevent the hiring of a good city manager. All the manger does is clean up the execution of city policy; it's a whole different issue to clean up the politics that prevent a good city manager from being hired.

    Finally, your same reasoning could be applied to the election of mayors. Democracy may always give the voters the candidate the majority approves of, but in no way is it directly tied to how well a city is run. The obvious example of that is strong-mayor governments in the 1800s when a mayor could be elected repeatedly and be totally corrupt. Wouldn't electing that same person over and over seem insane? It did to some people and they developed the city manager form of government.

  45. #845
    The Urban Pragmatist Mballar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aceplace
    Since the problems haven't been solved for years, if not decades, we have to wonder... how come the system always promotes bad city managers? Is this a coincidence, or is there some underlying process in place?
    Who/what do you want to blame? . .the City Manager or the System? When are you going to blame the individuals that WE elect to office in this city? When are you going to blame yourself for not calling your council member and demanding more accountability from the City Manager? When are you going to blame yourself for not organizing others in your neighborhood or council district to call your council member and demand more accountability from the City Manager? Accountability starts with you. It kills me to see that the same people who so passionatley argue that we need a new system, are the same people who never take part in the current system to know if it's really broken or not.
    Last edited by Mballar; 18 February 2005 at 06:38 PM.
    A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something. - Plato

  46. #846
    All Purpose Moderator warlock55's Avatar
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    Is there anyone reading this thread who hasn't already decided 100% one way or the other?

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    Mile-High Skyscraper Member rantanamo's Avatar
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    me, but I don't get to vote

  48. #848
    Supertall Skyscraper Member aceplace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by R. Mbala
    Who/what do you want to blame? . .the City Manager or the System?

    When are you going to blame yourself for not calling your council member and demanding more accountability from the City Manager? .
    I'll blame the system.

    When am I going to blame myself? Actually, my councilor, Mitchell Rasansky, is already mad at me because I supported the $48 million supplement for Victory. He even called me at home to argue about it.

    Assume, however, that Rasansky were completely in my pocket, that I could fire him at will. In practice, what could he do about an ineffectual city manager? Not much. The manager can only be dismissed by a two thirds vote of the council, not by Rasansky personally.

    So thus, I have no influence over this city council because I don't vote for each of them, only one of them. The other councilors are completely beyond my influence as a voter.

    If I had a chance to vote for a strong mayor, I could then influence the entire administration by my vote for mayor, not just one fifteenth of it.

    A comparable situation is the United States Executive branch of government. When I vote for a presidential elector, my vote influences the choice of officers of the executive branch who, of course, are appointed by the president, whom my vote elects. If the existing cabinet gets too rowdy, the voters elect a different president, and a different cabinet is selected.

    There is no nonsense about requiring a two thirds vote of congress to fire the attorney general. The voters either fire or return the president. Similarly, I vote for a mayor who will appoint the officers of the municipal executive branch.

    Warlock,

    Your logical flaw is that you fail to define what constitutes "good", as in a "good" city manager. Since nobody knows what "good" means in advance, they cannot select a good one.

    I prefer to leave to the voters the question of which manager (i.e. mayor) is good enough. I don't care for a city council to do it, because the council has no loyalty to the city as a whole, is not elected by the city as a whole. Each councilor is responsible for and is an advocate for the voters in his district. Pork Barrel Politics.

    The idea of a strong mayor form of government is to disconnect the choice of the municipal officers from pork barrel politicians and to reconnect it to the will of the people.
    Last edited by aceplace; 18 February 2005 at 08:56 PM.

  49. #849
    Administrator gc's Avatar
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    from the frontburner...

    CHARLES TERRELL RESPONDS
    The Coalition for Open Government, which opposes the Blackwood charter amendment, has said that its first round of phone banks has been enormously successful, pulling in about 56 percent opposed to the petition. The group also sent out letters soliciting contributions, and one went to civic leader and insurance executive Charles Terrell.

    Needless to say, he won't be requesting a yard sign from the organization. His written response reads as follows:

    With all due respect and friendship to my friends signing the letter--not in a million years would I agree to help you. This city that I love is dying and desperately needs change. The last words of a dying city are "We have never done it that way before."

    Do you, my friends, really want to be on the same team with Sharon Boyd? God help us if you do.
    Poor Sharon. It seems that everyone is taking a swipe at her (second item).
    Brian D. Sweany · 04:53 PM
    “We shape our Cities, thereafter they shape us.”

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    Victoria Loe Hicks
    Where is this ship headed?
    The 15 captains at City Hall are all setting their own course - and taking their sweet time getting there


    06:46 PM CST on Wednesday, February 23, 2005


    "Nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of a public hanging."

    That catchy little aphorism – one of Ron Kirk's favorites when he was mayor – popped to mind a couple of days ago as the City Council launched itself in pursuit of an alternative to the so-called Blackwood proposal. The first order of business was to resurrect the recommendations of the Charter Review Commission, which labored heroically for the better part of a year and produced a set of recommendations that would strengthen the council's hand in relation to the city manager. (Blackwood, named after its author, lawyer Beth Ann Blackwood, would do away with the city manager's job and give executive authority to the mayor.)

    It is neither surprising nor instructive that the council prefers the commission's proposals. Many of them, such as letting council members hire their own staffs or creating a panel of accountant types to formulate periodic pay raises for the mayor and council, are fine ideas, worthy of adoption later, whether or not Blackwood passes on May 7.

    Here's what is both surprising and instructive: It took the council nearly two years to have a serious look at the commission's report. Presented with proposals that – whatever they would do for the city – would absolutely, unequivocally benefit members of the council, those same members could not muster the focus and the impetus to put the proposals on the ballot.

    This is not a dig at the individual council members, most of whom are smart and hard-working. This is about the system of governance we have – a system in which council members are so consumed with matters affecting their individual districts that they have trouble coalescing around larger issues even when it is clearly in their own self-interest. Figure how likely they are to assert collective leadership on anything else.

    In this instance, the council would like to blame the mayor for letting the commission's work languish, and she certainly did, presumably because the proposals didn't suit her. But any five council members could have put the recommendations on the weekly agenda, and any eight could have seen that they were submitted to voters for final approval.

    Their inability to get the job done put them in their current fix, which was spelled out to them in no uncertain terms by Donna Halstead, the former Lake Highlands council member who is now president of the Dallas Citizens Council. In order to defeat Blackwood, Ms. Halstead told the 13 council members in attendance at Tuesday's public hearing, they must produce a comprehensive, concrete alternative, and pronto.

    It is no longer lost on the city's residents or its corporate leaders – if it ever was – she said, that City Hall's workings resemble nothing so much as "a circular firing squad."

    The rub for council members is that distributing a larger caliber of ammunition amongst themselves will not necessarily improve the situation. That requires giving someone some power to line the shooters up so that, at least on certain key issues, they are aiming roughly in the same direction. And the only candidate for that job is the mayor.

    Under the present charter, the mayor is effectively one more council member – one voice and one vote among 15. By sheer force of personality, some mayors succeed in advancing an agenda for the city as a whole. But the charter gives them virtually no tools with which to do so. The tools are in the hands of the city manager, whose job is not to lead but to follow.

    But whom to follow? With 15 captains barking 15 sets of orders, where do you suppose the ship will end up? Becalmed, if you're lucky. In Davy Jones' locker, if you're not.

    Hanging. Firing Squad. Shipwreck. Pick your disaster metaphor. The next few weeks will tell whether the specter of Blackwood concentrates council members' minds sufficiently that they come up with a true alternative. And if not? Surely this exercise in balls-to-the-wall coalition politics will come in handy in the brave new world that awaits them.

    Victoria Loe Hicks is an editorial writer and occasional columnist for The Dallas Morning News. Her e-mail address is vloe@dallas news com.




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    Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcont...icks.7f01.html

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