The Mike Rawlings Experience: It Takes a Business Guy to Run a Government Right

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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I'm just curious. You tell me. Is public service automatically a bad thing? I'm serious. Is any and every kind of experience in government automatically a black mark on your résumé?

At Tuesday night's Dallas mayoral forum, candidate Mike Rawlings, a former corporate chief executive officer, described his rival, former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, as a guy who has never accomplished much in life because he spent his career in public service.

Rawlings said, "Chief Kunkle has spent almost 40 years [in the public sector]; not one day has he spent in the private sector. He's never created a job. He's never grown a business. He's never made a payroll."

I don't believe Rawlings was saying that Kunkle is a bad guy or lazy or anything. I assume he meant that the basic economic engine of a city or region is its business activity, and it's better to have a mayor who comes from the business world for that reason. Certainly there's a case to be made for that view.

But then think what Kunkle accomplished for this city. Our police department, under his predecessor, Terrell Bolton, was a junk pile. Kunkle came in, cleaned it up quickly and restored discipline, partly by getting tough with the unions.

We could debate whether he restored morale. If you talk to the union leaders, they would say no. Not their morale. But some of the old-line really serious coppers in the department would and do say yes: He restored their morale by shaping the place up.

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Do businessmen make better mayors? Businessman and mayoral candidate Mike Rawlings thinks so.
Morale is a tricky one. I always got the impression Kunkle's view was that the department would have to earn its morale by doing its duty, not by getting its way. He was not an everybody's-buddy type.

But how do you argue with the outcome? Ask yourself this question: Which police department would you rather have, the Bolton one or the Kunkle one?

I just worry when I hear flat assertions that all things governmental are bad. It's our government. We need it to do its work well.

Why is business better than government? Is a bad business better than a good government? And why would we assume a person from business with no government experience would be better at running a government than a person with solid government experience? Is the obverse true? Would a person from government with no business experience be better at running a business than a person with business experience?

Why isn't experience just experience? Shouldn't a clarinet player have a lot of experience playing the clarinet?

Government! A bad thing? What say you?

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112 comments
Lee Rognlie
Lee Rognlie

We've had CEOs for quite some time and they've backed alot of bad decisions. Bridges, Tollroads in flood control, losing the Cowboys and Rangers not to mention building a hotel. I think a civil minded Mayor is a welcome change.

JimS
JimS

I lost track of the comments here for a while yesterday. Please allow me to toss in another two bits worth. Rawlings, Kunkle, Natinsky and Okpa all have their own worldviews and their own visions of what's good for the city, and those visions contradict each other at certain points. They bring very different qualifications and personal experiences to the fight. But at a personal level, none of them is a dick. They're giving up huge chunks of their lives in order to take a pay cut in order to do an exhausting soul-wrenching job. I only know of one person in this whole scenario who is actually a professional ass-hole, and I'm not about to give up the job.

GB
GB

It was a good column Jim ... and generated a lot of thoughtful, albeit differing, viewpoints. I think the animus-to-positive-comment ratio wasn't too high, Rosie's ALL CAPS comments aside. The comments revealed that the enamored views of having a CEO as a Mayor are comfortably counterbalanced by enough who just want a Mayor who will not be constantly seeking after the next "Big Deal" for our city.

Who Ray
Who Ray

Did I miss something? Natinsky and Opka must already be out of the race.

Ed
Ed

Guess I wasted 30 years of my life working for the City of Dallas, 60-70 hours a week, while my wife raised our kids.

PrestonTrailsCaddy
PrestonTrailsCaddy

I have caddied for Mike Rawlings at our all white golf club - Preston Trails. Since he is white and wealthy and lives on Lennox Lane, he is a lot smarter than any of you posters or the other two white candidates.

GO MIKE GO!!

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

PTC, since you caddied for MR, can you confirm his balls are also white?

OakParkStudio
OakParkStudio

WOW!

My goodness what animus has spread through these postings! This relatively benign...until now...mayoral race has really whipped everyone up into a frenzy.

Lots to digest here before May I guess.

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

Someone needs to post this famous little gem of truth. Might as well be me. ---------------------------------------------------This morning I was awakened by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US Department of Energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service (of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) determined the weather was going to be like (using satellites launched and maintained by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration). I watched this while eating my breakfast of US Department of Agriculture-inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time as regulated by the US Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the US Naval Observatiory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads built by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transporation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined and tested regularly by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank. On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence thanks to state and local building codes, fire marshal's inspections during government-overseen construction (and possibly since), and the vigilant watch of my city and county Fire Departments. I find my home has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the cooperation of the city, county, and state Police Departments.

I then log on to the Internet (which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration) and post on freerepublic.com and Fox News forums about how government involvement in healthcare is SOCIALISM which is BAD because the government can't do anything right.---------------------------------------------------

Look at that fucking hipster
Look at that fucking hipster

Aaaaaaaw aren't you so precious with your "stuff white people like" hipster banjo.

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

The banjo was brought to America by black slaves. I'm not sure where you're going.Besides, if there's a hip musical instrument, the banjo sure ain't it.It is distinctly American, though, so call me a Patriot, ya guitar lovin' Commie bastard.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Wow, you are way too wound up, Mr. LATFH. Have a drink. It's happy hour.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Tell him to be sure and make it an ironic PBR

PizzaHutt
PizzaHutt

Can we get all out of city services for $10 with unlimited toppings?

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

I think that everyone is missing the point here. One thing that Rosie points out is that Dallas by design is a BUSINESS BASED CITY. If you want fashion, go to NY, if you want to be a movie star go to California, if you want good food and shopping go to Florida, if you want arts go to ATL, but if you want Business, then come to Dallas. And that is all Mike Rawlings is honestly appealing to. The Business MEN & WOMEN. And if you don't understand it, then you are probably working aisle 5 at Walmart. If you look on his website, he has a CEO's letter of endorsement. Dallas is ALL about business, so in essence and the reason why we have had so many business leaders leading the city like Jack Lowe at DISD or the majority of Mayors listed earlier is because that is what our city is built off of. BUSINESS NOT "PUBLIC SERVANT". Give you an honest true example. I love Carolyn Davis to death and she is a true PUBLIC SERVANT, but would you really want her at the head leading Dallas???

Anybody looked at Michael Bloomberg in NYC and how he has turned their school system around lately??? PRIVATE SECTOR FOLKS!!!

Richard
Richard

you scare me. why you be typin' in all caps there at the end. we're a little gun shy of that all caps stuff, so quit it. ya hear?

Informed Citizen
Informed Citizen

The business men and women all live in Highland Park, University Park, Plano, Frisco, Allen... and don't get to vote in Dallas.

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

Have you ever heard of Preston Hollow? You must not really be that "informed". And FYI Leppert was Preston Hollow, Laura Miller was North Oak Cliff and Ron Kirk was Lakewood. Soooooo. I'm really not understanding how Dallas has been so terrible for soooo long with these "CEO's and all of this 'private-sector' running us into the ground" like they all come from the same place...when over the past 16 years they have all came from different parts of the city.

MattL1
MattL1

Isn't every city, by definition, business-based? What's the difference between a Dallas-style business you speak of and the movie business in LA or the fashion business in New York or restaurant/retail business in Florida?

JimS
JimS

Yeah. What does that even mean? Vacation cities are chock full of vacation businesses. It's like saying we're a lots-of-people-and-buildings-type city. As opposed to...?

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

It sounds like he's saying we don't need arts and parks and all that other frilly crap, we need to go back to being the city of old white businessmen.

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

It means that every city is different, and by luck of the draw Dallas was built on old aged white businessmen. Have you ever seen what the City Council looked like before 14-1. I can't stand it when ppl try to be something that they are not. Dallas also is built on the Metroplex. Hence when everyone complains that there arent any arts or huge parks or nice trollies or whatever, they want to X Dallas and move to Cedar Hill or Irving or Coppell. And ppl like you Jim want to dis on Dallas like we are supposed to be something else "and oh look at what this place is doing and how Dallas dropped the bomb". Got the AAC, everyone complained about it. Lost the Cowboys and everyone complained about it... Not sure if you have looked around lately, but every City whether its a vacation destination, retirement destination, fashion, movie or what ever kind of revenue based city is experiencing some type of cut back, and Dallas is not going to all of a sudden untouched by trying to be something that it is not. People want arts, parks and bridges to try to be a city that we are not. The city gives it to them, then candidates run on a platform of "we need to get away from big ticket projects" y'all kill me!!!

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

Yes by definition every city business based. But when you are talking about attracking new people to come and live in Dallas you are not trying to attrack a film studio or Vogue Magazine. Because of course that is not the type of city that Dallas is. Construction, Architecture, Accounting Firms, Law Firms, etc. Those are the kind of business that Dallas is based on. There is a big difference, and unless you want those big companies coming in and trying to run our city and run over our leader who can barely even hold his hands right when he talks then we better have someone that can sit across the table from those company leaders and hold a conversation and be able to promote the City of Dallas, not show them where all of the crime is...

JimS
JimS

Oak Cliff Res: Kunkle has a bearing and manner that are probably a little bit soldierly, but he's also funny and smart. You're just wrong if you think people at the top of the business pyramid wouldn't relate to him. They usually love guys like that. They like pepole who speak plainly and mean what they say.

MattL1
MattL1

Why wouldn't we want a film studio or Vogue Magazine? Because you're the sole arbiter of what constitutes an acceptable Dallas business? Isn't a diverse local economy a good thing?

Also, I'm pretty sure that there are plenty of non-business types who can converse with other people without turning into quivering masses of indecision and capitulation.

GB
GB

"And if you don't understand it, then you are probably working aisle 5 at Walmart"

Thanks for contributing to a reasoned discussion!

I like competence and business savvy as much as anyone else. But we have had a set of CEO/Biz type at the helm recently ... and I don't see all that much to show for it. We need our government to work for all the folks ... including those that work at Walmart.

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

You must not understand what the government (any form of government) is supposed to do. The government on a local, state and national level can only DO (although so many times other things are done) one thing....... And that is PROTECT. On a local level its done by cleaning up the streets, finxing pot holes, dispatching police and fire etc. And citizens pay for these services because we cant all properly dispose our trash or we cant light up every street by ourself, so we pay the government to do those things. But in the end they do not work for us. They work to keep these esentials going!!! So I'm pretty sure that your trash got picked up this week and when you called 911 they answered and so on. So "recenlty" as you put it you have indeed seen that the city has much to show for a CEO/Biz type at the helm.

At the same time, many new developments and enhancements have sparked throughout the City of Dallas impart to these "CEO/Biz types". Either half of the people are complaining that the City isn't doing X or the other half is complaining that the City is interfering with Capitalism.

Guest
Guest

I was under the impression that the last mayor was a CEO type. And instead of managing all that stuff you talk about, he got the city into the hotel business and beat the drum to build a multi-billion dollar toll road in the river.

And, honestly, the mayor and city council doesn't really manage the day-to-day operations of the city. The City Manager is the closer to being the CEO of the city with the Mayor and Council acting more as a Board of Directors.

But Mike Rawlings isn't trying to become City Manager.

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

@EDM

Wow, you must have only read about government and not have actually seen it work. Staff i.e. City Manager only makes recommendations to the Council and Mayor on how to spend the budget. Suhm basically says we have X amount of dollars in the bank and I think we should allocate those dollars on Y & Z and eliminate things that are not of the same importance that cannot be paid for. The Council contrary to your thoughts are the ones that either accept or TELL the City Manager, no we don't like that proposal, we want to include this "raise taxes"... we want to include that "close libraries on sunday" and then the City Manager comes back with the Councils recommendations/changes. Please tell me one time when Mary Suhm has soley passed an agenda item? The City does not need any buy in from her to do anything, and thus Kunkle's experience as a former Asst. City Manager and Police Cheif who both take orders from the City Manger will not help him being the person actually running the City. You can preach all day that he managed at $400 million budget as Police Chief but it was first already approved by the Council and handed down by the City Manager. Now a business man on the other hand knows how to effectivley make decisions, not take them.

And if you knew what 14-1 really is compared to an at-large elected council, then you would understand that the councilmembers are responsible for echoing the majority of the voters district they represent, the mayor is responsible for echoing the majority voice of entire city, not merely an agenda reader...

EDM
EDM

I disagree with your overly broad definition of "Protect" as it applies to the role of government in society but that is another discussion.

Given Dallas's 14-1 city council and city manager style of government, the CEO/Biz type is needed in the city manager position much more than in the mayor position.

The mayor is essentially an at-large counsel position who runs the council meetings. Any attempt to make the city "more efficient" requires buy-in and execution by the city manager. For the record, slashing budgets and firing employees and then reducing library hours, closing pools, and not mowing parks all summer is not being efficient. That is doing less with less.

Sharon Boyd
Sharon Boyd

David Kunkle will be a great mayor. He lives in a regular neighborhood like most of us. I want a mayor who puts neighborhoods first -- real neighborhoods where people park too many cars and don't always take care of their property. Living in a Preston Hollow mansion or a gated community does not expose you to the reality of survival in 2011 Dallas.

Rawlings' attacks on Kunkle are petty and mean spirited -- not that there's anything wrong with that.

Informed Citizen
Informed Citizen

I was warming up to Kunkle up until now. If Sharon Void supports him, there is something wrong with him. As for thinking that the M Streets are a 'regular' neighbohood or that folks with too many cars live in that 'hood, Ms Void is still living in the 80s.

Richard
Richard

informed citizen:you read my mind.i was so planning to vote for kunkle,then i, too, saw, that sharon boyd and of course we know Avi Adelman is Kunkle campaign No. 1 person....

Now I'm worried. Maybe Rawlings.

At least it would not mean Avi Adelman being appointed by Mayor Kunkle to be the Lower Greenville Police Czar.eyuck!

Daniel
Daniel

But if people stop parking too many cars and don't take care of their properties, then you won't live in a real neighborhood anymore. And you'll be out of touch with the realities of survival.

Daniel
Daniel

er, "and start taking care of their properties." Round: Sharon Boyd

GB
GB

I don't get you Rosie. Not one bit. Dave Kunkle was chief of police of the 11th largest PD in the US. He ran it with a budget, without scandal, showed courage by firing officers that needed to be let go, and added to the department's reputation in a positive fashion. He was the chief in Arlington and ran that department admirably. He understands the city of Dallas and is very competent. Yet to you that means absolutely nothing.

Daniel
Daniel

Rose is right: CEOs are magical creatures that have been bestowed upon the rest of us by the grace of the Almighty Free Market. Worship the Free Market -- it is your God. It is all, and it provides all. All fundamental human freedoms derive from the Free Market.

ST
ST

I'm 58 years old and worked 14 years for the city of Dallas; the rest of my time for businesses. While the two types of orgainizations share many characteristics, there are some significant differences. Government has to be more bureaucratic than a business because there are extra rules and procedures in place to protect the owners of the assets of that government--all the citizens within its jurisdiction. A business exists to make money for its owners and compete with other businesses. However, those two facts mean that there must be government to ensure businesses do not harm the public and compete unfairly with other businesses.

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

"Government! A bad thing? What say you?"

Dumb.The idea that business can do everything better than government can is just BS. Sure, if your only measure is by how much it costs or how efficient it is, business usually wins. But those are business metrics, of course they favor business. Businesses aren't in the business of satisfying everybody, they only have to satisfy those with the means to participate in their market. Imagine if the highway system only worked for people who earned over $40,000 a year, or if the food supply wasn't overseen for anyone not making x dollars. Government has to work for everyone, and it has to work all the time, and in those respects, ours is magnificently successful. The fact that we have an American Dream that is achievable by anyone without fear of an impending coup or runaway inflation or frequent brownouts, etc is a testament to the stability and excellence of our government. I'm tired of people trying to measure govt success by how much "better" a business could do it. Its just flat out bullshit. Imagine if we had turned over essential government functions to such business luminaries as Enron, Washington Mututal, or Lehman Brothers

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Remember when the State of Texas turned over all HHS call centers to Accenture? It was a total disaster. Accenture was ultimately fired and the state lost millions of dollars that it could really use right now.

ROSIE
ROSIE

Morale for employees or unions is MORE PAY, LESS WORK...nothing else.

A corporate life not only includes BUDGETING AND LONG RANGE PLANNING, but ability to decide quickly how to adjust finances and spending levels and investments when a downturn occurs...especially when it is not the fault of the business itself. Governernment bureaucrats only learn how to secure a budget amount, and spend to that level until the next budget process.....and they have their hands totally tied in systemic bureacratic thinking that FIRING people is somehow BAD. Corporate execs believe that KEEPING people on the payroll and losing more money just puts ALL THE OTHER employees' jobs at risk...as well as that of the entire enterprise and shareholders....so they know how to plan, and implement.....not so with government workers.

Snookie Pie
Snookie Pie

thank you, Rosie, for getting down here with the rest of us...and not up there (upper case).You're now easy on the eyes.

Informed Citizen
Informed Citizen

Rosie learned how to use the Caps Lock key! Good job girl!

Steve
Steve

Yes rosie, JimS is right, policemen are magical creatures that only exist because of the wonders of Allmighty Government. Worship Government Rosie, it is your God, it is all and provides all, we all exist solely because of Government.

Joanne R
Joanne R

steve isn't being sarcastic. George Orwell told him this. and it's true. Just go ask the pigs.

Daniel
Daniel

Hard-hitting points, Steve. Keep beating that drum, and eventually liberals will have to reconsider all those ill-considered opinions you've put in their mouths.

Guest
Guest

Of course, Steve is being sarcastic, but I really would hate to see how things would go if we just abolished government altogether.

JimS
JimS

Tell you what, Rosie. Next time you hear somebody kick in your front door at 3 a.m., call Pizza Hut.

RS1963
RS1963

I don't think you've ever worked in a corporate environment if you don't think departments at a company do the exact same thing as far as securing budgets and hanging on to them. I don't know how many times I've heard "We have to spend this or we'll lose it in the next budget".

As far as planning, governments have a bit of an issue because of silly things called laws that many times require things that a company doesn't have to deal with.

Alan
Alan

I can't judge Rawlings' work as pizza man, but there's nothing automatic about private sector management being good. Remember, our current economic fuck-over was caused entirely by private sector money managers. We owe it to government leaders in both parties that we're not any farther in the ditch than we are. The private sector did squat to fix the economic disaster--just waited till their bonuses resumed.

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