On City Hall Ethics, Mayor Mike Passes the Buck

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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So let's see if we can ride this circus train. Mike Rawlings runs for mayor pledging to clean up the "ethics" issue at Dallas City Hall. And if I may offer a small correction here at the top, I think right now it's not really so much an ethics issue at City Hall as an FBI issue. Not to quibble.

But he's the one who's going to do it. He's our steam engine. The power. One of the first things he's going to do is clean up this situation in which victorious campaign consultants come back to City Hall as lobbyists and use their status as victors to benefit commercial clients.

Oh, wait. That would involve all of Rawlings's own top campaign consultants. So the mayor decides to sort of hand this one off to city council person Jerry Allen, who announces at a council committee briefing yesterday that he's on the case. He's going to clean up the FBI/ethics issue at City Hall. So I guess now Allen is the coal car. Gonna supply the fire.

Wait. Allen starts by tasking the chairperson of the Dallas Ethics Advisory Commission to come up with a report on best ethics practices. The Ethics Advisory Commission is a worthy body constituted of residents who give generously of their time. But the thing is, they have virtually no authority. So now I think the ethics/FBI issue has moved back into the passenger cars. The passengers are going to get right on it.

But wait another minute. The chair of the commission gets up at the committee meeting yesterday, points out how little power he has, and challenges the chairman of the "Greater Dallas Business Ethics Award" to tell everybody what to do.

The Greater Dallas what?

They do have a website. The people behind the Greater Dallas Business Ethics Award seem to be mainly in the public relations, financial advising and marketing businesses. All fine people, I am sure. All a bit dependent for a living, perhaps, on some of the businesses whose ethics they are judging, but I'm sure they can put that to one side in their deliberations.

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Mayor Mike will fix ethics? We think he can't.
That's not my concern. My concern is this. I think we're in the caboose now. Why are we in the caboose? What's going on?

See how that train works? And watch out. If you go to challenge the gang in the caboose about what they're really going to do, do not ... I repeat, do NOT allow those rascals to talk you into stepping out on that little platform at the back, especially if the train is moving at a high rate of speed. You could wind up talking about ethics in heaven.

I have my own two-bit solution. I say this isn't about Sunday school rules and prohibitions. The problem is the train. It's the structure of governance in Dallas. We need to get rid of the city manager system, which is nothing but a smokescreen to diffuse accountability.

We need to ditch the city manager and give Mayor Mike way more power and way more responsibility. We need to be able to say, "Mayor Mike, you are the engineer. We want to keep things right up here in the locomotive. You do it. If it doesn't get done, that's OK. We'll get another engineer. That's all we have time for. That's all the attention we can afford to give it. You're the dude. Do it or don't. We'll check back with you at election time."

I'm not talking about a strong mayor system. I'm talking about a responsible mayor system. A system where the buck stops somewhere. Where there even is a somewhere. Or a buck.

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21 comments
Jay
Jay

Ethics in government and elected politicians.

Folks, you just can't pick up a turd by the clean end.

Politicians are crooked. From the soft corruption to a favor granted with a wink, to bags stuffed with cash exchanged in a church parking lot. They always have been crooked, its inherent in our system of government.

Politician's ethics are situational, influenced to a large degree by the magnitude of the advantage they can gain by acting in their own self-interest, versus the likely hood that their true motives will be discovered or will be difficult to disguise or deny.

Politicians have always been for sale to the highest bidder, or donor. They govern in what ever manner will increase their own personal power, or provide jobs and contracts for their friends, donors and family members.

We recently learned that the Mayor secured his election and his trash handling scheme through a $1,000,000 revenue allocation to southern Dallas community leaders. Why in the world is anyone surprised? That's the way government go.

Dallas campaign consultants bring in huge political donations to get candidates elected. Why should anyone then be surprised when these same consultants suddenly morph into business lobbyists directing the award of huge government contracts and grants to the very donors they produced in the first place. And of course the politicians play ball.....hell, they want to be powerful consultants and lobbyists too once they term limit out of office.

Yeah, I know, I'm a total cynic. So, why aren't you, too?

mynameisURL
mynameisURL

Mayor Mike may be a strong man, but Mary Suhm is a much stronger man.

Nailemup
Nailemup

So, to sum up, they're all just going to stay unethical. Much less confusing that way at least.

Llamawisdom
Llamawisdom

"We don't elect a mayor round hereAnd nobody would runThe ceremonial chain would simplyMelt down in the sun"

- High Llamas

Replay
Replay

These "clowns" are working way too hard on this. Ethics? You either have them, and act accordingly. Or, you don't. Clearly, they don't have a clue. They need someone to write the (ethics) rules for them?

It's a sad commentary!

FedMax
FedMax

Hey Mayor Mike - Your a funking punk that will not back up his promises. Looking for a cheap, wimpy way out, so you pass the buck and accountability. YOU MADE THE PROMISES TO BECOME THE MAYOR, ALONG WITH BUYING THE POSITION. THEN WHEN IT COMES TO BEING A MAN AND BACKING UP YOUR PROMISES, YOU TURN INTO NOTHING MORE THAN A PUSSY!!! TAKE THAT! 

Cynical Citizen
Cynical Citizen

Ethics Schmethics.It's any system we get, strong mayor, manager / council, alderman etc., it doesn't matter they are all susceptable to cronyism, favoritism, bribery andcorruption.

Council persons all get a vote.Council persons get to appoint their choice of people to influential boards.Council persons sit on committees that make recommendations and pick and choose winners (so to speak).

Council persons are paid around $35K per year. Mayor $60K per year.

Various lobbyists charge clients thousands of dollars to get their businessconsidered by a council person and perhaps a committee or board. It they are successful in getting their clients business concluded favorably to the client they are paid somemore, often a percentage or some kind of agreed upon bonus.

When the consultant uses privileged access to these officials the officialsare very aware they are being paid lots of money for that access.

How does that lobbyist establish and maintain such relationships?

They spend a lot of time and money developing city hall contacts, expertise in many areas of city business procedures, laws and technical details.  They serve to educate the client on the ways of the city and city officials on the benefits ofthe clients' proposals. It's a very useful service they provide. Of courseit helps a lot if they can also provide a lot of votes on election day.  

Human nature being what it is and lots and lots of favors and cash on the table mischiefis inevitable. The price of getting things done at city hall becomes ever more complex and so expensive that few amateurs or outsiders need apply.

Ethics codes, ordinances and laws all have backdoors but hopefully the cost to taxpayerscan be spread out so much it doesn't paralyze operations. And hopefully wronged parties can get access to courts and local or federal law enforcement agencies that can providea check on things getting too out of control.

AintNoSunshine
AintNoSunshine

"The problem is the train. It's the structure of governance in Dallas. We need to get rid of the city manager system, which is nothing but a smokescreen to diffuse accountability.We need to ditch the city manager and give Mayor Mike way more power and way more responsibility. We need to be able to say, "Mayor Mike, you are the engineer. We want to keep things right up here in the locomotive. You do it. If it doesn't get done, that's OK. We'll get another engineer. That's all we have time for. That's all the attention we can afford to give it. You're the dude. Do it or don't. We'll check back with you at election time."I'm not talking about a strong mayor system. I'm talking about a responsible mayor system. A system where the buck stops somewhere. Where there even is a somewhere. Or a buck."We need to get to action to make this happen. Lets start a coordinated campaign to get rid of Mary Suhm and restructure the train, so we can have accountability. We need to get some Ass when wronged. Its time to gather in numbers and strength to make it happen, or they will continue to create committees to lessen accountability and liability. I have never been so sick of a local government in my life. TIME TO TAKE ACTION!!! 

Guest
Guest

It really is sad that the city can't get a reasonable ethics code in place.  Two of the best minds in ethics are a mere seven miles north of City Hall: Charles Curran and Robin Lovin.  

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

The quicker we get rid of the city manager the better. You give us the plan to do it and we can work the plan. So what's the plan?

Tom L (No, Not That L)
Tom L (No, Not That L)

"I'm not talking about a strong mayor system. I'm talking about a responsible mayor system. A system where the buck stops somewhere. Where there even is a somewhere. Or a buck."

Best comment on our stupid Mayor/City Manager system EVER.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Mary Suhm has been a total detriment to modern Dallas, its why im on board w/ us just going to a strong mayor system similar to Houston and many other modern cities, which is to say all decisions are to be handed to the mayor, who makes the final call.

Here's a good way to start...
Here's a good way to start...

"We need to get rid of the city manager system, which is nothing but a smokescreen to diffuse accountability."

And if we can't chuck the whole system just yet, at least get rid of the city manager. (And her assistants.) Maybe even find someone competent to replace her.

RTR
RTR

Well said, and oh so true! 

Jay
Jay

Because no one really gives a shit.

Matthew Gunter
Matthew Gunter

Why do you think the sane folks in this city voted Kunkle?

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

Realistically what would it take to get rid of the city manager system? Would it be a vote of the general public, an amendment made to the city charter (by the council I presume?), or something else?

Getting rid of the city manager sounds like it would lead to improvements but if that system can only be removed by the corrupt stooges on the council or the bought and paid for votes of the electorate it's all just a pipe dream.

RTR
RTR

wrong. 

Cynical Citizen
Cynical Citizen

You can go here and search familiar names:

astewart@watermark.org

I'm not going to name a specific lobbying firm, council personor project. You can search for known names on the city's web siteif you want to see whom various firms represent.

My comments were to show that efforts to codify and enforce a code of ethics regarding influence peddling is not likely to bear fruit.

Unfair Park and the Dallas Observer have many related articles in theirarchives.

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