Talk the Talk: Mayor Mike's Pals Shovel Up the BS at Council Retreat

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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Look, I know I just covered this in a column in the paper, but I can't resist coming back to the theme of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings as a so-what clone of the last mayor we had around here, Tom Leppert.

The target I find particularly irresistible this time is the group therapy session Rawlings hosted this week for the city council at which he subjected them to two supposed demographic consultants.

Anna Merlan covered the council retreat at the Degolyer Estate on beautiful Garland Road, at which Frank Luntz, a specialist in up-to-date corporate lingo, told the council they shouldn't talk about "working together" but about "partnership."

I don't know from that. I guess it's related to everybody who works for Best Buy being called "an associate" now instead of an employee. It's some science they have that tells them that certain terms make people feel better. I'm not going to argue. My specialty is making people feel worse.

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One of Luntz's big claims to fame, Merlan reported, is that is he's the guy who convinced Republicans to stop using the term "global warming" and call it "climate change" instead, sort of like changing the word "death" to "change in life status." She reported Luntz got 30 grand for his talk at the Arboretum, 15 from the city and 15 from an unnamed Daddy Warbucks. Merlan was tipped that Rawlings was the Daddy who came up with the other 15 large. His chief of staff today declined to comment on that, which I will take for a yes, ma'am.

The other "consultant" (wouldn't it be better to call them "nice people who want to chat with us?") was Molly Foley representing an outfit called Next Generation. (Do they have that term copyrighted?) Her expertise is in what young people want from life and how cities can attract them (sort of skipping over the embedded question, should cities attract them, but that's OK; I agree we should because just because).

Now, she could be interesting, it seems to me. I'm kind of intrigued by that topic. It's a fairly busy field, crisscrossed by all sorts of well-credentialed thinkers, researchers and writers, from Richard Florida to Christopher Leinberger. So, since the council wasn't getting to hear from one of the ones anybody's ever heard of before, I wondered what particular set of qualifications brought Foley to the fore.

I looked her up on her company's website, where I found what I initially took for very alarming news, indeed. It says, "Molly came to Next Generation from the Chamber industry ... "

OMG! Being the kind of person I am, I assumed for just a split-second they meant the gas chamber. But then right away I saw that that Chamber was upper-cased. Aha! They mean Chamber of Commerce, which they believe to be an industry. Tells us so many things, does it not?

To be fair, the web page does offer a more complete bio. You click on that, and you get a "60 second Q&A" with Molly telling us: "If I had an extra five hours every week: I would volunteer more." But for what? Firing squad duty? Does not say.

Just for instance, Leinberger's liner notes describe him as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, director of the Graduate Real Estate Program at the University of Michigan, founding partner of Arcadia Land Co., and author of articles for Atlantic Monthly and Wall Street Journal. His liner notes do not say what Leinberger would do if he discovered an extra five hours in the week. Being the entrepreneurial fellow he is, I would guess he would try to sell them to a multinational.

But here's my deal. Former Mayor Leppert, you may or may not remember, was a great fan of framed motivational business homilies. I can't think of one right off the bat, but they're things like "Fly like an eagle." You know what I mean.

And Leppert was a master of board-room talk-arounds. You asked him, "Did the Corps of Engineers tell you that the flood control levees are safe?" He said he had spoken with the top people at the Corps and he was "very comfortable" with their assurances.

Trouble was, he blows town, and later we find out the Corps thinks the levees are crap. Leppert, meanwhile, was very comfortable with no longer being around.

But people who think like this don't see talk-arounds as tricks or subterfuge. They really believe that you can make bad things go away by calling them nice things.

I was intrigued by one of the nice things Luntz told the council in order to make them feel better about Dallas. He said that people in Dallas are more optimistic about the future than people nationally by almost half. "You don't have pessimists here," he said, assuming, I guess, that that's a good thing.

I think he's right. There is a tendency here to accept certain kinds of promises without skepticism. I've always thought this was the kind of town where a troupe of carny grifters, arriving by boxcar overnight, would roll open the doors, gaze out on the city and think they had arrived in the land that floweth with milk and honey.

I just finished a book called A First-Rate Madness by Nassir Gahmei, a psychiatrist who's probably a little more interested in history than he should be. The book does present really interesting little tidbits from psychological research, one of which had to do with optimism.

Scientists did an experiment with coin tosses showing that happy, supposedly healthy people have a tendency to convince themselves of bullshit, like they think they have magical powers to predict random outcomes, whereas depressed people are much more realistic.

Bottom line here: Leppert and Rawlings both come from the same Music Man, framed-motivational slogan school of thought. Leppert rose to the top of the construction industry not by rising in the construction industry but by succeeding as a consultant who knew how to sell stuff (himself) in a boardroom.

Rawlings rose to the top of the fast-food industry not by rising in the fast-food industry but by succeeding as an advertising person.

These are both happy-feet sales-pitch guys. In terms of their notions of how to proceed, they are peas in a pod, as far as I can tell. Be optimistic. Think nice. Forget about your own narrow selfish interests. Ignore that little man behind the curtain.

One of the great "insights" Luntz offered from his own research is that a vast majority of people in Dallas think city council members should represent the broad general interests of the city rather than the narrow interests of specific constituencies.

Sure. As any experienced council person could tell you, that's because most people in the city don't even know where City Hall is. Wait until they want a stop sign on their own corner. Then things get narrow fast.

I feel sorry for the rest of the city council having to sit through this kind of goofy-ass bullshit. I wish we could have a mayor who knows how to be mayor instead of how to do Ouija-board tricks for out-of-it corporate Moonies still high from their last group herbal massage and martini hours.

But then again, that's just me. The people have spoken. Their will is emphatic. Keep the Moonies in the mayor's office, one right after another. And, no, I am not just trying to get Mike Hashimoto to mention me again at the News. Although I must say, I've been getting second looks from my neighbors this afternoon.

Second what kind of looks, I cannot say.

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30 comments
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DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

"at the Degolyer Estate on beautiful Garland Road"

I saw what you did there. Wow, that is some skillful writing ...

mrs. cook
mrs. cook

If I were mayor, I'd be more worried about the FBI than marketing downtown.

Judd D. Bradbury
Judd D. Bradbury

Kudos to Jim for being fair and grilling Democrat Rawlings the same as Republican Leppert. I did not vote for either of them.

I completely disagree with your premise. I read Luntz book, not the Mooney book you read. The guy is very smart and gets it on both sides of the aisle. I did not like a few of the things I read in his book but that reality did not make him any less smart. Mayor Mike did a good thing, and someone should say so. Dallas is poor at PR and everyone from here knows it. We have a great story that never gets told. A few council members probably cannot get past their biases and previous assignments that did not work well. So the poor PR continues, except Mike did something about it. Maybe it will work, maybe not. Doing nothing and complaining about the positive things that other people are doing seems worse in my book. Oh and for what is worth, I should have an axe to grind because it was this event that bumped mine last week. All good with me, seems the space was serving a very good purpose. We had a very good time at Eddie Deen's just the same.

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

Cities shouldn't need PR.

Corporations use PR in order to make their customers feel better about giving the company money.  Yes, this is a cynical outlook, and I'm sure that many a PR rep will tell me that I'm wrong; that PR is just a tool used to promote the positives that a company provides.  B***S***.  PR is a tool of manipulation, pure and simple, when it's used by a for-profit organization.  It's designed to increase positive feelings without providing any real service or product.

A city is not in the business of making money, that's true.  However, the premise is the same:  PR is used by a city to attract new residents or businesses, while not providing any more necessary services.  A city can attract residents and businesses by making itself a nice place to live and work; that is, by giving people what they want.  Take the PR budget and put it into essential services.  Word will get around on its own.

Metroplexican
Metroplexican

The city is in the business of making money.It may not be for profit but it's a business.It is revenue from taxes, fees and fines that fueland maintain everything. The city must be managed to maximize revenueand mimize costs. If not it would be very easy for costs to soar way out of proportion to income (ala the feds).

Downtown is not something I would bet on. Dallas doesn't needto concentrate everything in such an small, poorly accessible,confusing collection of non integrated, inorganic vanity projectsimprisoned by concrete canyons and freeways. Some major attractions thatare there, the DMA and Meyerson have underground parking and quickescapes to freeway ramps. Patrons come and go immediately back to their safe neighborhoods or maybe uptown. For convenience sake I appreciatethat but it doesn't do anything for a downtown experience.  City plannersoften get things wrong, perhaps overplanning the micro and underplanning themacro.   

LISA
LISA

So it seems Rawlings a clone of Leppert..not comforting at all. Looks like the dirty money and bad deals involving Leppert will continue with Rawlings. Lack of oversight within our County and City Government allows the taxpayers money to be used fraudulently. Corporate partnerships, collaborative agreements, secret settlements---ALL THROUGH ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE MEDIATION. Through the mediation, crimes committed in our community somehow just "goes away"  to avoid having to go through a real legitimate court where justice can be served.

Stealing from the tax-payers starts with "Public-Private" partnerships, Medicare incentive programs through Health and Human Services, etc..  Have you ever wondered the REAL REASON for the delay in the Trinity River Project????  There is "legit" racketeering, money laundering, blatant violations of the law and Constitution, and EXTREME Human Rights Violations. Look out for Private Non profit combined with government funds....

It is time the Public gets smart---We have to let our Political officials know we are savvy as to what is truly happening to our money.

http://www.blacklistednews.com... http://www.blacklistednews.com... http://www.blacklistednews.com...

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

Mike Rawlings is not mean spirited as Leppert was.Rawlings does not think he knows everything and does not micromanage staff in organization I work with him on.Mayor Rawlingslistens and does not correct or challenge staff on every subject.I don't know about down at City Hall but ,I do know at DFW ,where I serve, Mayor Rawlings is a pleasure to work with.

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

Mike Rawlings is nothing like Tom Leppert as a person and for sure not as a Mayor.  And thank God that Rawlings is nothing like Kunkle...

MayorWatchdog
MayorWatchdog

Oak Cliff Res - Actions speak louder than words. Its obvious you have some "real" reason for continuously defending him. What "deal" did you get from him???

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

So I guess from now on we should say that the City of Dallas along with Lucy Crow Billingsley and Trevor Rees-Jones will be 'exploring' their mineral rights options on territory that sits next door to Valley Ranch?

Maybe we will ask for clarification at the City Hall meeting on Thursday night at 6 pm

Doug in DFW
Doug in DFW

Someone needs to give the mayor a copy of Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America or as its known in the UK (thanks, wikipedia) - Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World.

pak152
pak152

aaaarrrrrgggggh the phrase is "talk the walk, walk the talk"

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

I think the phrase was intentionally mangled.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

I can well recall having to attend motivational speakers when I was in the IT industry.   I would rather have a root canal than to sit in one of these.   Some people love to attend such meetings-they live for it (otherwise they would have to do real work and not sit in endless “feel good” meetings).    In most cases the participants (in order to avoid WORK) would sit around hyping the subject up with out ever listening to any sane down to earth objections to the trend that the “heard” was going.  They were optimists too.   When the project fell on it’s face due to lack of being grounded in the real world they would sit with a dumb struck look on their faces—“what happened” they would ask?   “We had all those feel good meetings where we all agreed with each other”   In short they (the attendees) could not find their way around with post it notes to show them the way.  They were clueless and looking for some direction despite the fact that that was their prime job function.   Clueless  beyond  belief.   As the fictional private detective Nero Wolf said:  “that is of course the advantage of being a pessimist; a pessimist gets nothing but pleasant surprises, an optimist nothing but unpleasant”.   The fact that the city shelled out $15,000.00 for this BS is another troubling example of their ineptness in vision and leadership.   Be scared Dallas.   This is yet another example of the waste of tax payer monies.   And keep in mind that next year they want more bond money (higher taxes) to fund a continuation of their antics.   Remember how un accountable the linking of bond monies to projects are.  Money is fungible (interchangeable) and the city lacks the association of such monies with the intended projects-its just a big pile of cash that they get to spend.   And we all know where more can come from (hint: you and me the tax payers).

Rtr
Rtr

Yeah, to City Hall, its Monopoly money!

JimS
JimS

Wow. Mr. Mean is on the money this time. Why, in the age of cool computer graphics, could the city not devise a way that we taxpayers could go to a page, click on a bond issue proposal that we had voted for, say in 1999, and see little green lines light up to show us exactly where every penny of that money was spent? 

moneyBags
moneyBags

For $30k I could make that happen!  And WTF planet is the speaker and those that hired him on, that say anyone is worth that kind of cash for a few hours of talking?

primi timpano
primi timpano

Who's paying these consultants?

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

My guess is the tax payers are paying the $15,000.00.

Texaspainter
Texaspainter

The City of Dallas, and Mayor Mike kicked in the other half for Frankie.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Foley's bio does mention her being involved in something called RiverVision, some sort of development thing.  Probably the last thing we need motivating our council is another hot-shot with grand plans for our river.On the other hand, I know JS is only looking for ways to paint her in a bad light, so in the interest of fairness, she does mention that her favorite charity is the SPCA (although JS is correct that she doesn't specifically state she would spend her extra 5hrs grooming stray dogs and cats).  Of course, to me, SPCA is just a big acronym standing for People Who Think Animals are More Precious Than People (but PWTAMPTP is a shitty acronym), so that puts her in a bad light for me anyway.

Anon
Anon

I didn't realize that the SPCA had haters? Do you think they misspend their funds? There's a multi-million dollar vanity 'charity' bridge about to be finished if you'd like to rant about misplaced priorities.

BigTrouble
BigTrouble

"The people have spoken. Their will is emphatic. Keep the Moonies in the mayor's office, one right after another."

I used to think that way.  To be fair, the people have been conned.  As soon as they figure it out, a new candidate comes along and they think THIS one is the real deal, but then it turns out they were conned again.

The question is, who are these con artists?  What is their real purpose?  What is beneath the disguise?  What 'party' do they REALLY belong to?  How will the people ever know if and when a "real deal" comes along? 

RTGolden
RTGolden

Easy, vote every incumbent, at every level of government, out of office in the next 4 years. For the next 20 years, never vote in an incumbent, nor a republican or democrat.  It will be a long, painful process.  People will lose a lot of government services, but it will change both the perceived role of government and the caliber of people willing to run for office.

scottindallas
scottindallas

No, that is no fix either.  If we voted out all incumbents then we'd never hold on to good ones, there would be no institutional memory, then the lobbyists would have even more power. 

Anon
Anon

I agree with your first paragraph. Lobbyists like a long term bet because it makes it easier to turn the dirty money into clean, legitimate seeming transactions.

You need to do some fact checking on the Founding Fathers. They are the original political ruling class.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

There are no good ones.  The institution has Alzheimer's. Lobbyists would have no relationships and no leverage.

Other countries, England and Japan to name two, have dissolved their Parliaments in the past few years.  An occasional purge is needed. 

The Founding Fathers never intended for there to be a political ruling class, which is what we have developed in this country.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Most accurate statement I have ever read in the comments section of the Dallas Observer.

(golf clap)

BigTrouble
BigTrouble

I agree it will take something radical and I think until they cycle out as you describe but until then I guess the people have to assume that there will be a series of con men to deal with. Depressing.

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