Help Wanted: A Dallas City Manager Who Works for Dallas

Categories: Schutze

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Take two things. One, five years ago the Dallas City Council told City Manager Mary Suhm not to allow gas/oil drilling in city parks. A few days later she signed a secret deal with a gas/oil drilling company to allow drilling in parks. Two, last year the council gave Suhm $6.4 million and told her to build a bike and hike trail along the Trinity River downtown. This month she said she's not doing it. Not. Doing. It.

WTF?

OK, I lied. Take three things. Three, earlier this week, at a lavish but largely unreported event, all the big public works construction interests, the private scarily named Dallas Citizens Council (uh ... which citizens?) and the big real estate interests threw a farewell party for Suhm, who is retiring. I guess the mailman forgot to deliver my invitation. People who attended the soiree described the tone to me later as over-the-top hagiographic, lauding Suhm as The Great Leader of all time.

So that's the deal. That's why. How it works. The city manager and her staff can do stuff like directly defy the City Council, because they don't work for the City Council. Meaning they do not work for us. Yeah, I know, we pay them. And it's supposed to be a democracy. A least that's what they told us in high school civics class.

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City Manager Mary Suhm bids farewell to her friends in the public works industry.
But take those three things. The city manager system in this city is a work-around, a way to make sure that the professional staff at City Hall will do what a small circle of business interests tell it to do and not what the voters want.

Oh, not all the time. The business interests don't give a damn what City Hall does about the little stuff. But when an issue comes along that they do care about, they want a city manager in there who will turn her back on the elected suckers and salute the dudes who count in this town.

Why bring it up now? Because they're about to hire a new city manager down there. That means there will be a major push by the inside guys to get somebody who knows how to salute. The same interests who threw the big party for Suhm will push hard to control the selection process and make sure they get a good soldier they can control.

Mayor Mike Rawlings has already named a search committee. I looked in the city charter this morning. There's no such thing as a search committee in the charter. The charter says, "The council shall appoint a city manager ... (blah blah)." That means the whole council is supposed to be the search committee.

We just elected a new council. We've got some interesting new faces mixed in with the usual suspects. If that council has any sense, if it has a modicum of self-respect, if it has just a tiny little drop of shame somewhere in its veins, it will tell the mayor it doesn't need no stinking search committee. It will search for and screen candidates primarily on the basis of whether the job seekers understand who their bosses will be.

Maybe the council could ask test questions in the interviews. "If we tell you not to do something, are you supposed to do it anyway behind our backs? If we tell you directly to do something and even give you the money to do it, is your next move going to be telling us to screw ourselves?"

I said, if they have shame. Yup. Big if. I wish they would at least try to get somebody who will look them in the eye during the interview.

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23 comments
ebailey75057
ebailey75057

Don't live in Dallas, but allowing this form of city government to continue in its present format is stupidity in it highest form.  I can't imagine having an elected body's (you know the ones the citizens elected by popular vote) instructions completly ignored; not once, but numerous times.  And then have a City Manager lie to them on record.  How in the world can the citizens of Dallas sit by and allow this to happen?  You; the citizens of the City of Dallas, are getting what you deserve for your inaction and stupidity.  Enjoy your local city parks, if you can stand the noise from the fracking.

cesar39nt
cesar39nt

city politics work for the citizens of dallas? hell its a mini d.c. there, business controls our city, and the citizens are just the stupid cretins that pay the bills as usual, while we get screwed till our tails fall off

Obummer
Obummer

Yo one o' da great things 'boutteleprompters iz sometimes dere is some fantastic pictures ya'll.

Obummer
Obummer

Yo as long as da new manager do what eyez wants what diff’ do it make?

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Ya know, Rahm's probably getting tired of dealing with all those aldermen in Chicago. Parking meters and gun violence are a pain.  Let's tell him he can rule Dallas however he wants and answer to no-one!

muddystick
muddystick

Put this name in a mayonnaise jar, seal it and put it on Funk & Wagnalls' front porch:  Torry Edwards.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

I wanna see Vonciel doing an interview.

James080
James080

Help Wanted: A Dallas City Manager Who Works for Dallas

Good luck with that. It's a political appointment. Like all politicians, the City Manager will do the bidding of those that install him/her into the office. 

if6were9
if6were9

This town needs an enema. 

Lorlee
Lorlee

We are paying Mary her full salary until January -- upping Gonzalez to $250K and if we don't give him the job we pay him $165K.  Whatever happened to Right to Work.  So this debacle is costing us about a half mil to continue to get the foregone result of promoting Gonzalez, when we really need someone from the outside to clean this mess up. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Can the the City Council appoint/hire the mayor to that job for the rest of his term?  He can turn his crucial ribbon-cutting, man-on-women, and assorted goofy resolutions duties over to the pro-tem.  Throw him part of Suhm's salary too.

Then the City Council can, before the next election, appoint the next mayor to carry out the duties of the city manager also.  Wouldn't THAT  add a little shit to the game?  Suddenly the next Mayorial election of River City becomes important!

Viola!  Instant Strong Mayor who is directly accountable to the citizen.

he can hire a yes man who specializes in operating the books, but the buck stops on the desk of the guy we can get our hands on.

We don't need no stinkin' charter change.  

Unless it says the Council cannot appoint the mayor for that slot.

This way when the Council is in session, the Mayor will have some splainin' to do.

OakParkStudio
OakParkStudio

Why don't we just give up on the pretense that there will be any objective "nationwide" search for a new Dallas City Manager? City Council has already telegraphed it's choice in First Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez. He wants the job. He's already in the system.

New boss same as the old boss.

Last time we had a nationwide search we got Ted Benavides and look how that worked out.

Guess who took his place, his top assistant, Mary Suhm. Done and done. Any appearance of "searching for the best candidate" is theatre at best and cronyism at worst. It becomes more difficult in every election to become excited about voting in Dallas.

Chuck_Schick
Chuck_Schick

@holmantx We tried to switch to Strong Mayor a few years ago. Special interests (aka the DCC) killed it. Would like to see it come up again.

Obummer
Obummer

@OakParkStudio 

Yo an' dere iz distrust in muh administration. ah be surprised, frankly, at da amount o' distrust dat exists. an' ah'm sorry it's da case, an' ah'll werk hard ta try ta elevate it.

 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@Chuck_Schick @holmantx 

That required a charter change which required a vote.

This doesn't.  The city council just hires the mayor instead of hiring someone outside.

Circumvents the DCC.

WylieH
WylieH

@holmantx No, because it is easier for them to control the outcome of individual city council elections in South Dallas and certain other districts than it is for them to control the outcome of citywide contests.

Look at the close calls on the city-owned hotel and the toll road referendum-- way too close for comfort.

Then there was the election of Laura Miller, who managed to be both an initial enemy of the DCC as well as a terrible mayor.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@WylieH @holmantx 

Then let's take over the DCC (ha!).

But if the DCC controls the council and the mayor, does it not follow they would be in favor of the mayor assuming the duties of the city manager?

As Leppert would opine - "it's a win-win!"

maybe the citizens of Dallas should hire Leppert to lobby the DCC?

It may be in our mutual interest (citizens & DCC) to give this a try.

otherwise we threaten to hire Mike Miles.

or someone from outside of town they cannot control.

(man this is sad).

WylieH
WylieH

@holmantx The problem with that is that most of the South Dallas council members are essentially employees/hired hands of the DCC, and are very consistent in their ability to take orders and play whatever role the DCC deems necessary on an ongoing basis.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@Chuck_Schick @holmantx doesn't matter.  

He answers to the people and budget matters are drug into the Horseshoe - in detail - for debate..

The only thing that stops them is they (the council) don't want the responsibility for the budget (directly or through the mayor).

Chuck_Schick
Chuck_Schick

@holmantx Sure, but wasn't Mayor Mike the DCC-approved candidate? Or was it Ed Oakley? I can't remember.

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