Blame Cruel Destiny, not Mike Rawlings, for City Manager Pick

Categories: Schutze

Put a note on this guy and put him on a plane home to Raleigh. It's the right thing to do.
With the passage of a few days, my take on the election of A.C. Gonzalez as the new Dallas city manager has come into sharper focus. I have a column in this week's paper saying he was the wrong choice, and I'm sticking by that. But maybe I was a bit wide of the mark in putting the blame for his selection so squarely on the shoulders of our mayor, Mike Rawlings.

Gonzalez just had the support. The mayor couldn't have changed that. The true underlying theme is that all of that talk by the council about the need for change and transparency was bullshit. In the end, change was exactly what most of them do not want, and they equate transparency with being onstage naked.

From the beginning, Gonzalez, a City Hall lifer, had rock-solid support from the six council members who must leave the council in 2015 when they hit the eight-year term limit -- Vonciel Hill, Dwaine Caraway, Tennell Atkins, Carolyn Davis, Sheffie Kadane and Jerry Allen. And he had very solid support from Sandy Greyson, who is not up against the limit.

We could sit around and psychologize about it all day: Do they regard a call for change as a poor reflection on their own tenure? Do they have final ultimate deals they want to get done for their districts in their twilight on the council? In that case they may figure they're better off with a guy who not only knows where the bones are buried, he buried them. The fact is that solid base of support -- the six about-to-go-offers and Greyson -- never wavered, and nothing Rawlings did was going to make them waver.

And then there was the issue of the two outside candidates still standing after the field was cut to three finalists, with Gonzalez as the third. There were issues.

The guy from Raleigh, David Cooke, was universally judged by the council as too nice a guy for the job. The one from Oakland, Deanna Santana, not nice enough.

So what does that mean? Well, the interview process was in secret session, so nobody would break the law and tell me about it. I hate it when that happens. But some of the impressions left by the two outsiders were in more public venues.

The guy from Raleigh watched a very mundane Dallas City Council meeting -- usual amount of niffnawing, couple accusations of racism, maybe a slander or two, suggestions of fraud, but, you know, all in all a pretty smooth meeting. A guy I know chatted him up afterward out in the "flag room" vestibule. The Raleigh guy asked the guy I know what he thought of what had just happened.

My guy asked him what he meant. He said he meant the meeting. My guy said, "That? That was a perfect meeting. That was a wonderful meeting. You should see what happens when they have a bad meeting." He said the Raleigh guy's eyes went big, like his whole life was flashing before him.

Anyway, the general impression was that Raleigh must be a really nice town, perhaps a less complicated place than this, and that it might be cruel and inhumane to bring someone from that background into this background. The council all agreed with our Eric Nicholson's assessment of him: one day's lunch for this City Council.

Meanwhile the impression left by the Oakland lady was it would go the other way with her. The council would be her lunch. She was one of the key people responsible for Oakland's infamously draconian crackdown on Occupy in 2011, inspiring a memorable New York Magazine headline: "Oakland's Response to Its Protesters Makes Mayor Bloomberg Look a Little Better."

Later there was something about a federally appointed monitor over the Oakland police department, and she accused the guy of sexually harassing her, which the judge investigated, but then he never released his report. Too much information. Bottom line: Most of the Dallas City Council looked at her and thought, "Oh, she's not going to put up with our bullshit for 30 seconds."

So it was A.C. In the end he won it fair and square. He had the support, which means the no-change group ruled the day. Afterward, sure, they all blah-blah'd about how they want change and transparency. What are they supposed to say? "No, I'm against change and transparency?" Right. Everybody wants to give peace a chance. The question is how good a chance.

And look, to be fair about the transparency thing, we will all become transparent when we pass on to our everlasting rewards. You first.

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My Voice Nation Help

Status Quo.  Not exactly "world class".


To be fair to the "No, I'm against change and transparency?" crowd, there were some council members that were in that group. From DMN article yesterday:

District 3: Vonciel Jones Hill

The only “change” that I want to see is for Dallas to continue with the upward trajectory that it is on.

District 10: Jerry Allen

I was not part of the “change” conversation. Overall, I believe Dallas has a fine reputation throughout the United States as being a well-run city. Crime is down. We’re safer than we were in the 1950s. Our tax base is growing faster than most of our suburbs, we are attracting a young, talented workforce and our population has grown by more than 44,000 in the last two years.

TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Things change slowly - if they ever change at all.


" A guy I know chatted him up afterward out in the "flag room" vestibule. "

Flag room vestibule? Can't be. The council meeting was not held on council chambers. It was held in the briefing room.


Sheffie Kadane's pushing eight years on council? Damn, that's depressing.


First, Jim, you shouldn't water down your criticism of Rawlings. I felt your print piece was pretty pitch-perfect.

Second, I concur about the two outside candidates. I had the same thoughts about them after reading their little mini-bios in the DMN. Of course, in the end, it was the council who chose them from the outside field of candidates.

It is so much easier to choose Gonzales when he is put squarely in the middle of a rock and hard place. Smoke and mirrors. Make it look there was a choice in an outsider...when the decision was made all along. When you choose two poor outsiders to be your finalists...what else was really going to happen. Then again, what kind of search can you really expect for under $50,000?

The AC at city hall was turned to AUTO as soon as Suhm decided to step aside. I'm not at all surprised.

holmantx topcommenter

Mary Suhm probably read the Council the Riot Act.

She never purged the emails.

They're in a jar on her desk right next to the tapes.

6 votes+1 vote=7 votes which is not a majority. The other 8 votes are the majority, so who crossed over to the dark side to make it 8 to 7= Gonzales?

JimSX topcommenter


flag room is still where people assemble to talk off line.

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