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

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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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze