Change and Transparency, eh, Mr. New City Manager? OK. Try these.

Bobby Abtahi, the guy who ran against Philip Kingston for the District 14 city council seat in East Dallas last time around, had an essay yesterday on the opinion pages of The Dallas Morning News castigating critics of City Hall. He lumped us all together as a new and burgeoning class of conspiracy mongers:

"Some of the new complainers are current and former elected officials," he wrote, "some are media types, and all spend more time whining than doing their part."

Well, whining actually has always been my part. But I really don't hear what I would call conspiracy theories from most of people who have rallied against City Hall over the last year on an array of issues. I hear mistrust. That's different.

Abtahi calls on us to give our brand-new city manager, A.C. Gonzalez, a decent running start to make good on his promises of major change and much more transparency at City Hall. Toward that end, I will have a column in next week's newspaper proposing six separate instances where the new city manager could wow us with his change and his transparency.

Here's a sneak preview:

First, Mr. Manager, Yellow Cab: People aren't really so worried about taxicab insurance regulations and background checks for drivers as they are worried that Yellow Cab has you personally by the balls. Why not prove them wrong? Why don't you convene some kind of hearings process by which all of Yellow Cab's competitors could come to City Hall and tell everything they know about how City Hall screws them over to help Yellow maintain its monopoly? Talk about transparency, you couldn't get more transparent than that.

Second, the "white water feature:" Two and a half years ago the city spent $4 million building a fake concrete rapids in the Trinity River as recreational amenity for kayakers. It was so ill conceived and badly executed that it had to be closed to kayakers and canoeists as soon as it was completed for fear they might kill themselves paddling through it. But nothing has been done to fix it.

I went down there a week ago, and there it sat, a big ugly blob of concrete that ruins the paddling entryway into the Great Trinity Forest. I asked Willis Winters, the new head of parks, what's being done. He referred my question to a lawyer, from whom I have not heard.

Why not just say? What are you going to do about the white water feature?

Third, the car wash: Mr. Manager, your people sent the owners of Jim's Car Wash on MLK a letter threatening them with eminent domain for some unnamed "project." Later the mayor apologized, said it was all his fault and no eminent domain is imminent. But he said the city is continuing to look for other ways to run the car wash off its property.

So what's up with that? What's the project? What's the plan? We can all see something is going on. Somebody wants that car wash property for something. Why not just tell us? That would be pretty damn transparent of you.

I've got some more opportunities for transparency that I'll tell you about in the column next week. But I think you get it, Mr. Manager. "Change" and "transparency" are easy words to say but very hard shit to do. We want to see what you've got.

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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