Multiple Dallas City Council members decided not to show up to Tuesday's scheduled meeting of the city's ad hoc COVID-19 economic recovery committee. Without a quorum, the meeting couldn't go on, so it adjourned without getting a briefing on "Dallas First," an initiative favored by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, which would see the city give greater preference to local firms when awarding contracts. Johnson, apparently unhappy, fired off the following tweet.
I’m very disappointed that many of my City Council colleagues skipped their COVID-19 committee meeting today, leaving our chairman without a quorum. On that agenda was the #DallasFirst Resolution to give preference to city contractors that are based in Dallas or hire locally.— Mayor Eric Johnson (@Johnson4Dallas) May 19, 2020
That's the short of it. There's a less short version, though.
Several council members on the committee are frustrated with the ongoing ad hoc committee meetings, believing that they are redundant now that the council's standing committees — which were put on hold in March — are back up and running.
The "Dallas First" initiative is already scheduled to be heard by the council's Government Performance and Financial Management committee next week, according to council member Lee Kleinman, so there isn't any need for committee members to sit through repeat briefings.
Kleinman, who says he didn't consult with his fellow committee members before he decided not to show up, said he doesn't plan on attending any additional meetings of the ad hoc COVID-19 committee.
"I don't think anybody's swiping at the mayor's initiative," Kleinman says. "I just don't think they need to hear it three times."
Another committee member, Adam Bazaldua, said he also has no plans to attend additional meetings of the COVID-19 committee.
"It's stretching staff thin when we have a lot of things that need to done," Bazaldua says. "They can't have a committee every single day of the week and what's the point? ... (The COVID-19 committees) have served their purpose and now, with the standing committees back, I believe that anything we're going to be doing going forward is going to be going through those committees anyway."
Bazaldua said that he hasn't received any communication from the mayor's office about why the committees, which were convened by the mayor, are still running.
"There's not much validity to (the mayor's) tweet," Bazaldua said. "He painted the picture that we dropped the ball ... on some business, but that's absolutely disingenuous. We're seeing the exact same. I've already spoken with the chief financial officer for the city, and I know about the briefing, I know what's coming next Tuesday, so it's ridiculous."
Tuesday night, the mayor's office told the Observer that he didn't intend for the "Dallas First" briefing to be presented again at a second committee meeting after being heard first by the COVID-19 recovery committee.
The mayor explained his reasoning for keeping the committees going despite in a memo issued May 1 to Dallas City Manager TC Broadnax and council members.
"While I expect that COVID-19 will affect many City policy discussions in the months ahead, some items directly related to our COVID-19 response will continue to fit best under the purview of the two Ad Hoc COVID-19 committees," Johnson wrote.
Johnson's spokesman, Tristan Hallman, put the mayor's reasoning in starker terms.
"The short answer is that we still have these committees because we're still in a pandemic, and we still need to be able to respond to it," Hallman said. "It's disrespectful to (Committee) Chairman (Casey) Thomas and the people of Dallas that they feel like they don't need to show up to a committee meeting. It's one additional meeting a week. It's not asking a whole lot."
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