Doom, Gloom and the Undeniable Truth

What's uglier: Dallas City Hall or the nonsense that takes place inside its walls?

Jacquielynn Floyd has a great column in today's Dallas Morning News, in which she shares letters from readers about Mayor Laura Miller's announcement she will not seek re-election. As is often the case for some reason, these members of the public--the kind who both read newspapers and also are motivated enough to write a letter--come across as smarter and more insightful than many of us paid scribblers, and by that I mean moi, not Floyd. Her own comments in the column are important and thoughtful.

An awful tone of despair resonates through the letters she excerpts, a feeling that Dallas is "ungovernable" and getting worse, "a second or third-rate city at worst." But the letter-writers don't just bitch: They pinpoint the 14-1 council system and the defeat of recent strong-mayor reform initiatives as the reasons why things have become so appalling at City Hall.

Speaking as a paid scribbler, I think Floyd's readers are absolutely right. Governments are machines. It's like a car. If it keeps driving you into light poles no matter how hard you steer, then your car has something mechanically wrong with it. And by the way, by about the 10th pole you got something wrong with you too.

The very worst thing the Citizens Council, the private downtown big-wig club, has ever done to this city was throwing its weight behind the defeat of the strong mayor reforms. They did it only so they could keep marketing their own influence at City Hall, which is now entirely through access to individual council members, who have all become mini-me mayors. The Citizens Council doesn't want a rational system, because the voters might control it.

So what we have instead is a miserably dysfunctional system. On council days, man, it's like the seven dwarves walking out of their cute little Disney house every morning. They start singing, "Heigh ho, heigh ho...Hey, who you callin' ho, midget?" And then they start whacking each other with shovels. And out in the lobby, you got Donna Halstead, executive director of the Citizens Council, who comes up to you and says, "Pssssst. Hey, Mister. Wanna go to a party?" It's like some Fourth World city. --Jim Schutze

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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