City Hall

Tough Job, Keeping Track of the Mayor's No. 1 Top Priorities

Think of me as the guy in the safety glasses behind the window in the little wire-cage tool room, standing at the counter all day jotting stuff down on a pad as it goes out and comes back in. Only instead of “Tool Room” over the window, it says “Mayoral Priority Room.”

In June 2015 after a crazy guy in a homemade tank attacked Dallas police headquarters, Mayor Mike Rawlings made making police headquarters safer a top priority. “We’ve got the money to do what’s right,” he said. “We’ve got to make it safer.”

Because I know that the lion’s share of the $7 to $20 million in security improvements proposed for police H.Q. has not yet been spent, I am going to guess that this is still one of the mayor’s top priorities and maybe still even the very tippy-topmost priority, given what has happened since. So I should have it stored properly in the right cubbyhole in my wire cage.

But when I look in the cubbyhole where that priority is supposed to be stored, it’s not there. It’s not signed out on my list. It’s nowhere to be found!

Looking at my pad here, well, this also says I’m supposed to have a priority in here called “fixing the city’s streets.” That was one of the mayor’s very tip-top possibly topmost priorities: “I am not trying to say woe is us,” he said last year, “but we have got to deal with realities as a citizen base, and we’ve got to think very differently about how we prioritize these things and strategize.”

Box D12, “Fixing Streets Top Priority.” Also empty. Uh-oh. This isn’t good.

Well, here’s something on the list about the Trinity River and a new highway or toll road. Oh, of course! The mayor has spoken forcefully in the past about the crucially important challenge the city faces in building a new extra toll road on top of the Trinity River: “My goal is … to make sure the plan is truly, truly world class, as this is a critical project for the city of Dallas,” Rawlings said a year ago.

Box F14, “Toll Road on Top of River.” Empty. I swear, I am not taking the fall for this stuff.

I’d better check all these top priorities. The mayor mentioned more recently that our top priority needed to be doing something about the homeless: “We must have a long-term policy to deal with chronic homelessness in the city of Dallas,” he said.
You guessed it. Another empty box.

Grow South. Gosh, I totally forgot about that one. That’s the top priority about developing a whole new economy and eliminating poverty in Southern Dallas. Also missing from the shelves.

Oh, wow, here’s one from four years ago. My note next to it was “walkable ownership.” I can barely remember that one. According to the note, he was going to create a slew of new neighborhood associations to help foster “ownership of the community” with a focus on “live, learn, work” and “walkable.”

Box Z42, “Live, Walkable, Etc.” Nothing.

Now I’ve got the serious willies. I know they’re going to blame me for this, and it’s not my fault. All I do is check them out, check them back in. I can’t help it if people won’t follow the rules.

Now, I know we’ve got Fair Park in here, because that’s brand new. The mayor called a special press conference in the lobby of City Hall just two weeks ago to say that turning Fair Park over to his friend Walt Humann was the most important thing the city could do to remember the five police officers slain on our streets downtown on July 7. He called it a “catalytic mechanism.” 

Missing. But there’s a note: “Not done yet.” OK, that one’s not my fault.

What about police pay? The mayor just discussed that one earlier this week.

“I'm thrilled we're all aligned,” he said last Tuesday. “We love our police and fire and want to give them raises.”

Also not done yet, but at least it’s not totally AWOL. Yet.

OK, I think I see what’s been going on here. In violation of every regulation for the storage and maintenance of top priorities, somebody has been checking out priorities without signing for them.

I try to tell them: “People, a priority is no good to anybody if you can’t put your hands on it when you need it.”

This isn’t my job, but I’m going to have to take my apron off, lock up the Priority Room and spend the whole day scouting around the factory to see if I can scare up some of these missing mayoral top priorities. If past experience is my guide, I will find most of them in the bathrooms and the lunch area.

These people. They hold their press conferences and announce their priorities, then they toss them aside somewhere, and that’s the last time they think about them. They never give a thought to me and my responsibilities. What am I supposed to tell the next person who needs a priority?

NOTE: Oh, great. Now people are texting me with additional missing priorities. Big one is home rule total school reform. Nope. Not where it belongs. From here on out, no one may remove a priority from the priority room without photo i.d.
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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

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